Learn My Secret to the Fastest, Simplest, Down and Dirty Comic Style Inking and Coloring Technique for Adobe Illustrator
There are a lot of really good tutorials on the web for digital inking and coloring. The trouble is that most of them assume you have six to eight hours to finish a drawing that is budgeted for two. Back when I was young and unattached and I didn’t need a lot of money, I didn’t particularly care how long something took. But at age 45, and supporting a family in one of the least affordable places in the country, time has become very important.
This method is not the most sophisticated but it gets the job done quick and it looks great. I also discovered one of its key components by accident.
It’s great for poster art, cartoon characters, comic book art or any place you need a classic ink and color look.
I’m also providing two versions – a couple of videos for people who like those things, and a text one for people like me who don’t like video tutorials. Call me a Luddite, but I think it’s easier to learn from text and stills that a tiny video capture of someone’s computer.
Illustrator Inking and Coloring Video Tutorials
First the videos. Unlike those speed drawing tutorials that blow your mind but teach you nothing, this one is a true speed drawing tutorial as it’s in real time. No cuts and no sped up sections to hide the true time it takes. This first one is a brisk 8 minutes and it walk you through a drawing from beginning to end and clearly explains all the steps necessary
There are a lot of excellent ink and color tutorials on the web, so what is different about this tutorial?
1. Real time. Unlike those speed drawing tutorials that blow your mind but teach you nothing, this one is a true speed drawing tutorial as it’s in real time. No cuts and no sped up sections to hide the true time it takes.
2. Learn a practical but unorthodox technique for speeding up your inking and coloring in Illustrator.
3. Vector. In the print industry vector rules the roost so those Photoshop inking tutorials aren’t very helpful for someone who’s primary concern is clean reproduction in all mediums including brochures, t-shirts, posters, tradeshow booths, video and packaging.
Illustrator Inking and Coloring Video Video #1 (Shorter Version)
This video is the 8 minute shorter version and just focuses on the basic principles as quickly as possible.
Illustrator Inking and Coloring Video #2 (Longer Version)
This next one is more detailed and is 15 minutes long. It doesn’t necessarily have more information, it’s just more detail oriented. While the first video is like a sprint, this one is more like a stroll.
If you don’t like video or don’t want to keep pausing and playing, use this text and still version of my digital ink and color tutorial. This drawing was done for Grit Dog.
First place your scanned sketch and call the layer "sketch". Add some transparency to the layer so you can just barely see it. Then lock the layer and create another on top called "finished art". Note: The names you pick for your layers is irrelevant as long as you know what it means.
Then either pick a brush from your presents or make your own. In this example I'm using the Shaz Hair Brush by Sharon Milne. It's a pretty sweet brush and comes close to mimicking how I ink in the real world.
Now, start inking with the brush tool. Go ahead and overshoot the lines (see red circles). We will easily delete those later and leave you with a nice clean drawing. Overshooting the lines not only looks better when it's done it, also frees you to be more expressive and dramatically increases you inking speed.
Now that we are done, select the entire drawing.
And then group it.
And then make a COPY and set it aside off the art board. This will be your raw, unexpanded, unconverted back up. If you should happen to mess up, change your mind, or you client changes theirs, you could easily edit your backup copy and save yourself a lot of time.
Now, go to Object > Expand Appearance and expand your brush stokes. This will make them uneditable as a native brushstroke. That's why we made a copy.
Then go to Object > Live Paint > Make. This will convert it to a Live Paint object. But wait. NEXT IS THE SECRET!
We are NOT going to paint yet. So choose Object > Live Paint > Expand. This essentially locks in your Live Paint effects and converts it back to a normal abject. But why convert and the un-convert?
So here's where the magic happens. By converting to Live Paint and then expanding, all of your overshot lines are now sliced up perfectly. So now you can zoom in and and start selecting them while holding down the shift key. Get as many as you want and then...
Delete them! Presto. Instant cleaned up artwork.
There, now we have a super clean finished digital ink piece. And it's in vector too, so it's resolution independent and easily editable.
We can compare our raw back up and the expanded cleaned up version and easily see now what it's smart to have a raw backup.
Now we're going to convert it to Live Paint again, but this time we will actually paint in color.
With the Live Paint Bucket Tool areas that can have color dropped in show a red trap line when you hover over. If you have large gaps in your ink lines and the paint spreads out into the surrounding area, either change you gap settings (Object > Live Paint > Gap Option) or just go with it and we can easily cut out or change the spill color later.
There, that was easy. Don't worry if the color isn't perfect. This is all about filling in EVERY area with come kind of color. You can easily change it later. For the karate uniform, the eyes and the teeth I just painted it with white.
All done! That took about five minutes.
Now we are going to expand our Live Paint effects. You can freely go back and forth between Live Paint and non-Live Paint mode as many times as you want. It won't hurt anything.
Now, this is the SECOND SECRET to the method. Using the Direct Selection Tool, select areas of color that you want to improve with shadows, highlight or gradients.
Then select the Knife Tool and slice it up.
And then select the part you want to change. In this case we created a nice shadow by darkening the left slice by adjusting the color sliders.
Repeat this where ever you want something more that just single blocks of color. You could also use gradients instead.
All done! This took about a half and hour from first ink to finished art and it still has a really clean professional comic book poster art look. And best of all, it's all vector, so you can easily change shapes and colors and effects or cut, combine, and scale, without any loss of quality.
File Under: How to Quickly Digitally Ink and Color a Drawing In Adobe Illustrator CS5 – The Fastest, Easiest Method for Inking and Adding Color in Adobe Illustrator – Fast Cartooning in Illustrator – Comic Inking – Comic Coloring