At Genericon this weekend!
I forgot to make an announcement, but this weekend I’m at Genericon at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. If you’re there, come see me in the artist alley!
thelifestoryofkara asked: Hi, I'm really interested in trying out gouache and inking for my art. Where should I start? What pens are good/what brands/etc? I really like your artwork and I figured people are usually better to ask than Google. Thanks :- )
Hiya! I guess it’s important to start with the fact that quality matters when it comes to art materials. But quality comes with expense, so you’ll have to balance what you need with what you can afford. Secondly, it’s important to experiment and let yourself change materials when you’re feeling stuck.
Working with “traditional” (I’ll call them “physical”) materials is about letting the materials do what they do best, and not trying to get them to do what they’re not meant to do!
If you’re looking to ink clean, even lines, go for Microns or Faber-Castell PITT artist pens. They don’t last particularly long, but are consistent and waterproof, so you can paint over them. If you want something more cost-effective, but looser, try a pen with replaceable nibs that you dip in an ink bottle. The holder is cheap, and you can try a lot of different nibs. They take time to learn to control, but make for great line weight, and when you run out of ink, you don’t have to replace the whole thing! Another option is the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen or Calligraphy pens. Both can be refilled with cartridges, and take some time to learn how to handle. But they can make great art and are super versatile. (The order I’ve described these tools in is pretty much what I’ve worked with from the beginning of the comic to now!)
I use Holbein brand artist gouache. You can start out with a cheaper brand if you want, but a paint snob will tell you that if you’re serious about rich and excellent colors, you’ll want to put out money for a brand like Holbein. Paints are made with a variety of minerals and substances- and cheap (“student grade”) paints will be bulked up with chalk and other fillers- making them cheaper but the colors less brilliant or consistent. Some paints that you buy individually will range in price depending on the rarity of the minerals used to make them. A tube of Burnt Umber might cost $5, but Alizarin Crimson could cost upwards of $35. It can get pricey fast!
(I use gouache watered-down so it acts like watercolor- when I talk about watercolor in the next section, I’m talking about how the paper handles watery or watercolor-like applications, even if I’m using gouache.)
Paper quality is even more important than the paint or ink you’re using. Watercolors will NOT work like watercolors on paper not made for watercolor. Watercolors will not work to their true potential on low-grade watercolor paper. I spend more money on my paper for the comic than anything else. I wasted a LOT of time working on crummy paper.
Bristol is a type of paper that is smooth, cheap, and heavy. Ink shouldn’t bleed on it (but if the paper is very old, or the quality is not well controlled, it might! This has happened to me.) It’s ideal for markers. Opaque gouche takes to it well. But it is not designed for watercolor. It will soak the watercolor up like a sponge, and you will not be able to move it. My earliest pages were painted on bristol- and you can tell the difference.
Cheaper watercolor paper will also not handle watercolor great. You can tell it apart by it’s thinness and an even-textured surface. It will work way better than Bristol, but it will never let your paints really react in awesome ways.
High-Grade Watercolor paper is expensive, but worth it. I always come back to the Arches brand. They make pads of paper, blocks of paper (pads glued on all 4 sides so they don’t curl) and big, expensive sheets of paper the size of a desk. Hot pressed papers are smoother, which make for easier inking, but don’t absorb quite as well as cold press. Cold Press is textured, thick, and will feel almost fuzzy. It holds watercolor great and allows you to move it and lift it and layer it that others will not. But you may not be able to get the tightest inking on it.
This is the one I use almost exclusively for… any painting I do ever:
I hope that was helpful. Let me know if you have other questions. Good luck with your work!