Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tutorial 2: Inking!

This tutorial will be a slightly complicated one. There are a lot of different techniques that inkers apply to get the job done. So, I split this one up into three different point of views. The first part will be inking for cartoons and strips with Kevin Williams. The second will be inking for comic book pages by myself. The third will be inking for the pin up with Janet Wade. Some of the techniques and tools will overlap and some will be drastically different. However, the overall goal is the same. The inks should add more clarity, weight and definition to the pencils. As with any tutorial, this is meant for you to take what we are presenting and use it as a basis to create your own technique for tackling your personal or professional project. Here we go!

PART 1: 
Inking for Cartoon Strips with Kevin L. Williams
How do I ink?  Badly.  But, it’s fun to do and makes fun art for the viewers.  I do have a process, though, and want to point out that, while my style and tools suit me, you will practice and learn what tools and styles suit you.
Well, I suppose first I should introduce you to my tools of the trade:  Black Inda Ink, a pen with a cartooning nib (available at the art store nearest you).  Windsor & Newton Series 7 Sable Brush is awesome and some artist pens and a Sharpee.  These help me with inking whenever I need to make my pencils go from…pencils to ink!  Of course, you'll need your pencilled art on your Bristol, some rulers and such.

When inking, you need to first choose your light source.  Here’s the first time I’ll share this big secret about my own light sources, and now you’ll be able to go back, look at my comic strips and realize this:  my light source is always from the top left. 

Sketched out Muley panel.

What does using a light source help with?  Well, the lines you draw/ink on the side where the light is shining down will always be thinner lines than the opposite side, where the shadow would be, which will use thicker lines.
First, I will show inking with the India Ink and the Windsor & Newton Series 7 Sable Brush.  If you ever have done any painting, then you’ll have a pretty good control of the bristles and can lightly touch the art for thin lines, or bear down to make the lines go thicker.  Then, it can fill in the spaces that are supposed to be completely dark.  I like the brush because, with good control, you get some really great lines!
And the inking begins!
Then, there is the chance to use your cartooning nib pen.  Dip it down into the inkwell and don’t worry about getting it on your pen or your fingers—that’s what’s awesome about doing art!  Again, the pressure on the pen determines how much ink is released to the line…slide the pen sideways for a nice thin line, then pull it down to get thicker lines.  Video would be more helpful to see this, but maybe we can do that at a later time.
Filling in the big, dark areas with a brush.
When using the art pens (in this case the Faber Castell PITT artist pen) you can get different line thicknesses from the different size of the pens.  I use the thicker pens for the darker areas and the lines which will be opposite the light source.
Fine lines get a pen.
The medium pens tend to the light-source side of the character or object in the comic strip.
Finally, the fine pens are used for items such as the eyes, eyelids, eyelashes, or other fine details in the art.
I can also go in and use the Sharpee to fill in the areas that are solid black:
So, all these tools are what I use when inking comic strips, and hope this is a little helpful for your shopping list and useful for reference!

PART 2: 
Inking for Comics with Martheus Wade

I owe the start of my journey on the road of inking to Mike (Battle Pug) Norton. One day visiting his apartment, he convinced me that inking would make my pencils pop and I have been doing it ever since.
Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade: Copic and/or Micron 01, .08, .05, .01, .005 black pens, Black India Ink, Copic 100 black sketch marker
Triangle, French Curves 
2 pages of an Action Man mini-comic.

How I start a page is by determining what is the most important element on the page. This could be a complicated question especially if you have multiple panels on a page. In that case, I take each panel as a separate piece and determine what element is most important inside that particular panel. I then ink from what I like to call, back to front.

Before the inks get slapped on.

First, once I have figured out what the most important subject is on the panel, I start to ink with that subject in mind. I try to isolate the subject by inking it with a thinker line with an .08 or a .05. The weight is determined by the placement of the subject in the panel. If there is another element that is closer in the foreground than the subject, that element will be inked with a thicker line than the subject. 
See how inks make everything POP?

From there, I work on outlining each element in the panel with a noticeable weight difference while keeping in mind what is the most important element and what is foreground and background. The further an object is in the background of a panel, the thinner the outline I ink the object with. This is to simulate depth of field on a flat page. If you go outside and look as far as you can see, you will notice that the detail of the objects in the distance become hard to see or none existent. However, the closer things are to you, the more detail you see. To simulate that idea with a pen, I ink with a smaller pen tip for objects in the back ground than I do for objects closer to the “camera”. Depth of field is really important for an inker to achieve. Not only does it help bring a sense of space to the illustration, but it also helps the colorist determine light sources and object edges.
More poppin.

After I outline the different objects, I start in with the details of each. Here, I use the front to back inking idea inside of each object. The finer the detail of the object, the smaller the pen tip will be. As I move to background of the panel, I tend to not worry about details of individual objects because you wouldn’t see them anyway.
After outline and detail are completed, I begin to spot my blacks. Now, this can be a little tricky and changes depending on who you are inking. If you are inking for your on pencils, it’s easier to understand where your shades and shadows will fall. However, many different pencilers work in a variety of ways. Some are very loose with their pencils while some are very tight. Whichever way the pencils are, make sure you have a clear understanding of where the blacks will be placed. Also, make sure you have a clear understanding of the lighting source and the flow of the entire page. That way, shading will stay consistent throughout. Another thing to be on the look out for is what objects should be left open for colors. Color brings an element of rendering to the art that can compliment what the inker has already set up. However, if you go heavy on blacks, that could limit the colorist. 
Preliminary sketch and the final inks.

Going back to the idea of isolating the most important subject, I use haloing when spotting black. A halo in inking terms is a thin white line that travels around an object to separate it from the complete black background. This helps to isolate the main subject from the surrounding area giving the eye a distinct point of reference.
Once this is complete, be careful to erase your pencil lines by stroking the eraser in one direction as opposed to going crazy all over the page. Heavy erasing can take up your ink marks making the line grey instead of black. Scan in at 600 dpi and get to coloring!
As you can see, inking is an IMPORTANT step in the process of comic book page creation and should not be glossed over or taken lightly. A good ink job can be the difference between a masterpiece and a dud.


Inking for Comics with Janet "saltygirl" Stone Wade

How did you get started inking?
It was in the pre-nup. Martheus said he wouldn’t marry me unless I SWORE my allegiance to MAW Productions and to ink the Jetta books.
My first foray into inking was clumsy.  I used one sized nib (if you can call it a nib) on everything: a fine point sharpie.  And when Martheus said I could use whiteout if I need to, I took that as “Sure, you can ink this page blindfolded if you want.  Whatever.  No need to stay in lines!  Here’s a bucket of whiteout.  Use it with abandon!”  Looking back, I think he had a mini-stroke when I gave him his pages back and he saw how I mutilated it with sharpie and whiteout.  I’m really surprised he wanted me to continue inking his stuff.

I’ve gotten a lot better since then.

What do you feel your inking brings to the artwork?
Hopefully, it makes already awesome pencils POP!  I mean, I love raw, rough pencil sketches.  It’s almost like seeing the artist’s thought process in those.  But laying inks down solidifies that thought.  It’s the point of no return, no looking back, no more erasing nor editing.

How do you feel about digital vs. traditional inking?

I personally like traditional inking.  It’s always a challenge to bring out the best in pencils when you lay inks onto paper.  And it’s also a challenge to not mess up hahaha!

With digital inking, I feel a separation between me and the work.  I don’t know, might be because it’s on screen and I never actually touch the work.  Also, I haven’t had enough practice with the digital inks yet.

What are your tools of the trade?

Sakura, Copics, Microns, Sharpies (I’m not picky) with various nibs for detailed work.  Sometimes I get fancy and do it with brushes and india ink for bigger areas.  Sometimes, I said.  I like how a nib gives me more control over a brush.  But I do like how a brush can give such great line variation…hmmm…
Got my  tools ready.  About to begin...

What is your inking process? This question is step by step.

I just want to say that inking is NOT tracing.  Tracing implies following exactly the established pencils without using any of your congnative skills to go over what someone else has already done.  When you ink, you enhance the pencils set before you.  Jim Lee is an awesome artist, but he would be in big trouble without his inker.  Alright, rant over.
This is for traditional inking…
When I get a page, I first take a look at it and evaluate it.  Are there large, solid areas of black?  Mark those w/ X’s.  What’s in the foreground vs. the background?  Are there details to pay close attention to?  What is important on the page?

Thick outlines and large areas of black established.

Follow up with finer details.
 Now to ink.  Of course, objects in the background get smaller line work as opposed to things up close.  Distance = small, thin lines.  Up close = thicker, more bold lines.  Sometimes it’s ok to put a halo around an object that’s in the foreground to separate it more from the background.  Or maybe you want the foreground object to bleed into the dark background.  This all depends on your personal style, too, so you may opt out of the halo thing.
Finer lines for background stuff.
Also, pay attention to curves.  On something organic, like hair, a line will taper at the end, so watch the pressure you apply with the pen.  If an object has a bow or bend to it, the bend is thicker than the ends.  It’s also important to note that an object’s outline will be thicker than the details within, so use a smaller nib when tackling those.

I’m a sucker for people.  Maybe I should reword that…  If given the option, I’d choose to ink only the characters and leave the inanimate objects and background in pencils.  Haha!  Who’s lazy?  This gal, right here.  Nah, but seriously, I like to ink people first, specifically faces, starting with the eyes of a character.  Then I work my way out to the body outline, then the details within.  Then I tackle the background (ugh!) with the same method:  outlines first, details within next.  And finally I ink the large solid areas of black which I’ve already marked with X’s.  I ink those areas last because I feel I can finally relax after concentrating on a lot of detailed lines.

Then, when all’s done, I take a trusty straight edge and do the panel borders.

Theeeee ennnddd!
In the end, the one thing we want you to walk away with is that inking is an important part to comic book illustration. There are a lot of ways to achieve the look you want with your ink work. However, it's going to take practice, time and patience in order to get things going. We hope this inking tutorial is helpful on your way to completion of that all important project. Don't forget to post your comments here and visit us on our MAW Productions Studio Facebook page to hear more tips and techniques. 


  1. The only thing better than finding a nice inking tutorial is finding 3 in 1. Awesome guys!

  2. Thanks!
    I thought it would be a good thing to cover to show how many different ways you can ink and what techniques work best in different situations. There is so much to cover that it could take over the entire blog. But, I'm glad we could help you out. If you have any questions or want to share your experiences with inking, let us know.