The simple rule of printing, even when you take into consideration how far printing technology has advanced, is that solid black will always reproduce more safely than graduated tones.
Reproduction has limitations. Not everything that you make on a computer will reproduce well in print. Most comic books still utilize black line art filled with tones and colors because it reproduces well.
To get to the finished page is a series of steps, the first two of which are penciling and inking. Ink over pencil is a trend in comic book art that has continued because it’s so effective.
Inking comics with a clean style that includes varied but legible lines creates a professional veneer to your art.
Layout and penciling
Penciling starts after scripting and layout.
Since 11 x 17″ cardstock for comic books is fairly expensive, it’s best to do a layout on smaller, cheaper paper. A layout typically consists of loose, almost scribbly pencils. This will help you figure out placement of characters and the flow of the page. Below, you can see how the layout compares to the pencil version.
The inking process
The process in both traditional (on paper) and digital is to do a pencil drawing first, then inking.
Once the page is completed in the penciling stage, an inker uses pens and brushes to go over and enhance the pencils with black ink. Digitally, the process is the same except the inker uses the pen and brush tools in the software.
The intention in both is to create solid black line work that reprints cleaner than gray pencil lines.
Then, the lines may be filled with color or graduated gray tones.
Develop your drawing skills with pen and ink on paper, or practice using the pen and brush tools in drawing and painting software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Manga Studio, or Sketchbook Pro.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to hire another artist who specializes in inking comics if you don’t have the skill perfected, but that will add to your budget.
After you’ve seen what works and doesn’t work with your printer, you can become more adventurous in testing the limits beyond solid black linework.