Creating a Snowflakes Strip – Part 3: Inking & Scanning

In part 1 I outlined my process for sketching a strip, and in part 2, went through the steps I take to pencil a strip. Here I will describe my process for inking and scanning, and getting the strip ready to colour. Some of the step by step parts that I go through here may seem a bit tedious for anyone familiar with Photoshop, but I want to provide as much detail as I can for the sake of those that may not know.

I use Speedball india ink, a hunt 102 crow quill nib, and a brush.

My main tool for inking is the hunt #102 crow quill. I’ve used brushes in the past (all of my inking on WhiskySours was done with brushes), but once I started using the crow quill nib, I never went back. I find it easier to get nice variety in my line weight with the nib. (The line variance you can achieve is amazing – from hairline thin to nice and thick – just be careful not to overload it or you’ll get a nice big black blob of ink on your paper!) Using a brush, I had to think more consciously about varying my line. Everyone has their preferred tools, and for me, the crow quill fits with the way I like to ink. I do use brushes for some thicker lines and for blocking in darks.

To see more detail – click to enlarge

Pictured above are the final inks for this strip. An average strip takes me between 1-2 hours to ink. Once I’m finished inking I use a brush and some white gouache for touch ups and fixing mistakes.

Next, I scan the inks on my little 8.5×11″ scanner. A large strip like this one has to be scanned in four sections and then fitted together in Photoshop. This is a pain, but larger scanners are a fortune, and I prefer inking in the real world instead of digitally. Every process has trade offs. At least this way I have a lot of original art that I can sell later on!
Once I have the inks scanned, I adjust the levels so the lines are nice and dark:

Adjusting the levels

Once I have the lines nice and dark, I copy and paste the ink lines layer into my comic template. My comic template is basically just a blank Photoshop file set up with my layers palette as in the screen shot below. I ink strips larger than they will appear in screen or in print. It’s always a good idea to draw your originals larger than the actual intended size. I usually work about 20-25% larger than the actual final size. When I place the inks layer onto my comic template, I reduce my ink lines to 86% .

My inks scanned into Photoshop. On the right you’ll see how I organize my layers palette.

Once I have the ink lines on a new layer in my template, I then apply a threshold adjustment on the lines. This makes the lines crisper by forcing each pixel to either black or white, eliminating any greys:

Applying the Threshold command gets rid of any grey pixels.

This next step is something that I do so that when I am colouring, I am able to colour the lines themselves. This is very handy if I want to create depth by colouring the lines of certain background elements lighter colours. I will go into more detail on how I do this in the next part on colouring, but for now, this is what I do:

1. I switch to the channels palette, and hold down the Ctrl key (on a PC) as I click on the Gray channel. This selects the Gray channel (ie: all the area around the ink lines)

Selecting the gray channel in the channels palette

2. On the main top menu, I go to “Select–>Inverse”. This inverts the selection, so that now the lines themselves are selected.

Inverting the selection

3. I go back to the layers palette and create a new blank layer. I then select black from the colours palette, and use the paint bucket tool to fill the selected area (ie: the lines) with black.

Creating a new layer for the lines

4. Once I have the lines filled on the new layer I created, I delete the original lines layer. I am now left with lines that appear exactly the same as the original lines, but I am able to paint them directly by locking the transparent pixels on this layer. I will show how I do this in the next part on colouring.

We’re almost there! The last thing left to do is to create a mask around the panels so I can colour without going outside the lines. To do this I use the Magic Wand tool and click on the lines layer somewhere in one of the panel gutters. This selects all the area around the panels.

Inverting the selection again – this time to create the mask for the panels

I then invert the selection, and save the selection to a new channel, which I call “mask” appropriately enough. I can now select this channel (Ctrl-click on the channel) any time I want to have my mask available when I’m colouring.

Saving the selection to a new channel

My final step is to convert the mode from Grayscale to RGB. I prefer to colour in RGB mode instead of CMYK mode if I can. Especially if the end result will be appearing on the web instead of print. The colours in RGB mode are brighter and more vibrant that what you can get when using CMYK mode.

Converting the mode to RGB

Next up: Colouring the strip!

Trackbacks for this post

  1. Chris Jones » Chris Jones – Cartoonist and Illustrator
  2. Chris Jones » Chris Jones – Cartoonist and Illustrator