Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

help on inking materials
Adariel at 5:31PM, Dec. 18, 2005
posts: 915
joined: 1-1-2006
could someone help me out on this? ive been using a .4 and a .5 tech pen all the while and i was thinking there's gotta be a better way of doing stuff or better materials i could use right off a store shelf. what do you guys use?
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:45AM
mykill at 10:46PM, Dec. 18, 2005
posts: 194
joined: 1-11-2006
Traditional professional thoughts.

1. paper should be bristol board. Unless you are painting the comic in which case illustration board, canvas board or watercolor paper may be preferable.

2. india ink. india ink for using with a brush should be thickened by being left open overnight or a few days to evaporate some.

3. Pro-white is a brush-able opaque white, very useful for inking comics and/or correcting mistakes. Opaque white gouache or white acrylic paint (thinned with water to consistency of ink) may be a viable substitute.

Comic-book inking is done with dip pens and kolinsky sable brushes. Other tools commonly used include Sumi brushes and tech pens.

The dip pen: this pen will give you some flexibility with line, Hunt 102 is the comic industry standard pen nib. Dip pens, unlike tech pens and brushes, often leave lines that stay wet for many minutes - inviting unwanted smudging. Specialists in dip pens often learn to ink from the top left to the bottom right to keep the drawing hands off freshly inked lines.

The brush: The kolinsky sable brush is very expensive and very special. It will ‘spring’ to a point when lifted and even the thickest kolinsky sable brush will yield a razor thin point. Windsor newton series 7 is the most common brand. Raphael makes a good kolinsky brush for less money. Taken proper care of - these brushes will last for years with even heavy regular use. So your investment need not be short lived.

Choosing a kolinsky brush: ask for water and paper from a salesman. Dip the brush in water and pull it on the paper, rolling it as you pull. this gets rid of excess water/ ink and you'll be doing this a lot when using the brush. What you are looking for is to make sure the brush comes to a very sharp point. Now thwack the brush against your other hand. Does the brush keep its point? It should. If it doesn't, or if the hairs split - select another brush and try again. You want a brush that keeps its point no matter what. The kolinsky hair is ribbed which helps the brush hold more ink and helps the hairs stick to each other.

Using the brush:
Never let your brush sit in standing water - the wood will absorb the water, expand and stress the metal holding the brush hairs in place - killing your brush.

Never dip a dry brush in ink - always dip the brush in water, roll the brush on paper to dry it and THEN dip it in ink. This puts water in the base of the brush hairs, keeping ink out. (and use thickened ink as the water in the brush will thin the ink making a grey line otherwise).

If you dip a dry brush in ink - the ink will get into the base of the brush hairs and be very hard to clean out - inviting the possibility of dried ink in your brush ruining the careful distribution of brush hairs.

RULERS: you want a bevelled edge ( the top of the ruler has a broader edge than the bottom) this allows you to ink a line without ‘bleeding’ under the ruler. Metal rulers are nice, if yours is not bevelled putting a few layers of masking tape along the center of one side of the ruler will make it bevelled.

Tape: use masking tape to tape paper to drawing board. Run tape over jeans before placing on paper and it will never rip the paper when removed.

Sumi Brush: this Japanese brush is dirt cheap and just as capable of a range from thick to thin as any kolinsky brush. But it has no ‘spring’ - if you apply pressure for a broad stroke - the brush will keep its last shape - it must be re rolled to a point to establish a fine line again. More work - but a fine tool

How to get smooth lines:

The first answer: Practice. it's a motor skill, for large curves - lock your wrist and move the brush with your entire arm.

The ‘cheat’ : If your original art is larger than it is to be printed or previewed online, the reduction of size to the artwork will minimize line shakiness and help the work seem far more detailed and delicate.

Theory in different line weights: You can use thick to thin lines to convey light and shadow, ‘weight’ and dimension.

Simple separation: Ink fore ground characters with the thickest lines, middle ground characters with moderate lines and background characters and elements with the thinnest lines.

DIGITAL: A wacom tablet is essential. the wacom pen in photoshop to me, feels much like a brush. In Illustrator, with its more limited range of widths, it feels more like a dip pen. Illustrator will ‘auto-smooth’ your lines for you and its defaults are too extreme, Throttle this down and you'll be able to ink with Disney perfect smooth line quality like you'd been practicing for many decades.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:09PM
Liriel at 12:07AM, Dec. 21, 2005
posts: 24
joined: 1-8-2006
I think the ‘right off the store shelves’ part of her query might have been over looked…

I use Micron pens which aren't really off the store shelves, but probably more so then what mykill mentioned.

(apologies mykill, I know you're just trying to help get 'em off on the right foot ^_^ )

last edited on July 14, 2011 1:35PM
mykill at 3:49PM, Dec. 21, 2005
posts: 194
joined: 1-11-2006
For “off the shelf”, I still maintain working large is key. If you working page size is 10“ x 15” - a standard sharpie marker can work very well. Don't believe me, believe Alex Toth.

Brush markers can be used as a substitute for brush inking. Find one with waterproof ink if you can.

Windsor Newton series 7 kolinsky brushes are also pretty ubiquitous - kolinsky also being the water color brush of choice, and winsor Newton is to brushes what McDonalds is to burgers. Serious tool worth the money - I already went into its care and use in my previous post.

Any art shop will also carry sumi brushes, india ink and bristol board. If they don't, ask for it and they'll order it for you.

By the way, I use combo shampoo/conditioner for cleaning all ink brushes. be it sumi, kolinski, or human hair is hair.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:09PM
sonata at 5:10PM, Jan. 4, 2006
posts: 2
joined: 1-8-2006
what mykill said.

i just use a regular ball-point pen… -_-
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:50PM
McEwin at 5:52AM, Jan. 5, 2006
posts: 15
joined: 1-5-2006
I use a old .05 fine liner… cheap ass.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:56PM
Chameloncholic at 5:53AM, Jan. 5, 2006
posts: 459
joined: 1-3-2006
I'm trying to switch to 100% digi. I don't think it's going to work.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:39AM
Anonymous at 1:45PM, Jan. 5, 2006
posts: 678
joined: 4-22-2006
If you listen to the 2nd half the Jennie Breeden's interview on the Gigcast, she tells you how she does it. (The half ass way, the easier way, that still looks good).
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:53AM
Enef at 2:02PM, Jan. 5, 2006
posts: 260
joined: 1-3-2006
Just buy some new stuffs and go with whatever you feel comfortable with
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:22PM
Anonymous at 7:48PM, Jan. 5, 2006
posts: 678
joined: 4-22-2006
I do the compleatly digital thing. It dosen't get ink on my hands^^
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:53AM
mykill at 7:30PM, Jan. 11, 2006
posts: 194
joined: 1-11-2006
100% digital tips:

To render digitally with the quality associated with analog tools such as brush and dip pen you gotta have a wacom tablet. The cheapest is around $100 (and I've used it myself and promise you it is good enough - If you have more money I reccomend the 6“x8” intuous2 as the ‘sweet spot).

The anaology to drawing larger than you will print, is to work in a higher resolution and/or size than you will print. This will allow your digital line work to magically ’improve' when the final version of the art is generated for web format.

Only the latest version of PAINTER allows you to generate dynamic perspective grids digitally. If you know perspective like the back of your hand and can fake it superbly, this isn't a problem. Otherwise you may have no alternative to prototyping your pages on paper to work out perspective problems, then scanning this work and working digitally thereafter.

No one draws as well with a wacom tablet as they do with a pencil. The edge a computer has over paper tho is ridiculous levels of editability.

Draw digitally thusly (I'm thinking photoshop, but this applies to many other examples of art software):

For maximum resolution and a manageable file size - work in greyscale! Even if you're ultimately working in color, the color need not be as crisp as the black line.

The manga digital format of 600pixels/inch makes sense - in grayscale! Do not use bitmap - it chews up line quality - no antialiasing!

Draw your page loosly, do not care about quality - care about storytelling and designing the space of the page.

Now, lock that layer and create a transparent layer above it, make this the master layer. (you may adjust the first layer to preview at 50% transparancy or placing a layer of white at 50% transparancy between the first layer and your ‘live’ one).

Now, you have a ghosted image that is poorly drawn. Now draw your comic page. The first draft is enough information to draw the page BETTER THAN YOU MIGHT HAVE IN PENCIL ON PAPER.

ARE YOU DONE? no. Now you need to ink your page. My inking tips can be found online here:

Redraw the ‘pecil page’ with informed inking technique now, improving separations and detail - making it EVEN BETTER. This is how digital comics can look as good as top of the line ‘regular’ comics. You may want to ink the comic page in another application, such as Illustrator or Flash (especially if you want an artificially perfecly smooth line quality).

Now, after a while you will be able to combine the inking and ‘finished pencil’ stages into one step. But if you're starting out, separate these steps just like an analog artist does who lays his pencils out, ‘finishes’ the pencils - and then inks the pencils.

I prefer the .png digital format for comics. The 24bit png comic page is going to be too big if it's in color. The 8bitpng comic page is comparable to gif in color quality and makes a larger file than gif - why do I use it if the color is inferior to jpef and the file size is larger than gif? Because the LINE DETAIL is far better than gif or especially jpeg.

File size for web: the professional standard is pornography. In the porn web business the rule is “no page over 100k”. My comic pages will approcah 150k - never over 200k. I usually make my page, formatted like a standard comic page - 500 pixels wide (so there is no side to side scrolling on almost any computer viewing the page).
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:09PM
sandy at 8:20PM, Jan. 11, 2006
posts: 478
joined: 1-5-2006
I basically follow mikill's list. Except for me, I draw on a smaller surface, but only by two inches. I love the dip pens and the brushes make for some interesting line weights. The part about dipping the brush in water first, that I didn't know. Now that I do, I'll definitely go there first. I've been using bristol for a long time and I think the stuff I have now, isn't plate surfaced and the ink gets absorbed quickly. Go figure? Always have that problem when I switch to Strathmore boards.

Okay so what bristol board IS the BEST?
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:22PM

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