I first worked on a tablet, drawing directly on the computer, for my last animation contract as lead character designer on CAILLOU season IV. My job had me spending one week drawing any new characters and costumes on paper one week, and the next week “inking” them digitally and breaking the character down into movable parts for the animators to use. Since the first day playing around with the new tablet at work, and seeing the range of pressure sensitive brushes available, I’ve wanted to try my hand at inking a comic digitally.
For the first run of the Chelation Kid, I drew everything by hand. I ended up doing a lot of reuse of poses in the sequences where Bob as the narrator would be talking directly to the audience. Instead of doing what most other strip artists would do and cut and paste the poses, changing the odd facial expression, I would light table my pose, then trace it out on the pages and re-ink each pose individually. So, I decided a while back that when I was able to return to CK that I would take the plunge and do it start to finish digitally and take advantage of the quick cut and paste options that digital would open up to me.
A lot of artists I know through The Engine message board, and now Panel & Pixel, swear by Manga Studio Ex. I played around a little with the demo and wasn’t convinced, but two weeks ago we got enough funding to do two new weeks of CK, so I took the plunge and downloaded the $50 intro version of the software. After a bit of playing around, I found with the intro version I could import photoshop art and export the finished art to photoshop (my only main requirement) and then discovered I could rotate the canvas like I would turn a physical page while inking. I’m going to have to pick a few brains to find out what the $300 version has that I might need that would make me need to upgrade. So far this luddite is happy with the dumbed down version.
Anyway, so far I have completed one week, and the second week has two days that need to be finished off. It’s taking a bit of getting used to, but I’m getting there. While the cut and paste option is freeing up some time, it’s taking me a lot longer to draw and ink, so it’s about equal, but I’m sure the speed will come in time. One advantage of working digitally that I think will eventually speed me up is that I can now do a large part of my initial drawing in “ink” cutting out a chunk of the pencilling stage. I do a lot of my pencilling with the eraser, refining what I’m drawing by erasing the lines I don’t want. Well, digitally it’s as easy to erase ink lines as it is pencil.
The first digital week of The Chelation Kid (running right now) is, to my eye, not the best of CK, but a couple of the strips of the second digital week I feel that I’m starting to match my traditional work.
To illustrate, here’s an example of one of next week’s strip’s “pencils”. Much rougher and sketchier than I would ever start inking from on paper.
And now here is the final “inked strip.
One of Manga Studio’s main features are the pre-set zip-tones. I haven’t use tones in my work in over a decade, but they are just too easy to use in MS to resist.
I’d be curious to hear comments on what anyone thinks of my early digital attempts. I can’t imagine changing to completely digital on all my projects ( I love the feel of pencil, pen, and brush on paper too much) but it is definitely a skill I want to cultivate, and for the time being the Chelation Kid is acting as Guinea Pig