I am a hobbyist and I like comics - to read them, and eventually to write them but it didn't happen yet.

Maybe my question is not specific enough, but I am almost obsessed with inking comics, partly because I haven't found the right way to do it.

A while ago my wife has asked me to do a drawing of Korra (of Legend of Korra) doing physics bending for a Christmas card that she's going to give it to the students (she teaches science). I started off by trying to do it digitally. I struggled quite a lot (days) trying to digitally ink it in a way that I like it. I ended up doing it by hand in two hours, pencils and pigma micron pens. Since then I started to question the efficiency of inking via the computer. I know Illustrator contains some features that that can trace your drawing in one swoop but I haven't tried it yet.

I tried the following software: Manga Studio 5 Ex (MS5), PointTool Sai (SAI), Illustrator CC (AI), Autodesk SketchBook Designer 2013 (SBD 2013, this is not the same as Sketchbook - it is a version that is not developed anymore, unfortunately, and which has great vector support) and, of course photoshop CC (PHS).

I used the mouse, Intuous 5 touch table and a cintiq 12 tablet.

My personal problem is that my hand is not steady enough and sometimes the lines are a bit wobbly, they might have these knuckles, or whatever you may want to call them. Hence, I usually like to use vector lines (of different widths of course) which are very smooth.

I've done a lot of research, watched a lot of videos on youtube. Here two that I liked and found useful:

From what I've seen there are several methods:

Overall, the easiest was to ink the figure using SAI (it's not finished, it has no shading...). I didn't finish the inking in MS5, AI, SBD 2013 and PHS but I played extensively with them.

enter image description here

So, I am not really looking for one definitive answer. I am interested to see what works for you when it comes to inking digitally.

An update (2014-Dec-29):

Based on your suggestions I checked out the astutegraphics plugins, they definitely save a lot of time. I am going to check out the lazy nezumi pro plugin as well. I also watched a lot of videos on digital tutors and lynda.com (I updated the list above).

I can't help to think that, if I decide to use vector based inking / coloring in Illustrator, it's a lot of work. Maybe I can become better and efficient at it, but I don't think I will ever beat my own hand drawing freely. Perhaps using the tools to draw buildings in perspective might be where I can save time... I guess it's really hard to say without experimenting. I have the feeling that using KoldBane's approach might be the most efficient when you have a tight deadline and there are lots of panels to draw. In the end it's highly subjective. It really depends on how proficient I am at using the different software packages and right now I am a newbie (more often than not I end up fighting the tool). I invested more time into learning Illustrator following Deke McClelland's Illustrator courses on lynda.com. I also have to increase my photoshop knowledge a few notches up.

I want to do an experiment and draw a comic book panel in each the programs and see where that leads me. I will post again here.

  • 2
    Illustrator with Dynamic Sketch from AstuteGraphics.com
    – Scott
    Dec 21, 2014 at 22:37
  • for me AI is perfect for Inking but also Photoshop can do great jib when it comes with brush dynamics. now I am trying Clip Studio Paint, it's a great software when we mentioned "Comics".
    – hsawires
    Dec 22, 2014 at 6:41
  • @hsawires: Clip Studio Paint is the same as Manga Studio. I've seen that many artists consider it superior to Photoshop when it comes to inking and even painting. Search for the Frenden brushes (frenden.com). I did the sketch in Manga Studio using the frenden red pencils.
    – boggy
    Dec 23, 2014 at 2:31
  • I'd agree with Scott - for more info check out this answer to a related question I asked about a year ago - graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/16269/… Dec 29, 2014 at 14:21
  • ...but before shelling out more money, I'd suggest trying the very last thing in that answer (pressure-sensitive Illustrator art brushes), which is also pretty good. Then buy the plugins if you want that, but better. I'd also suggest considering gradient meshes for the colouring. Dec 29, 2014 at 14:32

5 Answers 5


I believe the answer to this question is based in opinion, that being said, here's my own:

Tools: Wacom Tablet
Reasoning: In order to properly ink your drawings, you need to have the same movement and feel as your hand. It seems your frustration lay in the amount of time to execute the curves you needed. A tablet greatly reduces the manual point-by-point stresses of laying down the outline with a mouse.

Software: Photoshop
Reasoning: I know that your original question sat in the Illustrator camp, but let me try and dissuade you. Photoshop has an incredible brush toolset for drawing/inking that works even better when paired with a Wacom tablet. Not only that, because photoshop is raster-based, it is much faster to lay down lines, colour, etc. without worrying about anchor points. If you're worried about not being able to scale your drawings upwards (a lot of people seem to like the ability of vector to scale infinitely), then just make sure you're using photoshop canvases of a high resolution (preferrably 2-3x larger than the application space)

Final Word: A lot of this stuff is personal preference, and it comes with time spent tinkering with these tools. I think you'll find a dramatic increase in pace and quality if you switch to a Wacom system, I also believe you may find Photoshop more conductive to your drawing style.

All the best!

  • Another reason against using vectors is, that they will always look more stiff and unnatural than something done in raster graphics (Photoshop) or with real ink and quill. The reason for this is the very nature of vectors to be mathematical descriptions having a hard time to describe complex organic forms. Jun 26, 2015 at 14:26

The best inking methods that I've found so far are:

  • In Photoshop, using a Wacom Tablet, an inking brush (try a google search for some good bruskes) and using the software Lazy Nezumi Pro, which helps with drawing smooth lines. It's paid software but I've found it really helps me with digital drawing

  • In Illustrator with the pen tool but yes, it does take some time

  • The software looks interesting. I am not a fan of the "pulled string" though, I like to see instant feedback. The fractal generation part is something that I am very interested in.
    – boggy
    Dec 29, 2014 at 18:15
  • @costa I thought so too at first, but then I quickly got used to it. I find it similar to what painting with a real calligraphic brush feels like.
    – Andreyu
    Dec 29, 2014 at 22:27

This is how I would do it:

  1. Put the picture in Illustrator and use the Image Trace tool to generate the path for you. (this will only work well if there is a large enough contrast between the lines and the background)
  2. Once you are done with that, save it and place it into Photoshop where you can use the Paintbucket tool to fill in each of the sections.
  3. If you switch the tool options (at the top) to "sample all layers" and use the bucket tool on a new layer for each region, this will also give you some nice layers for each shape that you can use later to create selections (ctrl/cmd clicking on the layer's image)

Hope this helps !

  • Why not just use the Live Paint tool in Illustrator?
    – Scott
    Dec 23, 2014 at 21:25

My two main workflows for inking comics are:


  • On top layer I draw the artwork with Blop Brush
  • On bottom layer I fill the colours also with Blop Brush

A video of this step: https://youtu.be/7xEZjymCopo


  • I ink with Blop Brush
  • Fill colours with Live Paint Tool.

A video of this step: https://youtu.be/-jxn3nnnbBc

I love Astute plugins but they don’t help for comic artwork. Maybe vector isn’t the obvious choice for comics, however as an infographic artist working with AI at least 5-6 hours everyday for more than 10 years, that’s where I’m more productive.

  • Hi Aaffonso, welcome to GD.SE and thanks for your answer. I understand that these procedures are easier to follow using videos, but could you please describe what is happening in the ones you are linking? That way, your answer will still be if value in case the links break at a later time. Link rot is the main reason we dislike heavily-linked answers here. Thanks! If you have any questions about GD.SE, have a look at the help center or feel free to ping one of us in Graphic Design Chat once your reputation reaches 20. Keep contributing and have fun!
    – Vincent
    Jun 26, 2015 at 12:00
  • I have described above the link. Those are quite simple processes but usually not thought as an Adobe Illustrator workflow, I kept simple because the technique is simple. Anyone following the original poster question can easily get what is going on here. Videos are only those two steps in action, sorry if posting those aren't appropriated.
    – Aaffonso
    Jun 26, 2015 at 12:43
  • Ah, great. If those videos don't add anything new, then it's more than okay, I'd say. I edited your post to reflect that fact, so another user like me won't harass you again :)
    – Vincent
    Jun 26, 2015 at 13:11
  • @Aaffonso: Did you mean "blob" brush or "blop" brush?
    – boggy
    Jun 29, 2015 at 19:04
  • I meant Blob, for some reason I have always called this tool blop brush instead, just realised now.
    – Aaffonso
    Jun 30, 2015 at 20:28

For comics I use Corel Painter. I used Manga Studio before because Corel Painter was a bit pricey for me, but I found this http://www.painterartist.com/en/pages/coupons/ page with discounts and coupons and I bought Painter for a much lower price, and thank God I did, I find Painter to be much better and easier for comics :)

  • 1
    Hi John, welcome to GD.SE and thanks for your input. Could you please explain a bit more why you like this product? As-is, your post looks a lot like spam. We've seen a huge uptick in spam lately, and the community cracks down hard on anything even remotely looking like this. Some explanation about the product and not just a discount link would help matters greatly. Thanks!
    – Vincent
    Feb 13, 2017 at 13:02

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