Wednesday, July 22, 2009


A'right, now that the pencils have been scanned, we move onto inking! I wouldn't be honest if I didn't give this disclaimer before I get into this post: Out of all the phases in my comic-making process, this is the one that is still fluctuating and changing wildly. Inking isn't my strong suite, and my method is NOT the best, or even one of the better methods out there. Now then...

I'm a little hesitant to ink over my original pencils. I have too much pressure attached to the whole thing, so to take that away I actually print out my pencils onto a separate page. If anything goes wrong, hey, no big deal, right? Just print out another, or even better, smatter the page with some white touchup and I'll be good to go.

Most of my lines are done with a Rapidograph Koh-I-Noor technical pen. I used Microns and other disposable tech pens in the past, but I don't care for them. The ink fades, and they never last long enough if you're inking more than 2-3 pages, 4 at best. I was fortunate though, that my family had a full set of Rapidographs just sitting at home for years, well before I actually went to use them (my Mom, who is the ever vigilant coupon-saver and sales watcher, probably grabbed them from Michaels at a liquidation sale or something else that had them immensely cheap.) I actually use Higgin's Drawing Ink (I think it's called Black Magic?) in my tech pens, something that has some advantages and disadvantages.

-It's a thin enough ink that it flows through the pen without gunking it up too much
-You're able to buy the HUGE bottles of it and keep your pens topped off for months, if not years.
-It's a decent ink that you know what's in it.

-It probably does cause more maintenance for a pen that already requires quite a bit of maintenance. I think these things have become a little more finicky since using Higgins in them, and I've noticed times where they'll vomit ink in their caps or all over the tip.
-Unless you have an eyedropper or even better, a pipette, it can become a REAL hassle to fill them.
-It doesn't nearly have the same line variance as a nib pen, or even better, a brush.
-It's a decent ink. It's not the best ink I've had (I actually prefer Bombay Ink,) so you have to take into account all the qualities that comes with a decent quality ink.

That third Con is a big thing This is another thing I wanted to mention about tech pens, that could either be a pro or con depending on how you look at it: All the pens are fixed width. Microns at least actually have some flexibility to them, albeit very small amount of flex. The way Rapidographs are designed, they can't take advantage of a felt nib for that flex. It's cold, unbending metal. The plus side is that you're inking a lot of technical things, say buildings, machinery, or vehicles, you have an unyielding line that can offer a smooth, mechanical look to them. The downside? If you ink anything else with them, you get a smooth, mechanical look that's hard to shake. Not only that, but if you want to really take advantage of inking theory such as line weights, you need to buy several of these pens. I think now is the time I should mention one of these fellas runs about $25. Yep. Just one.

To fill blacks, I've ditched using a regular brush to using a Niji waterbrush filled with Higgins ink, something that I learned from James Gurney (though he uses it for far better endeavours.) It saves time going to and from the well, and if you don't have a crappy enough brush for black fill-in or you can't fit your wide brush into the ink well, these'll do nicely, and cost about as much as a cheap brush. They have nylon fibers for the bristles instead of felt, so you'll actually be able to do some brush effects with them (go on, try it!) I ought to note that I haven't gotten a rich, even black from them yet, it comes out more as a really dark grey. It might be the paper I'm using to ink, which is some leftover Blueline paper (something that doesn't seem to suck up ink well at all.) So once I run through that and switch over to decent paper, this may not be the case anymore.

Anyway, at this stage there's two big goals: Determining my spot blacks to make compositional elements work better, and to refine my linework once again and add all the necessary details.

There are not many people in the world of comics that I think can pull off good artwork without spot blacks (Cheeks immediately springs to mind as being one of the top guys who can do such a thing.) I can tell you right now, good spot blacks on a page can make a page. A good rule of thumb that one of my professors use to tell us was "It needs to look good as lineart. If it doesn't look good as lineart, or even worse, it reproduces terribly, you're artwork isn't doing its job." If you shy away from spot blacks, I urge you to reconsider. They don't have to be used as shadows, and infact, you shouldn't think of them that way. I should probably give another post solely on this.

Anyway, as I said before, this stage in my process is right now always in flux. What I do on one page may not be what I'll do for another, and the page after that might be different too. In fact, I'm actually trying out digitally inking my next page of pencils in photoshop to see if I can get a more sensitive line quality. I've picked up the brush again after nearly a good year and a half of neglecting practice, and I'm starting to do that again. I hope one day to actually be able to ink most of my stuff with a brush. I've also been looking at nib pens again after a few helpful suggestions from old friends and professionals. Maybe someday once I'm a little more experienced and not as wet behind the ears I'll be able to do a more proper post on all this.

In the meantime, stay tuned for the next process post. Once the inks are all dry, we take it back yet again into the computer, and begin the coloring/lettering process! I should also mention that come this Friday, you'll be able to see the finished page in all its glory on the webcomic Border Crossings, which can be found riiiiiight over here.

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