Sunday, May 06, 2012

Inking a Marker Card

I've been animating on the computer for so long now that I was fearing I would forget what paper pencils and markers were. I had to do a poster for someone so thought I'd share the process step by step with the rest of you cavemen who still draw with your hands and primitive utensils.
First, I rough out the drawing very lightly with a colerase pencil. I use red for Ren and Stimpy because most of their colors are warm and the red and brown markers will blend well with them.
I use Tombow brush pens to ink with. They have a nice soft feel and you can do thick and thin lines with them. I keep them organized by color families. Grays in one rubbermaid container, reds, magentas, browns and yellows (hot colors) in another, blues, greens and violets in another. I always keep a rubber squeak toy handy to give me comfort. Diet coke is essential to keep the synapses firing.
I work left to right because I am right handed. I don't want my hand to pass over the freshly wet colors and accidentally smudge them. I start with the heavy outlines first. Generally the largest forms have the thickest outlines.
I also kind of stick to related colors - I'll do the warm colors first because Ren and Stimpy are mostly warm colors.
I buggered up a line around Stimpy's eye mask so I just spread the red. Buggering up is an ongoing hazard that is harder to fix with traditional tools than on the computer. I find myself wanting to click the undo button but there isn't one so instead I curse myself.
Once the big forms are inked I start in on the secondary forms - eyes, mouths, tongues etc. Their outlines are slightly thinner than the heads and bodies.
When doing eyes, it's important to KEEP THEM ALIVE. I don't want to draw perfect ovals for either the eyes or the pupils. I also don't want to draw the eyes or pupils perfectly parallel to each other. That would be a sin against biological organization.

I try to keep all the shapes and forms flowing and organic.
When a marker starts to dry out, I try to take advantage of it by getting a soft dry brush sort of effect.
Uh oh! I buggered up the line around Stimpy's nostril. In order to get the smoothest possible lines I have to draw them fast. The danger there is overshooting where the 2 ends connect. If I draw the lines more conservatively and slower to make the connection, then the lines get wigglier.
To keep the fart gas bubble looking ethereal, I don't connect all the lines.
Don't forget the extra chunks that bring authenticity to your farts.
I use slightly different colored inks for some details. It helps to bring depth and believability to the personalities of the fingernails.
To give a sense of weight to the forms, I like to make the lines under them a bit thicker and darker. It makes you feel the gravity tugging at your crotches.
I draw the lettering fast to keep it alive and not wiggly. I don't worry if it isn't perfectly on top of the rough pencils.
The last inking step: I add some little touches of detail here and there. I don't want to do too much because I still want the drawing to feel like a cartoon and not overly rendered.
The details - like wrinkles, are thinner - but they still should wrap around the forms they help describe. I have to be careful that I don't just have magical floating lines flying around on top of the characters. Each wrinkle has a purpose and direction.

Once the inking is finished, I read a comic book on the pot and wait for the ink to dry. Then I come back refreshed and ready to erase all the pencil lines.
I like these types of erasers. They don't smudge and they get rid of most of the pencil. I remember in school the art teachers always gave you those gray putty like erasers like you got in the Jon Gnagy kits. I think it was to make you feel superior to your less artistic friends but I hated them. They just make a mess and collect filth and hairs and loose teeth. Nasty little balls of crud.

You can eat the little eraser turds but I don't recommend it. I take the drawing outside and replenish the earth with them. The cats think I am giving them their daily fix of catnip. When they find out it's not, they smack my ankles with their little poo bespeckled paws. That's the thanks I get for feeding them.

Here it is all clean and ready to color.
I'll do another post about coloring.

Oh and thanks to the latest students and contributors. I hope you find some of these things useful.


Granger Loosley said...

This is great! I tend to mess up the inking & coloring process myself. It is really cool to see how you go about it, can't wait for the next post.

Michael Turek said...

Great tips! Thank you!

Laylassong said...

Beautiful details on Ren and stimpy! Really smart tips all around.I know it will help me alot! I really have trouble with my hand smudging my art up so I will defiantly start left to right. Oh and I will also return my eraser bits back to the earth.

Anita said...

Thank-you John! This is indeed very useful.

I must say that your website has been essential in my growth as a cartoon artist. That being said, if you have a spare moment I would really love it if you could take a peak at some of my work and maybe even give me some constructive criticism? Don't worry about it if you're uber busy, but here's some links anyways. Cheers!

Preston Blair's

Water Colour Character

Digital BG

Unknown said...

My God that was the most magical tutorial i've ever been through! thanks dude! :D

Charles M. said...

Nice to see you returning to the traditional element. What's wrong with our primitive utensils? Anyway, this drawing is amazing. Hierarchy is a concept I still can't grasp but you pull it off flawless.

And your sense of humor continues to bring a smile to my face. Great post!

Elana Pritchard said...

Here here

Crystal(RB) said...

Thanks for this!
Very informative!

Anonymous said...

I like to think of those erasers as Teratomas. They festered in my school bag and they were only useful for collecting dirt and occasionally granola bar crumbs.

Nearly blew my head off when I saw this entry, got really excited. Love the heck out of it when someone lays out their whole plan right in front of me. Step by step photos and descriptions are always the best and just amazes me to no extent.

Really good advice about the warm colors, I'll keep that in mind. I'm actually glad my tablet broke on me, I've been neglecting the pencil way to long. We're in a little marriage counseling right now. I'm sneaking around with ink on the side hehe.

Gordeaux said...


John is the best!

Gordeaux said...


John is the best!

Humbert Humbert said...

I would cut my nipples to have that drawing!!... I'd offer you money but I have only Argentine pesos, which are the same thing that sweated socks.

Luis María Benítez said...

Great post John, this is really useful information. Man, open an animation school, that's what many are waiting for!

Joshua Marchant (Scrawnycartoons) said...

Bless ya John! Always new things to learn from your blog

Archie said...

I will have to put this to practice at home. Cheers John :)

Paul B said...

amazing! thanks for the tips!
I have the same opinion about the erasers, the grey ones are like clay!

Mick said...

did you know that the word 'fow' is northern english slang meaning something ugly or distasteful? Well, now you do

Lampshade said...

Haha wow, you know of the Jon Gnagy kit too? I bought one, and it helped me get start on things. Do you think the folk Jon Gnagy is helpful enough to get started in drawing and animation?

Curt Rivadeneira said...

Thanks for the fart tips. I'm gonna be drawing some farts soon and I can use all the fart knowledge I can get.

Steven M. said...

Great card.

AdamJoe312 said...

Man, I so love your blog. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm with us cavemen. ~A

AaronPaetz said...

Thanks John!

Lee Kalba said...

I went back to traditional inking and find myself wanting to hit ctrl Z, sometimes. But that's what white acrylic paint is for. I've tried some of that so-called white ink, but it's always soupy mess that can't cover the black.
Also started doing digital clean up, since I color that way, anyway.
I like the kneading erasers - I use them for spot erasing because I can make them into a point, then I give a page a quick once over with one, before going in with the plastic eraser. I found they still tend to smudge unless I do a wipe down with the kneading eraser, first, because the humidity down here affects the paper and ink differently.
Also, those little eraser bits? The technical term is "noodles", at least according to one of those science-for-kids shows I saw when I was 12.

Mr Automatic said...

I'm glad to see how it's done, since my "film school" education was all computer based animation. I've been drawing forever, but this really helped me understand inking for the animated cartoon. Now I just need to ditch flash and get Toonboom.

zeeshan malik said...

Can you share video tutorial of it and what`s about using ink design for Plastic business cards does it goes well or not?

Korka said...

I love reading about the way you approach color, John. I have the whole Tombow set too. I use them all the time and I've had them for 4 years, they still hold up. I also sort them by color families and I like the clear tub option, although I keep mine in heavy ceramic coffee cups so that I can see the cap of each one simultaneously. Thanks for your color posts <3