Let the Inking Begin!

Like just about anything in life, there are different stages to drawing comics. The hard part comes up front, starting with hammering out the story and stretching and compressing it to fit into all those little boxes in the right order. I usually start with a script, just because it suits the way I think; some people go directly to making little thumbnail sketches, which is my second stage — I find scripting it out saves me a lot of re-drawing because I know roughly what needs to happen on each page. Then comes the real heavy lifting — doing the drawings in pencil. That’s where all those little stick figures and half-realized notions have to become real, well-composed drawings. The expressions and gestures get worked out, potential pitfalls are avoided (or erased and drawn again), and at this stage, it should be comprehensible to anyone looking at it.

Then comes the fun part. If the pencils are reasonably well drawn, the inking should be a snap. They don’t have to be absolutely tight; mine aren’t. Somewhere in all those sketchy pencil lines is the true line, ready to be found by the pen! The pages here are from Spam and the Sasquatch, which is the graphic novel I currently have underway, written by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough specifically for this project. We’ll be launching it at A-Kon (see the sidebar for info on that). I’ll be doing updates over the next two months on this project, with more notes about my process.

The pencil drawings on the left are drawn on cartridge paper (the kind of stuff you buy in big tablets for drawing charts on at board meetings on an easel). The ink is on Opus Watermedia paper, drawn with a selection of Pigma Micron pens.

The pencil drawings on the left are drawn on cartridge paper (the kind of stuff you buy in big tablets for drawing charts on at board meetings on an easel). The ink is on Opus Watermedia paper, drawn with a selection of Pigma Micron pens. (‘scuse the photos, I didn’t have the scanner available)

I’m trying something new this time around. Rather than drawing my pencils on the same paper I will ink and paint, I’ve drawn them on cheap, thin paper, and am inking on the good paper by laying it over the pencils on a lightbox. It’s not exactly tracing; as you can see, the pencils are pretty sketchy, so I’m making the final decisions as I ink just as I would if I were drawing directly on the pencils. This approach has several advantages. One, I tended to not be so precious about the pencils, because it didn’t matter if I somewhat trashed the paper as I did my usual wild sketching, homing in on what I wanted, with lots of erasing in between. Two, it gives a nice clean look to the ink part. Three, it’s really fast, and I don’t have to erase the pencil lines, which is time consuming and covers my studio in eraser crumbs. Four, and best of all, I get to keep the pencils (even though I’m not precious about them!) — so if I make a mistake inking, I can do it over easily on another piece of the good paper.

Today I managed to ink 8 pages — I’m feeling pretty smug, and also relieved — Until I tried it, I wasn’t sure if this method was going to be significantly faster, or slower, and I am working to deadline. The ease of this method means I should have a reasonable amount of time for the painting part (these will be done in watercolour). The final stage will be cleaning up anything that needs it in Photoshop, then laying out the book and inserting the text in InDesign, all of which can take as long as any of the other stages. Then off to the printer, and the waiting for a proof, approving or sending it back for another try, and then waiting some more… then — a book!

Six of the eight pages, with one of the pencil pages visible in the portfolio. I'm doing these two to a sheet, because it is easier to compose my two-page spreads that way. I try to make the facing pages harmonious with each other.

Six of the eight pages, with one of the pencil pages visible in the portfolio. I’m doing these two to a sheet, because it is easier to compose my two-page spreads that way. I try to make the facing pages harmonious with each other.

 

15 responses to “Let the Inking Begin!

    • Hi Lorrie! I have to laugh, because I’m actually catching up on my sleep over the last few days because I have a cold that seems to want me to do just that! But still getting a lot of work done – since I enjoy it, it’s actually a nice distraction from the cold.

      Getting the work done, for me, mostly means ignoring all the distractions in life (or delegating them to my hubby). I work, eat, and sleep, and everything else piles up until I’m done. Deadlines help, or in the absence of external deadlines, self-imposed ones. When i have a big external deadline, it helps me to set smaller self-imposed ones; for instance, I want to have the inks finished by Friday of next week, if not sooner. When it’s all done, I’ll treat myself to a house-cleaning spree!

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  1. Karen, thanks very much for sharing your work process! Especially the part where you say that you ink on the good paper using the light box. I would not dare to do that just now, but maybe later, when I’ve got more practise, I could make myself do it.

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    • Hi Ulla — I have to admit, I found it pretty daunting when the idea was first proposed my my mentor. I tried a few tests of one-panel drawings just to see if I could do it, and was confident enough of the results to know that it would work. I’d suggest trying some small drawings this way — the only way to practice a technique is to do it! Just don’t start off practicing on something that matters — that makes it too scary!

      (If you don’t have a lightbox, a sunny window is great — and sometimes even better)

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  2. I loved my light box. It was such a useful investment.
    Thanks for sharing this and I appreciate the photos instead of scans. They give a feel of being there or at least, being able to see and get a feel for the process. 🙂

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    • Leo — Just noticed you had two posts (with different identifiers) after I replied to the second one. Did you have trouble getting wordpress to load your comment?

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  3. I loved my light box. It was such a useful investment.
    Thanks for sharing this and I appreciate the photos instead of scans. They give a feel of being there or at least, being able to see and get a feel for the process. 🙂

    Like

    • Hi Leo! Nice to see your smiling pic here!

      Yes, light boxes are the bee’s knees. My first one was built out of some (slightly warped) 1x4s and a piece of frosted plexiglass I had hanging around, with a kitchen fluorescent fixture set underneath (never did attach the thing properly). I eventually gave it away to someone who needed it more than I did at the time. A couple of years ago I bought an Artograph Lighttracer, which served me well for occasional use on small projects, but it was awkward for the big comic pages. So I took a deep breath and got a 17×24 Artograph Lightpad, which is absolutely lovely and elegant to work on, and will accommodate double page spreads beautifully. (Hm, this would make a great blog subject — maybe I should put all this in tonight’s post!)

      Glad you like the photos — it’s true, they do give some context to the subject, more than a scan.

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  4. Pingback: Spam and the Sasquatch — Sneak preview! | Karen Gillmore Art·

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