State of the Art: February 2020

I wanted to share some of what I’ve been working on as of late. This year I have a number of comics projects I’m working on. My first step is to refine my comics-making process so that I can accomplish that goal. I need to figure out which inking method works best for me, how long it takes me (on average) to produce a page, how or if I want to go about coloring my comics, and lots of other little things I’m sure I’ll discover along the way. 

First up, I wanted to test out how I would ink my comics. I used panels from my bread comic (which I’ve had to put on the back-burner for now for various reasons – I’ll explain in a later blog) to test some things out, and it was really quite fun! I used felt-tip pens, synthetic brush pens, and digital inking. I had wanted to try my nib pens as well, but the waterproof black ink that I had went all gray for some reason and I had to put that aside for now. 

I love the feel of the brush pen and the challenge of working with and accepting mistakes. I like how the lines vary from thick to thin so seamlessly. It’s just a lot of fun, and I really want to grow my skill set with brush pens! They’re also often refillable, which is a huge bonus. However, I know my skill set at the moment isn’t enough to reliably ink a whole comic with a brush pen. I think I will have to set aside my lovely synthetic brush pens for now, and use them just with illustration fun.

Felt-tip brushes are what I have the most experience with. They’re easily accessible and don’t require as much focus and dexterity as brush pens, which is great! I love how I can get the exact line width I’m looking for with Micron pens and I love the flexibility in line width that Zebra pens provide. But…I don’t love how much waste they create. Having to throw away an entire pen once it’s been used up feels irresponsible to me now that I have the financial ability to purchase more expensive refillable pens. Unfortunately, most felt-tip pens are designed to be disposable instead of refillable. Maybe there will be more refillable felt-tip pens in the future, but for now I want to find a sustainable alternative, if I can. 

Digital inking is by far the most sustainable and the most forgiving because I can just hit CTRL-Z whenever I make a mistake and redraw the line. I love how I can zoom in super close and get all the little details that I can’t get to with traditional pens! The biggest benefit to digital inking for me is the clean lines. They just look so much smoother and more professional than my wobbly, fuzzy, traditionally-inked scans. The biggest drawback is that I have to be glued to my desk. I can’t take it with me outside to draw, I can’t take it with me when I travel, and I can’t take it to work to draw during my lunch break – I can’t even sit on the couch and work. Plus, I really like working traditionally! There’s just something about working with paper and dragging a pen or a brush across its surface that’s irreplaceable to me. 

I’m not sure yet where I’ll land with all this. Perhaps it will depend on what comic I’m making! Some comics might need that organic feel of traditional inks, whereas others could really use the crisp, clean lines of digital ink. I’ll work it out, hopefully sooner rather than later. I wanna make some comics!

Author: Katie McMahon

Katie is a comic artist and illustrator living in rural New Hampshire in a town mostly populated with elderly folks and roving gangs of sassy turkeys. She enjoys reading comics, playing board games and RPGs, drinking fair trade tea and coffee, discussing feminism and social justice, and cracking the best groan-worthy jokes the internet has to offer.

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