Featured Designer: Tom Howard

By Susannah Sodergren

Tom Howard Featured Designer Tom Howard


From the middle of a cornfield, in the middle of Indiana, Tom Howard directs the artwork for every item around the world that has Garfield on it – from books and postcards, to toilet paper and leather jackets.

When Howard worked at an ad agency in the ‘80s, Garfield's creator, Jim Davis, was his client. Then Davis hired him to join the Garfield team as a designer. Now, in addition to licensing, he manages production of the strip at their headquarters, Paws, Inc.

Today their comic strip artists work in Photoshop and Illustrator on desktops. But Howard always keeps a Jot Touch and iPad handy for the freedom to sketch whenever and wherever he wants.

Tom Howard art #1

They don't make ‘em like they used to.

"It's quite different from what it was – naturally – when I first came to Paws 22-some years ago. Everything was done on the board, basically … The comic strip was blue-lined on the board, and then inked with brushes and pelican ink. And then basically after that the strip was then scanned in.

"Now we don't do anything on the board. We have some drawing boards around here but they're just kind of for keeping potted plants or things like that on them."

Tom Howard art #2

Moving straight ahead

"We're always concerned about our line quality here. That's why we used to use a brush and ink to get a really sharp line. If you look at Garfield, it's what we call a controlled line. You look at other cartoonists, sometimes their lines are a little wavier, a little looser.

"When Jim developed that back in the early stages of Garfield, they wanted to get a real controlled line, so we go thick to thin, and that's one of the good things about the Jot Touch, and the Bluetooth, and the pressure sensitivity – I can go ahead and do thick to thin … which makes it pretty easy."

Tom Howard art #3

It still starts the same way.

"My creative process probably starts with an idea, like most people. From there I will usually roughly sketch out the foundation of what I'm thinking on either paper or an iPad. If it's paper I will usually transfer that rough sketch to the iPad and refine it as much as possible there [in] Sketchbook Pro, and Procreate."

Tom Howard art #4

See where it takes you.

"I like the portability of being able to go about anywhere. I'm kinda drawing every night … Before the iPad and styluses came around I didn't really do that much …

"I always thought I'd probably just stay in the agency business my entire life. I mean a cartoon studio like this one is kind of a rare breed – especially in the cornfields of Indiana."

Take a look at Jot Touch