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Comic Book Inking Tools

When I ink comic book art 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. 

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. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

comic book inking Rene Arreola
Inking comic book pages from my "The Realm Ethereal" comic book series, using a Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush.

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.

Strathmore Bristol 300 Series paper
Strathmore Bristol, 300 series, 14" x 17", smooth surface

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.

Strathmore Watercolor paper cold press
Strathmore Watercolor paper, cold press 120 lb., 6" x 9"

Pens and Brushes for Comic Book Inking

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. 

comic book inking
All the pens and brush pens I use in my traditional comic book inking process.

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. 

What pens do comic artists use?

As a comic book artist, I personally use a variety of pens in my artwork. Different textures may require different line weights. Because of this, I use several pen tip sizes.

Below are the pens I’ve used myself to make my own comics over the years. I find these are some of the best inking pens for comics. My go-to artist pens for comic book inking are as follows:

Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen, Black 199 S

Faber Castell PITT Artists Pen Small
The Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen "S"

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.

Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen, Black 199 M

Faber Castell PITT Artists Pen Medium
Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen "M"

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.

Faber-Castell India Ink Pitt Artist Pen, Soft Brush Tip

Faber Castell India Ink Soft Brush Pitt Artist Pen
Faber-Castell soft tip inking brush

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

Pentel Color Brush Pen, Black

Pentel Color Brush Pen Black
Pentell Color Brush Pen

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.

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. 

Pentel Fude Brush Pen, Extra Fine

Pentel Fude Brush Pen Extra Fine
Pentell Fude Brush Pen, Extra Fine

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.

Kuretake MANNEN MOUHITSU Brush Pen

Kuretake Brush Pen for comic book inking
Kuretake Brush Pen - An excellent choice for comic book inking artwork

The Kuretake Mannen Mouhitsu brush pen is probably my favorite for detailed drawing on figures. It has the finest and most accurate tip of all the brush pens I use. And this is good, because I want to use this brush for exacting detail.

The other brush pens shown here are better for laying in larger areas of black ink on the paper. Or, maybe painting in rough textured subject like trees, rocks, and foilage.

The Kuretake brush pen has a synthetic brush tip. It doesn’t cover very large areas too well, but it’s perfect for drawing in details. 

2024 Kuretake Mannen Mouhitsu Update

In my 2023 update of this brush pen, I talked about how the pen works great even when I hadn’t used it for several months. You can see that video here.

In my 2024 update, I talk about why I went back to traditional comic book inking. You can watch the video below to gain insight into this aspect of my inking. But you can also see me inking the majority of this latest page for my Realm Ethereal comic book using the Kuretake Mannen Mouhitsu pen.

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. 

Pentel Arts Portable Pocket Brush Pen

Pentel Arts Portable Pocket Brush Pen
Pentel Arts Portable Pocket Brush Pen

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.

Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush – The Best Brush for Inking

Winsor Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush
Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush

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.

In my opinion, the Series 7 brush with a short handle, size #3 or #4 is the best for comic book inking the figure. The variety of line weights I can achieve in a single stroke is unmatched. I especially like using the Series 7 brush for inking hair.

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.

comic book inking tools
My traditional inking set up in my studio.

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.

Below are the additional items I use when comic book inking with a brush.  For the ink, I use Sanford Higgins Black Magic Waterproof Drawing Ink.

I make sure to clean my inking brush after each use. I use a soap specifically made for cleaning artist’s paintbrushes, it’s called The Masters Brush Cleaner & Preserver.

Some people like to dip the inking brush into the ink well. But for me, I like to use a separate well palette which I place my ink into. Here’s a good one to use: Penta Angel Art Paint Tray Palette 3Pcs 6 Well Plastic Rectangular Paint Tray for Watercolor Painting.

Inking Dip Pen

dip pen
Inking dip pen.

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. 

The Inking Tools Are Just A Means To An End

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?

Enter the Realm
Completed inked arwork, with colors added.

BONUS: Straight Up Inking On Watercolor Paper

This video is of me drawing one of my favorite characters from my favorite TV series of all time, Highlander: The Series. In this video, I’m using the Pentel brush on textured watercolor paper. Watch till the very end to see who it is!

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. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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4 months ago

Black and Grey Pental Brush have different inks. Black is water soluble and Grey is pigment/waterproof.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

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