The Setup


What do people use to get stuff done?

Veronica Berns

Veronica Berns

Science cartoonist

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Veronica Berns and I'm a science and comics lady! When I was working on my PhD in chemistry a few years ago, I decided to write two versions of my thesis: the normal, expected, technical version that probably only my committee will read, and then also a comic book-style version aimed at all of my family and friends who don't think about science every day. Now I'm working on more science comics accessible to a general audience, and I also teach chemistry at Northwestern University!

What hardware do you use?

To make illustrations for a comic, I start with paper and a colored pencil, and then I trace the lines I like with a fat line Sharpie. I draw everything as big as possible, and then scan it at high res with a Doxie Go portable scanner or using my home printer (Brother HL-2280DW). All of my editing and coloring of the images takes place on the computer. I have a workhorse MacBook Air from 2012 that basically contains my whole life on it. I just got an additional monitor -- one of those giant Apple Thunderbolt displays -- and let me tell you: it's a game changer.

And what software?

The image editing is all a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator, and the layout for my book was done in InDesign.

Generally I write a script for a comic in Simplenote or Word before I even think about drawing anything. I tend to like Simplenote for tagging and sorting through files, but I like writing in a table format that Word offers, so I haven't really settled on a system.

My cat is an essential piece of getting work done, since she's always around and sitting on important things. I guess I could count her as software.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm not super picky! I try to make anything work: I've made drawings on scraps of paper and napkins, and "scanned" stuff with my phone camera. So I'm pretty flexible.

My preferred methods above have emerged from being scrappy, trying things, and working with what I have and what I know. I learned Photoshop for editing figures at work, so that's what I'm comfortable with. Inertia is a powerful force of nature.

I have tried drawing on digital tablets instead of the paper-then-scanner method, and I may want to go that way in the future, but it hasn't happened yet. I'm really liking having a huge secondary display though! Some change is overwhelmingly good!

Previously: / Next up: