Doug TenNapel – Final Ink Detail
December 31, 2012
This is the final post in a three part series on how I ink a two page spread comic page. Make sure you’re familiar with the post on penciling pages…
…and spotting blacks…
Now that I’ve got the pages penciled and have spotted the blacks, it’s time to make the final ink details. It’s important to make sure the foundations of an artwork are right before going on to detail. As I critique a lot of portfolios of up-and-comers the most common mistake I see is a poor foundation. That is, and artwork isn’t likely to gain strength if the foundations are weak. A bad start will limit the greatness of a final work. I observe this problem across almost all disciplines including writing, music, sculpture and even marriage! No amount of detail and finesse can completely cover a bad start. As an impatient artist, I’m tempted to go straight to detail because I want the thing to start looking good right away. Experience has taught me to avoid going to finish right away.
Here’s a look at my final inking tool; the Winsor Newton Series 7 brush (size 3):
Notice that I’m not trying to give everything the same amount of detail. Nature doesn’t present everything to the natural eye with identical weight, and our perception isn’t trained to look at everything the same way. As an artist, I want the picture to look natural since I’m trying to convey reality to the viewer. That means I’m not just expressing whatever I want from inside my head, I need to address my audience and consider their perception of the work. This is particularly true of mass media works, the bigger the mass that I want to read it (everyone) the more I have to hold that masses hand through the reading of the work. When I’m doing pencil doodles in my personal sketchbook, I don’t consider an audience other than myself. That will necessarily produce different content and presentation.
Below shows how well those spotted blacks hold up against the new detail. Oh, I almost forgot! Just as you spot in chunks of blacks to hold the page down, we also have to preserve large chunks of whitespace for contrast. I learned that from doing watercolor painting, because once you paint over white in that medium, you’re never going to get it back. So we “preserve the white pace” in inking because putting black marks on a paper is generally a one way trip. You can always add more blacks to white, but it’s hard to pull them back out if you over detail something.
This page is getting close to done. I’ve worked from the upper right focal point to the left, where I’m at the end of my drawing session and I can easily blow in some detail and be done with it. If you squint your eye, there should still be a good amount of blacks and whites to create an interesting, solid, cluster of shapes to hold the page down. Then upon closer look at the page, the details emerge and a story is constructed in your mind.
Once again, we can ink details with confidence if the foundation of the pages are done right. If I find something wrong with the page at this point, I can usually trace it back to a weakness in the pencils, or thumbnail composition, and it’s rarely due to the final inking phase. The final inks reveal strengths and weaknesses that were there all along at the start.
Once the page is done, I can go in and do some tidy up with white out or further blacking in sections that can handle it. Then I erase the pencils, and it looks like I just threw down a well structured, gestural landscape. But now you’re in on the secret… even the apparent spontaneity of final inking detail was completely reverse engineered from the start.