Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
When I ink traditionally and not digitally with Procreate or Photoshop, I tend to use a mixture of pens and brushes as my comic book inking tools. In this article, I will show you which are my favorites. I’m also going to include some time-lapse videos of me inking a comic book page.
Before I go on, I will take a moment to show the type of paper I prefer drawing on. I think this is important because it shows the advantage of using a particular inking tool for achieving the desired effect on paper. When I’m making my comic book art, I use bristol paper. Specifically, I use Strathmore Bristol smooth surface, 300 Series. This paper is an excellent, heavy enough-weight paper that feels substantial and can take a lot of erasing when I first make the pencil drawing.
The other paper I like using is Strathmore Watercolor, 140 lb. It’s a cold-press surface. This paper has some texture and is not shiny, which is hot pressed. I like this type of paper for drybrush inking. I’ll show a sample on this a little later.
The pens I use today for comic book inking are relatively inexpensive. When I compare today’s pens to the Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph pens I used as a kid, I am thankful for the ease of use of these newer artist pens.
The pens I use today are relatively inexpensive. When I compare today’s pens to the Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph pens I used as a kid, I am thankful for the ease of use of these new artist pens.
The first brand I use is from Faber-Castell. They make a line of artist pens called Pitt Artist Pen. There are a variety of sizes and nib shapes. I’ve tried pretty much all of them, but there are only a few that I use.
The Pitt Artists Pens use highly pigmented India ink, which is acid-free and archival (meaning pH neutral). Once dried, the ink is smudge-proof and water-resistant as well as fade-resistant.
These qualities are essential when applying some white-out over the ink. The fade-resistant ink is vital if I decide to sell original, inked artwork. Knowing this gives the buyer peace of mind, understanding the ink drawing will last for many years.
My go-to artist pens for comic book inking are as follows:
The Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen “S” is a fineliner. As far as my inking style with a pen is concerned, this will give excellent, clean lines for the most detailed work in my drawings.
When I want to make light marks with the pen, I feel like I can make rapid pen marks with it. It produces sharp, fine lines easily and quickly.
Because I think of this as a marker pen, I can work fast on the sheet of paper and not worry about destroying the tip. It will eventually wear, but I will get some good work out of the pen before it expires. And when the pen finally does go empty or dries out, it’s relatively inexpensive to replace.
The Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen “M” is similar to the pen described above, except it makes a thicker line. Because it makes a thicker line, I feel comfortable pressing down harder into the paper. The pen has a broader point and handles well when making bolder marks on the paper. I can use this pen to fill in small areas of solid black areas in the drawing.
Now, I will talk about the other comic book inking tools that fall into the “brushes” category. The first is brush pens. Pentel makes the brand I use.
I use the black Pentel Color Brush Pen for laying in large areas of solid black ink on the paper. I also like using it on parts of the drawing that require an organic-feeling line. It’s also suitable for making thick, free-flowing linework.
I like using this brush pen for laying in large areas of solid black ink on the paper. I also like using it on parts of the drawing that require an organic-feeling line. It’s also suitable for making thick, free-flowing linework.
This brush works well for drawing natural elements such as rocks, trees, bushes, and water (such as for the ocean or a river.)
This brush pen uses permanent pigment ink. The brush tip is durable nylon. The tip of the brush holds its point well. The size of the brush shows as ‘M’ on the packaging. I’m guessing this means it is a medium size. To use the brush, you load an ink cartridge inside the pen.
The Pentel Fude Brush Pen (extra fine) is similar to the Pentel brush pen but has a finer brush tip size. It has the same nylon brush tip and uses a similar ink cartridge as the brush pen described above. But, it comes in finer point size. Because of this, I can get a dry brush type effect on relatively smooth bristol drawing paper.
The two Pentel pens shown above are good for me when I just want to lay down some ink in areas of a drawing where I can afford to have the inkwork look looser, perhaps even abstract.
The Pentel Portable Pocket Brush Pen is similar to the Fude Brush shown above. I mention it because it has one distinct feature that separates it from both brush pens discussed above: it is overall shorter in length.
The length of the brush pens can make a difference in my control of how I handle the pen. Because of this, it affects how I make my marks. Because this version is smaller, it feels like it melds more with my grip, giving me more control of my mark-making.
I can typically get a much more sustained finer line using this pen. Also, if you like to travel and draw/sketch, the smaller version of this brush pen is convenient for that.
That’s it for the brush pens I use. All those brush pens are easily used, can be refilled in most cases, and are relatively inexpensive as far as cost to buy and replace.
When rendering faces and figures in my artwork, I tend to switch my inking tool over to a traditional inking brush. Enter the Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush. The brush is a short-handled, watercolor brush, pointed round, size #3.
You should know that if your brush has a long handle, then it’s meant for painting in oils or acrylics on a larger canvas or other large surfaces. I won’t go into details in this article why that is, but you may want to Google it sometime.
When it comes to comic book inking, the Series 7 brush is the top-of-the-line, gold standard. Many pros swear by this inking brush, and I’m no different.
The Winsor & Newton line of Series 7 brushes is more expensive than the brush pens. But the control and quality of linework and brushstroke are pretty much on a whole different level.
This brush feels like an extension of my hand, arm, and shoulder to describe it in words! The level of control and detail is unmatched by any of the current brush pens. As long as it holds a sharp point, the brush performs as one expects.
Traditional brushes like these can take some time to master, let alone feel comfortable. But it’s often worth it because I now have a standard by which I can judge other brushes and brush pens. This standard makes all the difference when I choose my traditional comic book inking tools.
The drawback to a traditional inking brush is in the preparation and clean-up. I use Higgins Black Magic waterproof ink. I use an old container to hold tap water in to wet the tip of my brush and clean the brush. I also use a separate watercolor well paint tray where I place several drops of Higgins Black Magic waterproof ink. All of these items make up my inking station.
After inking, I then have to clean it all up. Unfortunately, the clean-up for traditional inking brushes takes more time than the brush pens. However, the inking results are always worth it for me.
To that end, I tend to use the traditional brush for rendering figures. Instead, I find that the level of detail required to draw a face, hands, limbs, and torsos comes off best for me when using the traditional brush.
I don’t use these often, but I find they come in handy in some instances. The inking dip pen I use has a fine point. The tip of the dip pen is metal. I use it by dipping the pen’s tip into the black India ink. I have used it for drawing tiny figures. The example below shows just how small the actual drawing of the figure is.
I work back and forth, between traditional drawing tools and digital drawing tools. If you’re thinking about drawing and making your own comics, you might want to try working with traditional tools first. Pencils, pens, and paper are easier to get ahold of. Working with pens and paper offers a direct connection between your ideas and your skills.
I myself have drawn many pages using pencil, ink, and paper. It’s great training overall to learn the craft of drawing comic book. This can help immensely when transitioning to digital inking tools such in Procreate or Photoshop.
Working with ink on paper has turned out to be my favorite traditional drawing medium above all other drawing tools. Even though these days I’m mostly painting digitally, I have spent years previously working with pen and ink on paper. And, I have even sketched my artwork digitally then printed out the artwork on my printer to ink traditionally.
Luckily, making comic books is just like any other art form in that once one learns the basics, one can expand their craft. The various inking tools I talk about here are what I use and what’s been effective for me. I highly recommend them for creating dynamic, comic book artwork.
You can see my latest comic book art by checking out my online comic book story, The Dream Awakens. Some pages were drawn digitally, others were drawn traditionally. Can you tell the difference?
This video is of me drawing one of my favorite TV series of all time, using the Pentel brush on textured watercolor paper. Watch till the very end to see who it is! Hint: this series has a famous saying, “There can be only one!”
I do enjoy using the Brush Pens for doing sketch drawings such as the one in the video below. I don’t have to dip them in ink like traditional brushes and there is now clean-up. I recommend using the brush pens for sketching.
*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.