Paper

Paper

This is where it all begins: The pad of Bristol paper. I have several pads from different vendors of different styles of Bristol. Vellum is often recommended, but I am finding that smooth seems to work better with my Pentel Brush (more on that later). My suggestion: Experiment. I really like this pad, so I would also suggest that you spend good money on your paper if you are going to do all your inking by hand. It makes a difference. Actual artists sometimes use Bristol board, but just a regular 1-3 ply sheet is all I use.

The tools of the trade

The tools of the trade

And here’s a whole host of tools I use, faced for your education. On the right is an Architect’s scale, great for determining how big things will look at different scales. Plus, it’s a great straightedge. There’s also some White-Out (name brand, no less!). Beneath that there’s my mechanical pencil, a Staedtler 0.5 mm Mars Draft pencil with blue lead (not REALLY lead). It’s not non-photo blue, but I get the same effect on a scanner. I use the technical pens beneath that for straight lines. The thinner pen is for text and background lines, the thicker one for foreground lines and borders.
In support of the drafting, I use a Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser because it works really well on the blue pencil leads and doesn’t leave any residue. The Alvin lettering guide (clear plastic thing) keeps my lettering guidelines nice and neat. Too bad my handwriting is awful. The tape there is drafting tape, which I use to hold things in place so I can draw straight lines. That tape is applied to the T-Square, on the right. The T-Square keeps straight lines lined up, and the tape keeps any accidental applications of large amounts of ink from being smeared by the straightedge.
The bread and butter of my inking is the Pentel Brush. It’s a brush with an ink reservoir, so I don’t have to keep dipping, and synthetic bristles, so they stay nice and solid (and unclogged, since they always have ink on them). It even comes with a good cap and a little plastic box so I can take it with me wherever I go. Of course, it’s still a brush, and it still applies ink. That paper towel is evidence of how “messy” it can still be.
Cutting a blank

Cutting a blank

Here’s a strip cut to size from a full-sized sheet. Final strips are 14″ wide by 5.5″ tall (suitable for framing!). Sheet size varies by the paper I use, but it’s always at least 14″ in some dimension. The larger the original, the finer the linework can be because as you scale it down later the lines are also scaled down. Also, you can scan it at a lower resolution and still get good fidelity, or scan it at a high resolution and be able to make large prints. I scan these 14″ puppies as 600 dpi bitmaps so I can go the latter route if I please.

Guidelines (frames and sample text guides)

Guidelines (frames and sample text guides)

You may have noticed the draftsman’s tape in the previous picture, which is covered by the strip in this picture. It has all my guideline measurements for quick transfer. I finish those lines and then add the three rows of text up top. This gives me a four-panel strip, my standard. I keep a few blanks around in case I really want to get fancy, but most of the time I work with these. I make these blanks in bunches because it’s a tedious job and it’s better that way. This is usually done while watching TV or swearing.

Rough pencils, including dialog

Rough pencils, including dialog

Ahh, a good sketch! I forgot to take a picture of the rough-sketch stage, but here’s a run-down: I usually drop the text in first, because it defines the space in the panel. I can make a drawing squeeze in pretty much anywhere, but you can’t just throw letters in at random. After defining the word balloons, I draw all the rough-ins: Circles, squares, lines, rectangles and arcs all give me a general idea of what I’m going to do. Next I detail the rough-ins, which is what you see here. You can clearly see the circles I use for heads and a lot of the other rough-ins. Sometimes, if it’s getting too busy, I erase some of the rough linework. Otherwise, I leave it. Since this blue doesn’t reproduce when scanned as a 2-color bitmap I can leave it for aesthetics.

Lines and Lettering come next

Lines and Lettering come next

When I move to inking, I do the text and borders first. There are several reasons, not the least of which is that I use technical pens with pigment instead of ink, so it’s real hard to smear, and by doing all the text at once I keep it as consistent as my chicken scratch gets. I use the T-Square to drop a lot of the other lines, and sometimes my balloons, so I like to do all of those in one sitting, too. This gives me a better idea of how the space is already filled, and I can set up a plan of attack for my linework.

No off-brands here.  Wite-Out to the rescue!

No off-brands here. Wite-Out to the rescue!

Oops! Mistakes! White-Out to the rescue! I try to make sure I correct these mistakes now because they can really change the definition of the space I have to work with depending on the size of my error. The omission of leaders can be particularly troublesome, because I didn’t compoose the scene with some of them in mind, and they’ll break up stuff. Particularly troublesome will be the last panel. I want to draw attention to that window (we’ll see where it actually is later).

Some background details are added

Some background details are added

Fixed! Notice how the location of the leaders makes a big difference in how the background is perceived. I kept them less stated in the last panel, where the background is supposed to get your attention. In the first two panels, they break up the background, but that’s okay…I don’t want it to get too distracting anyway. I also take stock at this point and determine how I’m going to handle any background lines. In this case, I decide I will use technical pens for backgrounds and environmental linework (table, booth, et cetera). For the lunch plates I will use my brush.

All the foreground and important elements are brushed in

All the foreground and important elements are brushed in

That is, or so I thought. Compare the lady’s lunch plates in the first and second panels. Besides the fact that it moved, notice the linework is thicker in the first panel. I decided that I should have used the technical pens from the start so switched mid-comic. That happens sometimes. You’d think I’d just use White-Out to correct mistaken ink marks, but the problem is White-Out doesn’t take ink well. It does take the pigment from technical pen just fine, however, so I usually do my fixes that way. The other nice thing about technical pens is they are pretty much fixed-width. The nasty thing is their fixed width, which is where my Pentel Brush shines. All the foreground characters are brushed, as well as some of the accent lines. The background characters and the straight lines are done with the technical pens. Notice how messy that paper towel is. As I said earlier, it’s cleaner than a brush dipped in ink, but it’s still not as clean as using technical pens.
Inking the actual artwork takes time, and as you notice, the final sketches are really just guides. You’d think that after the rough-ins (several stages of rough-ins, I might add) that I have set my lines. Not true, and I make all my final line decisions as I swing my brush. That can cause some problems, and sometimes it messes up my composition, but I’m learning more about it as I go along. Also, sometimes I commit some errors, like the lack of silverware in the first panel. I actually intended it to be that way from the start, but as I was coloring I realized I gave no suggestion of silverware in the first panel, so that looks kind of weird (does she carry a fork and knife in her purse?). This has nothing to do with inking as I go, though: That was just a poor decision from the start. Oh, well, too lazy to fix it.
Photoshop is the final stop before the Internet

Photoshop is the final stop before the Internet

Eventually, I get here. There’s lots to do in this process, including scanning, stitching together the two halves (my scanner only accepts 12″ paper), processing the ink layer, painting the base colors, painting the shading and adding any effects I use (such as the guy’s dizzying arms). There’s lots of things that go into the coloring process…but that’s another project for another day.

I hope you found this instructional, or at least enjoyable. If so, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at any of the links available. There should be one at the bottom of the page, and there’s probably one at the top and maybe the sidebar as well. Thanks for reading!

–Lou