Thursday, October 19, 2017

Let's Get Inky with Brushpens: An Inktober Series

Last week, we got inky with brushes.  This week, we're gettin' inky with brushpens.

Brushpens are a great alternative to inking with technical pens.  They offer variable lineweight with affordability and ease of control, and are a great option for artists of all skill levels.  I use brushpens on a daily basis- particularly fude pens.  Fude pens, also known as sign pens, are typically used in Japan for writing kanji, and are a wonderful tool for creating expressive lines.

brushpen illustration, watercolor illustration
Watercolor illustration inked with Sailor Mitsuo Aida on Fluid 100 CP watercolor paper

watercolor, kidlit art
Limited color watercolor illustration inked with Sailor Mitsuo Aida on Strathmore Field Watercolor paper

spot color illustration, retro illustration, cute art, kidlit art
Sakura Pigma FB+ Pentel Red Brushpen on Strathmore Field Watercolor Paper
You guys might wonder why I introduced brushes before brushpens- I want you to try both!  Many artists treat brushpens as an alternative to brushes, and never try inking with a brush.  I feel both tools have unique traits to offer an artist, and I'd love for you to give both a try.

What's Inside My Pencilcase:

Pros to Brushpens:
  • Portable
  • Available in a variety of sizes
  • Available in alcohol proof and waterproof inks
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to find
  • Expressive lineweights
  • Easy to use
  • Low learning curve

Cons to Brushpens:
  • Lack the nuance of brushes
  • May be difficult to pull straight lines
  • Every pen handles differently, may take getting used to

Brush pens are flexible and work well on most papers including:
and many more.  I recommend experimenting to find your favorite combinations, but below are a few of my favorite combos:

cute illustration, kidlit illustration, painting with fountain pen ink
Colored Lead, Fountain Pen Ink in a Waterbrush, Sakura Pigma FB on Strathmore Field Watercolor Paper

Sailor Mitsuo Aida+ Illustration Board

Commission portrait sketched with non photo lead on cardstocked, inked with a Kuretake Fudegokochi and Pentel Pocketbrush.  Corrections were made with a Signo white gel pen. 

Commission illustration sketched with green lead, then inked with Copic markers.  Final inks were added with a Kuretake Fudegokochi

Commission illustration sketched with non photo blue lead, then inked with Copic markers.  Final inks were added with a Kuretake Fudegokochi

Commission illustration sketched with green lead, then inked with Copic markers.  Final inks were added with a Kuretake Fudegokochi

I use brushpens frequently- for sketchbook sketches, studies from life and reference, for convention commissions, and for pieces I plan on completing digitally.  I think brushpens are wonderful, versatile tools that make inking easier and more accessible, and highly recommend you give them a try.

For brushpen recommendations and reviews, make sure you check out my Brushpen hubpage, here on this blog!

Best Brushpens for Illustration:

Three Types of Brushpen:
Fiber tipped- like Pitt Pens
Foam Rubber Tips- like fude pens or Copic marker Superbrushes
Nylon Bristles- like Pentel Pocket Brush

Inktober 10 Brushpen Showdown: Felt Vs Bristles:

Brushpens can be:
  • Piston filled
  • Refillable
  • Disposable
  • Eyedropper converted

Copic Safe Brushpens:

Watersafe Brushpens: 
Lilliputian living, 7" Kara, worldbuilding art, teacher
Sakura Pigma FB and Pentel Pigment Brushpen on Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper

Pentel Brushpen on Blick Sketchbook Paper

Alcohol marker and Kuretake Fudegokochi on Blick Sketchbook Paper

Sakura Pigma FB and Pentel Brushpen (purple) on Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor paper

Looking for brushpen reviews and recommendations?  Check out my Brushpens hubpage! 

Homemade Sparkle Pens?  More Likely Than You Think: 

Waterbrushes can be filled with the ink of your choice (barring acrylic, that's not recommended) and used as a brushpen.  You can also modify a Pentel Pocket Brush to take the ink of your choice with a little silicone grease.

Hacking the Pentel Pocket Brush: Eyedropper Conversion:

You can try: 
  • Sparkly fountain pen inks
  • Sumi ink
  • Waterbased ink for inkwash effects
  • Indian ink
  • Dye based ink such as liquid watercolors, fountain pen inks

Cartridges can also be cleaned and refilled using the ink of your choice, using a syringe, as demonstrated in this tutorial.

Brushpen Inking Demonstration:

Final Inktober Inks+Mermaid Sneak Peeks:

Fountain Pen Inkwash Timelapse:
Pen and ink study, drawn from reference

Pen and ink study, drawn from reference

And your inking doesn't have to stop with sketchbook illustrations- brush and fude pens can be useful for inking comic pages as well.

Cicada Summer: Pencils and Inks

Kidlit artist, kids comics, kids comics artist, graphic novels for kids
Cicada Summer, Page 1

Kidlit artist, kids comics, kids comics artist, graphic novels for kids
Cicada Summer Page 3

Kidlit artist, kids comics, kids comics artist, graphic novels for kids
Cicada Summer Page 10
The above pages were inked with a variety of brushpens, including the Kuretake Fudegokochi and the Sakura Pigma FB, MB, and BB brushpens.

kidlit artist, kidlit comic artist, comics for kids, kids comic artist
SCBWI Illustrator's Contest Spread- inked with a Sailor Mitsuo Aida, Pigma Calligraphy Pens, and Micron fineliners

kidlit artist, kidlit illustrator, kidlit comic artist, watercolor comic artist
Watercolor over these waterproof pens

Tips for Inking with Brushpens
  • It helps to have a variety of sizes- fine for details, large for spot blacks and larger fills
  • Nylon bristled brushpens are prone to drybrushing- inkflow can't keep up with linewidgth- you can use this technique to your advantage
  • Nylon bristled brushpens are fun to sketch with, and are great for travel journals
Brushpens for Color Sketches

Monochromatic Magic with Colored Leads and Clean Color Real Brush

Colorful brushpens usually contain dye based inks, and are very similar to watercolor markers, and are often marketed as such.  For me the difference is all about the body of the pen- a waterbrush or brushpen body is typical used for these colored brushpens.

Looking to Add Spot Color?  Try: 
  • Pentel Brushpen
  • Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush
  • Mermaid Markers
  • Alcohol markers such as Copic or Prismacolor markers

Colored Leads with Clean Color Marker Tutorial:

Axolotl Illustration with Clean Color Real Brush Markers:

If you're using refillable brushpens, they will require a degree of care to keep them performing at peak condition.  This tutorial shows you how to clean an Akashiya bamboo brushpen, and the techniques used work for other refillable brushpens as well.

I hope this post has inspired you guys to pick up some fude and brushpens, and try them out!   If you enjoyed this post, don't forget to support what I do on Patreon

And check out my webcomic, 7" Kara.

middlegrade comic, webcomic for kids, all ages comic, family friendly comic

Monday, October 16, 2017

Why You Should Participate in Inktober

Why You Should Participate in Inktober

  • You'll produce a body of work
  • Much of what you produce can be used for your portfolio
  • You're pushing your limits
  • You're learning more about time management and scheduling

How should you participate:

  • Whatever is feasible and reasonable for you
  • Since this is a 'challenge', you should push yourself in some manner this can involve
    • Working with a medium you're unfamiliar with
    • Trying a new style
    • Working in a shorter timeframe
    • Working in a longer timeframe
    • Working along a particular theme
    • Drawing content out of your comfortzone
    • Developing a project that's been backburnered
    • Collaborating with friends
    • Forgiving mistakes and leaving them visible in your work
    • Ink a comic

Small ways to participate in Inktober:

  • Ink old sketches
  • Trade lineart with a friend or a group of friends
  • Try digital toning
  • Follow a tutorial
  • Emulate an artist you admire
  • Try crosshatching
  • Practice textures

Don't have time to ink, but still want to participate?

  • Feature one artist per day on your Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram whose inking you admire
  • Share tutorials

Use the Hashtag- or don't- it's up to you

What materials should you use?

  • Whatever is feasible and affordable for you, but Inktober is a great time to try new things
  • Traditional artist?  Go digital
  • Digital artist?  Consider trying traditional

  • Or do a mix!

Recommended materials:


  • Clip Studio Paint
  • Frendan's brushsets


  • Sumi brushes
  • Sumi Ink
  • Reed Pens
  • Sable brushes
  • Brush pens
  • Fude pens
  • Colored inks
  • Dip Pens
  • G Nibs
  • Crowquill nibs

Where to share your work:

  • Stream it to Youtube or Twitch
  • Record it for Youtube
  • Instagram
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • Your portfolio

Remember to:

  • Tag your work
  • Comment on the work of others
  • Be respectful and considerate
  • Push yourself to grow
  • Have fun!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lets Get Inky with Brushes: An Inktober Series

This Inktober, I challenge you to give inking with a brush a shot!  Inking with a brush is a skill that takes practice, but can be quite rewarding.

brush inking, inktober, brush inked illustration

Inking with a brush can seem intimidating.  What brushes do I use?  What papers?  What inks?  Brushes are hard to control for fine lines- how do you transition from single lineweight pens, like fineliners to brushes?  Where do I buy my supplies?  How do I become proficient?

Over the years, and through past Inktobers, I've written and recorded loads of information to inspire you to pick up the brush and ink!  It's a pleasure to compile these resources to help others learn the ins and outs of brush inking.  As always, if you have any questions, don't hesistate to email me using the sidebar form- your questions help me plan better content!

Basics For Brushes

  • Brushes go up in size sequentially, and can begin at 000 (far to small for most artists' use) up to 40 (huge)
  • Most artists use 0, 1, 2, and 4 size brushes
  • Brushes can be made from a variety of materials, but most inkers prefer Kolinsky sable for inking
  • Brushes handle differently from brush pens, even if the brush pens have nylon bristles
  • Brushes are an investment, and if well cared for, can last many years

Robust Inking Toolkit Guide for Professional Artists: 

What to Look for In An Inking Brush: 

  • Kolinsky Sable makes for great inking brushes- comes to a very fine point, holds a lot of water, and does not 'dump' ink or paint the way synthetics do
  • Brush should come to a fine point when wet, not splayed out
  • Tip of brush shouldn't be ragged
  • Wooden handle should not be cracked- lacquer should have an even coat
  • Metal ferrule should be crimped tight
  • Should not shed hairs
  • No stray hairs

Recommended Brushes for Inking:

  • Creative Mark Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable (Jerry's Artarama)
  • Winsor and Newton Series 7 (Sold almost everywhere, but you may have to ask)
  • Princeton Kolinsky Sable 7050 (Available through DickBlick)

For more on brush selection, check out this guest post by Heidi Black.

Where to buy brushes?
IN PERSON (whenever feasible):
Dick Blick
Jerry's Artarama
Paper and Ink Arts

Jerry's Artarama
Dick Blick
Paper and Ink Arts

Prepping Watercolor Brushes for First Use:

Also applicable for inking brushes

Before inking, know what your end product will be, and what media you want to use on top of your inks.
Mixed Media?

Recommended Inks:

  • Kaimei Sol K (Copic proof, not waterproof)
  • Winsor and Newton India Ink (both waterproof and non-waterproof are fine)
  • FW Indian Ink
  • Acrylic Ink- FW Acrylic Ink, Liquitex Acrylic Ink (waterproof, not Copic Proof)
  • Sumi ink
  • Walnut Ink

Indian Inks:

There are many Indian inks on the market, so your preference may differ from mine.  Most Indian inks contain shellac, which allow them to dry waterproof.  Shellac reactivates with alcohol, such as alcohol markers.

Acrylic Inks:

Acrylic inks are made from acrylics, which are plastisols.  Plastisols harden when dried, and will be difficult to remove if you allow them to dry in your brush, so you need to clean your brushes well after use.  Plastisols are alcohol solvent, and not compatible with alcohol markers.

Walnut Inks:

Walnut inks are made from black walnuts, and are organic matter inks.  This traditional ink is dark brown in color, and can be fun to play with.

Deleter Inks

  • Deleter 6 is alcohol marker resistant, but not waterproof
  • Deleter 4 smudges a little with both marker and watercolor- moreso with Copic than with other alcohol markers
  • Deleter 3 is waterproof

This compatibility test was provided by Kabocha and used with permission.

Inking Tips:

  • Allow your inks to 'cure' overnight before erasing or adding color
  • Work with a cover sheet to protect your paper and help minimize smearing

Where to buy inks:
Dick Blick
Jerry's Artarama
Paper and Ink Arts
Deleter Shop

What to look for in papers for inking with a brush:

  • A textured finish will encourage fun effects like drybrush
  • A smooth finish is easier to control
  • Ink dries fairly fast- does not stay wet for long periods of time- coated papers have longer dry times
  • Thicker papers that can handle the water in ink without buckling

Recommended Papers:

  • Strathmore 500 Series Smooth Bristol
  • Strathmore 500 Series Plate Bristol
  • Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper- Vellum Finish (cotton based paper)
  • Illustration board

Cellulose based watercolor papers

  • Fabriano Studio
  • Strathmore Watercolor Paper
  • Canson Montval
  • Canson Biggie
  • Watercolor board

Where to Buy Papers:
Dick Blick
Jerry's Artarama
Paper and Ink Arts
Deleter Shop

Inktober Inking Demo:

Brush Inking Tips with the ArtSnacks Inktober Collection:

Inking Your Character to Life With a Brush, P1:

Size Matters! Brush Demonstration:

Cartoony Inking with a Size 4 Brush:

Inking Demonstrations:

Brush Inking Assignment: Chinchilla: 


Inking Assignment: Woods:

Inking Assignment: Elizabeth Taylor:

Cartoony Art:
Inking Practice: Faces

Inking Sailor Jupiter and Venus for Inktober:

Inktober Day 24- Yotsuba Timelapse:

Inktober Day 25- Tsukimi (Princess Jellyfish) Timelapse: 

Inking on Black Paper with White and Gold Ink:

Inking Techniques:

gumbo, inkwash, inked illustration, inktober

Inkwash:  Inkwash can give your work a midtone (or several midtones), which is often helpful for establishing mood, particularly in dark scenes like this nightclub.  Inkwash is fairly simple to do and is similar to watercolor.  Make sure you water down your ink in a separate container (small ceramic ramekins or dixie cups are ideal for this), and strongly consider making swatches beforehand. 
Drybrush:  Can also give your work midtones, but I personally feel that it makes the work look kind of dirty.  This can be fine for certain artstyles, but if you have a clean artstyle, you should probably reconsider drybrush.  Drybrush is applied using a dried brush that has had the majority of the fresh ink removed (usually on a scratch sheet of paper).  Drybrushes can be any beat up old brush that you have lying around, I do not recommend doing it with your nice brushes, and it's pretty hard to consistently drybrush using a brushpen.  The best results I've had with brushpen is on vellum plate.

For more about inking techniques, and how to achieve them, check out this guest post by Sarah Benkin.

Brush Care:


For peak performance, inking brushes require not only frequent cleaning, but also frequent conditioning.  Cleaning brushes strip the hairs of their oils, which can lead to spread bristles, so you're going to want to recondition them occasionally.

Restoring Damaged, Frayed, or Bent Brushes

Brushes can require a little extra TLC, be it cheap watercolor brushes or expensive inking brushes.  The love you lavish on your expensive brushes can be shared with your inexpensive brushes to extend their lives.

Regular cleaning can work wonders for gunked up brushes.  Although many cartoonists recommend brush soap, I find that using a bar shampoo (like in my Akashiya Brush Tip restoration post) can really work wonders on your brush without stripping natural hair brushes of their essential oils.  To loosen stubborn ink deposits, work the shampoo deep into the belly of the brush, and let the brush soak in warm water.

When soaking your brushes, be careful not to just let your brushes rest in the water.  Water will get in between the metal ferrule and the wooden handle, and cause warping, and ruin the brush.  You can jerry-rig a tape holder to keep your brushes at just the right depth in the cup you're using.  This technique can also be used to straighten a bent brush (shown in the picture) letting gravity do all the work.

With inking brushes, you should take great care to make sure the tip doesn't get damaged.  After inking (or cleaning) roll the brush between your finger tips in one direction to restore the original point.  Letting your brush dry splayed out will ruin the bristles.

When drying, you can tape your brushes to a counter top brush end down to protect the bristles.

These brushes'll need some extra work (there's still ink up in the ferrule).  Gunked up brushes may require repeated washes.

After your brush is clean, you'll want to restore it's tip,  You can do this every time you dip it in water or ink by simply rolling it across a piece of scrap paper.  Before storage, make sure you roll the tip to preserve that nice tip.  

For more information about taking care of your brushes, check out this post on Brush and Nib Care.

How to Improve Your Brush Inking

  • Practice from reference
  • Practice from life
  • Practice from imagination
  • Skill drills

While Inking Or Before:

  • Warmup your hand with warmup sketches
  • Ink when you are calm and relaxed
  • Control your breathing
  • Listen to calming music if you have difficulty pulling clean lines
  • Don't ink when hungry- low blood sugar can make your hands shake

Outside Resources, Second Opinions, and More Information

ArtSnacks Inktober Collection Review (written)
Make Inktober 2016 A Month to Remember

Monday, October 09, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Comic Artist

Somewhere along the way, I quit talking about my life here on this blog.

I guess that started in 2015 when my depression reared its ugly head and I had difficulty talking about my life in a positive light.  Or maybe a little earlier, when I graduated in 2013 and stopped having as many adventures.  I probably figured no one wants to regularly read about a comic artist who spends most of her day sitting on the floor in a two bedroom apartment, painting, and sketching.  I couldn't think of a way to make that funny at the time.

So here's a little state of the studio update, a little day in the life.  I'll try to remember to share my life more, even if it's just bits and pieces.

My day begins usually around 12:00PM.  I'm really not a morning person, although I can be awake and functional at any time if there's a good reason.  My day to day life just doesn't present one- I prefer to work in the afternoons and at night, and waking up later suits that.  The first thing I do is hobble over from my bedroom into my studio- a small converted bedroom with loads of natural light lamps (no built in overhead lighting or fan), my computer, an anti-fatigue mat (for comfortable floor squatting), and a naggy gray cat.

The first order of business is coffee- a shot of espresso, whole milk, and some syrup, then on to warmup sketches, almost always referenced from Pinterest.  I did micro fashion warmups for the longest time, but I'm currently working on portraits of people from around the world.  After my warmup, I'll begin the day's work- for September, I'm doing a series of mori inspired witches as part of the #Sketchtember movement, and I find it's best to knock those out early in the day-otherwise there's a lingering feeling of something left undone.  These are done in color pencil, and quick- these are sketches after all, but some of them may end up getting refined into something nicer later on.

My main activity varies from day to day- some days I'm batch painting pages of 7" Kara, some days I'm working on putting together portfolios, some days I'm recording tutorials and tests.  The SCBWI conference is coming up at the end of September, so I've been working on my illustrator's contest piece.  For me, it's a two-page comic spread, and so far I've designed, brainstormed, thumbnailed, and roughed.  Today, I'll be cleaning up that rough digitally, redrawing a lot of things, and then printing it on watercolor paper.

My days are pretty solitary, so I leave Discord, a chat app, open all day.  The Ink Drop Cafe General chat usually has something going on, although I also chat individually with a few friends.  Having Discord open helps me feel less lonely, although if the weather is nice, I'll usually take a break around 4 or 5 and walk over to the coffeeshop on Vanderbilt campus.  This is an hour walk, and I usually call my mom on the walk over.

In the evening, I hang out with Joseph-watch TV and Youtube, cook dinner, sometimes go out and run errands. I also work on Youtube videos and blog posts in the evening, if my main activity for the day has been completed.  This involves research, acquisition, swatching, experimentation, creating art for the field test, executing the field test, transferring photos or video, and taking notes.

When my work is done for the day, I share it to Twitter and Instagram.  This is usually any time from 11PM-1AM, which is absolutely not recommended as a time to share work you've slaved over for long periods of time because this is the time when no one will see it.  After that's been shared, I usually take a bath and read manga or comics in the tub to wind down, and sometimes play videogames in bed.

Lately, I've had a really hard time falling asleep-I usually take melatonin, but that hasn't been working.  So these late nights make my schedule even wonkier.

Daily activities can also include- applying to conventions, answering How to be a Con Artist Asks, applying to anthologies and zines, applying to agents, applying for jobs in Nashville, writing descriptions for Youtube videos and scheduling videos, or creating graphics.

Generally, my week looks something like this: 
Monday- Blog updates
Tuesday- Schedule Kara pages, Youtube updates
Thursday- Blog Updates
Friday- Kara updates, Youtube Updates
Saturday- Youtube updates, Webcomic Chat and Comic Book Hour chats on Twitter
Sunday- Comic Artists Unite chats on Twitter, Patreon update, promote that week's posts and videos on Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook.

Weekends can also look like:
Week before convention: Prep for con, paint new watercolors, take inventory
Tuesday: Write convention announcement
Wednesday: Pack for show
Thursday: Drive or fly out to con
Friday: Con from 10am-9pm (approx, varies on con)
Saturday: Con from 9AM-9PM
Sunday: Con from 9AM-4PM
Monday: Drive or fly back to Nashville

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Comparing Chameleon Markers: Chameleon Vs Copic (and other alcohol markers)

Few marker artists have a homogenous marker collection- as you collect Copics you discover holes in the color family, and purchase other types of markers to augment those weak areas.  Or perhaps you started out with inexpensive markers, like Prismacolor or Blick Studio Brush markers, and are slowly collecting Copics, but you still have a mixed collection.

As an alcohol marker artist, I strongly advocate a mixed collection of markers.  I have large collections of Copic, Blick Studio Brush Markers, Prismacolor markers, and now, Chameleon Color Top markers.  In my alcohol marker tutorials on Youtube, I frequently demonstrate the benefits of a blended marker collection.

In depth alcohol marker comparisons like this one are only made possible thanks to the generosity of my Artnerd supporters on Patreon.

Patreons gain early access to videos released on our Youtube channel, receive backer exclusive content such as free comics, monthly sketchbooks, and more!  Support starts at just $1 a month, and helps me continue to produce reviews such as this one.

Markers Compared:
Chameleon+Color Top
Copic Sketch
Copic Ciao

Blenders Tested:
Chartpak AD
99% Isopropl Alcohol

The Lineup:

Comparison photo of Chameleon Color Tone marker, Sharpie Brush marker, Prismacolor Brush marker, Stylefile marker, Copic Sketch marker, and Chameleon Color Top

Top to bottom:  Chameleon Color Top, Copic Sketch, Stylefile Marker, Prismacolor Marker, Sharpie Brush Marker, Chameleon Color Tone Marker

As you can see in this blurry photo, the Chameleon is the largest alcohol marker in my collection, and possibly the longest alcohol marker on the market.

Chameleon Color Tone markers have the family name and number listed on the barrel, as well as on the two tops.
Color Number (GR2)
Color Name (Dark Sage)

A representation of the ink color is also used as the accent color on the barrel of the marker.

Comparison photo of Chameleon Color Tone marker, Sharpie Brush marker, Prismacolor Brush marker, Stylefile marker, Copic Sketch marker, and Chameleon Color Top

Comparison photo of Chameleon Color Tone marker, Sharpie Brush marker, Prismacolor Brush marker, Stylefile marker, Copic Sketch marker, and Chameleon Color Top
To the left: alcohol markers
To the right: Alcohol blenders- Chartpak Ad Pro, Prismacolor, Copic

When the blending chamber and cap is removed, Chameleon is the smallest marker in my marker collection.

A demonstration of how the blending chamber should be held to the marker tip you wish infused.   Chameleon Color Tones come with a colorless blending chamber for every marker, Chameleon Color tops are a repurposed blending chamber filled with alcohol ink.

Top: Chameleon blending chamber
Bottom: Chameleon Color Top

Demonstration of using a Chameleon Color Top to infuse the Chameleon Color Tone marker of your choice.

Comparison photo of Chameleon Color Tone marker, Sharpie Brush marker, Prismacolor Brush marker, Stylefile marker, Copic Sketch marker, and Chameleon Color Top

Demonstration of how color gradually blends using the Color Top (green) and the Color Tone (red)

Alcohol Blender Testing

Demonstration of various alcohol blending markers with the Chameleon Color Tone.  From top to bottom: Chartpak Ad Pro (xylene based), Prismacolor, Copic

Cross Compatibility Testing

Blending demonstration- Color Top was applied to a Neopiko marker and allowed to infuse, then blended out.

Color top applied to a Copic Sketch Marker, and allowed to infuse, then blended out.

From Left to Right: Stylefile, Uncapped Chameleon Marker, Copic Sketch, Copic Ciao, Neopiko
Bottom: Prismacolor Marker
Comparison photo of Chameleon Color Tone marker, Sharpie Brush marker, Prismacolor Brush marker, Stylefile marker, Copic Sketch marker, and Chameleon Color Top
Left to Right: Prismacolor, Copic Ciao, Neopiko, Copic Sketch, Stylefile, Chameleon Color Tone

For the full demonstration, including multi marker cross compatibility testing and commentary, keep an eye on my Youtube Channel for the video demonstration.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Tips for Watercolor Comics: Watercolor Basics

I should note here that I consider comics to be as legitimate a form of fine art as any acclaimed novel, or any admired painting, but unfortunately, the art world, and especially the gallery system, does not consider comics to be a form of art.  The distinction is theirs, not mine.

Recently the Watercolor Basics series has reached a turning point- we've begun to cover topics relevant to watercolor comics, rather than general watercolor, or watercolor for fine art.  Way at the beginning of the series, I wrote a post about the difference between watercolor for illustration and watercolor for fine art.  In that post, I glossed over the basics- I wanted to establish a reason why my Watercolor Basics series would focus on watercolor techniques useful for comic artists and illustrators, rather than covering more traditional watercolor techniques.

While researching for the Watercolor Basics series, I've realized that there is plenty of information for serious watercolorists, and plenty of information for hobbyists who are interested in light dabbling, and very little information for comic artists and illustrators.   In most posts, I include links to Second Opinions and Outside Sources to guide those interested in the topic to more information- most of that information comes from those two camps.

Learning how to paint with watercolor in a fine art sense can help you improve greatly as a watercolor comic artist, and while I encourage you to go out and do studies and learn how to handle watercolor effectively, it's not a prerequisite to painting watercolor comics.  Comics that utilize watercolor can vary from elaborate masterpieces to very simple limited color affairs.

Super Mario Adventures- Kentaro Takemura and Charlie Nozawa

Displacement, a graphic novel by Lucy Knisley
Mind MGMT, Matt Knidt 
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, illustrated by Shotaro Ishinomori

7" Kara by Becca Hillburn
All of the comics above handle watercolor differently and utilize different treatments to tell a story in comic form.  Some use very simple one layer techniques, some are fairly rendered out.

How Watercolor for Comics/Illustration Differs from Fine Art Watercolor

  • You have less time to complete a piece- comics are consumed quickly, and there's an expectation that webcomics will update frequently and consistently.  Even print comics have tight timelines, so if you're going to watercolor comic pages, you need to hit on a method to produce them quickly.

  • Each page is multiple illustrations, so some techniques that work on standalone illustrations just won't work for comics.

  • Small illustrations (panels) may be difficult to execute, may require a reduction in detail.

  • Consistency can be a huge factor- comic pages are read quickly, so characters need to look consistent.

  • Affordability may be a factor, as you're using a lot of materials to complete a longform product like a comic.
    • You may need to compromise on your papers or paints in order to complete a longterm watercolor comic project.  
    • Cheaper papers have unique considerations- cellulose papers are inexpensive, but tend to dry fast and may have limitations to wet into wet blending
    • Cheaper paints have unique considerations- may use dyes rather than pigments or may use fugitive pigments

  • Lightfastness, permanence may not be an issue
    • Your final product is not the finished painted page, but the printed book
    • Final pages may never go on display, may end up stored in archival boxes
    • Due to costs, you may find nonpermanent, fugitive watercolors to be an economical solution

  • Need to be able to reproduce your pages in print or online- digitizing is important
    • Will need to invest in a good scanner
    • Will need to invest in physical storage-hard drives, Cloud storage, or both
    • Will need access to software for corrections

  • Often will not have exact color reference to work from (besides your prior pages)
    • Many fine artists work closely from photo reference- this is a luxury most watercolor comic artists don't have.  You can use reference, but you're going to be cobbling together multiple sources to create a single image, and this has unique and often frustrating challenges.

  • You can use inked lineart- this will make the coloring process much easier, but may flatten the image.

  • You often can't just throw away a whole page over one botched panel.
    • Comics are too time consuming to toss a page for a single panel
    • You have to learn how to make peace or how to make it work

  • You can make digital corrections
    • Alter the hue
    • Alter the saturation
    • Several decent faux watercolor brushes available, or you can make your own
    • Good for touchups, fixing seams
  • You can work digitally in addition to traditionally.
    • Lettering
    • Adding a shading layer
    • Corrections

  • You may need additional supplies or more pre mixed colors in order to get work done in a timely manner
    • Convenience colors
    • Larger welled palettes
    • Watercolor Pencils
    • Colored Pencils
    • White Gouache

Watercolor comics aren't easy- they're time consuming and under appreciated.  They aren't necessarily the best choice for webcomics, as you're limited to working in large spaces, rather than being able to work on the go.  Its not something you should undertake lightly, and is definitely not a good first choice for someone who is new to comics.

That said, watercolor can be a rewarding medium.  There's something wonderful and almost magical about working in traditional media, and you may find yourself with an art supply addiction.

In the end, all that really matters is that you get your pages done, and they look good.   Unlike with traditional watercolors and watercolor competition, you do not have to answer to anyone else for the process you use in comics- all are legitimate methods of making work.

If you're new to my blog, don't forget to check out my Watercolor Basics series! I take you through the entire process- from selecting your materials to preparing your images, to painting your pages!

online watercolor course

Watercolor Comics to Inspire Your Work:

Los Pirineos- Sara Woolley
Displacement- Lucy Knisley
An Age of License- Lucy Knisley
Beautiful Darkness- Fabien Vehlrmann and Kerascoet
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past- Shotaro Ishinomori
Mind MGMT- Matt Knidt
Super Mario Adventures- Kentaro Takemura and Charlie Nozawa

Secret Identity Shorts: P1    P2 
Ignition Zero
7" Kara- Becca Hillburn
Sections of Bittersweet Candy Bowl

comics for kids, kids read comics, watercolor comic