Since I started taking part in #Inktober, I’ve been asked often “What pens do you use”.
I can’t answer every one of these questions individually, so here’s a long post about the supplies I use for traditional ink work, with as much information as I can think of!
DISCLAIMER before I begin the rest: Pens are not a substitute for hard work and practice! Without practice, the best technical pen or brush in the world won’t do you any good. I’ve seen amazing work made with disposable ballpoint pens, so don’t get too hung up on the tools. Remember, everything takes time.
A - B - C - D
Copic Multiliner pens (disposable): Sizes 0.05, 0.1, 0.3
I used to use these for everything, but I’ve been using them less and less over time. They’re still best for the small details though. I use the 0.1, 0.3, and 0.5 for detailed line work. The 1.0 (example D) lines are pretty thick so I use it mostly for stuff like panel borders. I prefer to use the disposable ones over the expensive refillable “SP” multiliner pens. The tips of the SP’s feel a little brittle and break very easily. ((Available here))
Zebra Brush Pens: “Super Fine” and Fine.
Brush-pens like this one have been my go-to tools for everything over the last few years. They’re not perfect, but you can get thin and thick lines from them without having to switch pens too often. The tips are very durable, and one pen can last a pretty long time compared to similar brush pens. Be careful erasing pencil lines over them, sometimes it’ll fade the ink too. The zebra pens often feel kind of rough with too much usage, so I’ve recently switched to the Kuretake pens.
F - G
Kuretake brush pens; Extra Fine and Fine
These are the pens that I mainly use. Very similar to the Zebra brush pens, but I like the feel of them on paper a little more. They’re not always the best for a small detail work though. The Extra Fine (example F) is what I use for most things that I’ve drawn recently. They’re very durable and can take a lot of abuse.
H - I
Kuretake “bimoji” brush pens; Fine and Extra Fine
They’re pretty similar to the regular Kuretake brush pens and Zebra Pens, and while they’re pretty good, I wouldn’t recommend them over any of the alternatives. They wear down faster than the others, and it feels like they run out of ink faster. Still it’s good to have a couple of lesser pens/brushes for sketchbook work. I keep them around as backups. They look pretty cool too, right?
The tips on the Medium and Broad pens (not pictured here) tend to fray after a few uses.
Pentel Pocket Brush pen + refills
This thing is GREAT. It behaves like a real brush, but it’s pen sized, and doesn’t need cleaning or require constant dipping. Great for filling in black spots, or getting rough brush strokes. You can use it to draw thin lines, but I’m not too good at using it like that. The brush lasts a long time too. I’ve had the same one for over a decade! But you need to refill the cartridge pretty often. I know some people fill in the empty cartridges with their own ink, but I prefer to stick to buying the refills. There’s really no negative things to say about this brush, it’s pretty perfect!
((Available here)) ((Refills here))
More Inking Pens!
Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen: Big Brush
They’re a lot more useful, even though the tips will wear down fast. Great for filling in large areas of ink, or if you need a really large solid line for something. I always have trouble finding these in stores and I’ve never been sure why. I guess they’re very popular and sell out often?
Uni-Ball Signo Gel Pen
The Signo white gel pen is THE BEST for making white lines, but it can be a little too broad at times. it can also run out very fast with regular usage. It’s my most used pen for white lines and minor corrections. It stays white over time and scans well.
Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen: Calligraphy Pen
These are pretty common in stores like michaels, but they’re not something I’d recommend for line art. They wear down almost as fast (if not faster?) than micron brush pens, and after that they’re kind of useless. I keep one around for filling in small ink areas.
O (see above image gallery)
Bic White-Out Correction pen
This one I only use if I’ve really screwed up. It’s white-out, so you probably know how it works. The pen form is easier to use and to carry around. I try not to rely on it, because I know the ink turns yellowish over a long time.
The white pens are all good for both drawing and corrections, but I mostly use them just for corrections.
Sakura Gelly Roll
The Sakura Gelly Roll pen is much thinner, but the ink often doesn’t create solid lines, and fades away into inked spots. Still handy to have around.
Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Matte India ink + “G Nibs”
I don’t use Ink + Nib very often anymore, but I remember during college, this ink was my favorite. It drys pretty evenly, and the G nibs are pretty balanced for small details and thick lines, similar to the brush pens. I’m not a fan of waiting for lines to dry though.
• I use Bristol paper for all my traditional work. Specifically I use Strathmore brand, mainly because it’s very affordable. There are plenty of good brands out there, so there’s really no bad choices.
• I prefer the Smooth texture paper, but the Vellum texture is worth a try if you’d like a more noticeable texture to your line work. Textured paper is often considered better if you’re inking with a brush.
• The size I use is 9x12, but for Inktober and commission work I cut the pages in half to 6x9. This is about the same size as the sketchbooks I use, and I personally find it the most comfortable to work with. Lots of people work bigger though. I recommend trying out different sizes and seeing what feels best for you. Strathmore also makes 11x17 bristol pads with blue comic lines printed on them. They’re very useful for comic work and larger illustrations.
I’ve recently been trying out Screentone paper. I’m pretty new at it, but I encourage others to try it out too! The brand I’m using is Deleter, and I started with Tone Set Vol.1. There’s tons of different sets and types though so it’s up to you to see what works best. You’ll need a sharp X-acto blade and cutting board to use it. The paper is see-through and you trace the shape of the area you want to use it on, then you use the X-acto blade to cut out the shape then peel and stick the screentone onto the drawing.
After some trial and error, I recommend having something hard and flat to carefully press the tone paper onto the drawing. It takes a lot of pressure, but you risk damaging the drawing if you’re not careful. I also recommend using a Fixative spray. Any small pieces of screentone could easily be scraped off by accident, but fixative may hold them in place.
Scanning/Cleaning Lineart in Clip Studio + Photoshop
Here’s how I usually scan and clean up my traditionally inked stuff. (For Inktober I take photos of the work, but I scan and clean up the drawing for use in my artbooks)
Use your computer’s “image capture” application, or any program that’s compatible with a scanner. Scan the image at 600 dpi black and white — leave at this size or adjust to 400dpi. The bigger the better, but larger res images will load and save slower.
Then I use the levels menu (photoshop and clip studio) (Image > Adjustments > Levels) and adjust the black and white sliders as seen in the above images.
Usually I adjust the White slider to about 160 and drag the Gray slider over to it.
I try to make the lines as black and white as possible, and leave the lines aliased (pixellated). They should still look smooth at a high enough resolution.
I use the Lasso tool to select all negative areas around the lineart and clear any dust/dirt/unwanted pixels and lines.
If needed, I’ll use the lasso along with the eraser tool to clean up the lines and fix up the smaller details.
If the lines are completely black and white, you should be able to use the Selection tool (magic wand) to cut and paste the lines onto a new layer, if you’d like to color the image.