04 February 2008

Other Computer Equipment

In addition to the basics that I listed earlier, here is the second tier of my essential computer equipment.

The Stylus/ Graphics Tablet
My stylus/ graphics tablet of choice is generally whatever is the cheapest Wacom tablet available. In past this has been the Graphire and now it's the Bamboo. I have the Bamboo. In addition to being the cheapest, it's also the stylus that is the closest in size to the standard mouse pad. This is important to me because space is always an issue for me. With the Bamboo and/or the smallest Graphire I just switch out my mouse pad for the tablet and there is no loss of space.

Once you get used to it, you'll finds that the stylus and tablet is a much better pointing device than the mouse. I use my mouse for most of my everyday computing, but when it comes to making comics, I use the stylus for layouts, inks, image editing, lettering, coloring ... just about everything other than writing. Of the optional peripheral equipment, this is the one that I just can't live without.

The approximate cost of a Bamboo is about $90. I recommend that you get it locally rather than online. That way, if you don't find it as useful as I do, you can return it without much effort or loss.

The Printer
I have 2 different types of printers. One is an HP laserjet 6L. The other is an HP Deskjet D1420.

The HP Laserjet 6L is a black and white printer and is no longer being made. You can find refurbished machines on eBay for about $50 (including shipping). I've had one since 1998 (when they were close to $300). It's uses toner rather than ink. The toner cartridges costs about $60, but are good for about 2 years of normal usage. It will print anything from postcard (4" x 6") to legal size (8.5" x 14"). This is a parallel port printer and will not print anything much smaller or thicker than a postcard. If you can find one in working condition, it's a very smart purchase.

The HP Deskjet D1420 is a full color printer. It costs between $40-50 and you can find one at Wal-Mart. This is a USB printer and it uses ink cartridges which cost about $14-$18. If you wish to do just black and white priting, then you can purchase the black ink cartridge which I recommend. Just like the Laserjet, this will print sizes from post card to legal sizes. I need to buy new ink cartridges every 4-6 months.

Why 2 different printers?
I use 2 different printers because I print to both regular and glossy paper. I've found that printer that use ink are fairly inexpensive, but the inks stay a long time to dry on glossy stock (like postcards). The toner based print uses heat to fuse the toner to paper. This means that there is no drying period and this is excellent for printing custom messages on the back of postcards.

If I need printing on sizes larger than legal size, I visit my local copy shop (Kinko's). I don't very often need such printing and often when I do it's for some type of merchandise. For me, it's not work the cost and space to have printer to print these larger sizes.

The best thing about these printers, is they take very little space. They are about 18"in width. The Deskjet is about 18" x 6" x 4" when closed (18"x 8" x 6" when fully open). The Laserjet is about 18"x 12"x 9" when closed and 18"x 12" x 12" with paper. If space is a concern for you (as it is for me) then you can get stackable racks and place the Deskjet under the Laserjet.

The Scanner
My scanner is the HP Scanjet 3400C. This is a standard legal sized (8.5"x 14") scanner and cost about $99. I don't really do a lot of scanning, but it is useful for archival scans of business documents (like contracts) as well as scanning art for comic book usage. It can be use to scan and print (like a copy machine) and also has a feature to scan and attach to email. I very rarely use either of the latter uses, but it's nice to know that I can with just a touch of a button. Other than scanning comic book pages, I find myself using the scanner most often in place of a fax machine. Instead of faxing a document, I scan and email it.

Now you're saying, "If comic book pages are larger than you scanner, then how do you scan these large pages?" We'll I either:
1) Go to the local copy shop and shrink the original art down to letter size
2) Scan the page in pieces and then place them together in Photoshop.
Neither solution is ideal, but I scan original art very rarely and quality tabloid sized scanners (11" x17") cost over $1000. (although if you're lucky you can be a A3 Mustek for about $150... if you can find it and it's still in working condition).

Stylus ... scanner ... printer... those are the additional peripherals that you need.

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