©Neil Gaiman and Todd Klein.
This time we’re talking about inks and scanning. Above is the print after both, with most of the text blurred out, which I’m continuing to do so that when you finally get your copy, you can have the pleasure of reading it all then.
For inking this print I used my tried and true inking tools, some shown above. The text was inked with a Speedball dip pen using a C6 point, the smallest wedge-tipped one. I don’t actually dip the pen in the ink bottle, though, I fill the small reservoir above the point with the ink dropper from the bottle. One or two drops is all you need. For the titles, initial capital B and borders I used Faber-Castell TG1-S technical drawing pens, like the one above. The size marker on it says it’s a size 1 (0.40mm), but that’s not true. I actually have a size 0 (0.35mm) point in that pen, the smallest size I use. The ink is Calli Jet Black India #010, used in both the dip pen and the tech pen. It’s part of a supply I bought about 10 years ago, don’t know if it’s still available or not. If I were buying ink today, I’d go with Higgins Super Black, which is also fine for lettering.
Here’s my drawing board setup, showing some of the tools used to create the inked print. Circle and oval templates were used on the titles and borders, as well as the T-square and triangle. A smaller triangle, hard to see at right, and a small french curve were also used on the titles. The text was all lettered freehand. The circle for the moon was, of course, done with the circle template. The geese and candles were inked freehand with the tech pens, the 0 for outlines, larger points for filling in. When it was all inked to my satisfaction (and, remarkably, I didn’t need to paint out any large mistakes with white paint and redo), I erased the remaining pencil lines with a white Magic-Rub eraser and brushed the crumbs off with the crumb brush, seen at upper right. Now I was ready to scan it.
My scanner is a Microtek ScanMaker 9800XL, which has a scan area of about 12 by 17 inches. This is larger than most scanners, but ideal for scanning comics art, as you can do the entire page in one go, in most cases. (Occasionally comics art is done larger than 11 by 17, but that’s rare.) Above is the upper left corner as scanned, actual size, without any adjustments except for a little increase in contrast. It looks pretty good, but I know from experience that there are little imperfections that I can improve in Adobe Photoshop, and that process is my next step. First I convert the color scan to grayscale, then increase the contrast even more to make sure all my black areas look solid black, and to eliminate any ghosts of pencil lines or dirt. Then I convert the grayscale to bitmap, a file format that has only black or white. My original scan is at 600dpi, so even though the bitmap will change all edges to hard lines, it will still look fine.
Here’s a closeup of just the decorative B, in bitmap format, and with minor imperfections cleaned up. You can see how the edges are now very precise, but the cleanups are probably not evident, so I’ll show you a better, and closer, example.
Here’s a raw scan of part of the title. Notice how the lower points of the I and S are not very well pointed. And there are little extra blobs of ink in other areas that I’ll remove in Photoshop, using the selection and eraser tools.
Here’s the same area, in bitmap format, with all the edges and points fixed. This process takes hours, but it gives me the result I’m looking for. Most of the changes are subtle, but do affect the final printed result enough to make it worth doing. And since I’ve inked the entire print at actual printed size, I feel it’s a great help to go through the process. When I hand-letter comics pages (rarely now), I’m lettering at a larger size than it will be printed. Most comics art is reduced to between 64 and 66 percent before printing. This lessens the impact of small imperfections in my work.
Some tiny details can be lost in this process, but you can’t have everything. For instance, above is a section of raw scan showing some of the geese.
Here’s the lead goose in bitmap format, enlarged, as it will appear on the print. As you can see, some of the shading in the wings has filled in. But it still works fine for me.
When the fixes are finished, I convert the entire scan back to grayscale format, because I’m not done with the art yet. I now want to add a background of light gray texture showing light radiating from the moon, and around that, gray clouds, making a more convincing night scene behind all the text. I’ll talk about how I did that next time.