Inking for Comics. I wish someone would teach people how…

Inkers.   HAH!  They are to laugh!

I inked this. I'm sometimes a professional inker.

There’s a character in the Kevin Smith film CHASING AMY who inks comics for a living, and his friends call him a professional tracer. He complains that he’s not, but convinces no one, and the movie was a minor box office hit, so it left that defining moment in America’s brain.

Banky Edwards during a moment of self-loathing

When it first started up in the 90s, the inkers at Image Comics, were working with prima donna pencilers who insisted their work be reproduced as faithfully as possible and forced their inkers to actually BE “tracers”. This further convinced a generation of comic fans that inkers were barely trained monkeys with a sweatshop tool in their unskilled paw.

un-inked pencils by Erik Larsen. The inker better not get "creative".

And of course, there’s always just running the pencils through a photoshop filter. Screw the inker, who needs ‘em? They’re only messing up my work.

But the inker is the essential last hand on the drawing. He or she is the one that makes the artwork lively, or bold, or personable, or slick, or capricious. They are the singer of the song. The human hand. The Deus Ex Machina: The creator emerges from the machine.

Consider your favorite comic book or graphic novel: A CONTRACT WITH GOD, MAUS, WATCHMEN, BATMAN YEAR ONE, RED HULK POUNDS HIS ENEMIES TO DEATH, BLANKETS, SIN CITY, V FOR VENDETTA, or Name Your Own Favorite…

pictured above: Knowing what you're doing.

Every one of these magnificent examples of the form has a distinct and memorable kind of line work. It’s built into the character of each story, inseparable to the experience, and to treat this essential skill with little more than a backhand slap is to misunderstand what makes comics the appealing form of media that they are.

Ty Templeton inks Tom Artis on Tailgunner Jo.

I’m teaching a seven week comic book inking bootcamp at the TCW this January, starting on January 17th, on Tuesday Evenings. (spaces are still available in Inking for Comics. –kts)

click here to visit the TCW online and find out more

Come on down and learn to know what you’re doing.

Click here to find out more.

Ty the Guy OUT!

PS:  If you’re in Toronto tonight, drop in for my “Drawing the Figure” drop in class.  25 bucks at the door for three hours with a live burlesque model, and an instructor who knows anatomy!   Who says this isn’t the TCW Age of Learnin’?

587A College Street (at Clinton), Toronto, On, Canada, M6G 1B2 • Phone: 647.328.1656 •

(AND Ty is teaching Writing for Comics Level One, Mondays, starting January 16, 7-10pm. There’s still some spots available. And there’s a special deal if you’ve taken Level One before, and you’d like to repeat it before taking Level Two in March; 50% off of Level One. contact Sean Menard  through for details.

AND Ty is teaching a full course for Figure Drawing for the Comic Book Artist.  Featuring a different model each Wednesday evening, beginning January 25 7-10pm, with instruction from Ty. Spaces still available, but they are limited for this course.  Keiren)

Here now, your bonus moment.

While the inking is competent, it looks like it was "traced". Sigh...

19 responses to “Inking for Comics. I wish someone would teach people how…

  1. Bob McLeod and I had this conversation a couple months ago on Facebook. I lamented about the time when comic book art was a truly collaborated effort and artists would do breakdowns or leave just enough out for the inker to shine. What would Byrne/Austin’s, Miller/Janson’s, Colan/Palmer, Adams/Giordano, Buscema/Palmer, Swan/Anderson, Infantino/Giacoia, Kane/Anderson, Ditko/Wood, Kirby/Sinnott. run be like if the artists all did full pencils with shadings added ??

    Lots of today’s artists started out as kids by coping finished art and now reproduce that, and that is a main reason for these guys not being able to complete 12 issues per year, they take too long adding details that an inker (a competent artist in his own right) could do. I miss picking up a book and seeing the difference between one inker to another (I was floored when I saw Art Thibert inking Dan Jurgens after a year of Dennis Janke)

  2. There are actually numerous groups and pages on Facebook for Inkers. It is a great place to collaborate with others and really begin to learn the craft in preparation for a class from Ty/Toronto.


    Steven Willis

  3. I’m surprised at the rather hollow inking for the Chasing Amy cover too. Isn’t that all Mike Allred?

  4. I recently heard and Frank Giacoia used to erase all of the penciler’s work and ink based the intentions left on their pencil marks.

    Handing over the inking to somebody else borne out of the assembly line process, and some folks made an art form out of it. But due to its factory-like approach, inking is getting muscled out of the industry. This generation of pencilers have been bred to pencil incredibly tight (sometimes out of fear that an inexperienced inker will mess it up), so all inkers are required to do is trace, or do so digitally.

    The days of Buscema laying down a couple of spheres and Alcala making them into Conan on a horse are long gone. No way could Klaus Janson get a job today if he was a newbie, which is really unfortunate.

  5. There’s also people in the industry who, with all the rate cuts going ’round, figure that the solution is to ink themselves and at least make that money. And if that means darkening the pencils or digitally inking them (whichever is acceptable to their editor) that’s what they’ve got to do in order to stay afloat financially. And, of course, some of the decision of how they do that inking is affected by the new time constraints a lot of creators are under.

  6. I love inking. Love it love it love it. It’s my most frustrating but also most rewarding part of the whole process, it really does bring the page to life. Then again, I’m 60 years old on the inside, so that might be part of it.

  7. Pingback: Inking « Costa K's Misc. Things

  8. Wow, Chasing Amy is my favourite movie of all time, great post, inking makes all the difference, as can colour nowadays, each step is completely essential, the classic collaborations on some of my favourite comic work of all time (Superman and Batman comic strips) knew this and it made all the difference.

    They actually have a great write-up about it in the volume of the Batman dailies, saying that their pencillers were being too loose with things and the letter that was sent with an example of I believe Jerry Robinson’s pencil work to show what they should be sending in.

  9. as an inker, I almost think there’s no such thing as “too loose”. as long as the figure work is solid, I can solve the anatomy and light and shadow…in many ways I prefer it. I worked quite a bit with Curt Swan who was much looser than people suspected, and it was a joy to finish that guy’s stuff. When I inked John Byrne, I barely got scribbled layouts to work from, and produced some slick work from that.

    • I find inking fascinating when someone does it with another persons work and what happens to it. Seeing Byrne doing pencils and inks vs. Austin is interesting. I wonder how much of the penciler rubs off on the inker? For example when I look at Austin doing his own pencils and inks, I see a lot of Byrne. What would Austin art look like before he did Byrne? Also what does a Miller look like when inked by Ty compared to Janson or Giordano?

  10. Very cool, Ty! You are one of THE BEST in my opinion! I just started teaching an “Inking for Comics” class at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco a few years ago. Out of the 30 or so students I’ve taught my 15 week course, I’ve only had two or three “A” students! It’s a skill that improves over a very LONG period of time… It took me, like, 6 years to gain enough confidence to REALLY do the quality job I wanted to do!!! And I don’t teach “finishing”. We concentrate on line quality with a brush, lighting and depth. It’s a VERY basic class… but it is all new to most students I work with!!!

  11. i know sir your busy man, but you happen to find time, can you critique my works can i be a comic inker? quite confused thanks a lot!

    • It’s actually not too bad. You’ve got a good strong, bold line, and it’s not hesitant. That’s the most important thing in an inker, and you have that, so YAY! You might want to work on varying your line thicknesses a bit, as they’re fairly similar, no matter what part of the image they’re in. And find new ways of making textures, don’t always cross hatch, find stipples, and dry brush, and other ways of making textures. You’re well on your way, though. Not bad!

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