Alright, let’s talk digital inking software — but first, a little introduction.
I am especially fond of Belgian-Franco comics, also Dutch ones — party because of the way they are drawn and inked. Among the comics artists I admire particularly are Franquín (Gaston), Albert Underzo (Astérix), and Martin Lodewijk (Agent 327). You know what these guys have in common? Their linework linework has a playful smoothness — one I, at least, find hard to emulate.
Me, I don’t have steady hands. So getting crisp lines on a canvas has been a pain and a grief since the first day I tried my hand at it. This all goes to say that I most welcomed auto-smoothing tools — especially the one of ArtRage, which is why ArtRage became my “go-to” software for cartoon inking. After some misfires, I came close to getting it right (see the cartoon below).
Yeah. I would say the inking looks okay enough, though perhaps a bit too cold and clinical. And I say to you now, that is the very problem with auto-smoothing, and that leads me to the irony of it all: Oh sure, you finally got your crisp lines, but all the playfulness is smoothed out.
I had already figured out that if you want to ink something gnarly organic, you’re probably better off using Clip Studio Paint (a.k.a. Manga Studio) (see the detail close-ups below of a work-in-progress) —
— instead of ArtRage (see the close-up below of a piece done last year).
Why, you may ask? Why not just use ArtRage, but with a different pen or different settings? Can’t you, then, just make the same gnarly drawing? Well, I found that I couldn’t. For example, once I turned off the smoothing in ArtRage, I ended up with jaggy lines that scream “digital.” Also, Clip Paint Studio, even by default, has a bigger number of available ink brushes for selection — not surprisingly of course, because ArtRage is first and foremost a painting software while Clip Studio Paint is geared toward artists making black-and-white comic strips.
Last night, I tried, for the first time, to do some cartooning in Clip Paint Studio, without any smoothing to aid me — and I’m loving it! I thought I, with my shakey hands, wouldn’t be able to get smooth lines and curves, but to my surprise — it’s actually really easy to ink smoothly and crisply while, even more importantly, even retaining that organic “feel” (see the cartoon head below)! Truly mind-blowing stuff! Now, I’m finally close to making the sort of the comics I so love.
Oh, before I take off, I also want to stress that Clip Studio Paint never seems to lag on my work rig, no matter the amount of layers or the resolution. ArtRage, on the other hand, seems capable only of coping with a limited layer limit. But then, ArtRage emulates analog painting, which in real life constitutes putting down layer on layer on layer, all in the same layer if you will. If high-resolution layer management is what you’re after, look elsewhere. (Did anyone say Clip Studio Paint?)
Let me know about your inking experiences. Please share your stories, insights, and ideas by writing to me.