Tintin Forums

Tintin Forums / Other comics /

How to create a comic book?

Page  Page 1 of 2:  1  2  Next » 

#1 · Posted: 9 May 2009 11:32
I liked the ligne-claire style and already have created a good comicsof 58 pages. Sketching is successfully done. But, which pen should I use to ink?

I´ve decided to post it in this category as I want to know how the work was done by the studio.
#2 · Posted: 10 May 2009 12:46 · Edited by: Moderator
What happened to the users? Nobodyś responding!

Moderator Note: Patience, please! It isn't polite to bump up your own posts because there hasn't been an immediate response - maybe nobody has an answer to give you. If someone knows, you may hear from them eventually.
In the mean time, you must wait.
#3 · Posted: 10 May 2009 18:28
Indian Ink maybe ?
#4 · Posted: 10 May 2009 23:05 · Edited by: Balthazar
Hello Rastapoper

I believe that Hergé (like most cartoonists and pen-and-ink illustrators) used a dip pen, ie: a simple pen with a changeable metal nib that is dipped into a jar of black ink after every few pen strokes (generally Indian ink, as number1fan has suggested).

The question of what kind of pen to use is a good question, and one which illustrators and cartoonists seem to spend a lot of time discussing when they get together. I used to use technical drawing pens (Rotring Isographs of various thicknesses) for nearly all my comic strip and illustration work, but a few years back, several illustrators with more experience than me persuaded me that I should try working with a dip pen and I now use this for much of my work. The argument in favour of a dip pen over a Rotring or similar technical pen is that an old-fashioned dip-pen nib gives a more interesting and artistically pleasing line, allowing greater variation of line thickness. (Controlled variation or slightly random variation, depending on how you want to use it.)

Hergé's pen drawings appear quite tight and precise, and people pastiching his style when drawing parodies of Tintin sometimes overdo this and use the rather clinical pen line you can get from a technical pen. But if you really study Hergé's pen drawing, you'll see how lively and fluid the lines actually are.

Of course, when Hergé was at school, everyone still used dip pens for writing, so presumably children learnt to draw with them quite naturally. Whereas having hardly ever used one before, I personally found it took a good bit of ptractice to become as proficient with a dip pen as I'd become with a Rotring pen. But it's been well worth it.

The main problem with dip pens is that the modern nibs they sell in art shops (at least here in the UK) are completely useless - somehow too flimsy and scratchy to produce any kind of nice line, which was what had always put me off dip pens when I'd tried them before. However, another illustrator put me on to a brilliant family business who, from their website, supply cartoonists, illustrators and calligraphers with packages of proper old metal nibs (manufactured back in the days when dip pens were common). These nibs are lovely to draw with, and close, I'd imagine, to what Hergé was using.

But I believe art shops in the US sell better nibs anyway (maybe because there's a larger comics and cartooning industry). I don't know which part of the world you live in, rastapoper.

Anyway, I hope that's helpful. At the end of the day, it's important to find a type of pen that suits you. Penty of very good illustrators and cartoonists produce very fluid and artistic work using technical pens (Robert Crumb, for instance) and I still use my Rotring pens for some work. It's possible make good drawings with just about anything from a cheap Bic Biro to children's felt tip pens if you experiment. But if you're after a Hergé look with your work, I'd investigate dip pens if you haven't already.

If you're planning to add colour onto your pen drawings, make sure that the black ink you're using is waterproof. (Though, as discussed elsewhere, Hergé and his studio did his colouring on seperate blue-board sheets, printed under the black line of the drawing.)

Good luck with your comic.
UK Correspondent
#5 · Posted: 11 May 2009 10:05
I meant to reply to this, sorry if I've missed the window :-)

Balthazar makes a good point about the fluidity of Hergé's line - you can probably see it best in the 'scurry swirls' that appear at a character's feet when they move quickly. If you're inking with a dip pen, the fluctuation of line is something that comes almost naturally. If you've not used one before, you might consider loading the nib with ink using an eye dropper at first rather than dipping it in a bottle, reducing the chances of ink blots on your drawing. After a while you get a sense of how much is enough (and, through trial and error, how much is too much!).

However, another illustrator put me on to a brilliant family business who, from their website, supply cartoonists, illustrators and calligraphers with packages of proper old metal nibs (manufactured back in the days when dip pens were common)

Could I trouble you for that website, Balthazar? It's been a while since I've drawn at all but would love to get back into it. I've got a few older nibs (from the '60s) and they're almost universally better than the new ones.

Rastapoper, if you're colouring in the Hergé way, try scanning your ink drawings and printing them onto two sheets - one acetate, the other a smooth watercolour paper with the black tones adjusted to a pale grey. That way you can paint on the watercolour sheet, overlaying the black acetate* at points to check the progress of the work.

Media-wise, Studios Hergé used a selection of watercolour, gouache (poster paint) and Ecoline, a liquid watercolour. You can get most of those at good art and craft shops - Ecoline is slightly trickier but you can find it online. Having used both, I'd say powdered water-based coloured ink would be a good substitute if you're after that Hergé look.

Hope that's of some help.

*Incidentally a good album by John Cale.
#6 · Posted: 11 May 2009 10:53 · Edited by: jock123
I'll second that request for the nib-supplier, Balthazar! I used a dip-pen at school in art, and the results I got back then were better than any recent attempts with modern nibs; I know it is a bad workman who blames his tools, but perhaps this might be a time when it applies, if as you say quality has dropped.
I have found that there are several brands of disposable fountain-pen sold in art shops, and these can be useful for sketching, as you can carry them wherever you go, and practice in odd moments. I don't know how they would lend themselves to inking a comic-book. Oh, and I inevitably end up with the tip of my right index finger stained black!
I find it interesting that there is still such an interest in the pen and ink side of things, especially amongst young comic-book artists. I was at a master-class given by Dave Gibbons the week before last, and, aged 60, he was singing the praises of being able to “ink” electronically, using a Wacom tablet and Photoshop!
He does very occasionally use a pen and ink still, but he says that even his "pencils" are now mostly done on the Mac in Manga Studio, so it is digital almost all the way (his thumbnail he still makes on paper).
#7 · Posted: 12 May 2009 19:42
Here's that link to the nib website, Richard and Jock (and anyone else who wants it):


It's run by people called John Poole and Jane Hepple. Apparently, John Poole's father, Philip Poole, was a renowned collector and purveyor of old pens and nibs, and used to have a shop in Great Russell Street, by the British Museum, where many well-known cartoonists and illustrators went for their pen nibs. So this online business is a continuation of that establishment.

If you click on the Vintage Pen Nibs link near the top of this homepage, you'll get to the relevant page. The £5 trial box of 20 assorted nibs advertised at the bottom is a pretty good way to get a nice variety to try out and see what works for you. That's what I did.

If you click on the Pen Nibs link on the website, you'll see that he also offers a straight pen holder (the pen in which to insert the nibs) for £1.50.

So all pretty reasonable!
#8 · Posted: 12 May 2009 21:51 · Edited by: jock123
Thanks, Balthazar! Poole‘s was a legend, I think, although I never visited it, so it’s good to know it lives on on-line: I was taken by the website from the moment I saw them advertise an “unusual inkwell in the form of head of a warrior”, let alone a pen-holder!

I don’t know if there are any available anywhere, rastapoper, but it might help you in your search if you know that Hergé himself reportedly used a Gillott's Inqueduct G2 nib (possibly bought at Poole’s!).

Update: Actually reading down the list of what Poole’s have for sale, I’m now worried about the “Large metal owl sander”… ;-)
#9 · Posted: 7 Jan 2012 05:09
As an exercise I tried copying some frames from Tintin and the Picaros. As a newspaper artist I had access to pens and a good range of Pantone markers. I was pleased with the result. I enlarged the frames about thirty percent on the photocopier and traced it. If you have any copies of the original B&W albums of The Black Island, Ottokar's Sceptre, and Crab et al etc you can see they are printed larger than the normal, but with the Ottokar's Sceptre album it was the same drawings used in the remade colour version with minor changes to account for the change in page flow. Looking at the larger pics makes you wonder if they are the same as the smaller, but they are- they look slightly rougher larger. So if you are doing a strip always do it larger, and it will look better printed at 70% size as a result. Obvious point really as standard practise with cartooning! But there you are. The Pantone markers worked really well, and I was able to find the right match of colours to boot. I find the colours from inks to be wonderfully rich, and some cartoons I did years ago are still vibrant. And the inks stay happy and wet in the bottle for years.
Philippe Goddin's book Herge and Tintin Reporters has some really good insights into Herge's working method. He used a lot of pencil work to find the right line. He does not say much about the pen work, but there is a pic of a pen, with a normal small nib for dipping in a bottle of Indian ink. From what I can estimate his working page would be about 30 x 65cm, and the depth of a typical line would be about 12 or 13 cm.
I don't know how he got those wonderful straight architectural lines, he must have used a ruler. In The Blue Lotus album he appears to use a thin nib without an edge, as the line seems consistently thin. Then he changed to his normal pen in The Black Island etc.
#10 · Posted: 7 Jan 2012 14:11
So if you are doing a strip always do it larger, and it will look better printed at 70% size as a result. Obvious point really as standard practise with cartooning!

You're right that many cartoonists and illustrators - including Hergé - draw or drew their artwork bigger than printed size, but by no means all do. Many illustrators and cartoonists I know (including myself), and many others whose originals I've seen, prefer to work at same size. Whilst you're right that reducing artwork when printing tightens up the look of a drawing, this isn't always a good thing. What you gain in tightness, you can lose in immediacy and warmth; reducing a drawing can distance it from the feel of an original drawing, as well as making the finer lines illegible. Clearly that isn't the case with Hergé's work, but I guess he got pretty used to knowing what the drawings would look like when reduced to his standard printed size. Personally, I think he'd turn in his grave if he could see the ultra-shrunk versions in today's 3-in-1 volumes!

So I don't think there really is a standard practice. In the book illustration world, I'd say that same-size illustrators are in the majority. But maybe in the comic magazine industry, reducing is the more common approach. As a same-sizer, I've noticed that many people who are interested in illustration but don't draw themselves assume that all illustration work, especially pen-and-ink work, is drawn bigger than printed, and they tend to take a huge amount of convincing that anything involving any detail is drawn same size. People often underestimate how fine a line you can get from a dip pen.

I don't know how he got those wonderful straight architectural lines, he must have used a ruler.

My guess would be that he certainly used a ruler for the pencil lines, but probably penned these straight lines freehand, to avoid deadness.

In The Blue Lotus album he appears to use a thin nib without an edge, as the line seems consistently thin. Then he changed to his normal pen in The Black Island etc.

I think the thickening of his line is a more gradual and inconsistent process than that. The Blue Lotus line stands out as particularly thin coming after the preceeding books, Congo, America and Cigars, all of which are 40s and 50s redraws, of course. And his line is still quite thin in the books following The Blue Lotus: The Broken Ear, the original Black Island, King Ottokar, etc, gradually tending to become thicker and lusher throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s.

The 60s redraw of the Black Island has a particularly thick line, which according the Harry Thompson's biography of Hergé is because the artwork for that book was drawn closer to printed book size than other 1960s artwork, so the line width is less reduced. Conversely, maybe the thinner looking 1930s line is due to a greater scale of reduction between artwork and printing, as well as a thinner pen nib as you speculate. I'm not sure; we'd need to know if his 30s artwork was generally drawn bigger than his 1950s artwork to know if that was a factor.

I also wonder how much factors such as stress, rush, experimenting with new nibs, or which of his many assistants were working on the background penning affect the pen line from one book to another. To me, the pen line in parts of The Red Seas Sharks looks a bit different from that of the preceding book The Calculus Affair, for instance.

Page  Page 1 of 2:  1  2  Next » 

Please be sure to familiarize yourself with the Forum Posting Guidelines.

Disclaimer: Tintinologist.org assumes no responsibility for any content you post to the forums/web site. Staff reserve the right to remove any submitted content which they deem in breach of Tintinologist.org's Terms of Use. If you spot anything on Tintinologist.org that you think is inappropriate, please alert the moderation team. Sometimes things slip through, but we will always act swiftly to remove unauthorised material.


  Forgot your password?
Please sign in to post. New here? Sign up!