Creating Tonoharu #8–Inking

Pictured: The Tools of the Trade 

This is the eighth post in a series describing the creative process behind my graphic novel Tonoharu. This installment deals with my process for inking Tonoharu.

There are two stages to my process for inking: the brush stage and the dip pen stage. Both of these steps require the use of a messy, easy to spill bottle of black india ink. 

The Brush Stage
I never knew this before I started drawing comics myself, but many comics are inked not with a ballpoint pen or felt tip marker, but rather with an old fashioned brush dipped in ink.

Lines created with a brush are vastly superior to lines created via other means, IMHO. Brushes allow for lines that are smoother, livelier, and can achieve a modulated line unlike anything any other writing implement could produce, going from razor thin to a quarter-inch thick in one smooth stroke.

But there are many logistic disadvantages to brush inking, which is probably why it’s used less and less as time goes on. Inking takes a lot longer with a brush; not only do you have to dip your brush in your inkbottle every other line, but since a brush is harder to control than a pen, you have to ink your lines veeery slowly to get good results. Brush inking can also get very messy; I’ve had to clean up after many an overturned inkbottle, and have smeared wet ink across my finished artwork by accidentally resting my hand on an inked section before it had dried.

And finally, while one can obtain beautiful results from a brush, it take a long time to gain proficiency. I’ve been using a brush for my comics for about five years now, and I still feel like I have a lot to learn (which is a big part of the reason I want to study brush calligraphy in Japan).

But since I’m more concerned about the final look of my work than I am about the process in getting there, I use a brush to ink the of all main lines of my work. This is part of the reason why it took me four years to draw Tonoharu: Part One. With any luck, I’ll be able to finish Part Two more quickly as I get better at my craft. We’ll see…

Here’s what one of my panels looks like after I’ve inked the main lines with a brush:

The Dip Pen Stage
A dip pen derives its name from the fact that you dip it in ink to charge it, and is the type of pen the world used before the fountain pen was invented (which itself was later displaced by ballpoint pens and markers). These days the only people who use dip pens are calligraphers, illustrators, and cartoonists.

I use a dip pen for all the background shading lines in Tonoharu. I see the use of a dip pen as a compromise between the respective benefits of a brush and a ballpoint pen or marker. It can’t create the sort of sweeping, modulated strokes that a brush can, but it’s faster to work with (not by much, but every little bit helps), and allows me a higher level of precision for the many fine, parallel lines found in Tonoharu. While it’s not as fast as working with a marker or ballpoint pen, it does allow for some variance of line width.

With the dip pen stage done, the artwork is basically finished, as shown below:

From there I scan it in a do a bunch of stuff on the computer, which I’ll cover in the next installment of Creating Tonoharu.

I have about two more installments left of the Creating Tonoharu series, and then at long last will be done with them. But due to the confluence of a few unusual circumstances (my forthcoming trip to Japan chief among them), I won’t be getting around to those last two installments until like the latter half of May. So, er…stay tuned…

And for those that don’t know, later this month I will be having a Book Signing/Release Party for Tonoharu: Part One, along with fellow cartoonist Tim Sievert who will be releasing his graphic novel That Salty Air. The event will take place on Saturday March 29th from 4-7pm at Big Brain Comics in Minneapolis. See this blog entry for more details.

Creating Tonoharu–#1: Laying The Groundwork
Creating Tonoharu–#2: The Idea
Creating Tonoharu #3–Writing the Script
Creating Tonoharu #4–The Design (1/3)
Creating Tonoharu #5–The Design (2/3)
Creating Tonoharu #6–The Design (3/3)
Creating Tonoharu #7–The Drawing
Creating Tonoharu #8–Inking
Creating Tonoharu #9–Computer Stuff
Creating Tonoharu #10–Final Edits

  • Teowli

    Thanks for this, it was very insightful. :)

    I’ve been using dip and felt-tip pens for about seven years now (not professionally), and am ready to go into brushes. All I’ve heard so far is about how difficult they are despite the great results, but your confidence on the subject is encouraging to me. So, thanks.

  • da best. Keep it going! Thank you