Digital Techniques: Video Tutorial #4

Many people have asked me how I create Zorphbert and Fred. Well, it’s been along winding process over the years, and I am always one to embrace the latest fad in technology (must be that gene passed down from my mom and grandfather). Currently, I am 100% digital, from sketch to finish. But it didn’t start out that way. You can read though an overview I wrote HERE, to get an idea of the full evolution. In this series I plan to take you through my evolution step by step, from fountain pens to my Tablet PC.  No matter where you are in the spectrum of digitally creating comics, these tutorials may be able to help you find a process that works for you!

Episode #4: Sketching and Inking in Illustrator

  • setting up calligraphy brushes
  • pen pressure and sentivity
  • staging a comic using layers
  • brush preference: Tolerance and smoothness
  • benefits of sketching and inking digitally

***music by The Black Keys (“Tighten Up” on the album “Brothers”), and The Fratellis (“Flathead” on the album “Costello Music”)

Posted in Drawing, Tech, Tutorials.


  1. Very nice. Now you have me thinking about giving my Wacom a shot at full design. I usually just use it during coloring and stuff like that. I’m going to start messing with it using the brushes in Illustrator. Thanks for the pointers.

    • Thanks Josh! Man, if you can find a way to sketch using the wacom, more power to ya… I could never get past the disconnect enough that I could sketch out a strip comfortably. I was able to train myself to ink using it, but it was just not nearly as fun… which is why I ended up getting the Tablet PC instead. There’s a huge difference, when drawing right on the screen!
      Let me know how the new info on the brushes and such helps.

  2. It’s fascinating to watch someone sketch and “ink” (but thanks for speeding it up). 😉 You make a compelling case for all digital with the resizing and repositioning you demonstrated. The pressure sensitivity was pretty much what I expected, but it was neat to see it in action. Great video.

  3. These are so helpful Dawn! Love it!

    So you just ink right up to the panel border? You don’t do any kind of clip masking?

    Also, is there a way in AI to block off an area to color so you don’t go “outside the lines”? (Almost like using magic wand in PS?)

    • Yep, right up to the panel border, which I have set already in a template file. I may sketch outside the panels, or move stuff around, but only INK inside the panels.

      In some cases, if I’m copy-pasting and the new item sits partially outside of the panel, I may add a clipping mask to keep it inside. That’s rare for me tho.

      You could, in your template file, add a layer of white that goes around the outside of the borders, leaving only the inside of each panel open.. and then draw on the layer behind that. Various ways you could do that, but yeah.. that’d be easy enough.

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