Crowdsourcing: build a better comics classroom

comics on the wall at SVA

A big wall for critiquing comics pages is a must

An architecture student from the Phillipines wrote recently asking what we thought the optimum set-up would be for a comics classroom/workspace. It occurred to us that there’s no real standard, primarily since such a beast is practically non-existent. As teachers at the School of Visual Arts we have managed to get a pretty good set-up for cartooning with the help of our co-faculty and our department head but there is plenty of room for improvement, especially in the realm of technology. As visiting teachers, lecturers, and workshop leaders we have an opportunity to compare set-ups at a lot of different institutions, from fine arts studio programs to museums and libraries. We have seen a lot of cool stuff but we can’t say that we have come across the Ultimate Comics Teaching Studio Environment.

So in the interest of throwing out some ideas at the beginning of this schoolyear and in the confidence that some of you will chime in with additions, adjustments, or criticism we offer a quick list of essential class/studio items based our experience as teachers:


  • sturdy drafting tables with adjustable angles, ideally with tabouret attached (This table is similar to the model we suggested ordering for SVA)
  • adjustable height chairs
  • open wall area for posting/critiquing art
  • blackboard/whiteboard
  • A/V unit with projector and audio, ideally an all-in-one “smart classroom” set-up

ideally also:

  • an in-class light table for tracing work
  • slop sink
  • opaque projector (Matt saw a digital version recently that was as small as a book light, something like this)


Jessica with student at light table

It's great to have a light box or table available to use in the classroom.


  • as many Apple computers as possible, all equipped with, CS & Wacom tablets
  • 2 or more large format scanners (11 x 17″)
  • 2 or more light tables or lightboxes
  • large, flat work area equiped with cutting mat, paper cutter
  • laser printer or other high quality printer

ideally also:

  • silkscreen printing set-up
  • Wacom Cintiq or two

Teachers and students out there, what would you add to this list? What would you prioritize? What do you think is overdoing it?


3 Comments to Crowdsourcing: build a better comics classroom

  • by Dan Berry

    On September 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I’d add that I have found using a visualiser in the class particularly helpful, especially if wall-space is at a premium. We use something like this;

  • by Matt

    On September 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Cool, Dan, thanks. That’s basically what I meant by the “opaque projector”. I know one teacher who in desperation rigs up a video camera to a projector and mounts it to a tripod on top of a table to achieve this obviously useful effect.
    Visualizers are a right, not a privilege!^MM

  • by Sean

    On October 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I just bought your book and I will start using it and your website with various groups over the next few months. They give me one of the most necessary elements for a comics workshop, structure with a clear progression and achievable goals. I find that if I can meet a group with a good idea of where I want them to get to, then I can handle most situations. Materially I try to have as much wall space as possible so that everybody can be involved in the work in progress. Projectors, Wacoms, Macs would all be lovely but I work in a world of limited budgets and resources.
    Keep up the good work.

Leave a reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

By submitting a comment here you grant Drawing Words Writing Pictures a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.