Step By Step, Day By Dayon July 28, 2011 at 12:07 am
Getting beyond the early 1990s sitcom reference of the post’s title, I’d like to talk one last time about inking. The mercurial inking process for Eben07 has been documented many times before. More than anything else involved with creating the comic, the inking has especially been a “learning on the job” experience, in full view for everyone to see. And though I want to say that this post should mark the conclusion of any inking process posts, it certainly doesn’t end the the amount of learning I still have to do. This is a conclusion, then, because I feel I’ve really stabilized as an inker with regard to creating Eben07 comics; I’ve got a routine and a toolset that gets pages done as fast as I can possibly go and looking as good as they could possibly look (for now):
As we neared the end of Operation: 3-Ring Bound #3, I photo-documented my inking routine on the penultimate page of the issue. Here it is, in three easy steps (click the images below for larger versions, of course):
With the pages penciled with a Staedtler non-repro blue pencil (an okay product, it can be a little too waxy to hold ink from Microns, sometimes), I start by inking with a variety of Micron pens (typically bouncing between 03, 05, and 08 sizes). Being a guy that likes to draw faces more than anything else, I tend to gravitate to inking faces, hands and any other detail that needs a precise line first. I use Microns for these elements because I know my weaknesses when it comes to how I use my tools, and I don’t quite have the amount of control I need over dip pens that would allow me to get the level of expression and clarity that I like to have in the hands and faces. I start with the details of the page because I’ve found that it can be difficult and treacherous to ink over dip pen-inked lines with the Microns (the ink I use is fairly heavy and sits rather high on the paper, meaning that the Microns literally catch on the dip pen-inked lines like a car over a speed bump, dramatically increasing the possibility for inking disasters):
With the details in place, I then move to the dip pens. Lately, I’ve been using Speedball 107 nibs despite having previously espoused the quality of 102 nibs, but I found I have better control over the variety of lines with the 107. I’m still using a Japanese brand of sumi ink, Yasutomo and I still love it. The ink rests solidly on the paper and is a really deep black that makes the linework look crisp. It does take awhile to dry and, as mentioned above, when dry sits high on the paper, but that’s the nature of the beast and yields a high quality final product, so I’m cool with it.
Though I tried my best to use the dip pen exclusively when inking a comic (for some reason), I know use it only for broad character lines and outlines, creating the classic Eben07 feel that has been present since the beginning when I drew the entire comic exclusively in Photoshop:
With the figures done and dry, I go in and ink the background. Inking backgrounds is the most experimental (and unsure) aspect of inking the comic, simply because the needs are always changing. One rule that seems to have emerged is that I never use the dip pens on the backgrounds. I found that if I ink the backgrounds with the Microns, the characters seem to pop out more, avoiding the ever present fear that everything will blend together and look incredibly flat and busy.
Backgrounds are also one of the few times when I bring in the brush (or brush pen) if the situation demands it. In spite of the two pictures above, I do tend to actually pencil in the backgrounds, and often I draw those first. A classic piece of comicking advice is to draw the backgrounds first and then place your characters within it or else it’ll look like the characters and the backgrounds are floating in different planes of existence. Just like with storytelling, it’s best to set the scene in order to firmly ground your characters.
Here’s a close-up of a panel inked with the brush pen (the wood planks) and Microns (the chain) from the NinjaDan/Justin cliffhanger in issue 3:
Then, a few aggravating hours later, you end up with the final product: