Drawing/Calligraphy/Cartooning/coloring and career


I've recently grown attached to cartooning and inking my sketches. Out of all the inking styles I've favored the technical pen the most. While a brush pen is fun, technical pens for me personally are far more comfortable and produce a look that compliments my (not so great but improving)sketches the most. One of my main difficulties is after I ink a cartoon/comic strip, I try to scan the image and use the computer program GIMP to color it. (I like coloring with software so I can get effects I can't get with markers. Colored pencils are fun but I like the smooth look for colors) The most irritating issue I have is when I try to color it, I have to adjust the image so it's purely black and white so I can color areas well. This usually resorts to me using the threshold feature but the lines become much less smooth. I think this is due to the gray part of the ink line becoming purely black. I've gotten minor luck with blurring the image then adding a threshold however it is still not very satisfactory. Is there a more effective or simpler way of doing this? I'd personally prefer too do a less editing as possible since it slightly takes away from the accomplishment in my opinion. I'm very sorry if digital coloring isn't your subject or this sounds very novice but this was the best page I could find an expert to ask about cartoons.

Also is there a good spot in cartooning in terms of career? Daily comic strips seem to be the most likely but its next to impossible to get a long running series and maintain it. I even hear some cartoonist still need to do their day jobs to get by. This is starting to become worrying since drawing would be about the only job/profession I'd truly enjoy doing for a living.

P.S. I currently use Faber Castell artist pens on bristol board and hoping to switch to pens made by staedtler (or maybe sakura microns but I hear staedtler is just as good and cheaper.) if that matters. I've also noticed smaller nibs seem to appear a lighter shade. would that add difficulty? I can upload examples of my issues and what I'm trying to achieve if you need it.

This is a very detailed, well thought out question. I can tell that this is not just a passing fancy, you're really trying to make a go at this, and good for you! It cartooning thing is serious business.

I too use digital software for coloring. Like you, I find out that you can get richer tones and subtleties that you miss entirely using conventional media. I'm not familiar with GIMP, although from what I understand, it mimics Photoshop,a program I used in the past , and also  an app I use currently for iPad.

You're right about black lines sometimes appearing gray, or getting washed out to a degree once they're scanned in. To avoid that, I use Faber Castel pens, on a Fine point Sharpie to insure that my blacks are going to not gray out in the scan. But even if they do, there's a way to fix it.
First, I scan my illustration in putting it on one layer
Second, I immediately adjust the levels using either the auto level feature, or doing it manually.
(another method is to make another duplicate layer of your illustration, use the multiply feature, that will make all the black lines dark, and then flatten the image.)
Third, I make another layer, press the multiply feature and color on that. Doing this of course enables you to not cover up your black lines. Once I'm satisfied with the color I just flatten everything.

For cartoons I try to stay away from  fancy tonal effects, as tempting as they are. It takes too much time to do and isn't really necessary.

The best thing to do also is to "graduate " from the primary odors and investigate other color combinations. This will take work and experimentation. A good place to start is the paint store.  Also remember for print, your colors are going to be converted from RGB to CMYK format. So what looks bright in the former ay appear darker in the latter format. Best to work out your colors beforehand in the final format it will appear.


Having said that, these days the best route seems to be going the independent route. In publishing these days, gone are TGE days where you bring your portfolio in for review to a company and get hired. Now they want to see what you've done on your own. Start digging into your past and write and illustrate your own stories.

My advice to every one is to investigate their local paper and submit editorial art. The best thing about this is that you don't have to invent a story, it's  already there! All you have to do is comment.

I hope I've answered at least some of your questions.


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Elgin Bolling


Can answer questions about basic sketching and drawing, caricature drawing, and cartoon character creation and techniques. I cannot answer questions concerning 3D character creation and modeling.


Professional cartoonist, and caricature artist since 1990.

Member of the National Caricaturist Network

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