Shading with inks, a tutorial - Part 1

Kai Blin

As I started to do black and white art recently, I noted that one of the toughest parts in inking is getting the shading right. It's different with pencils, as you can work with pressure there. So I've started to do some studies about shading with ink, the results of which I'd like to present here.

Step 1 - The pencil sketch

I usually start my inkings with a pencil sketch, as an eraser is easier to handle (and less expensive) than white ink. For this tutorial I'll use a picture I did for SherwoodSpirit, a male naga.

This time I actually managed to get a quite high-quality pencil sketch, without much need to clean it up. If you look closely you'll find some eraser smears though.

Note that there's a hint of shading applied to the pencil sketch. It defines the light source for our later inkings. If you're not the one doing the pencils, and the penciller didn't define a light source, you have to invent one.

Step 2 - The dead-weight contour line

Now I ink the contour lines either inking directly on the pencils or using a light table. If the pencil sketch has some smearing from the eraser, I usually use the light table.

Note that the contour line has no changes to its width, or as it's called by inkers, no changes to its line weight. This is why it's called a dead-weight contour line. Although, I think the image already is quite good (I'm sooo proud of myself ;-) ), it still lacks a feeling of depth. The poor guy looks flat and that's why the real work starts now.

Step 3 - line weights

As I said in Step 2, inkers call the width of a line its weight. A thin line has a light weight, a wide line has a heavy weight.

In this picture I added line weights to my picture. In real life inking, you might want to do it right away when inking the contour lines, but it also works step by step.

First, you must establish a light source, because lines facing the light source are lighter and lines on the opposite side are heavier. In this picture, I assume a light source on the right, upper corner of the picture, so way above his left shoulder.

Doesn't it start to look three-dimensional now?

In the next step, we'll add even more to it.

Step 4 - hatching

On top of the line weights done in Step 3, I've added fine lines to give a shade of gray. This technique is called hatching.

With this the picture looks even more three dimensional and I'd keep it like this if you still wanted to colour it. It has pretty well-defined shadows now and you will be able to get more depth to it with the colours, e.g. using cell-shading, etc.

Still, for a pure black and white picture, it still isn't it. We can do better. In the next step, we'll add solid blacks to the picture. In order to understand solid blacks, let's first do an excursion where we'll work with lots of black: Minimal light. It will be included in the next Chopping Block issue, so stay with us.