Thursday, November 13, 2008

Inking Advanced pt 1 - Logical line weights

Deciding on where to put thick and thin lines can almost be boiled down to a science. In 2 parts
1) Logical line weight
2) Emotional line weight


Here is a pencil drawing of a key pose from a scene. It needs to be inked.

The inking has to make sure that the charactr reads easily and quickly.
It needs to look solid.
It needs a hierarchy of line weights.
The lines need to flow around the forms.


The heaviest line weight is around the overall form of the pose or silhouette ("sillo")
I generally like a slightly heavier line at the bottom of major objects:
The jaw
the feet
This gives the whole character a feeling of weight.

This example still has a couple mistakes, but Brian is fixing them an I'll replace it.
Missing the cuff, the right side of the jacket fold
legs should have more consistent weight with the rest of the character
The bottom of the left cuff should be inked in this weight

2) 2ND WEIGHT LEVEL slightly less heavy
Design elements that are subdivisions of the overall character have a line weight that is still thick,
but slightly thinner than the outline of the sillo
Like clothes, or the outline of the hair (not the individual hairs, but the overall form of the hair)
Or color separations on animal characters

The details, wrinkles folds etc are the thinnest lines
They should not be totally one weight though, they should be slightly thicker in the middle
These lines need to flow around the larger shapes in the same form and perspective
Where these detail lines come to a stop in open space (like the fold on the jacket) -the ends should taper to a point.






The face is the most important part of every cartoon character. It follows the logical line weight aproach overall, but also has an "emotional line weight" that helps us see the expressions...


Hannes Pasqualini said...

Hallo Mr.John K
This is very useful article, well, in fact I find your whole blog very interesting (how could it not be?) I just don't have a lot to add to it usually, comment wise, I mean.

About the inking thing... Actually I have never really been thinking that much about what logic I actually use to ink my characters... it's probably a bit different in comics than it is in animation. But now the real big question is: what is it that gives meaning to a line? I know this is a discussion that can go from here to eternity... and reminds me a lot about the big discussion in design and architecture, about what function is...
But, if I may ask this question, when does a line have a meaning, and when does it not?

Looking fordward to the next part of this article!


Larry Levine said...

Inking is serious business. Very frustrating when cartoons look like they were inked with a Rapidograph.

Bob Probst said...

John, I'm a long time lurker and I can't draw a curved line without an eraser handy. Despite that, I love your blog -- I find your insights into cartoons and animation visionary at best and provocative at worst (and between the two, provocative is all the more fascinating).

Interestingly, it's these technical articles that really grab my attention. While I'll never use the tools or possess the talent, it gives me an insight into the intense passion and attention to craft that makes funny pictures funny.

Thanks for the great educational opportunity!

ArtF said...

NICE! I was just practicing inking last night. Can't wait for the next post. Practice, practice, practice.

Matt G said...

My friend just turned me on to your blog, and i'm so glad he did! Seriously, awesome tips and great stories from the industry.

trevor thompson said...

Very frustrating when cartoons look like they were inked with a Rapidograph.

Actually, Calvin and Hobbes was inked with a Rapidograph. And a crowquill pen for the dialogue.

- trevor.

Craig Harris said...

Is this is sort of along the same lines as when dealing with tone. Any details within a tonal area in a composition should not disrupt the planned tone of that particular area.

From what I can tell in comics...its about the same idea. In both cases it seems the idea is not to disrupt the big shape with the smaller shapes that lie within.

I've gotten a lot of this idea out of the famous artist courses lately. Those books are just amazing how simply they put these principles.

trevor thompson said...

My bad. The crowquill pen was used for details, the Rapidograph for dialogue, and India ink for the bulk of the work.


- trevor.

purpleyellowpinkisnotacolorscheme said...

I love these types of posts. I really want to know about drawing cartoons and you seem to have great information. Most of my drawings aren't quirky or funny enough to be cartoons but I'm trying. I'm lacking in spontineity and originality. I can draw fairly well but with more of an emphasis on crappy realistic stuff. Anyway, I was wondering if contrapasto and the distance of features and limbs should help determine line weight.

Zoran Taylor said...

"Actually, Calvin and Hobbes was inked with a Rapidograph. And a crowquill pen for the dialogue."

And Calvin and Hobbes itself DOES have a wide variety of lineweights. Watterson could probably do gothic calligraphy with a tube of lipstick. He's just that kind of guy.

Adam Koford said...

Sorry, Trevor. That's incorrect.

Larry Levine said...

"Actually, Calvin and Hobbes was inked with a Rapidograph. And a crowquill pen for the dialogue."

Hi Trevor, Here's a rare interview with Bill Watterson, he only used a Rapidograph for the lettering.

Bill inked C&H with a small sable brush (using a crow quill for word balloons & odds/ends).

Hans Flagon said...

What I used to hate about 70s and 80s animation, was that rather than draw the pathetic model sheet tracings at another scale, which would entail actually drawing, they would merely track the camera IN for a close up, or away for a wide shote. And you would get this inconsistancy of line weights, sometimes in talking head dialog scenes (which probably should not be talking head shots, in full animation)

I love a lush line though.

Colter said...

Great explanation. This will help me quite a bit.

Caleb said...

Great info John, thanks!

SoleilSmile said...

OOOooOOOoOO! Look at the pretties! Thanks John.

You do know I have an unhealthy obsession with clean up, right?

Oh, and Alex Topete will be teaching clean up at the Animation Guild for you lucky Burbank locals.
How I ENVY you guys!

Anonymous said...

After reading the blog, I have found my sins of scratchy inking must stop.

Sunday, I'm getting a shitload of brush pens.

This is the inking post I've been waiting for, Mr. K.! THANK YOU SO MUCH!

-J. "Desperate Inker" Spumk.

Deniseletter said...

John,This is so interesting that I felt that you let us in suspense to know more about.That was when I read "EMOTIONAL LINE WEIGHT tomorrow" be continued.
Can ask you something?: What are the best tools that help inking better? to follow these instructions

Niki said...

It's also here Mr. John

Wicks for Candlesticks said...

Thanks for another great inking post. Inking actually feels more like metaphysics than science. Either you get or ya don't. I won't give up, though.

-David O.

Putty CAD said...

Hi mister K!

I just wanted to say I find your blog a great source of inspiration.

Thanks ever so much for all your advice, tips and sharing your experiences (even the smelly ones!!!)

Take care ;)


Mellanumi said...


Fabulous basic post! Keep these tricks o' trade comin'. Titled "Stuff you rarely learn in animation classes." Seriously, I've learned more BEFORE and AFTER I went to college, by becoming friends with Comic book fiends and animators. Basic concepts that really make the difference.

Frank Santoro said...

I remember seeing Mike Allred once give a lesson to a young cartoonist: "Whatcha gotta do is a "half-moon" shape around the corners like Charles Burns and, ah, ha, 'Mike Allred', ha ha, ahem. See, it's 'thin-thick-thin...thin-thick-thin.'"

trevor thompson said...

How do you get a good taper from a brush pen? I've never known.

- trevor.

JohnK said...

Hi Wicks

I like your inking

you have a natural flair for it

hopefully these tips will help you even more

Charecua said...

Gosh I find this so inspiring and beautiful! Thanks for sharing your knowledge since I don't consider myself like a good inker AT ALL!

Chris E. said...

Over the past several years, I've observed line weight and experimented with it a lot. When I flesh out a character in pencil, I try applying weight and depth to the lines. It's not really anything anyone else could understand or appreciate in my style and work since all anyone wants now are stylishly-ugly cartoons that go against everything that animation stands for.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I do have to agree with Wick - you either got it or you don't. Inking is a very hard thing to teach or explain.

One thing not covered in depth is texture, which has its own set of rules (like, say, drawing an afro, where detail line may fluctuate in thickness to show density).

Also, I come from the Kirby school, where you could very well swap your rules when drawing metal with reflections (sillo is drawn with a light line, reflections heavier.)

Anyways, another great post. Can't wait to see "Emotional Line Weight"

Mike Gorman

Ben Forbes said...

I dont know how my inking is. Sometimes I find it really hard to actually ink my drawings. I've never really given any thought to how I should ink an image. I just put the heavier lines where I feel they should be.

This is a good post!

James said...

That was pretty straight froward,and, made a lot of sense. Thanks for showing this John.

Niki said...

I'm happy with my inking in flash, But in hand to paper I need to pick my hand up.

But on the other hand, Mr.John, is there any animated commercials playing now that you don't like?

Tony said...

Hi John,
what programm is best for digital cleanup? I used Toonboom because I like the rotating canvas feature. I did the exercise you posted about inking, but I'm still not happy with the result. Please leave some comment on my first attempt, so that I can go on and do better!

Thanks John!