Inking With Pencils

From The Battle for Wesnoth Wiki

Foreword by Jetryl:

This information was given me by a contributor named Jason Lutes, a professional artist who contributed a number of very well-done portraits for this game. I asked him a question about his workflow, and he kindly responded.

"Inking," in cell-shaded art jargon, is a method of making pencil lines scanned into a computer more solid. When you draw on paper with a pencil, it will only stick to the fibers of the paper that jut out higher than the other fibers, this means that when you look closely at the line, it will have holes in it, like a chalk line drawn on rough asphalt. This is very apparent with pencil drawings that have been scanned into a computer. Professional work does not have these holes in the lines, and traditionally, professionals have achieved this by tracing over their pencil lines with ink (hence the name). Ink soaks into the fiber and gets pulled into even the low-lying fibers, leaving a solid, uniform, black line. There are other methods of doing this, however, thanks to the advent of computers; one of these is described below:


How to make pencil lines look like inked lines:

The drawings I've posted so far are actually scanned in from drawings done with a mechanical pencil (HB lead) on vellum (heavy tracing paper) -- they're not even inked. The pencil sketches are very tight, but I have a little Photoshop routine I run to get them looking smoother.

I scan in the drawings at 300 dpi, then I adjust the contrast until the lines darken but don't thicken up, and the background is pure white. Then, I use the magic wand to select all the line work (tolerance around 60%, constrain unchecked -- but tolerance adjusted depending on how it looks when I zoom in close to see what I've grabbed), and fill it solid black. Then I Select -> Inverse and fill the rest of the image with solid white, so the only two shades on the image are 100% black and 100% white.

I usually run Filter -> Noise -> Despeckle, then the trick move is Filter -> Noise -> Median, set to 1 or 2 pixels depending on how the preview looks. What this does is check every pixel on the image against every adjacent pixel (within the pixel radius you've entered), and smoothes out the jagged parts. It's a pretty good trick.

I think you need to start with a scanned image of decent resolution for it to look good; the finals that I've posted are probably only one-third the size of the original scanned version, so the shrinking helps to make things look good too.


I do encourage people to try inking by hand. It takes some practice, but with continued effort you will get to the point where you're happy with your linework. When I ink, I use a Rotring ArtPen, with a refillable cartridge of non-clogging, waterproof India ink. You don't have to go to that length though -- find a pen that feels good, and find a smooth drawing surface. Professional cartoonists and illustrators who have a very clean look to their art often use a paper called "bristol board," of which there are several types. You want the kind with "plate" finish, or, if that can't be found, "smooth."

For scanning images into a computer, though, as I said, you can probably get smooth lines with a lot less effort, if you try to follow the process I've outlined above.

This page was last modified on 21 February 2008, at 19:31.