Saturday, 15 August 2015

Notes on inking.

September sees the return of Comics Uncovered in Birmingham. A one day event aimed at comics creators with talks on technique, promotion and pitching to publishers. I attended the first of these events in 2011 when it was called Comics Launchpad, and made the following notes during an inking class held by Klaus Janson. I've since incorporated a lot of these methods and feel that my work has improved massively as a result, so hopefully this can be of use to others.

Whilst a lot of this is specific to traditional inking, a few of the pointers can also be applied digitally. 
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Hold the brush straight down, not angled like a pencil. This allows greater movement in all directions.

Separate elements should be approached and inked separately. Don't ink grass the same way you would ink bricks/stone/wood.

Dip pen nibs come with a fine layer of grease, acquired during manufacture. Rub the grease off with a shave of an eraser. Then use a lighter or flame to light the nib (briefly!) to burn off any excess. The ink flow on the nib will greatly improve as a result.

An average brush lasts Klaus approximately 40 pages, though it can vary.

Use thinner ink for longer lines. Cheaper ink is thinner. Use the better quality thicker ink for larger areas/spot blacks. (I've since used this as a rule, it works a charm. The thinner (cheaper) ink can last so much longer when doing lots of linework; using the good stuff (Windsor & Newton in my case) tends to mean more time spent washing brushes and less time inking.

Before working, swirl the brush in water to make a finer point.

Always keep the ink bottle full, don't go searching for it. Higher levels of tar in ink kills brushes faster. Once the brush is dead, it's dead.

Angular lines indicate power and strength - this was whilst inking a Hulk fist and knuckles - curved lines indicate more malleable surfaces.

A thick line butting against a thin creates the element of one object being behind another.

Lock your wrist whilst applying lines, use your forearm instead. (Oh man, this single trick alone has proven priceless for me. Straight lines, long curves, everything becomes more controlled, though it does take a bit of practice and you need to teach your brain that it's a good idea - well, I did anyway!)

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On the subject of straight lines, another trick I've picked up on my travels (via PJ Holden) is to use a ruler with a brush. Put the ruler edge on the page (at roughly 45 degrees, or high enough to get your fingers underneath it) and run the stem of the brush along the other edge. Your inking hand can sit on the ruler.



This does require a fair bit of practice, but combined with the 'Lock your wrist' technique, gives you lines that have a bit more life to them  (as opposed to fineliners drawn with normal use of a ruler, which can leave your work looking a bit flat) and you can vary the line width as you go. Varying the line weight is great for brickwork, stone or surfaces with damaged edges. I've also found that by tilting the ruler, you can ink a lot of parallel lines without having to move and reset yourself - useful for speed lines, door frames and distant buildings.