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):


You don’t have to use this brush, or this size. Some people do great work with tech pens, and I’ve even done final inks using a twig! What I like about committing to a reliable tool is that I can get to know its weak points and strengths then get on with the task at hand. Having experience with an imperfect tool will often get better results in the short term than superior tools with less experience. I’m always trying to get better and better tools, but it comes time to do the work, I use what I’m familiar with over something “better” I’m not entirely trained to exploit.I like to ink detail in one of two ways, from the upper left hand of the page down to the lower right, or I start at the most important part of the illustration: the focal point, and work my way out to the less important parts of the page. Starting with the focal point means my best and frostiest attention is given to the first thing, then when I’m fatigued by the end of a drawing session, I can slop in less important material.Treat the brush like a pen, and treat a pen like a brush is an old artist’s saying. When I’m inking with a brush, I’m using it like a dramatic pencil:


Detail: (
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.


Detail: (
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.


Detail: (
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.

There are really only two of my projects that could apply to start up video game designers or graphic novelists and that’s Earthworm Jim and GEAR. One is my first original video game, and the other is my first original graphic novel… both were the exact kinds of things that don’t get made by other content creators every day.

I recall writing and drawing Gear where I had no idea where the story was going, and I was changing paper stock, inks, even page dimensions as I learned along the way. It’s hard to tell if this is good advice to give, or if it’s just the way I did it, but I always do something before I’m really good enough at doing it. This isn’t something I learned in the art department, it’s something I learned from life.

I didn’t learn to be a father before I had kids. I didn’t become an expert at marriage before I got married and I didn’t get good at graphic novels and video games before attempting to make them. Our desire to do the thing comes long before we’re good enough to do that thing. I fell down 15 times learning to waterski before being able to do it. So why do so many gamers and comic book artists wait to make something before some magic moment happens?

This is your excuse to get in the game. I’m not trying to fill you up with empty promises and poofy dreams, your game will likely be bad, as will your graphic novel. I think my own characters weren’t polished masterpieces; they were clunky, energetic, creations of a young mind that didn’t know he couldn’t do it.

Lest you think I make it look easy, you probably don’t know that I cut a record in the late 90s in a band called TRUCK. Horrible music, but I made a record. I know of musicians and bands that are still talking about recording music one day, and I’m terrible at making music yet I’ve recorded more than them. I ran a marathon before I was any kind of serious runner.

So let’s make it! Go-go-goooo! Have that child, write that book, make a play, build that boat! It’s better to make than not to.

Doug TenNapel EWJ Commission

November 23, 2012

Commission of EWJ and the Princess. Ink and brush on paper.

When I’m a guest of conventions I do like to sell books, but I also like to draw! It’s a high pressure situation to do commissions at conventions because I don’t want to destroy an artwork in front of a collector or my work. I love it when they turn out and this is one that I’m particularly proud of! Earthworm Jim saves the day!



Doug TenNapel – Art

November 12, 2012

We’re working on my Sketchbook Archives… a compilation of my best, mostly unpublished art scribbles, from the last 25 years. I’m most proud of a series of oil paintings I did in the early 2000’s. It made me feel like a real artist, though I don’t mean to insult my cartoon art by insinuating that it’s not legit. Here’s one of my favorite oil paintings… a self portrait of a trip to Mendocino the Beloved Mrs. TenNapel and I took when we found out she was pregnant with our first child.

Doug TenNapel – Gear

November 12, 2012

The prequel to Newts... and everything else!

Jim Oil Painting

Repost this if you would want a poster like this on your wall! Should there be more Earthworm Jim gear out there for our walls and tee shirt drawers?

Doug TenNapel – EWJ

November 12, 2012

If you love Earthworm Jim, then you’re probably older than 22 and younger than whatever. But part of my experience in creating a mass media character has been in watching the audience mature and develop.

One thing I could never have anticipated was how when a 5-9 year old consumes a character, that it deeply effects their person because it’s in their formative years. When people at conventions or online tell about their EWJ memories, I can see their eyes drift back to being a 7 year old, and it just hits them in a very deep spot that perhaps they haven’t accessed in months or years.

It’s a great honor to get to entertain children, and now adults, and the children of adults! Part of my job is to be a responsible cartoonist that cares about the audience I draw. Thanks again for your support… even after all of these years. You make me feel like a 27 year old kid again!