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Comics 101
Art tips and techniques, reviews and interviews from my studio. Archived here and at World Famous Comics.

Comics 101 Archives

Comics 101 for 01/02/2003
More Tips on Digital Inking
Hi Joe,

I'm trying to learn how to digitally ink my pencils. After scouring the internet I'm surprised to find NO INSTRUCTIONS or TIPS for this seemingly popular new process. The only things I've found have been definitions or dialogue making reference to it. So when I finally searched specifically for 'how-to, comics, digital+ink' it pointed me to your very helpful Comics 101 Q&A archives web page.

Thanks by the way for a great resource. I know I'll be reading all the entries here. And again, even on your pages, I've seen reference to digital inking and similar topics, but I'm still wondering just HOW exactly everybody does it.

I wouldn't care so much usually, but I'm thinking that if I can digitally ink my pages then it might save me some time being that my deadline is just days away. More important than that, it might save my pencils as well. It's been literally years since I've inked anything. I'd hate to ruin my hard work while I 'warm up' again just because I'm in a hurry. So I would like to make this VERY EASY for you to answer my question with just YES/NO answers.

I'm pretty handy at Photoshop so I think I have a pretty good guess at what goes on for this process. After scanning my pencils I imagine I would adjust the brightness/contrast (in Photoshop's file menu) and then fill in the spot blacks/whites to sharpen it up. Would I scan probably at 300 dpi? Final artwork saved as a bitmap? I'm just wondering if there's more to it than that. Do I have the basic idea at least?

Thanks, any help is appreciated. And again, thanks also for creating such a great site. As soon as this project of mine is turned in I'll check out the rest of your website. From your fan-mail, it sounds like you've got many diehard fans praising your work. Way to go!


Hi Michael

I'm surprised there aren't more tutorials out there on the web about this. Though this process might still be relatively new in the past few years to the artistic public at large so not as many people are doing it and sharing the info online for it perhaps. I'm glad you found my website though and found out about Comics 101.

Alot of it has to do with having tight, clean pencils and scanning the art appropriately, adjusting the Brightness/Contrast and Levels on the art using Photoshop. The digital inking process is not totally unlike digitally painting over pencils. It's a matter of using a high opacity of black and using the right tools in Photoshop (a hard edged airbrush or paintbrush is what I use).

Scan the pencil artwork at 300 dpi and grayscale, not bitmap. Adjust the Brightness/Contrast as well as possible in the scanning phase and then again in the Photoshop file. Also, adjust Levels in Photoshop to ensure the best, cleanest, darkest line for your art as possible. This way you can use the pixels of your actual, dense, opaque pencil line as part of the final black digital inked line.

Before you scan, you should also consider developing really tight pencils intact with most of the line weights or some semblance there of with careful technique and using a kneaded eraser to clean up and smudges or grey lines that could show up in the art after the scan. The more care you put into drawing the line art cleaner and tighter before you scan will make the digital inking process easier later. If your pencils are dark enough after scanning and adjusting levels and the line weights are more or less indicated and outlined in the pencil stage, then you can be more efficient inking it in Photoshop.

Also, use the hard edged airbrush or paintbrush at a high opacity and make sure to vary the size tips of your brushes often to capture a variety of thick and thin line weights. This should make the digital inking process that much easier if your line art is made to look cleaner and tighter using these techniques.

I usually ink and color my own work and I have yet to just soley digitally ink my pencils without also coloring them at the same time. I usually combine the digital inking process with digital coloring or painting over my own pencils by using perhaps a dark colored line to outline, emphasize and embellish my pencils in my work while blocking in values and tones in other colors with my digital paintbrush. Check out the art examples for my Battledroids! step by step painting for some visual cues on my digital inking process in my previous Comics 101 column that begins here or last month's feature article on my Anx artwork here.

That's pretty much the best I can explain it. I find the best teacher is experience so the more you try your hand at it the easier and quicker it might go for you. And since the digital medium allows for a variety of approaches and combination of techniques you can reach your own goals by experimenting with your knowledge of the materials and the program. Perhaps some of my process that I outlined above will at least steer you in the right direction and take some of the mystery out of the term 'digital inking' for you.

Good luck with your work!

Happy New Year Everybody!

<< 12/26/2002 | 01/02/2003 | 01/09/2003 >>

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