How Do I Ink Comic Strips? (UPDATED! Actual inked stuff at the end of the thread!)

ElJeffeElJeffe Moderator, ClubPA mod
edited February 2012 in Artist's Corner
So first off, I am not an artist. I am a guy who can kinda-sorta draw if he needs to. Wanna get that out of the way.

I'm working on a mixed-media project that includes a few comic strips. I have them penciled and I want to ink them and scan them and touch them up with Photoshop and insert them into a Word file. Here are a couple of samples of what I'm doing, just so you can see what I'm working with. The finished products will be black and white, maybe some gray-scale. No color. These are semi-crappy scans of pencil sketches but they should show you what I'm going for:

Sample one.
Sample two.

Anyway, the problem is that I know dick about inking. Part and parcel with that whole "I am not an artist" thing. My goal is to make these look more-or-less professional and competent looking. They need to look nice, but I am not looking to win awards or get acclaim for my mad drawing or inking skills. I want to not be embarrassed. I am not above tweaking the hell out of things in Photoshop to make up for any short-comings in the inking.

My goal is to get a polished looking product with a minimum of work. My question: how do I do that? What tools should I get? Pens or brushes or what? What resources should I used to learn proper technique? Given the choice between mastering a technique the proper way in 5 hours or faking it well for this one project in 4, I would choose the latter. That said, I don't want shitty-looking results. I'm willing to put in the time to make this look good, I just want to minimize that time where possible.

So.

Help?

(Also, the actual content of the comics is not set in stone and there will be edits and art tweaks, but I'm not really looking for critique of my comic-writing skills at this time.)

Maddie: "I named my feet. The left one is flip and the right one is flop. Oh, and also I named my flip-flops."

I make tweet.
ElJeffe on

Posts

  • tapeslingertapeslinger Space Unicorn Slush Ranger Social Justice Rebel ScumRegistered User regular
    Traditional inking is done with a brush, but I don't think in terms of speed and style that it will be as effective for you.

    The short materials list:
    Ink - Inkwell - crowquill pens - sable brushes - and with those you should also set up a cleanng station-- wiping rags and water jars (probably optional for "strip" style comics, but worth investigating)

    technical pens (Sakura Micron are popular, I am a slave to COPIC and so I adore their technical pens)

    Felt tip pens in general will have some brushlike qualities in terms of stroke size; useful for varying line width and creating depth. White out is useful to have around-- I also experiment with white ink from gel pens, it does some interesting things.

    Sharpies are good too, all sizes, depending on your method. Sharpies are hard to white-out, I think it's a solvent in the ink. Useful for spotting blacks and working fast.

    I like technical pens best because the stroke sizes are more predictable in terms of range. you can always enhance the line width on lines that are too skinny, but once you have a fat line you have to white it out if you want to fix it.


    And actually, for a self proclaimed non-artist, that comic is quite good, fyi.

  • GrifterGrifter BermudaModerator mod
    I've always found this tutorial by Andrew very handy.

    http://smokinghippo.com/TSOtutes/inking_tutorial.html

    Check the Questions, Discussion and Tutorials sticky for more valuable resources.

  • amateurhouramateurhour One day I'll be professionalhour The woods somewhere in TennesseeRegistered User regular
    edited December 2011
    I prefer the copic and micron pens for inking. You can get a good set (.01, .03, .05, .08, 1.0) for ~$20 from any art supply store and that should take care of what you're looking to do.

    For reference I do my inks for my comic with micron and copic pens completely, although I use a brush pen for the solid blacks because it's faster.

    Personally I use the .08 for the borders, word bubbles, and heavy or exaggerated text, the .05 for the character outlines and regular text, and the .03 for any background stuff or fine detail. I have a heavy hand so I just end up mashing a .01 every time I use it.

    edit: the 1.0 is great for borders as well, but it tends to bleed against the ruler if your hand and pen aren't perfectly straight over the paper and when you move the ruler, especially if you're a lefty, it smears.. (at least that's the case with me...)

    amateurhour on

    Arch wrote: »

    I never expected this burn from captain bushmeat
  • squidbunnysquidbunny Registered User regular
    I dunno what if any levels adjustment you did to those scans but those pencils are too dark if that's any indication of how they actually, physically look. Whether you erase them manually or digitally after inking, via levels, etc., it's going to be a hassle. Pencil with a harder lead for lighter pencil work, or if at all possible, in colored pencil that you can easily remove in Photoshop.

    header_image_sm.jpg
  • DMACDMAC Moderator mod
    I hardly ever ink directly over my pencils any more. I made myself a little light table but you can buy them from art supply stores. I usually adjust levels, make any corrections I need to in Photoshop, and then print my pencils out and use the light table to ink on a fresh sheet of paper. Much less messy.

  • DMACDMAC Moderator mod
    Also, the key to not smearing your ink lines when using a ruler is to get a metal ruler where the edge is raised off of the paper:

    55632-1012-3ww-l.jpg
    I've flipped over plastic rulers to get a raised edge too.

  • earthwormadamearthwormadam ancient crust Registered User regular
    edited December 2011
    Also, don't forget that before you even get to inking, you should put your pages through the grinder and keep making changes until they're completely final and you're happy with them. No matter how much effort you put into inking, it's not going to do much if you were to hasty in the planning stages.

    Is my layout effective, do my word bubble placements make sense, is my comic effective? ECT ECT.

    EDIT- And to chime in on the inking subject, I pretty much use PS exclusively now a days. Traditional inking is great, and the level of control is super, but I find going digital to be way quicker and painless if you have a tablet, and the know how to use it. I just scan in my pencils and go to town on them that way.

    earthwormadam on
  • ElJeffeElJeffe Moderator, ClubPA mod
    I don't have a tablet and wouldn't know how to use one if I did. :)

    It looks like Micron pens might be right for what I'm trying to accomplish, and the tutorial @Grifter posted looks to have a lot of good advice.
    And actually, for a self proclaimed non-artist, that comic is quite good, fyi.

    Thanks! I guess that's what happens after seven years of "Daddy, draw me a puppy/kitty/dragon/lion/bunny/whale/princess!"

    Maddie: "I named my feet. The left one is flip and the right one is flop. Oh, and also I named my flip-flops."

    I make tweet.
  • tapeslingertapeslinger Space Unicorn Slush Ranger Social Justice Rebel ScumRegistered User regular
    Haha, that is adorable!

    Yeah, Microns are a good workhorse pen-- I use them for handwriting as well.

  • DMACDMAC Moderator mod
    I've been using the Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens for the past 8 years or so and prefer them to Microns (which I used for the previous 8 years or so...).

    20759-0089-3ww-l.jpg

  • tapeslingertapeslinger Space Unicorn Slush Ranger Social Justice Rebel ScumRegistered User regular
    I always found the Pitt pens a little bleedy, but I may very well have been using them wrong. That chisel tip one in that set looks awesome though...might have to give them another shot.

  • DMACDMAC Moderator mod
    Probably depends on your paper. I use either a bleedproof paper for pens or a smooth bristol.

  • stinkyfingersstinkyfingers Registered User regular
    edited December 2011
    Grifter wrote:
    I've always found this tutorial by Andrew very handy.

    http://smokinghippo.com/TSOtutes/inking_tutorial.html

    Check the Questions, Discussion and Tutorials sticky for more valuable resources.

    awsome, link drifter.

    I did traditional art for a while, but transfered over to pure digital a while back, never looked back. Faster, no mess, more flexible, more room for error, ctrl+z and cheaper in the long run. the main benifit for traditional, i think, is the tangible aspect. The people that generaly stay with traditonal are already amazing and effficient at it.

    stinkyfingers on
  • ElJeffeElJeffe Moderator, ClubPA mod
    DMAC wrote:
    Probably depends on your paper. I use either a bleedproof paper for pens or a smooth bristol.

    That reminds me... Is there anything special I should worry about wrt paper? I've just been using some cheap sketchbook thus far. I forget the brand but if you walk into a Target and go to the art supplies section and pick up the most standard looking sketchbook, that is it.

    Maddie: "I named my feet. The left one is flip and the right one is flop. Oh, and also I named my flip-flops."

    I make tweet.
  • HugmasterGeneralHugmasterGeneral Registered User regular
    DMAC wrote:
    Probably depends on your paper. I use either a bleedproof paper for pens or a smooth bristol.

    bleeding is a huge problem of mine. What brand/style/whateva of bleedproof paper do you buy?

  • amateurhouramateurhour One day I'll be professionalhour The woods somewhere in TennesseeRegistered User regular
    ElJeffe wrote:
    DMAC wrote:
    Probably depends on your paper. I use either a bleedproof paper for pens or a smooth bristol.

    That reminds me... Is there anything special I should worry about wrt paper? I've just been using some cheap sketchbook thus far. I forget the brand but if you walk into a Target and go to the art supplies section and pick up the most standard looking sketchbook, that is it.

    I use strathmore bristol for everything... you can get smooth or vellum, but I can't tell a difference.


    Arch wrote: »

    I never expected this burn from captain bushmeat
  • tapeslingertapeslinger Space Unicorn Slush Ranger Social Justice Rebel ScumRegistered User regular
    Yeah, I am a fiend for smooth papers, I hate vellum bristol.

    I use... Hmmmmm, I will have to look at my paper collection when I get home. There are a few bleed-proof papers I like.

  • squidbunnysquidbunny Registered User regular
    ElJeffe wrote:
    DMAC wrote:
    Probably depends on your paper. I use either a bleedproof paper for pens or a smooth bristol.

    That reminds me... Is there anything special I should worry about wrt paper? I've just been using some cheap sketchbook thus far. I forget the brand but if you walk into a Target and go to the art supplies section and pick up the most standard looking sketchbook, that is it.

    That cheapo sketchbook paper has its place (it can give some interesting texture to pencilwork) but it's wicked toothy and totally unsuitable for inking. As a general rule I'd say the smoother the better with traditional inks, yeah, and second the recommendation for Strathmore Bristol but stay away from the vellums. Honestly though if you don't want to spend the money on a pack of Bristol even laser printer paper will probably serve you better for inking than those sketchbooks.

    header_image_sm.jpg
  • amateurhouramateurhour One day I'll be professionalhour The woods somewhere in TennesseeRegistered User regular
    squidbunny wrote:
    ElJeffe wrote:
    DMAC wrote:
    Probably depends on your paper. I use either a bleedproof paper for pens or a smooth bristol.

    That reminds me... Is there anything special I should worry about wrt paper? I've just been using some cheap sketchbook thus far. I forget the brand but if you walk into a Target and go to the art supplies section and pick up the most standard looking sketchbook, that is it.

    That cheapo sketchbook paper has its place (it can give some interesting texture to pencilwork) but it's wicked toothy and totally unsuitable for inking. As a general rule I'd say the smoother the better with traditional inks, yeah, and second the recommendation for Strathmore Bristol but stay away from the vellums. Honestly though if you don't want to spend the money on a pack of Bristol even laser printer paper will probably serve you better for inking than those sketchbooks.

    Is bristol that expensive in other parts of the country, or outside the US?

    I pay like $10 for a 20 (or 25, can't remember) pack of 11x17 smooth


    Arch wrote: »

    I never expected this burn from captain bushmeat
  • ElJeffeElJeffe Moderator, ClubPA mod
    edited February 2012
    Hello! I'm back!

    I was able to pick up some pens yesterday, and I started playing around. (They're Faber-Castells. Pitt artist pens? I guess? There are four of them - S, F, M and B.) Here is my first stab at inking one of the above-posted comics:
    comic1sm.jpg

    So here is where you tell me what I'm doing wrong so I can stop doing it wrong. My process, in case that helps:

    I tried wielding all the different pens, but it seems easiest to just use the big one (the B, which is a soft, felt-y sort of thing) and vary the pressure. So all of this is with the B. I used PS to make the pencils cyan and then printed that out at double size and inked over that, then scanned it back in in 1-bit B&W. This is more or less un-touched-up, except for one frame of Charlie that I kinda muffed so I C&P'd from a different panel. (And this is obviously a scaled-down version. The original is 8x10 at 300dpi) I don't know if that's cheating or not. Oh, and the lettering is actually done with the M, which is the second thickest.

    The title inking is crap, and I'll probably just do that entirely in PS. I know there's some inconsistency in how the characters appear in each frame, so I'll need to work on that, I guess. Also, the insect in the second panel bugs me. (Ha! Ha!) I also suspect the SPLATs are a little hard to read. Any tips on how to make the letters more clear? I tried them without the shading inside and they didn't seem much more clear. What else should I address? Is there a strong argument to be made for mastering all the different pens? Thanks!

    ElJeffe on
    Maddie: "I named my feet. The left one is flip and the right one is flop. Oh, and also I named my flip-flops."

    I make tweet.
  • ShadeyShadey Registered User
    It's actually not that bad at all. The lines are pretty clean and crisp and vary fairly well in line quality to allow for the things to properly stand apart. There may be some varying degree in certain aspects of the characters face, but that isn't a bad thing as it helps distinguish the emotions a bit (which is definitely helpful given the simplistic facial approach).

    You may want to avoid any excessive line work with effects text though. It can affect how well you can see the text. An example would be the second time the splat occurs. The fine detail of the lines kind make it blend into the background. Without the extra lines, it may push the text forward to give it a good punch.

    Of course, this is just an opinion. Got some good stuff in there, keep working at it.

  • amateurhouramateurhour One day I'll be professionalhour The woods somewhere in TennesseeRegistered User regular
    That looks really good Jeffe. Your hand lettering is great.


    Arch wrote: »

    I never expected this burn from captain bushmeat
  • Linespider5Linespider5 ALL HAIL KING KILLMONGER Registered User regular
    Yeah, hand lettering is a rare talent. To say nothing of actually managing to align the dialogue into a generally visually-agreeable lump within the speech balloon. Nice job there Jeffe.

  • ElJeffeElJeffe Moderator, ClubPA mod
    Thanks, @Shadey, for the advice on the lettering. I took another stab without the linework and some minor tweaks and it's much more readable.

    I'm also amused that I'm getting compliments on my lettering, given that my general handwriting is atrocious and everyone always complains that it's completely illegible.

    Maddie: "I named my feet. The left one is flip and the right one is flop. Oh, and also I named my flip-flops."

    I make tweet.
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