The Finest in Quality: An Explanationon August 15, 2009 at 6:00 am
[This post is about my thoughts on inking and the inking methods I've used throughout the history of the Eben07 webcomic and contains explanations as to why I made these changes. A step-by-step post about my current inking method shall be published to the site on Wednesday, 19 August, titled "The New, New Method"]
More than once before have I included a glance into how I produce the comic’s visuals. The most revealing of these entries was the first, when I had just changed methods, where I went and detailed the old process for making comics, i.e., when I drew the comic (nearly) completely in Adobe Photoshop.
What caused me to make that first post––to give that first insight––was that I decided to switch from complete digital artistry to a more “hands-on” approach to art. What does that mean? Instead of scanning in loose sketches to use as guidelines for the final drawings in Photoshop, I would, instead, pencil (“pencil: verb. to draw an image on paper with a pencil with the intention of having that image used as the guideline for a final pen and ink drawing. Example: I penciled three pages for an upcoming comic book today.“) and ink (ink: verb. to draw with an ink pen over an image previously drawn through the process of penciling”) the entire comic on a single page before scanning it into Photoshop.
What’s the difference? Well, in the interest of time it means that fewer hours are spent in front of the computer. Whereas before I did everything at the computer, now all that needed to be done in Photoshop would be the coloring and lettering of the comic before posting the final image to the website. Personally, it meant more of a challenge since I promised not to cheat anymore in Photoshop, not to cut and paste and rearrange. The first comic done (fully) by hand was the introduction of the beloved villainess Vampirexia in the For the Love of Russia storyline (now available in book form, by the way):
Along the way, I made a brief post about the new way I did things, as seen here. Many people responded positively to the change in the artistic style, though “style” is a word I use hesitantly. I didn’t change my style, just they way I did a single step. Therein rested the problem, by simply changing a tool the comic, consequently, looked different. This was a shift at which I wasn’t necessarily aiming. It’s true, I wanted a more vivid, lively–real–quality of line that the sleek lines of Photoshop didn’t possess (in my eyes). In a sense, I wanted the final inks to look closer to my pencil drawings than anything else (for a look at how my pencil drawings look, go here and here, except those are spruced up a bit).
The problem is that pen & ink are not a pencil, and a pencil is what I know how to use best. No matter what I use to ink it will look different from my pencils by virtue of the fact that it is not a pencil. I went through a serious reconsideration of my move to inking by hand. A lot of people were used to and warmed to the original Photoshopped lines, and I admit they hold a certain charm (the lines, though the people may be very charming, too). But I feared, as I always do, that my style is too cartoony for the types of stories we are trying to tell. The new inking method definitely gritted up the sleek sheen of before. Even I was used to it. Over time, even when I got better with the Sakura Micron pens that I was using to ink, I was uneased by the lines that were, now, too wobbly and unsure. It was like I was fighting with the paper. I missed, at least for the creation of Eben07, the look of precision that Photoshop gave me.
Over months I vented my frustration with some good friends who are also easily frustrated by art (we all doubt ourselves), and one friend of mine told me that I need to stop wasting my time with Microns and get “quality” instruments (though, to be fair, Sakura pens are of a fantastic quality, especially when used by competent hands). He gave me step-by-step instructions, including but not limited to: 1) getting my ass out of my chair, 2) go to a bank and pull a $20 bill, 3) buy pen holder, nibs, and ink, 4) go home, 5) open package, 6) use pens, etc.
When I switched to my first new way of inking I dropped it on the comic right away, in the middle of a storyline, without any hesitation because I wanted a change. After I got used to inking, but still getting (for my needs) unsatisfactory results, I started practicing with the new pens my friend recommended, just using them to doodle. I gave myself time to mess up: I smeared the ink, missed lines, pressed too hard or not hard enough. I decided that when I started getting a satisfactory result with the new pen–and if it yielded a result better than what I was doing already, not just different–I would switch, but only if it was early in a story or before one had started.
We are about to release the fourth comic in the new storyline, Operation: 3-Ring Bound, and I switched after the second page. With any luck, you didn’t notice (though a discussion about inking followed in the third page’s comments), and if you did notice I hope the change was subtle enough to make you unconsciously smile and say, “Yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to look.” If that’s the case, I have news for you: it’s only going to get better.