For traditional pen and paper artists this digital inking tutorial
simply demonstrates how to use different Photoshop tools to achieve the
desired artistic results in Photoshop.
For the non-artists the tutorial demonstrates that anyone who can
understand and follow some simple Photoshop instructions can, in fact,
some wonderfully inked drawings.
If you're an absolute beginner to Photoshop then you may find this
tutorial a bit of a challengebut
if you stick with it then you can create some wonderful artwork.
The digital inking techniques can be used with anything - such as an
image or a piece of line art.
These are the different tools and techniques you need to understand and
use for success ...
Changing and modifying brushes in the Brushes Palette.
Pen tool and its options.
If you've been working with Photoshop (or any quality digital editing
program for any time whatsoever) then you are probably familiar with
layers. If layers are still somewhat of a mystery to you then
perhaps it would be a good idea to work through the Layers
The ability to create and manipulate layers will make your digital
inking much easier. For instance, if you're working on a
portrait, then each logical part of the portrait can be on its own
layer. For example, you can have one layer for ...
The Brushes Palette (F5) in Photoshop is really amazing especially when
you use it with either a Bamboo or Intuos graphics tablet.
The options available in the Brushes Palette are truly amazing and some
will be covered later in this tutorial. Suffice to say that the
options available in the Brushes Palette can be applied to a digital
If there's one tool in Photoshop with the potential to drive you
absolutely crazy then that tool is the Pen Tool. When I first
started working with Photoshop it appeared to me that my only friend
going to be the Pen Tool.
My logic was this - because it was called a "Pen Tool" then it would be
as easy to use as any pen I'd ever used. Couldn't have been more
wrong - the darn thing seemed to have a mind of its own and it was
There is a bit of a learning curve with the Pen Tool and once you've
got it mastered then you'll find all kinds of great places to use it.
are a few examples of digital inking. I've no artistic skill
whatsoever but the Pen Tool and the Brushes Palette does make it
straightforward to create acceptable results ...
Inked from a black and white picture. This one has 8 layers in
I could never do that freehand and it would be difficult for me to
trace as well.
My Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Max. This one has 5 layers on a
light gray background.
This was a drawing of a wolf with a lot of shading. I did this
one with 3 layers.
was originally a newspaper picture that was, and still is, very
emotional. It's a homeless guy and his dog both sound asleep on
This was a shot of a hood ornament on the front of a big and impressive
Mack Truck. The original picture was not the greatest but the
inking turned out fine.
Pen Tool Review
you click and hold the Pen Tool icon in the tool bar you will discover
that there are five different functions for the Pen Tool.
It's likely you will only use two or maybe three of them for your
digital inking project but it's useful to have a basic understanding of
the function of each one.
Pen Tool - the
primary Pen Tool used to draw bezier curves which is the primary tool in digital inking.
Freeform Pen Tool -
to draw curves freehand if you've got the control to use it effectively.
Add Anchor Point Tool
- The allows you to add an anchor point and change the curve.
Remove Anchor Point
- this one will remove an anchor point that may be messing up your work.
Convert Point Tool
- Clicking on an Anchor Point converts a curved line to a straight line.
For this project, the set-up of the Pen Tool in the Option Bar is shown
Everything begins by drawing a curve with the Pen Tool - this is what a
curve looks like ...
Taming The Pen Tool
The Brush Palette
are two keys to a fabulous digital inking project. Firstly the
ability to create accurate paths with the Pen Tool and secondly the
recognition of the power and versatility of the Brush Palette (F5).
The Pen Tool has been covered and with practise comes skill so let's
move on and look at the Brush Palette in greater detail.
The Brush Palette has six dynamics that can be modified and adjusted
when a path is stroked ...
Shape Dynamics (Size).
Transfer or Other Dynamics (Opacity).
These settings will give this stroke - starting large and becoming
smaller with the minimum diameter being 20% of the maximum.
addition the brush tip shape can also be modified as well. The
way the dynamics and brush tip shape are set and combine will determine
the characteristics of the individual brush strokes along the path.
When the Brush Tip Shape is selected this is the screen that will
appear. You can choose any brush tip, change the
Change the Brush Tip Shape.
Change the Size.
Change the Tip roundness.
Change the tip angle.
Change the hardness.
Change the spacing.
This is the stroke of the dry brush, 12 pixels, angle of 34 degrees and
roundness of 52%.
Here is the same brush tip with a texture applied to the stroke (by
checking Texture in the first Brush Palette and selecting a texture) ...
As you can see, there are hundreds of different options in the Brush
Palette - it really is just a case of trying all of the different
it's time to put your knowledge of the Pen Tool and the Brush Palette
together to ink a photo.
The first thing to do is to select the picture you want to ink - this
is the one I've chosen for this tutorial because it has nice curves ...
Right out of my camera this one was too dark so I did a Levels
adjustment, mostly to lighten the mid-tones.
The Levels adjustment made it much easier to differentiate the dark
parts of the duck from the background.
The second step is to decide how you want to set up the Brush Palette.
For this one I selected a simple round brush with a hard edge with no
special brush dynamics.
In the brush tip shape, I set Roundness
to 36%, Angle to 40 degrees
and the Size to 10 pixels.
The third step to setting up is to add two layers above the Background
- one for the digital inking layer and another one filled with white
making it easy to view the progress of the project.
Depending on the complexity of the project, more layers will probably
Digital Inking Procedure
Now that everything is set-up it's time to start the actual
inking. Select the blank layer, zoom in on the starting point
you've chosen, grab the Pen Tool, set the first anchor point, move to
the next anchor point and drag out a curve.
If you're not happy with the initial curve then open the History Palette and go back to the
starting point (It's a good idea to keep the History Palette someplace
The first curve drawn
and stroked followed by a second curve
When you've got a curve drawn with the Path Tool, right click to bring
up this dialogue.
There are lots of choices here and the one we want at this point is Stroke Path (highlighted in yellow)
which will bring up the Stroke Dialogue ...
The default in the palette is to stroke with the Brush Tool and with
the Simulate Pressure checked.
When you drop down the Tool dialogue you will find an amazing array of
tools with which you can stroke the curve.
These options pretty much cover all of the tools in the Photoshop Tool
bar and it would probably be entertaining to give them all a go.
For this tutorial we'll be using just the Brush Tool with the Brush set
up in the Brush Palette.
Once the OK button is pressed this is how the stroke will look ...
The first curve stroked
and the next curve drawn with the white background.
When the path is stroked right click again and select the Delete Path choice to remove the
Save your work (as a .PSD file) on a regular basis and eventually
you'll have the whole
thing inked rather magnificently and be darned proud of yourself in the
After about 25 minutes this is what I had ...
Now I understand there are many people out there who can draw this
quickly and easily and there are a whole lot more who are not
particularly adept at drawing (just like me).
It does provide a great deal of satisfaction for the non-artistic
person to be able to follow some simple instructions and end up with a
nicely inked drawing!
thing that hasn't been covered yet is how to use the Shape Layers
option in the Option bar. This particular option enables you to
make just about any shape you want complete with nice curves and sharp
edges - like this one ...
There's nothing special about this
shape, it's just something that happened after adding and playing with
Shape Layers for awhile.
The relevance for a digital inking project is that some parts need more
than a nicely curved line - in a portrait the shapes can be used for
eyebrows and eyes, for instance.
Here is a project I had a lot of fun and learning with.
From a visual point of view, there are a lot of different types of
strokes in this one. The following explains how to achieve each
of the different strokes with the Pen Tool and the Brushes Palette.
This is how I set the Brushes Palette for this digital inking project
and my descriptions are designed to show you how many amazing and fun
options are available with the Pen Tool works in conjunction with the
There are two distinct strokes in
the hair area.
The outline strokes of the hair changes thickness depending on the
direction the stroke is taking.
The strokes in the hair are starting small, becoming as large as the
brush thickness is set and then small once again.
Here's how to achiev both distinct strokes ...
This is the Brush Tip setup for the Hair Outline.
Rather than just use a hard edge round brush, two fo the adjustments in
the Brush Tip have been modified.
A round brush was selected and then the roundness was changed to 40%.
The next step is to change the angle of the new brush tip. This
one will be think in one direction and then will become thinner as the
The strokes that define the hair were created by setting
the Shape Dynamics to Pen Pressure.
The Minimum Diameter was set to 19% (choose whatever your want -
nothing special about 19%). This prevents the ends from
being far too small.
In all cases this is how the Stroke Dialogue was set ...
The outline does not include the hair area in it's quite
straightforward. This was a round, hard edge brush with no Brush
Dynamics set whatsoever.
Forehead, under the eyes and the chin area
The strokes on the forehead, under the eyes and in the chin area are
the same as the ones in the hair, that is the Shape Dynamics set to Pen
Pressure with a minimum diameter around 20%.
Eyebrows and pupils
These can be created using the Shape Layers Option in the Options
Bar and they can also be made with the Path Tool and the Freeform Path Tool.
Select the Shape Layers option in the options bar (outlined in red) and then ...
Draw the initial curve like this
Now press and hold the ALT key down and click on the handle at the
right end of the shape (outlined in red). This will delete the
adjustment handle to the right of the anchor point, making it much
easier to do the next step.
Next make a new anchor point below and to the left of the one of the
right and adjust the handles to get a nice smooth, round end - ALT
click on the last anchor point remove the adjustment handle.
The last step is to move the cursor over the initial anchor point and draw a nice curve to finish the shape.
This is the point where you really need to take the Pen Tool in hand and start your own digital inking project.
You will be amazed at just how much fun you can have but also beware of
the number of hours you can spend using these techniques on just about
anything - pictures, simple shapes and line drawings.