Alternative Inking: Go Beyond the Brush and Pen | Michelle Tabares | Skillshare

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Alternative Inking: Go Beyond the Brush and Pen

teacher avatar Michelle Tabares, Cartoonist, Designer and Illustrator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Using a Toothpick


    • 3.

      Using Fingerprints


    • 4.

      Using a Cotton Ball


    • 5.

      Using a Qtip


    • 6.

      Using a Toothbrush


    • 7.



    • 8.



    • 9.

      Closing Thoughts


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About This Class

If you're a cartoonist or illustrator, odds are you've worked with ink at some point to create comics and/or illustrations. While most of us use a brush or dip pen to transfer our ink to paper, many rarely venture outside of using these very traditional drawing and painting tools.

Who says you only have to use a brush or dip pen for your comics or ink drawings? There's tons of DIY tools in your own home that can create unique and interesting effects that would be impossible through traditional means. Some of which may surprise you!

So pick up a toothbrush, q-tip or a cotton ball and let's start experimenting with some creative inking techniques!

All music in this lesson in by DJ Quads:

Meet Your Teacher

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Michelle Tabares

Cartoonist, Designer and Illustrator


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1. Introduction: Hey, my name is Michelle. I'm a cartoonist and illustrator. In today's video, we're going to be talking about some alternative inking methods. If you're an illustrator or cartoonists yourself, you've probably already worked with ink and maybe you've used brushes or dip pens. But in today's lesson, we're going to focus on different methods of inking, all of which can be used with various household items that can be found either in your home already for free or can be purchased for cheaply. So some of the items that we are going to be working with today include cotton balls, Q tips, toothpicks, and various other items which you can use to create different effects in your illustration or your comic work. Working with these tools is especially exciting because a lot of times the effects that they create can't be reproduced with what we traditionally used to ink with. So a lot of what you'll see here is unique to the tool and can be replicated with a brush or a dip pen. I also think that using these alternative inking methods is a great way to get yourself unstuck from maybe an artist's rut, or to just get you thinking more outside of the box. The point is to get out of your creative comfort zone and try new things. Hopefully along the way, find maybe one or two new tools that you can incorporate into your art. So that's that. Let's dive right in and start experimenting with some new tools. I'll see you in the next video. 2. Using a Toothpick: In this video, we're going to talk about one of my favorite inking tools, the toothpick. Now the toothpick is sort of like a powerhouse inking tool. It can be used for so many different ways. You can get so many different line widths and variations from it. You can also turn the toothpick on its side and drag it across the page, which will create this sort of effect that you're seeing on the screen right now, which is pretty cool if you want something more textured since it picks up the texture of the wood grain. Now you can see here on the screen that just by changing the pressure in which you apply the toothpick to the page, you can get very thick, highly saturated lines, down to pretty thin lines. It really just depends on what it is you're going for and how much ink, you apply to the page. In a pinch it can also be used for lettering. Although keep in mind that because oftentimes toothpicks are coated with wax, they're not going to be very absorbent, so you will have to dip it in ink quite a lot. I think that the lettering that looks the best with a toothpick, oftentimes is loose and spritely. I think it would work very well with display text. The toothpick is also fairly easy to maneuver, which makes it great. You'll see here I'm quickly scribbling in an eye so you can kind of see what it's like since, it's also a great tool to sort of sketch with. You can also take a great deal of ink and sort of drag it out onto the page like I'm doing here. Just be careful that this is a tool that's pretty fragile so if you apply too much pressure, they'll break fairly easily. But thankfully, toothpicks are cheap and relatively [inaudible] so even if you do break a few, it should be no problem. Sometimes your toothpick might create some splatter. I didn't prepare for it in this particular occasion, but I did wipe down my work surface afterwards. That's something to keep in mind. Try to think ahead and make sure that you're prepared for that. You can also stipple with the toothpick by creating circles of various size. The toothpick is also especially great at producing lively, energetic lives. It's a tool that I like to use a lot if I'm drawing somebody that's running or dancing, or if I just want to convey a great deal of movement. The toothpick is an extremely useful tool that I myself have used quite a lot in my own work, probably more than any of the other tools that we're looking at today. I want to give credit to my teacher, Justin Anderson, who first showed me this tool. I'm going to provide a link so that you can visit her website yourself. I hope that learning more about the toothpick as an inking tool was exciting for you as it was for me and thank you so much for watching. Whenever you're ready we can move on to the next video. 3. Using Fingerprints: This video, I'm going to show you how you can use your fingerprints to make some amazing textures for your illustrations and comics. To be fair, the fingerprint texture is a bit niche. I think it works best, situations where there is a horror or suspense element. I could also see it working very well in a noor type of a comic or illustration. But that said, it's also a really fun and [inaudible] way to apply ink to your paper. I think there's something about how it reminds you of finger painting. Even though the process of thinking with your fingers can seem a little primary, the results that it can produce are pretty impressive. Oftentimes you can pretty easily develop a feel for how much ink you want and whether or not you have too much or too little on your fingers. The ink is also fairly easy to manipulate once it's on your fingers. You can apply just a little bit of ink to have a dryer feeling or you can apply a lot of ink so that you get large spaces of black with just a hint of the fingerprint texture. I do also think it's a good idea to make sure that the ink that you're using is non-toxic and to wash your hands thoroughly after you are done. The other thing that's nice is that you can use different fingers. You can use your thumb if you want to cover larger amounts of space or for smaller, more detailed areas, you can use your pinky finger. Here are some close-ups of the thumbprint texture. I think the thumbprint texture looks much better up-close and it's something that would probably work best in print format illustration than comics. I love the curving, delicate lines that you can get from the fingerprint texture. I think it would work very well in situations where you want something different and unique from hatching or cross hatching. I really hope that you give this method a try. There's something fun about being able to get a little bit dirty and use your fingers to make art. Thanks so much for watching this video. Let's move on to the next. 4. Using a Cotton Ball: In this video, we'll be using a cotton ball to apply ink. As you can see, I've already gone ahead and put down some washy tape to ensure that we have a clean border. Since cotton balls could cover a larger area, so it's definitely important to put down tape or paper to prevent it going over any lines that you don't want it to cover. I'm starting out by just dropping on some Payne's Grey ink directly onto the cotton ball, and what you'll notice right away is that it transfers the ink pretty heavily, but as the ink starts to dry out and as we get closer to the center, you'll see that it creates a little bit more of a fluffy sort of effect, and now I'm rubbing down the ink. Not only can you use the cotton ball to dab on generous amounts of ink as I'm doing in this video, you can also use the cotton ball to gently fade out by rubbing it against the paper, and you can see how the originally saturated dark color is a little bit faded now that I've rubbed for cotton ball up and out. Now I'm demonstrating this rubbing technique on a blank side of the frame and what I really like about it is it gives texture, but it's a fairly even sort of texture. Sometimes you want something soft and in that case, a cotton ball is perfect for that. I'm now placing a new frame to work with, and I'm tearing up the cotton ball that we've been using in half. If you find that the cotton ball you're using is maybe a little bit too big, tearing it up to reducing the size might help give you a little bit more control. I'm going ahead and I've added another drop of ink off camera and stippling this time. I've added a little less ink, which is creating again, a soft, fuzzy but still a rough texture. That's one of the things that's really nice about using the cotton ball, is you can get a wide range of textures from it. I think that this tool is fantastic because it has a lot of versatility. It's great if you want to cover a large area with a soft even texture. I think a technique like this would be wonderful for adding maybe a fog or a haze, or maybe even creating some foliage. That was the cotton ball for you, which I think was a lot of fun. Thanks so much for exploring using the cotton ball to ink, and whenever you're ready, let's go ahead and move on to the next video. 5. Using a Qtip: In this video, we're going to cover one of my personal favorites when it comes to alternative inking, which is the Q-tip. I really love using Q-tips to ink because you're able to get a very wide range of value out of them and they're very easy to control. By pushing down on the Q-tip, you can create very dark lines. By adjusting your grip and using a lighter touch, you can have a lighter shade come out from the Q-tip. It's also not that difficult to produce straight lines and curly lines as well. You can also see here that the Q-tip does a pretty good job of filling in large areas with ink. I like to rotate the Q-tip back and forth and swirl that around because it creates a lot more texture. Another great way to use the Q-tip is for stippling. This is especially great if you want to get big textured circles. Once again, this tool is versatile enough that you can create precise textured circles, or you can also speed up your application and apply the stippling erratically which gives off medial energetic feeling. Because the Q-tip has cotton, it absorbs the ink really well and allows you to give these various effects that you might not necessarily be able to get from other alternative inking techniques or tools. Now I want to demonstrate just how easy it is to get a gradation from using a Q-tip. Starting at the top of this frame, we're going to have our darkest black and move down and you can see that gradually the gradation gets lighter and lighter. You can see that the gradation is pretty smooth especially in comparison to the textured block on the left hand frame that is a little bit more erratic. The Q-tip does a good job of not only creating lively textures, but also smoothing as well. Here's a close-up of some of the marks that we've made with the Q-tip. Once again, you're able to see up close how the Q-tip is able to create a lot of variation and not just the texture, but also their value. For me, this is one of the most valuable alternative inking tools you can use. I hope you enjoyed this video and whenever you're ready, let's continue onto the next alternative inking video. 6. Using a Toothbrush: In this video, we're going to talk about using a toothbrush. The toothbrush can be one of the most fun, in my opinion, tools to use. But it can also be the messiest. So it's definitely a good idea to prepare your workstation properly before using the toothbrush. I would recommend putting down some newspaper behind your piece or what you can do, in my case here is, experiment with using both paper laying on top to collect any ink and also washi tape along the borders. Keep in mind though, if you want the cleanest line possible, it's best to use washi tape. But if you actually want some of the toothbrush bladder to escape the border of your frame, which should make a pretty big visual impact, you can use paper on top instead which will give more of an imperfect bleeding feeling coming out of the frames. Now I'm going to go ahead and directly apply some ink onto the toothbrush. For hygiene reasons, please be sure to get a new toothbrush that you can devote specifically for your inking and art purposes. This one was one that I got for free at a hotel. Now comes the fun part. Using your thumb to press down against the bristles, move your thumb slowly towards you, which will create this amazing splatter effect. Do something like this to simply add texture or maybe to add stars in a galaxy scene, or maybe to add falling snow flurry if your piece has snowfall. You may have noticed also that I am using a glove here because quite a lot of ink will get on your thumb and into your fingernail. That's just a personal preference. If you don't mind getting a little dirty, feel free to use your bare hands. The great thing about the tooth brushes that, it's got a lot of versatility. Not only can you use it to create a splatter effect, you can also apply it directly onto the page to give it a brilliant, grungy feel. Since there's a certain level of control with a toothbrush, you can either apply it very lightly to get a dry brush feel or pressed down really hard to get more ink on the page. The toothbrush in this case would be great for a comic book illustration that you want to have a greedier dirtier feel. It's definitely a great tool to use if you want to add not just great, but also energy and movement and activity to your piece. Here are some close ups of the splatter. The border that had the paper does have a little bit of splatter leaking out from the panel. I think that looks cool and it will definitely work in certain situations, but if you're not into that, again, you can use washi tape to mitigate that. There's a lot of energy in it and not just the splatter, but also in the rough line that come from directly applying the bristles to the page. Let's go ahead and move on to the next video where we'll be talking about the assignment for today's class. 7. Assignment: In this video, we're going to be talking about your assignment. Now, the assignment is pretty straightforward. What I'd like you to do is to create a composition. You can draw whatever it is that you like. But of course you must use ink, and you must use at least two to three of the alternative inking tools that we discussed. Take some time to think about the different tools, the effects that they can create, and which would be most appropriate for your style of art, or for whatever it is you feel like drawing. For example, if you want to draw a scene where there is a lot of action, there's a lot of dynamic movement, using a toothpick would probably be pretty beneficial since toothpicks give a very dynamic line. Maybe you want to create a piece with a wide range of value. So instead of cross hatching, you could use a thumbprint instead to create a layered graduated effect. I hope that this was beneficial and I can't wait to see your work. 8. Demonstration: Welcome back. Today we're going to be creating a tree using the alternative inking methods that we have discussed. For this piece, I'm going to be using watercolor paper and instead of sketch paper because I'm going to be using different tones of ink and mixed with water, which will absorb the ink better. Now as you can see, I'm starting off with a toothbrush using a mid tone sort of ink water combination. I'm just going ahead and spraying in some splatter marks. Normally, I wouldn't recommend using all of the techniques in a one piece, but I thought it would be fun to try out for demonstration purposes. The spotter marks were a bit too harsh for my liking, so I went ahead and took cotton ball to soften the edges out. I'm then going in and taking a Q-tip and with a slightly darker but still not quite fully saturated ink tone and water combination. I'm going ahead and stippling in some larger circles. Concentrating a lot of the circles near the base where a shadow would be. The Q with a piece like this is to layer the textures on very slowly. It's better to use two little ink rather than too much. That's what I'm doing with this piece. Once again, the circles from the Q-tip were a little too harsh, so I took a cotton ball to absorb some of the excess spots and softened it out again. Unfortunately, I've forgotten to put on my glove, but nevertheless I'm powering through by adding more splatter marks with a toothbrush. Again, concentrating some of that texture where the shadow would be near the base of the tree. Since my fingers are already messy, I decided just go for it by applying my fingers directly to the page two, further spread out the ink. Now in this particular piece, the fingerprint texture isn't going to be very noticeable, which I think is fine because there's already plenty of texture going on. If you want the fingerprint texture to be more noticeable, is to try to stick with straight ink instead of a water down constitution like what I'm doing here. Since the fingerprint texture is very fine, it tends to get lots in lighter, more water down ink tones. Because I feel there's a lot of textural that page and I want to see a little bit more groundedness and stability. I start adding some solid black using a toothpick to paint in the trunk. I especially really love the lines down at the bottom where the roots are being made. I think that has a really nice most calligraphic quality to it. Which again is something that you can't achieve through the toothpick. As you can see with the toothpick, it's really easy to just go ahead and add lots of little details. The toothpick does a great job of being able to do blocks of burying line width. Something like branches is really easy. I'm going to actually spend the rest of this video just adding more and more branches because personally I love painting branches. Let's just go ahead and watch the completion of this video and we'll meet back at the very end. Here is our finished peaks up close, and what I love is that it's so rich and texture, and there's so many different types of texture too. You have the small ink splatter from the toothbrush, the slightly larger, more blobby texture from the Q-tip, and even some of that wood grain from the toothpick. I love just how stylistic and experimental this piece has come out. I think once again, that's really important when you're working with art. You want to try various styles. You want to try things that are different because usually there's something to learn from it. I feel learning with these alternative tools is really fun that way. I hope you enjoyed that making up this tree. Thank you so much for watching this demonstration. Now let's finish up this class with some closing thoughts in the next video. 9. Closing Thoughts: Thank you so much for joining me for today's lesson and exploring some different inking techniques that go beyond just your typical brush or ink pen. While I don't expect you to use absolutely every technique that we've gone over today, I am hoping that you've come away with at least one or two that appeal to you or more of a curiosity for other potential alternative tools that we haven't talked about today. Who knows? Maybe you'll come up with one that will work perfectly for you or work perfectly for a friend. The intention of this lesson was to sort of get your mind going and to think beyond what we consider to be traditional art tools. If you look around, your environment is full of potential art tools, you just have to figure out how to use them. I think harnessing that creativity and that curiosity is oftentimes very beneficial for expanding our minds as artists and sometimes also getting unstuck from ruts, which do happen from time to time, especially if we get used to the same process and the same sort of tools. Art shouldn't be monotonous. It should be exploratory and fun and challenging using alternative inking tools can remind you about how the process of making art and making marks on a page should be special and unique and interesting and weird even. I hope that this class was beneficial for you. Thank you once again for joining me and I can't wait to see all the work that you guys come up with, take care and have an excellent day. Happy drawing bye.