back to list

Inking: Literally the worst?

HippieVan at 12:00AM, Oct. 9, 2015

This is building a bit on ozoneocean's previous newspost on developing a sketch! For most comic artists, after having perfected a sketch (or at least getting it to an acceptable point) the next step is inking. I don't think I'm alone in saying this is one of my least favourite parts of the comic-making process. A well-inked image can make a sketch look professional, dynamic and ‘finished,’ while my own work often ends up sapping the life out of my initial sketch. In this newspost I'll lay out some of the techniques I've used for inking, and their pros and cons!

Keeping it precise: the pen tool

I'm being a bit of a photoshop elitist here - hopefully whatever programs you all use have a similar tool, in which you select an area and fill it in. For me, this is usually the technique that give me the best results. Lines can be made more or less thin to convey a sense of movement, and your lines are always crisp and precise. You can follow your sketch down to the pixel.

Cons: Your sketch has to be fairly complete as well as neat for this technique to work - and as you can see in the image above, mine often are not (see the hand). This also takes a heck of a lot longer than any other technique, and certain shapes (like circles) can be difficult to do nicely.

Keeping it lively: the brush tool

The ol' tried-and-true brush tool. You see a line on your sketch layer, you draw a line. Couldn't be simpler. You have all the advantages of digital media like clean lines and endless re-tries, but you're working freehand so you can keep the liveliness of traditional art.

Cons: My main problem with the brush tool arises from not having a very steady hand. It can be difficult to get everything in the right place on the first try, but move too slow and your lines gets shaky - not to mention you usually lose the difference in pressure that makes your inking look dynamic.

Keeping it traditional: a brush pen

I've seen some really amazing brush pen work…from other people. If you can master the brush pen, it produces lines that really flow in a way that I like a lot. And sometimes it's just nice to work in a traditional medium.

Cons: Once again, you need a steady hand - to an even greater extent than for the brush tool, because there's no erasing. I also tend to work very small when I do my sketches, and on weird things like graph paper, which makes using a brush pen difficult.

Keeping it sketchy: ball-point pen/pen and ink

Maybe this is cheating? The sketching and inking are integrated into one step. Add some cross-hatching, and voila! Your finished product. This is my most-used and favourite drawing technique for casual, non-comic art.

Cons: The reason I've never gone this route for a comic is that this method doesn't lend itself to being coloured. Colouring adds so much to a comic page that I haven't been able to let it go yet (although I have a vague plan for a black and white comic at some indeterminate point years in the future).


Genejoke's comic Lore recently reached 150 pages!

zenia has a couple of milestones! Their comic Pokemon Regional is just about to reach its 100th page, and Tina's Story (ADULTS ONLY) just passed 300 pages! Impressive!

Have a comic milestone, a community project or some comic-related news that you'd like to see here? Do you have original art for our newspost image database? Send it to me via PQ or at hippievannews(at), or leave a comment below!



PaulEberhardt at 2:21AM, June 17, 2016

@Unka John: I think it makes sense, because it's just about the same with me.

Unka John at 8:23PM, Oct. 11, 2015

I don't have computer access often enough to develop digital inking skills so stick with a brush and crow quill pens. I've been coloring digitally, but the more I do it the less I like it. It comes out looking too web-comicky if that makes any sense.

ejb at 8:03PM, Oct. 11, 2015

@HippieVan: There is definitely something about the scratch of crow quill on paper.

Ironscarf at 6:27AM, Oct. 11, 2015

I struggled with digital inking. I really enjoy it now but it took a long time to make the mental shift to how easy it can be erased, undone, corrected or totally deleted. Now my drawings have become very minimal and most of the work happens in the inking, which I think helps to preserve some freshness. More than I could ever get when I worked traditionally to be honest. A lot of this comes down to finding the right program and settings of course.

HippieVan at 11:28AM, Oct. 10, 2015

@ejb: I really like dip pens, although I've never used them to ink comic work! I have a really tiny scratchy nib that I use for cross-hatching and something about the way it feels on paper is really satisfying.

ejb at 8:38AM, Oct. 10, 2015

I really dig inking. It's one of my favorite parts of working on a drawing. I've recently been getting more into brushes but I really love working with dip pens and nibs. I have a whole mess of nibs. Each one has its own feel and pressure response which helps in getting all kinds of line weight and variance. Digital inking is also fun, and I've found that practice doing digital inks has helped my brush work.

fallopiancrusader at 8:23AM, Oct. 10, 2015

I use Photoshop for my digital inking, and brush and India ink for my traditional media work. I really like painting and inking in traditional media, but I do everything digitally now, because it's so much faster. In Photoshop, I use a 10-pixel hard round brush, with diameter controlled by pen pressure. I have the flow set to 35 percent for all my brushes. For me, the gesture and edge quality of the brush stroke is extremely important, so the lower flow setting allows me to build up the kind of edge that I want. Even though my line-work looks like black-and-white, the edges of each line are actually semi-transparent (which would be a disaster if I wanted to print it.) If doing vector-based line-work, I like Adobe Illustrator better than Photoshop. Vector work is great if you are planning on printing your art, but it's way too tedious for me.

NekkoXIII at 11:57PM, Oct. 9, 2015

I used to hate inking until I switched to doing my pages completely digitally. I swear by Manga Studio though. The pen and pencil feel the best to me. I also highly recommend flex nibs for those using compatible wacom products. The rubber makes for a great texture that feels closer to paper and they don't wear as fast at the standard plastic ones.

Gunwallace at 11:41PM, Oct. 9, 2015

@Usedbooks: I know a very respected professional artist who has worked for the major publishers who does just that ... pencils that become inks without inking. His secret is many, many years of practice until the pencils are just that damn good. He still pencils some things traditionally, however.

HippieVan at 11:17PM, Oct. 9, 2015

@chosenbyeleven: if you have a tablet (eg Wacom) then the brush tool is probably your best simple starting point! But it totally depends on your own art style and preferences.

chosenbyeleven at 9:45PM, Oct. 9, 2015

what would be the best method for a photoshop noob like me?

Z74 at 9:43PM, Oct. 9, 2015

yes, I've really seen some great stuff done that way , like the early dark horse conan the barbarian comics , and cool concept pieces as well !

HippieVan at 7:56PM, Oct. 9, 2015

Adding to that, I do think that watercolours over pencils without inking can look awesome.

HippieVan at 7:55PM, Oct. 9, 2015

I don't think that inking over your pencils is lazy! Generally my sketches just aren't quite clean enough for that.

Amelius at 7:38PM, Oct. 9, 2015

Haha I figured the two a youse weren't super serious about the laziness, but it is a thing I see bandied about on different art sites, so I thought I'd comment on it! :D I like pencil art myself as well, it just takes a heck of a lot of time to clean up!

Z74 at 6:52PM, Oct. 9, 2015

I agree , I was kinda joking ! also there is an energy that you get with pencils that gets lost sometimes in inking .

Amelius at 6:25PM, Oct. 9, 2015

Heeeey now, where is this idea coming from that not inking over pencils is lazy? If you went through the effort to clean up your pencils and make sure things are clearly constructed, it's a legit approach and can look just as good as any inked work. Plenty of pro artists do without inking, it's only really necessary if you need to work quickly or with a team doing the flats/colors. It's only lazy if you don't bother cleaning construction lines before scanning! Don't let the idea of "how it's done!" make you feel like less of an artist than someone who adheres to the method.

Z74 at 5:25PM, Oct. 9, 2015

Personally I have never had good luck inking , I loose alot of details when i do it and I am never as happy with the finished product as I was with the regular pencil drawing . Usedbooks mentioned tweaking a pencil drawing with contrast etc. and thats how I am making my current comic so yes I am super lazy , but I have gotten a lot of positive responses so far ! I also made my cover image as she mentioned by coloring with layers over the pencil art ( using gimp because in addition to being super lazy I am also super cheap ! ) just kidding .

HippieVan at 9:23AM, Oct. 9, 2015

Ooh...super appreciate the tips, Amelius!

Amelius at 9:17AM, Oct. 9, 2015

continued-(blast the word limit!) If you're using clip paint/manga studio the same function is preformed with "convert brightness to opacity". :) This is preferable to the multiply layer option because you can lock and color the lines (color holds)apart from the inside of the art, and if you don't have to deal with the multiply layer darkening things in a disfavorable way. In photoshop, it's a good idea too before you load the inverted selection and you just have the outside space selected, do a regular inversion, fill the space inside your lineart on a lower layer, hide it, then do the load selection process. Reveal it again, you now have a nice block of flats fitted behind your lineart for blocking out colors!

Amelius at 9:00AM, Oct. 9, 2015

If you're inking in photoshop, I highly recommend the plugin "Lazy Nezumi". It's not free of course but sometimes it goes on sale, as an artist who falls somewhere between "caffeine jitters hand" and "gorilla with a pen", I can certainly vouch for its effectiveness! As to coloring pencils/sketchy stuff: with a grayscale file, clean up your lineart as best you can, or for a quick way "filter-noise-median", on the lower end (2-3) which adds a light smoothing, darken with "Image-adjustments-curves and brightness/contrast". Select all the empty space with wand, turn up tolerance so it selects as close to the lines as possible, reselect any light lines that get devoured (quick mask helps!)and once it's all selected, (ctrl-c)copy but don't paste; make new layer, go to "selection-load selection", check "invert" in the menu, and fill this selection with black and change color profile, (don't merge) the white is now all transparent, lines can be locked for coloring!

usedbooks at 5:35AM, Oct. 9, 2015

Super lazy method is tweaking darkness and contrast to turn a polished pencil drawing into a "pen" drawing digitally. I doubt any respectable artist would do that, but it's a crutch for someone who's bad with pens and digital drawing. :P If you like your pencil art/texture but want color, there are plenty of ways to compromise. Experiment with layer properties. Not that it has the best look to it, but I use a semitransparent normal layer for color and then a multiply layer and/or color(legacy) for lighting effects. I'd make a tutorial, but I'm pretty sure how I do things is wrong, unprofessional looking, and not good advice/example.

KimLuster at 4:57AM, Oct. 9, 2015

Good Stuff!

KAM at 3:10AM, Oct. 9, 2015

I believe if you use the Multiply setting in Photoshop you can color over lines without erasing them, although it's best to use a different layer for color just in case.

Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Google+