Droids Custom TIE Pilot: A lesson in digital inking

by Bill Cable
on 2023-10-25, 08:56:09

I've begun coloring my Droids TIE Pilot art... but I figured I'd share a bit of a lesson on a critical step towards how I've gotten where I am. Here's how I (probably stupidly) digitally ink my art!

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Of course I start by manually inking my art. Then I erase the pencils and scan it on a flatbed scanner. The result of that scan is above. You can still see a lot of pencil marks, and the density of the black lines is very inconsistent. There's also spots where I think the scanner light reflects off the ink, resulting in white spots in the middle of obvious black areas. To address some of those issues, the next thing I do is mess with the levels in Photoshop, basically dramatically increasing the white intensity and black intensity to eliminate a lot of the middle-ground.

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From here, I use the magic wand tool to select the black to create a new layer. I set the tollerance pretty high to grab as much of the grays as possible. Select -> New Layer -> Paint Bucket in black. This gives me an image that's entirely white pixels and black pixels. But it also results in a lot of unwanted artifacts:

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This is where digital inking begins. But it's challenging. Sometimes the stray pixels are hard to identify. I'm working at 300 pixel per inch, so all these 1-pixel mistakes are tiny. I zoom in a lot and need to pan around the art, and it's very easy to miss stuff. That's where my next trick helps. I apply a "Stroke" to the black layer... basically a red glow around it.

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This makes it much easier to find the errant pixels. I can now switch between my pencil tool and eraser tool to fill in the white areas that should be black, and erase the black areas that should be white. I also take this time to clean up mistakes, make straight lines straighter, and other enhancements. The final digital inks are much cleaner, as you can see here:

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Once the art is in this state, it's ready to color! Now, I'm certainly not perfect with my digital inking, and a lot of times as I'm coloring I'll need to go to the black lines layer and touch things up. But for the most part this method works efficiently.

As I said earlier, I have begun coloring. Here's a look at what I've done so far:

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Hopefully by next week I'll have a lot more color to show off!





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