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5 Powerful Insights on Traditional Comic Book Inking: Revitalize Your Artistic Journey

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Do you enjoy traditional comic book inking? As a passionate comic book artist, I stand at the crossroads of tradition and technology. The digital revolution has transformed the way we create art, giving rise to platforms like Procreate, which offers convenience and control at our fingertips. Nonetheless, my heart often tugs me back to the classic approach—inking on paper with Faber-Castell PITT artist’s pens and Kuretake brush pens. Let’s dive into my personal journey and discover why the allure of tradition is irresistible in the modern artistic landscape.

1. The Tactile Connection: Embracing Ink and Paper

The tactile experience of traditional comic book inking on paper is unmatched. When my brush pen glides across the paper’s surface, every texture and resistance awakens a more profound connection. In contrast, a glass screen feels lifeless, a barrier between me and my creation. The ink’s dance on paper is raw and imperfect, a trait that no digital emulation can capture perfectly, making the traditional approach a sensory feast for the artist.

traditional comic book inking - Rene Arreola
Traditional comic book inking, using one of my favorite brush pens: the Kuretake MANNEN MOUHITSU brush pen.

Now, those of you who follow my work know that I love working in Procreate on my iPad. That goes without saying. But, I’ve learned over the years that working on my iPad is more a function of practicality while I am traveling. Creating art in this manner makes the most sense. Sure, I can carry a sketch book with me and a few pens, but working in Procreate has allowed me to continue making full on, production worthy artwork while traveling away from my home studio.

2. A Commitment to Every Stroke

Undoubtedly, technology is a boon, with its generous ‘undo’ feature. However, I’ve found that his safety net can sometimes sap the life out of my art, leading to an obsessive loop of revisions. Traditional comic book inking offers no such escape. Every line is definitive; a bold statement of intent that must be made with precision and thought. This level of commitment sharpens the artist’s skill and embeds a sense of conviction in the artwork.

I was listening to a podcast recently on Youtube (the Inkpulp Podcast) and I don’t recall which specific episode it was, but someone talked about how working traditionally makes you think more before you put your marks down on the paper. This is so true! I have to be much more calculating with not only what I draw and the pencil or ink marks I first put down on the paper, but where I place an object on the page regarding composition. And if neither looks right, I have to erase and redraw parts of the image or even the image itself entirely. There is no command or control “Z” to undo with traditional comic book inking!

3. Originality in Every Page

Every traditional inked page is unique. These pages proudly display the idiosyncrasies of handmade art—the distinct pressure of brush strokes and the nuanced line widths. In an era where digital cloning is rampant, the singular beauty of traditional artwork becomes more precious, towering as a testament to authenticity in a world of replicas.

For artists, the sale of original artwork can provide a means of additional income. My understanding is that comic book page rates for artists can vary depending on the publisher, the project, budget, etc. But if an artist can retain his or her rights to sell the original work, that can help offset what may be deemed a low page rate.

4. Unplugging From the Digital World

In our incessantly connected reality, stepping away from screens is not just refreshing—it’s a necessity. The traditional comic book inking process offers me this solace. Free from notifications and technological distractions, I find peace and a meditative state that invites unbroken focus on my artistic expression.

To add to this point, trying to get away from my phone or computer is a challenge. Be it scrolling on Facebook and Youtube to actually drawing and painting in Photoshop and Procreate, the constant exposure to the artificial light emitted by these devices can’t be great for the health and vision of my eyes over the long haul.

Because of this, I have started going back to the gym much more frequently than I have in the last five years. This is both from a preventive maintenance approach in keeping my body healthy, and the need to remove myself from these devices. I recommend getting out of the environment where being glued to these devices is the norm.

And since I work from home, this can be quite the challenge. I find that working at night on my own comic book series The Realm Ethereal, if I’m working digitally, I’ll put on my Blue Light Blocking Glasses. Beyond the normal eight hours work schedule I try to keep during the day while working on the computer at home, I put on these special glasses if I’m going to continue any computer work into the evening.

5. Simplicity and Freedom

In a traditional setting, the simplicity is stark—no need for software, no concern over battery life. It is art in its purest form, without the trappings of our all-too-digital world. This simplicity liberates, allowing for a creative process that’s truly organic and free-flowing.

Digital inking has its merits, and as an artist, I fully appreciate them. Speed, the luxury of layering, and the ease of color application make Procreate an invaluable tool, especially under the pressure of looming deadlines. The crispness and the immaculate finishes possible in the digital realm often yield an impressive polish to the finished piece.

However, this polish can sometimes leave the artwork feeling detached. In the digital space, the compelling quirks of traditional artwork are often lost. I yearned for that unpredictability and character—and that’s when I knew it was time to return to traditional comic book inking.

Rediscovering the Joy in Traditional Tools

Reengaging with traditional tools brings a delight that I cherish. Selecting from a variety of pens for the perfect line work—fine liners for precision, or brush pens for dynamic strokes—adds another dimension to my artistic process. Each tool choice is a conscious decision, reflecting the feel of the story I want to tell.

When I reflect back on all the years I created art before I started making art on a computer, I start to recall my youth. I started making comics on binder paper using pencils and colored pencils when I was 10 years old. There was a pure joy to drawing back then. And sure, you can argue that I was a kid, that’s all I knew back then. But there is a great feeling to being able to, at my age, finally understand how few traditional drawing tools I need at this point to have fun drawing again.

This makes it easier nowadays to not be so concerned with my specific drawing tools, but rather, the ability to reconnect with a time in my life when making art was shear fun, maybe even frivolous in that I didn’t care who saw my work, or if anyone even saw it at all. And a lot of times, being fearless in making art, and being true to yourself, can create opportunities that you never thought available.

Embracing Imperfections

In traditional comic book inking, mistakes are inevitable. Yet, these are not flaws; they are intrinsic to the artwork’s charm. They are reminders that striving for perfection should not overshadow authentic expression.

This is big one for me because I largely draw in a style that leans more towards realism. I admit I can get a bit bogged down by doing research for the right pose, be it for a head shot or figure pose in my comic art. But I’ve learned that even though my art tends to be realistic, I strive toward making my art more dynamic. For me I feel this is a constant work in progress. I’ve also learned that it’s better to be finished with the artwork than aim for perfection.

Valuing Physical Artistry

Nothing rivals the feeling of flipping through pages of inked artwork. The weight of the paper and the visual impact of seeing a story unfold in tangible form enrich both the creation and consumption of comic art.

Ultimately, the decision to ink comic book pages traditionally is a tribute to the craft’s rich history. It is an act of reverence to the age-old art form, blended with the advantageous aspects of modern techniques. I remain in awe of the power that traditional comic book inking holds in capturing the artist’s soul—a power that, for me, makes it an irreplaceable part of the narrative process.

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