See All Topics

Home / Section: Comic strips

Interviewed: Mark Tatulli and how to work faster

Tom Racine continues with his video podcasting. This time he’s interviewed Lio and Heart of the City creator Mark Tatulli.

Join me and Mark Tatulli, brilliant writer and artist behind the syndicated strips “Lio” and “Heart of the City.” We talk about his techniques, how blazingly fast he creates his comics (it’ll make you sick), the tools he uses, tips to get faster in your work, and the wonderful devotion of his fans! Enjoy!

Download info on the Tall Tale Radio website.

Community Comments

#1 Joe Engesser
January/27/2011
@ 12:06 am

An absolutely riveting interview! I’m demolishing my studio and will start working out of a padded cell, too! Instead of a full length feature film, I’d love to see a Lio “Great Pumpkin” (Gory Gourd?) tv special…bound to be a classic. Thanks for the down-to-earth info and laughs, Mark and Tom. GREAT stuff!

#2 Philip Taterczynski
January/27/2011
@ 2:13 pm

I’m not sure Lio could translate well to the half-hour animated format. Aside from the fact that the strip is pantomime, they’re also in the nature of visual one-liners. Maybe a series of super-shorts, like the original “Plymptoons” would work, but a full thirty minutes?

#3 Jason Nocera
January/28/2011
@ 7:25 am

In the beginning, Mark holds up a Soup To Nutz comic strip and shows how much larger it is compared to the rest. While Mark thinks Stromoski is wasting his time, I actually think I know why he draws that big. I have a few original strips and Stromoski’s dwarfs them all while hanging on my wall. You just can’t help but look at Rick’s first. That’s genius.

#4 rick stromoski
January/28/2011
@ 7:38 am

Mark made it clear that for HIM to draw that large that it would be a time waster. In actuality he and I spend about the same time on an individual strip. I also drew this scale when I was doing Mullets with Steve McGarry.

#5 Phil Wohlrab
January/28/2011
@ 8:21 am

I haven’t listened to the interview yet but I the big slow down for me is when I’m inking something huge. I found that you can ink just as well using a basic brush in photoshop and you can zoom as large or as small as necessary. I understand the boxed in feeling you get when drawing small within a tiny rectangular shape. So I’d draw big (if that’s your thing) and ink in photoshop.
with a brush that has no opacity set to it. No one can tell the difference.
I’ve done the whole process where you ink something huge then scan it in parts then piece it back together.. then having to further edit your inks in photoshop afterwards anyway. It’s a time drainer if you need to work like you’re on a production line.

#6 Jason Nocera
January/28/2011
@ 8:29 am

I was inspired by the interview and I’m currently working on a comic strip called “Dotville” I do them all at actual size and I find they only take me a few seconds to draw. Plus, a month’s worth fit on one piece of bristol board.

#7 Mike Lester
January/28/2011
@ 8:34 am

Pink drinks in round glasses say “cocktail hour” to me and he damn sure deserves one but…when you’re trying to save time, you’re eventually going to scan and work in photoshop and original art means nothing to you, why even draw or ink traditionally at all?

#8 Mark_Tatulli
January/28/2011
@ 9:55 am

If it meant saving time, I would draw completely in Photoshop. But I am not happy with the results I get (for myself) and still think there is something to be said for ink on paper line quality. I’d be interested in a process that Piers Baker uses that converts pencil line into inked line through Illustrator, but I don’t know enoguh about that. I also don’t like computer fonts in text balloons, so I still hand draw lettering. There are a few cartoonists that I know that have converted their lettering style to fonts (Bill Amend is one who has done it successfully, in my opinion). Again, I was showing my process and I didn’t mean to belittle anyone else’s process. It’s always important to find your own comfort level and whatever works for you, run with it, baby!

#9 Mark_Tatulli
January/28/2011
@ 9:59 am

@Jason – glad to hear you were inspired by my little thoughts! DOTVILLE sounds like a great concept and if the writing is anywhere near as tight as BUDDY AND HOPKINS, I think you’ll have a real winner! Let me know if you need me to fasttrack samples to Universal Press!

#10 Jason Nocera
January/28/2011
@ 10:05 am

Wow, Mark, nice to see two strips hasn’t changed your nice guy image on the forums. Love your snide remarks, as always.

#11 Tony Piro
January/28/2011
@ 10:06 am

Great interview! I love seeing behind the process.

Mark, I think you’re selling yourself short if you don’t think people would be interested in your original art. Sure, you might not be interested in parting with the pieces or going through the trouble of shipping them out. But at $100-150 a piece, you could make some nice extra money and believe me there’s a market for it.

#12 rick stromoski
January/28/2011
@ 10:20 am

I’ve tried drawing smaller than I do now and I get hand cramps and just don’t get the detail I’d like…what little detail there is.

#13 Mark_Tatulli
January/28/2011
@ 10:42 am

Mike, that is actually a vintage glass from the 1950’s…the pink comes from a slight graduation of painted color on the outside of the glass that petters out to the rim. Very cool glasses. A drink always tastes better in a cool glass. And that was gin on the rocks, with a bit of lime. My nightcap of choice…we recorded between 9 and 10pm and I had finished drawing for the night.

#14 Mark_Tatulli
January/28/2011
@ 10:45 am

I’ve seen your meathooks, Stromoski, and I understand completely. I’m suprised your originals aren’t as big as a mattress! Plus, your artwork looks awesome on Jason’s wall…and that’s what we’re all shooting for…to look awesome on Jason’s wall.

#15 Mike Lester
January/28/2011
@ 11:48 am

“petters out to the rim”…that’s what she -oh,nevermind. (btw: Gervais was on TheOffice last night. great bit.) That original art is preferable and has a secondary market is inarguable. Been selling it for years. I just know that day to day deadlines combined w/ a slow economy that demands you take on more work more for less and while your’e at it, clone yourself tend to make photoshop a tempting solution. I hold a wacom stylus same as I hold a pen. (in my a** if readers are to be believed)

And if Michael Vick can’t own a dog, Mark shouldn’t be allowed to own a sable. SAVE THE SABLES!!!

#16 Daniel Boris
January/28/2011
@ 1:14 pm

Good interview, and GREAT info on Mark’s work process. Loved the tip on the cheaper version of bristol board… Nice! Thanks!

#17 Scott Metzger
January/28/2011
@ 2:01 pm

Great interview. It made me want to have a cocktail.

To Mark (and anyone else who?s considering converting their handwriting to a font): there?s a site called Fontifier that does a good job. I did it a couple years ago and was happy with the results. The downside is it doesn?t do bold or italic ? you have to do that manually.

It?s worth a try, especially since it?s only 9 bucks. Well, for me it was $18 because I messed up on my first template. (Still a bargain!)

http://www.fontifier.com

#18 Tony Piro
January/28/2011
@ 2:15 pm

@Scott

Does Fontifier make fonts that are high enough quality for print? I just ask because I’ve seen sites like this before, and the quality would be good enough for display on computers but not for print.

#19 Scott Metzger
January/28/2011
@ 2:42 pm

Tony ? yes, absolutely. It works great for print. I love it.

The way I did was I took some handwritten letters in Illustrator (which I already had), scanned in Fontifier?s template, then copied and pasted my letters from Illustrator onto the template in Photoshop.

I screwed up on my first attempt (printing the template and filling it out in pen) ? I rushed it a little so there were some uneven lines that made the letters look lousy.

#20 Scott Lincoln
January/28/2011
@ 3:00 pm

Series Seven and Speedball forever!

#21 Tom Racine
January/28/2011
@ 11:15 pm

Yay! Comments! I should just have Mark on more. :) I’m glad it’s spurring on discussion about technique. It’s really something people always focus on when I talk to artists. We all do similar work in really unique ways. Me, I’m dying to try a Cintiq…everyone i know who works on it raves. I was surprised there’s no “original” per se from “Lio.” I really think there’s a market for it, but ya can’t have everything.

#22 Mark Buford
January/29/2011
@ 7:12 am

Great interview! When I started my strip I was Mr. fancy art guy (Strathmore bristol, brushes, FX ink etc). I got over that pretty quickly. Now it’s just micron pens on color copy paper. Mark is right. You have to do whatever you can to streamline the process. Otherwise you won’t have a life.

#23 Scott Lincoln
January/29/2011
@ 1:54 pm

This was an intriguing interview Mark, I’m glad you did it. I know I am always curious to see how other artists work (the learning never really ends). I also agree that there were many great time saving recommendations. I myself use blue lined Canson board to save time (4″x13″ image size) but I still do everything by hand because I’ve always enjoyed the process and being able to hold original art when I’m done.

#24 Mark_Tatulli
January/29/2011
@ 5:33 pm

I wouldn’t say I’m “right,” it’s just what works for me. Scott Adams draws completely on the Cintiq and there are no paper originals. Why does he work that way? He has an issue with his hands and creating on the Cintiq makes his life easier. It’s more efficient. It allows him more time to manage the ancillaries of DILBERT. He understands that the most important thing is the end-product: the strip in the paper or online…it doesn’t matter how you get there. Original art is nice, but in the end “bringing the funny” is the most important function of a comic strip. Artwork is essential only in how it effectively helps to deliver the written gag.
Again, my opinion.

#25 Ben McCormick
January/29/2011
@ 8:35 pm

This was a great interview. I always love to hear cartoonists talk about the techniques and mechanics of making their comics.

When I first started out trying to make comics I spent way too much time researching the size of originals. I was amazed to see the billboard sized pieces of bristol the guys used to use back in the ’50s.

Having originals would be nice for potential future sales but getting the “funny” out there should always be the goal.

#26 Mark_Tatulli
January/30/2011
@ 4:31 pm

For those interested: here’s Piers Baker’s method of scanned pencils as tif files converted to lineart illustrator:

http://piersbaker.blogspot.com/2011/01/converting-pencil-roughs-into-line.html

And just as a sidebar, I think that Piers consistently brings the funny (IMHO).

#27 Dan Collins
January/31/2011
@ 9:19 am

Tracing is never exact. It will always change your lines to varying degrees. As simple as Piers linework is I am pretty sure once he does all that he’s only saving a little time. I agree that bringing the funny is the most important part.

#28 Stephen Beals
January/31/2011
@ 1:52 pm

I’m not a big fan of tracing, either, for the same reason Dan mentions. But I love Illustrator and it is tempting for certain pieces.

I’m glad it works for Piers, though. It’s a wonderful strip!

#29 Rich Diesslin
January/31/2011
@ 3:14 pm

Mark, excellent points. Since somehow we accidentally got talking about technique … I’m not a fan of tracing per se, but since I do an original sketch in PS in a lower layer and then final ink on subsequent layers – so, in effect, I’m tracing. The sketch is sometimes so rough as only to be a very general guide, but still tracing to some extent (but most often is pretty close to final form). Sort of akin to pencil sketches being inked via a light table … only much, much easier. Also, I used scanahand to create some fully functional hand fonts. More power to those who still letter, but for me going to PS was originally for the text and coloring capabilities. Would not want to go back and I’m pretty sure that a cintiq approach wouldn’t be my preference either … just can’t get my mind around putting wear-and-tear on a monitor screen – the sketch pad works great. ;)

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.