Thought Crimes, Curling, and my Big Ugly Pen

In looking over this travesty, keep in mind that the “crime” in question is essentially a Thought Crime with no victims, and that the man going to jail is doing so for a small fraction of the comics in his collection. If these sorts of victimless crimes sound insane to you as they do to me and my family, please consider a donation to help fight such cases in the future.


In happier news, I notice today’s Google Doodle (Feb 16) is Curling! Since Ivy’s curling these days, I’m giving a shout-out to a great sport that’s finally living large in a country that appreciates it. You can bet we’ll be watching whatever meager coverage it gets here in the States.


Meanwhile, this post about hand strain (via Dirk) gives me an opportunity to share some tips that I’ve found useful for avoiding hand strain.

1. Fatten your grip. A simple, easy way to reduce hand strain is to widen the radius of the tools you use most often. Above left is a shot of my big fat Cintiq pen, courtesy of some masking and packing tape. Ugly as hell, but just as easy to use and less likely to freak out my tendons.

2. Feet on the Floor. Seriously, your whole body relaxes when your feet are flat on the floor. If necessary get one of those raised foot rests. I was surprised how well this worked, but it really did.

3. Drawing big. If you’re all digital like me, zooming in can help make most drawing tasks a matter of forearm movement rather than wrist movement, which makes a big difference.

4. Use your breaks. When I was having problems and was taking breaks of five minutes for every twenty, I used a timer and took it as an opportunity to catch up on some reading. It was actually kind of fun to have to read about an hour more each day.

5. See a Pro. If you ever get the tingles, see someone right away. There are specialists who can help and save you a lot of money in the long run.

And of course there’s a ton of information online as usual. Click around to learn more (at least until the clicking starts to hurt).

Discussion (11)¬

  1. Sandra says:

    Thanks for that tip number 2, Feet on the Floor, I hadn’t heard it before.

    For me, what saved me was partly taking regular breaks and primarily moving more, dancing contact improvisation, learning about my balance and my body, strengthening my back muscles, not just sitting all the time. That timer beep means move!

  2. Alec says:

    Also, use your NON-drawing hand for all non-essential tasks. I wrote a blog entry all about this, back when I was getting a lot of hand and wrist pain from drawing too much: http://alec-longstreth.com/blog/45/

    Brushing teeth, using a mouse, anything that causes pain, should be switched to the other hand so that you can save your drawing hand for DRAWING!

    • I draw all my ugly characters with my non-dominant hand.

      Ok. That’s a complete lie. I can’t draw 🙁

      Still, I would love to see a comic strip where the gag is half of the characters are drawn with the artist’s non-dominant hand. Perhaps it could be about a society that discriminates against artistic composition.

  3. So far, no hand tendon problems for me, thank goodness. But I have big knee pain from sitting and working for many hours. My solution is a desk tall enough so I can work standing up, and then switch to sitting on a tall drawing stool now and then.

    Another big advantage of working big on the Cintiq: eyesight! Fine lines are sometime hard for me to see accurately, and will only get worse in the coming decades (I can’t read most of Ware’s new comics for that reason). I think the Cintiq is going to add years to how long I can work just for that reason.

  4. I’ve learned how to draw well enough w/ my left hand that on really bad days I can still get some work done. Though I’ve actually had quite a bit of luck by treating my neck and shoulder. I do 3 sets of 30 “arm circles” per day, regularly apply a heating pad on my neck, stretch, massage, etc. Keeps me in working form.

    Someone told me about how sometimes pain gets displaced and that the pain in my hand, wrist, and elbow could be coming from my neck/shoulder/back.

    It helped me so I figured it might be worth throwing out there.

    best wishes!


  5. ten says:

    The book you guys all need is this:


    I don’t work for the publisher or anything,I had a lot of serious back pain and reading that book, and applying the massage techniques (pretty simple ones), has saved me in ways I can’t describe – I’m now basically pain-free and still improving.

    I’ve also used that book on hand pain – in the back of my wrist from using a mouse. It turns out the relevant trigger point is up my forearm near the elbow – regular massage with a rubber ball keeps it in check (as does putting something under my wrist to change the angle of my hand). Bobby, the ‘displaced’ pain you refer to is usually called ‘referred pain’ and is tricky because the problem is rarely where the pain is – it’s usually further up the body in a trigger point in a muscle that affects that joint. (e.g. when your wrists hurt the problem is usually further up your arm).

    As an aside, I’ll also mention that that book is a masterful example of clear explanation – you’ll like it just for that, Scott.

    Hope that helps somebody out.

  6. Interesting tip with the big pen. My own two cents (doing ~1page a day, color inclueded) and had to sort out the pain issues quickly, which for me was the neck and then only, the hand :

    Neck :
    Of course, feet on the ground, but it also matter to avoid too much bending while drawing. I increased my Cintiq’s angle to more than 45° (thanks to the complete Torpedo collection and a big sketchbook) and it solved it for me. It’s also better for drawing (better angle so better view) but more difficult for inking as gravity plays more and well, stylus on glas means weak grip. For lettering especially i go back to standard angle or even flat one.

    Hand : in an attempt to learn to relax while drawing (not only for stress but also because like in snowboard contraction is the opposite of good controle) I realised I was pushing too hard on my stylus – way more than I usually do with a 2B. I decided to change sensitivity so that maximum pressure would come quite quickly. Also, I changed the stylus tip to the soft one. I am now pretty happy with the result and I can now focus on doing my pages 😛

  7. […] Scott McCloud shares 5 ways to pre­vent wrist strain while draw­ing. […]

  8. Oh yeah, as far as controversial comics go…Here’s a collection of true stories I came across and my thoughts on them:


  9. gamer girl says:

    cool tips ^.^ I would make a ugly pen.