We’ve outlined the basic rules of giving the pencils a slick finish but let’s look at a different approach. A lot of the comic books on the stands today are concerned with real world occurrences where the actions of their characters are just a bit more harsh. Sometimes those situations and environments just get downright mean and dirty. Often your inks are going to need to reflect that. You’re going to need to create the kind of environment you would not want to be a part of.
I’ve provided an example to illustrate this point so let’s go over it and point out what I’ve done, why I did it and what I did it with…
On this page of Captain America I really wanted to portray the grungy atmosphere of this hole in the wall bar – roughing it up was , by far, the best way to go. In no particular order here are the tools I utilized….
A: The exacto-blade. Once you have the page finished you may still feel that some extra roughing up is needed. The blade will be your best friend. All those nice smooth lines you’ve laid down with your brush can easily be obliterated with one swoosh of it’s sharp surface. Here I’ve used it to emphasize the graininess of the roof structure. Pulling the blade along the lines there already and breaking up the solid edges. The blade is also one of the best tools for throwing a rain storm down on the page – just flick the blade upwards away from the rain drop and you get that atmospheric streak. Confidence is needed in the use of this tool. You can easily obliterate the parts you didn’t particularly want to get rid of.
B: The Prismacolor pencil. Using a black coloring pencil can give you some amazingly rough textures. The Prismacolor is one of the roughest. You can see here on the walls of the bar where it’s utilized to show the effects of fifty years worth of cigarettes and alcohol. By pressing down on the pencil you can bring the depth and density of the mark you’re making forwards and backwards.
C. The small #1 brush. Not only used for getting those delicate lines in there but also abused when you want to utilize the “drybrush” technique. This is a process in the inker’s arsenal which can be invaluable when portraying a little more grittiness than usual or if you just wish to soften a line. Make sure that you dry the excess ink off your brush using a piece of paper or a paper towel and sweep the line along the page. You’ll notice a ragged edge – it takes a lot of practice to get it to a point where you can be relatively happy with it. In the example shown I’ve used it prominently on the pool table so that the ridges on the sides are not so sharp and more rounded (as they are on an actual pool table). The drybrush is also appropriated on the baseball bat the barman is brandishing – it gives it that “used to beat heads in” look that’s needed in this scene.
D: The Col-Erase pencil. This is the smoother of the two pencils I use on my pages. This gives a much softer line and a more consistent tone. Great for softening jaw lines, indicating eye shadow and portraying the texture of leather cat suits ( a staple diet in any comic book)
E: The grey wash. Back to your brush and your ink. This ones a little repetitive but you’ll get used to feeling like a caged animal stuck in your little freelancing studio. Next to your drawing board you’ll, most likely always have a small cup of water close at hand – usually for cleaning your brushes ( NOTE: Try to always look when you’re taking a sip from your coffee cup. We inkers may have ink in our blood but it doesn’t taste so great when it mistakenly slides down to your stomach – also, attempt to clean your brushes in the water provided for such use… not in your
coffee). To get the best wash effect just keep adding a brush load of ink to the water each time you take a pass at placing the greys on the page. You’ll get a great sense of depth and texture when you do this.
Of course, you don’t have to employ all of these textural techniques on every page, just one or two will usually suffice, but when adding that “grit” the best advice is to practice and get increasingly more confident in wallowing in the dirt.