Sunday, December 9, 2012

Process: "Alaska Typography"

The Setup

A pica (ˈpaɪkə/) 
The pika (ˈpaɪkə/ PY-kə; archaically spelled pica)

After flagging a new batch in the current sketchbook, tape up a new sheet of Bristol (Strathmore 300 or 400) with an approximate panel border penciled out to start arranging a simple, initial composition. Since I’m the one that'll be doing the inking, the preliminary design stays pretty loose (re: sloppy as opposed to “tight”): in theory most of the potential issues have been resolved at the thumbnail stage.

The Rough

Juggling the elements, establishing fore/mid/background, focal points, plotting out foreshortening and linear perspective. Basic shapes are further refined, tweaking on the fly as I move around the panel, shifting the composition by expanding or contracting the original border as needed. Add detail and increasingly darker lines when areas become more fixed in place.

"Think Before You Ink"

Using my pencils (Derwent Graphic) as a general guideline, first the lettering + balloons with medium- and a fine-point pens (PITT and/or Micron), then a dip-pen (Hunt 513EF Globe & + Crow Quill) using permanent/waterproof black India ink (Winsor & Newton or Sennelier). Then a quick hit with the hairdryer (Vidal Sassoon Ionic 1875), enough to rule the panel border. Quick touch-up and it’s an overnight dry. Move on to another panel in the meantime.

Finish: Erase (Staedler Mars plastic) and scan as a grayscale, save as a TIF, open in Photoshop, threshold and cleanup + final corrections. Add value digitally, export as a JPG and email to editor/client + post web version. Archive master file + back up drive on external storage. Treat original pen & ink drawing with washes or colored pencil and archive for sale. Total time = approximately one hour, twice that if a complex, detailed composition + color, less if I’m in a hurry (or behind).


  1. A) Love the behind-the-scenes look at the process.

    B) Love the photo of the inked cartoon.

    C) Lovelovelovelovelove the cartoon.

  2. Wow thanks - I can feel the love!

  3. I still have a few pica rulers around here.