Saturday, 20 December 2008


Inking is one of the final processes when it comes to animation and it is probably one of the most important. It gives your animation that 'polished' look that the rest of the preliminary work will be lacking. It is best to show you what I mean by example rather than by trying to explain.

Not only is this one of my favourite drawings of George Liquor, it is a really brilliant piece of inking. The silhouette of the character is clearly highlight in each drawing and the features fit into the face, like they are made of skin and bone and are real. This is what I strive for whenever I come to draw up my projects into neat.

Before inking come clean up. Clean up is generally taken care of by the animators assistant so that the animator can press on with the actions and get involved in the scene without distraction. A lot of people over the years have suggested that the animators assistants do most of their work for them...but these can't be animators otherwise they would understand that is not the case. It is easy to see why people think that way though when you look at the example below.

The top half is the rough drawing by the animator, the bottom is by the clean up artist. The top has no arms, they are only indicated by lines. The hooves aren't shown - so they have either been cut off by the scanner or the clean up artist has been given permission to do his own thing. But the animator has create this believable pose...along with the other hundred of sheets that this scene will have taken. He has create the actions and drawings, the clean up artist has literally just highlighted what the next department is supposed to see. A lot of people learn to be good animators by becoming assistants. By cleaning up and tracing professional animators lines you begin to really see how to get action and life into your drawings.

Inking has really changed over the last decade...for one it is generally no longer done with ink. Instead it mostly done digitally these days, often with vector based programmes so as to get that 'cartoony' look. Vectors tend to give smoother nicer edges because the computer handles the drawings mathematically, as apposed to pixels which are tiny parts of a complete image.

This is all wrong. I am proud of these drawings, but they aren't inked particularly well. The lines need to firmly join each other so there the gaps cannot be seen. There are 'clumps' of ink everywhere here: the right foot is very messy indeed. This is difficult to avoid and I am beginning to wonder if my pen tablet and/or flash is equally to blame. A good workmen always blames his tools eh?

In my opinion it is one of the hardest things to do well. I have seen very few examples of it done exactly how I like it and I can't get anywhere near to how I like it. It is something I spend ages beating myself up about on nearly every project. As an individual I can't just palm it off onto somebody else, it is my job to create the drawing from scratch and then ink it so that it looks nice and complete. Sadly, it is something I am still studying and it is something I struggle with.

This character has no silhouette and no definition. It is a fun pose and funny expression, so luckily the image carries...but if it was inked better it would a much more exciting and believable character.

From my research, I have learned that the best way to do it is to start from the outside and highlight where the characters silohette is. This gives the character definition from the rest of the image and helps the eye follow the character easily. Then you have to consider the characters pose and highlight the different parts of the image.

You constantly have to try to judge where the line needs more weight and emphasis to attract the eye to the right part of the image...otherwise you lose your audience. Computers have made this a lot simpler, but it is still as skill that requires a significant amount of mastery. It is a necessity though, because it adds life and dimension to your drawings. if they are all one shape and size they are boring and unappealing which is exactly what you want to avoid as an animator and cartoonist.

This blog post provides a great basic insight into how to get started when you are learning to ink. It teaches you how to build your own brush in illustrator and how to go about bringing your character to life from scratch.

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