Because I’m always looking for better ways to ink digitally, I thought I would share some of my experiences with the various tools available to you in Painter 7 and CS3. Perhaps if anyone else has any digital inking info to share in regards to other programs they might do so, *hint hint*.

OK, so first off, I ink in Painter. In the past I had used Photoshop, but as soon as Painter came into my life, I started using it for inking exclusively. In my opinion, you get a wider range of inking tools, cleaner lines, and Painter isn’t as much of a RAM hog as CS3 is, so when inking a large swooping arc in one go (like flowing shoujo hair) you don’t have to worry too much about your processor not being able to keep up and resulting in an arc that has angled segments.

In the pic above, I scribbled some examples of line with the two tools I use most in Painter for inking. These are the Smooth Ink Pen and Fine Point Ink Pen, both of which are found under the Pens tool menu. Now I will also tell you there are some GORGEOUS “wet ink” calligraphy brushes that have excellent line quality and exhibit a wide range of line weights, but alas it seems my processor can’t seem to handle the “wet” layers in Painter. This is all pretty odd really since I’ve had good ol’ Painter 7 for years and I even have a new computer now. I suppose it could be something else hindering me, but I’m not going to talk about my computer troubles here. Back to our ink lines above. As you can see, both are clean and nearly identical, though you will notice that the fine tip pen has a little more line weight range and can get quite a bit thinner than the smooth ink pen. On the other hand the smooth ink pen can also get slightly thicker. One thing you have to keep in mind though is that the thinner the line, the more tendency it will have to look a little pixelated in print, which is my primary beef with the fine point pen tool. It’s not bad enough to warrant it’s disuse since it only happens on occasion and most readers won’t notice it anyway.

All right, so you’re probably curious as to what the differences are between Painter’s inks and Photoshop’s inks at this point, so draw your attention to the pic above. Now all of the fox creature above was done using the fine point pen tool in Painter. Beside the fox creature’s hair deco, I have samples of different ink strokes in Photoshop. The first one is the size 19 hard round brush, followed by the same size of soft round, and then the airbrush for kicks and giggles. The hard round brush is the closest you will get to having the clean inks of Painter. If you are just starting out with digital inking you SHOULD BE USING THE HARD BRUSH, anything less will look fuzzy, grey, ugly and won’t take tone well. Sometimes I think it’s the fear of the hard black against the stark white that makes some new inkers use the softer tools, that and they also hide your mistakes better, but in the long run your work will look much better if you go with hard clean lines. Getting back on track though, it’s hard to tell in this screenshot, but the ink lines in Painter are just a tick crisper, and you have better line weight control. Below is a close-up.

Now this pic is magnified 300%, but you can see that the edges of the ink strokes in Painter have a harder edge, while the hard round in CS3 is a bit softer. You can also better see the tonal difference between the hard round and the soft round in CS as well.

In the end, you are ultimately going to use what you have for inking, and CS3 isn’t a terrible program to ink in, but in my opinion it is also not the best. As I said before, Painter has a wider range of tools available, better line weight control and it isn’t as much of a RAM hog. These three factors in my mind make Painter superior to CS3 for inking. Now I have no experience with any of the Manga Studios out there, so maybe there is some inking gold out there in those programs. If there is, I would love to hear about it and see comparison shots, cause yeah, I’m a nerd about this stuff.