Part 3: Inking
The third session of Valiant Entertainment and Hasting’s special Craft of Comics series was livecast on October 3rd. Just in time for Inktober, this session focused on the art of inking. Ryan Winn (Divinity, Quantum & Woody, Unity) was on hand to answer questions and demonstrate inking techniques.
The Craft of Comics is a livecast question and answer panel and each week of this workshop has a different focus: writing, penciling, inking, and coloring. Hastings guests receive a free exclusive workbook in which to create and hone their artistic skills. Guests can then enter The Craft of Comics contest, where one winner will have their work published in an upcoming Valiant comic. Official rules and submission forms are available in the exclusive book and online at goHastings.com/Valiant.
The role of the inker is to render the pencil art into the final form so that it may be lettered and colored. The inker defines the pencil’s lines, giving it weight and definition. They also add shading and black areas. Inking can be done traditionally or digitally.
Winn inks traditionally using pens and brushes. When asked why he prefers working traditionally, he answered that it is because he loves to create “things” – physical things. Inking brings him joy. Throughout the session, Winn was inking a page from Divinity.
Winn explained that the inker begins fairly early in the design process. He noted that sometimes inkers don’t receive the scripts, but a good penciler will provide all the necessary info even without the script. An example of this would be the penciler noting that the time is two in the afternoon. Knowing this helps him determine shadows and weight.
Winn believes that inking adds permanency, both physical and mental, to the artwork. Physically, ink will not flake off the page in the way that carbon pencils will. Mentally, the ink makes an impact in the reader’s mind. It subliminally directs your attention.
Inking helps to guide the reader’s eye. By varying line weight, emphasis can be put on particular parts of a panel. Inking also helps unite the panels, allowing them to flow together. Winn discussed working with Trevor Hairsine on Divinity. Hairsine, he feels, is a master at physical storytelling, having an innate sense of where to place subjects, perspective, and flow. Winn described The Fall of Ninjak‘s page 4 falling sword sequence to demonstrate Hairsine’s ability. Each panel draws the eye onward to the next frame and focuses on the proper details.
Winn uses both a flexible pen and a brush for inking. The flexible pen is useful for a variety of lines, something that he feels is lacking in markers. Brushes (he uses sable hair) provide more variety than the pen. They hold ink well and have a spring to them. Winn recommended that you go expensive on brushes because they will last longer. I tweeted a couple of questions for him regarding his tools. Winn stated that his weapon of choice is the “Raphael 8404 brush. It can do it all.” I also inquired when he used a pen versus a brush. He answered that he uses a brush for textures and more solid lines, and the pen is best for fine or crisp lines.
Winn was asked about working with pencilers – whether there was much interaction or specific direction. He replied that although he does speak frequently with his pencilers such as Hairsine, it is on a friendly basis and generally not work related. Winn said that there must be trust in the relationship. His pencilers trust him and his abilities. He in turn trusts that the colorist will do their best as well. Winn pointed out that Valiant does a great job of team building, bringing together people who trust each other rather than feeling the need to direct and control each part of the process.
Winn fielded several questions from fans, including what he felt was the most important aspect of inking. He replied, “Focus.” Focus is important for a variety of reasons. You need to clarify the image so that the reader can focus on the message delivered and not on the wrong details. For instance, he pointed out that the face and hands are often important in a panel because that’s where the emotional acting takes place. Here again he noted Hairsine’s great talent in conveying emotion in his characters.
When asked if he adapted his inking style to match an artist, Winn explained that his goal is to make people believe that the penciler inked the work rather than him. He prefers to take his bows offstage. When he first started out in the business, he had fewer techniques in his repertoire. Therefore, he tended to ink pages the same. With experience, he learned greater flexibility and the ability to adapt his own style to fit the penciler.
Winn was asked which Valiant characters he would like to work with next. He’s had the opportunity to work on a variety of the Valiant universe, but he wants to do Archer & Armstrong. Punk Mambo and Shadowman are on his list as well.
Regarding his work on Divinity, Winn states that it was an “incredible experience.” Hairsine brings ideas to life in a unique way. Due to the amount of time spent working on a project, Winn feels a responsibility to and a level of investment in the characters, likening his role to that of a curator of their stories. While working on Divinity, he found parallels and analogies to his own life within the script. Divinity 2, he teased, has some amazing ideas that readers will love.
This was another great Craft of Comics session. Ryan Winn was enthused and engaging, making it all the more enjoyable. The final Craft of Comics will be held on Saturday, October 10. Colorist David Baron will be on hand to lead the discussion on the art of coloring comics. Be sure to tweet your questions ahead of time to @goHastings with the hashtag #ValiantLiveQA.
Interested in seeing the session but don’t have access to a Hastings store? Check out the recorded sessions on YouTube here.