Using Classic Drawing Tools in Tandem with Digital Drawing Tools

Over the past 30 years, the world of publishing has been radically transformed by the availability of professional quality desktop publishing software. Alongside traditional prose and magazine publishing, the world of comics and manga has equally been transformed – not only in the printing process, but also how the original art content is produced.

Historically, artists would usually work as a team in a sort of “assembly line” approach to making art, whether they were working for an American publisher out of New York or a Japanese publisher out of Tokyo. This would involve art first being penciled in on some form of oversized art board, then another person (sometimes) would lay down ink lines over the basic pencil art, so that the art lines would be very crisp and visible. Most black and white comics and manga would then be sent to a printer from here, where the artwork would be photographed and then reduced for crisp printing, while color pages involved an entirely more elaborate form of coloring from another facility.

With the modern standards of the Adobe Creative Cloud as well as other art-centric apps like Clip Studio Paint, the entire production process has simplified greatly, and involves a lot less people overall. Using the modern process, artist(s) create their page either 100% digitally or scan traditional art pages for digital finishing. Once the art has been approved by an editor, the art is compiled into a master digital publication file, which then goes to either an offset printer or digital printer for the final product. This modern digital-centric process cuts out several steps, especially in the coloring process.

Depending on the publisher, there may be some requirements regarding how the art is produced. Some publishers may demand a 100% digital workflow (usually so that editorial changes can be made faster), while others give the artist or art team more overall leeway on how they create their work. On the other hand, if you are looking at breaking into the field or are working on your own self-published/small press work, you have a lot of authority on how the art is made.

Still, if you are looking at breaking into a traditional publishing arrangement, you must become adept at working with some of this software, even if you prefer to draw traditionally, as computer publishing technology is being used regardless of how you make your art. If, like many artists, you prefer to work with traditional tools in some aspect, there are a number of digital/traditional hybrid methods of working with comic/manga art.

Traditional Layouts for Digital Finishing

While digital tablets are plentiful, most people still first learn to draw on paper as children. AS a result, many people still feel most comfortable beginning any professional art tasks in traditional sketchbooks or loose paper. When it comes to making professional art pages, the fastest way to breakdown a page layout would most likely be to use layout pencils on paper. This can be done by printing out several reduced-size page templates from your art program of choice, with basic printed borders on the page to keep everything lined up for the final art. From here, you use your favorite pencil, whether it’s a Kurutoga pipe-slide mechanical pencil or a double-sided blue and red Prismacolor Veritihin pencil, to make you final layouts. Assuming you are using a standard printer paper size, you can then scan these pages with a standard copier or even a phone scanning app, and then apply the image to a digital page in your preferred art app as a guide for digital pencils, inks and colors. This process also has the added benefit of not requiring any real digital cleanup, as this is solely a reference drawing underneath the final digital art.

Traditional Pencil Art and Digital Finishing

If you feel your traditionally produced pencils are stronger than your digital pencils, you can go even further by making full-size pencil art. For this, you will need to make sure your paper is full-size and that your printing margins are either pre-printed or handmade so that everything matches up to the final digital pages. You can do this by working off of preprinted art board like Deleter’s B4-sized manga paper or EON plate-finish comic art board, or you can save a lined template in your favorite art program and have it printed out on oversize paper (as, again, this only pencil art, and heavy paper is not a requirement for this step). Once you are happy with your pencils, you scan them in with a flatbed scanner, and use those as a reference guide. Again, this works well as no digital cleanup is needed.

Digital Pencils with Traditional Inks

For some, digital sketching and penciling is not an issue at all; it tends to be less wasteful, in terms of paper use. However, a number of professionals do prefer to make their inks traditionally, whether due to a preference for the qualities of traditional ink lines or the tactile sensation of a pen hitting art board. For those who want to do this, you can do your final pencil lines in an art program, but you will need to then print out your pencils on a page of art board like Strathmore Series 400 Bristol cut down to 11” x 17” or B4 manga standards, and you will need to print the pencil lines in a faint shade of printer ink. Once you have that, you mount your art board on whatever surface you prefer to use, and get to inking with either traditional India ink and well-crafted Tachikawa G-nib pens or disposable Pigma Micron multiliner pens. Once finished, you scan the final art back into your computer, and continue on. The line quality will be amazing, though it might require digital cleanup of the original art, as any dust, dirt, or specs that the scanner picks up will need to be removed.

Traditional vs. Digital Coloring

Digital coloring has fast become the standard for the modern comics and manga publishing world. Still, there are a few options for coloring traditionally. Using alcohol-based or water-based dyes like Dr. Phillip Martin Dyes or the popularCOPIC brand design markers can be useful, though you need to know that these will fade dramatically over time; they should last long enough to scan for production purposes, but that’s all you can rely on. If that’s all you need, then there are no other concerns; however, if you want archival quality colors, you will need to look at the possibility of using watercolor or gouache paints to color – though that will require mastery of an entirely different medium.

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