Penciling and Inking

Daily Prompt, Virtual Comics Club

The previous posts have mentioned penciling and inking as a method to get good scans or photos to post. This process is used by almost all comic creators in the comic book drawing process. It usually goes like this:

  1. Sketching or “Penciling”: Drawn with a pencil, or a blue non-photo-reproducable pencil (as you got in your comics club portfolio). This lets you develop the drawing and placement while still being able to make changes to the drawing.
  2. Inking: Tracing over the penciled drawing with ink to create crisp lines for reproduction. After inking the pencil lines are removed.
  3. Coloring: adding color to the inked drawings.
  4. Lettering: Placing word bubbles and such over the original drawings. These are usually laid out in the initial sketches to make sure the word bubbles don’t cover critical artwork and the flow of the page is preserved in the composition.

In the old days, this was done on sheets of vellum transparency sheets. These were acetate sheets that were clear with a texture that would accept ink. The vellum was placed over the pencil drawing and traced over, white out was used to make corrections. Colors were painted or drawn on another sheet of vellum placed over the inked vellum with the appropriate color separations for the printer to use. Some comic artists were specialists, only doing pencils or only inking over other’s pencils or were simply color artists. In the American comic industry it wasn’t until much later that we see the lone creator making comics by performing all these tasks alone.

Now we have lots of technology and digital tools to facilitate the process. Many comic artists today currently work fully digital, never creating a physical drawing on paper. Leveraging digital tools doesn’t need to be a high tech process. It can be as easy as taking a picture with a cell phone, a little light editing, and then sending that file to your home printer.

  1. My penciled drawing. I like to use a mechanical pencil, just because I don’t like to head off to the sharpener all the time. It also provides a fine line similar to what I will use inking. I am not doing graduated shading because I can’t reproduce it in ink so a graphite stick or other fine art pencil isn’t needed.
  2. My inked drawing (before erasing pencils). You don’t need a fancy pen or anything, though there are lots of them out there. The fiber tip style fine point pens are the easiest (The Sakura Micron is a popular model, but I’ve done a lot of inking with INC brand Optimus pens I bought at the Dollar Store). Many comic artists use brushes to apply ink. That’s why you see a lot of elegant tapered lines in classic comics. Experiment with tools that you like. A note on shading, shading in ink is usually done with cross hatching or parallel lines, line weight is also important for implying volume to shakes, experiment with your techniques to provide shading (another post on shading next week)
  3. After erasing pencils I take a photo of the inked drawing with my phone and edit that in the image editor. I trim the photo down to just my image and not all the stuff on my desk that might have gotten photographed as well. I adjust brightness and contrast to 100% to get a crisp highly contrasted drawing with bright whites and dark blacks.
  4. The edited photo, ready to print. You can print the inked and adjusted picture as your final work or practice adding colors to multiple versions until you get what you want.

I use an Android app called MediaBang Paint on a small Tablet for my final production. There’s lots of programs out there, this one just worked best for my process. Please ask any questions in the comments.

This has been a very talky talky technical post today before getting to the exercise. But if you hang around comics creators for long, you will find out how much technical chat they get on to, we geek out about pen nibs and brush sizes and what ink brands do certain kinds of effects best.

I want you to practice inking on one of the penciled pages below. Print them out and ink over them, you wont be able to erase the lines but they should be light enough to get filtered out. Then practice penciling and inking your own drawings.

images: Jack Kirby: THOR, John Buscema: Spider Ma, John Byrne: Fantastic Four. Characters are the property of Marvel Media

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