Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Smooth Lines
Faust at 12:23PM, Dec. 1, 2007
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I've been working on trying to smooth my lines, but I'm failing miserably at it. I have a pretty quaky hand, so I use a sweeping technique to try and keep everything straight. Unfortunately, sometimes there's finer details that I can't use the sweeping technique for, and the end product is a very subtly squiggly line.

I know Adobe Flash has a smoothing option, but I can't seem to figure out how to ink with it, and it doesn't seem to be smoothing pre-inked work I've brought over from Photoshop.

So, got any tips or tricks about keeping your lines smooth, or is there a trick that smooths them for you?
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:25PM
angry_black_guy at 3:19PM, Dec. 1, 2007
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Ah, you're not alone in your dilemma my friend. My hand is so unsteady that I based my entire art style around it and it works out pretty well. However, I have practiced to keep my hand still and I'm satisfied that I can now draw a moderately straight line (I say moderately because it's physically impossible, even with a straight edge, to draw an actual straight line).

First thing is comfort. If you're not comfortable, then you'll begin to shake. Make sure the desk is about even with your midsection. If you have to hunch over too much, your heart rate will increase ever so slightly which will create tension and cause your hand to shake.

Next, breathing control. When I draw, I practice yoga breathing techniques which clams your body. Breath in through your nose slowly and completely fill your lungs then slowly exhale through your mouth and let the air flow out your throat while making a sort of “haaaa” sound.

Finally, move your arm, not your wrist. Your wrist is a terrible lever. If you ever watch old Japanese or Chinese movies where people are doing that crazy brush caligraphy, you'll notice their wrists are perfectly straight and they move their entire upper arm. This may take some time to get used to, but you should never draw with your wrist unless you're doing fine detail work and you move the paper to accomadate a better angle.

Hope this helped.

last edited on July 14, 2011 10:52AM
ledpusha at 11:48PM, Dec. 1, 2007
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It is hard I hear ya. The undo button is the best and then try the stroke again.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:30PM
CharleyHorse at 11:27AM, Dec. 2, 2007
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angry_black_guy gives some excellent advice here.

Some people also have luck scanning their work in at a huge DPI count and then claim that everything smooths out when you scale your work down to your upload dimensions criteria. I don't know about the efficacy of this technique. It is a huge memory hog, though; and even if it does work, you will have to have a vast amount of ram set aside for your application work.

last edited on July 14, 2011 11:40AM
angry_black_guy at 12:25PM, Dec. 2, 2007
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Whenever you scale down a picture, the program will remove unnecessary pixels and basically anti-alias the crap out of it. So, yeah, you can smooth your lines if you do that but I highly suggest you color the picture while it's large before shrinking it otherwise the grey used to anti-alias the black lines will show and you'll just have an ugly, blurry pic.

last edited on July 14, 2011 10:52AM
batsofchaos at 1:40PM, Dec. 2, 2007
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I've never tried it, but Scott Ramsoomair who draws VG Cats shows how he does it for his comic in his faq here. Basically he scans in his work, uses the program Adobe Streamline to convert it to vector-based instead of pixels, and then opens it in Adobe Flash which has a tool called ‘smooth’ that he uses to straighten everything up. He colors it, and then exports to photoshop where he finishes it up. It sounds fairly easy, in my book.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:15AM
ShadowsMyst at 3:52PM, Dec. 3, 2007
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Lotsa techniques for helping with that. The most cheap solution would be to use a lot of rulers and french curves as a brace. Don't ink freehand. In this, holding a the brush and pen is very important, as was said. Holding it too tightly will cause you to shake. Pressing too hard will make your hands shake more and more as the muscles get tired. You need to hold your pen more like a paintbrush and move with the elbow, as was stated.

The second form of mechanical help is various programs. MangaStudio is a GODSEND to people who have shakey hands because it has an auto smooth function for lines that works REALLY good. Even the debut version has this function, and it is the WIN. Period. Adobe Illustrator CS/CS2 has a nifty function called ‘live trace’ which is also very good for smoothing out linework. Its like Streamline a bit but built in to Illustrator. You can also learn to use the pen tool in Illustrator or Photoshop to do your inking digitally, and with vector drawing there's no worry about wiggly hands. Flash is also a popular choice because its a little more intuitive.

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last edited on July 14, 2011 3:32PM
Djeinus at 5:05PM, Dec. 3, 2007
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If you're using a penholder and nibs, change nibs frequently, it helps, but does not guarantee smooth lines. Just try drawing with a very old nib. It sucks.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:12PM
albone at 9:34AM, Dec. 4, 2007
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Using traditional methods, you could get some french curves, or flexible rulers to help keep your lines smooth. Myself, I use Illustrator's Live trace to iron out a lot of my lines, I'm a horrible inker.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 10:48AM
batsofchaos at 10:11AM, Dec. 4, 2007
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I should probably try some of these methods; I hack my lines to pieces. I'm just such a technophobe when it comes to image editing. Hopefully practicing will iron out my lines over time.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:15AM
angry_black_guy at 1:07PM, Dec. 4, 2007
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Djeinus
If you're using a penholder and nibs, change nibs frequently, it helps, but does not guarantee smooth lines. Just try drawing with a very old nib. It sucks.

You think so? I hate using new pen nibs because they're really stiff and rigid. Everytime I buy a new pack of nibs, I immediately soak them in warm water for 30 minutes, physically bend them back and forth, and then draw a practice page to get them in the right shape. Once you get a nib all nice and worn, the line variations rival a #1 brush but the lines are continuous instead of the obvious “stroke” effect of a brush.

last edited on July 14, 2011 10:52AM
hpkomic at 2:16PM, Dec. 5, 2007
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Generally, if you're inking by hand, I'd say scan at about 800 dpi, then reduce the total to 600 dpi, that's a signifigant scaledown and it really smoothens things out. Then play around with your levels before you color makign sure you have pure black and pure white in the image, that way you can avoid rings of white around your lines.

After all is said and done, reduce the dpi to the standard 72 dpi and I guarentee your lines will be much smoother.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:50PM
SarahN at 3:35PM, Dec. 5, 2007
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hpkomic
Generally, if you're inking by hand, I'd say scan at about 800 dpi, then reduce the total to 600 dpi, that's a signifigant scaledown and it really smoothens things out.

Whoa, 800dpi? I've been scanning mine in only at 300. Suggestion noted. =P
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:23PM
korosu at 7:08AM, Dec. 9, 2007
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Yeesh, I never paid attention to stuff like that when I used to scan my comic. :P (But of course, back then I didn't even know what dpi was.)
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:21PM

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