Introduction: How to Clean and Tone a Paper Drawing in Gimp (no Tablet Required)

Picture of How to Clean and Tone a Paper Drawing in Gimp (no Tablet Required)
I thought I’d share how I make my little comic doodles using a rough sketch and gimp - no tablet required!  I enjoy making these because they’re quick to do and don’t require any of my fancy drawing tools, meaning I can make these at work to pass the time (I keep card stock on my desk to use instead of an actual sketchbook).  Typically, it will take me under two hours to make one of these from start to finish, depending on how complex the drawing is.  To follow along, you’ll need: 
  • paper (a thicker sketchbook paper, or card stock)
  •  pencil (you can use your fancy drawing pencils, or a simple every day pencil)
  • Ultra Fine Point Sharpie Marker (the kind you can pick up in any office store)
  • Scanner (and the basic knowledge to use it)
  • Gimp (and the basic knowledge to use it)

Step 1: Making the Doodle

Picture of Making the Doodle

To get started, draw your doodle on the heavy paper with the pencil.  Easy, right? (sorry, this isn’t a drawing tutorial, it’s a “make this picture look good and put it in a digital form” tutorial).

Don’t worry about getting your doodle perfect – I usually leave a lot of my sketch lines.  We’ll erase these later so it’s okay.  I also don’t put in the finer details until after the main inking is done.

Step 2: Inking the Doodle

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Using the ultra fine point marker, start slowly going over the lines of your doodle.  Go slowly and take your time to avoid mistakes.

Continue to ink your lines until you’re happy with them (please excuse the blurry second pic).

*NOTE* This can be tricky to get the hang of at first, so don’t get discouraged!  Even if you make a mistake or decide you don’t like what it looks like, you can fix it with Gimp.  Notice that extra line on Wonder Woman’s right thigh? I decided after I inked it that it made her leg look too straight, so I added the second, softer line.  I’ll remove the first line in the touch up phase.

Step 3: Clean the Pencil Marks and Do the Fine Detail

Picture of Clean the Pencil Marks and Do the Fine Detail

Once the main inking is done, erase your original sketch lines.  This is where you’ll really see how your doodle looks (picture 1)

If there is any fine detail to do, sketch it in now and ink once you’re happy with it (picture 2). I did the W on Wonder Woman’s chest after the other inking was done, and no, still not happy with how it looks but that’s about the best I can do on a little chibi doodle.

Step 4: Open in Gimp

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Now, open the picture in gimp.

Start by creating a new layer. This is the layer we’ll add our clean up touches to.

Step 5: Cleaning the Doodle

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Working on the new layer, zoom in until the area you wan to fix is large on the screen.  In this case, I’ll be fixing the line on the thigh.

Using  the magic lasso tool, select around the blemish you want removed (picture 1).

Using the paintbrush and white, touch up the area (notice I had to be careful around the lines of the boot as I didn’t want those removed) (picture 2)

Repeat where ever necessary. When you’re satisfied, merge the touch up layer down to the bottom layer.  This is your cleaned up raw.  I like to save my work as a PNG now, usually naming it something like [projectname]_clean.PNG (picture 3).

Step 6: Adding the Screentone

Picture of Adding the Screentone
If you’ve already saved your clean version of your doodle, save a new version of it (something like, [projectname]_1.png).  This is the version you’ll be adding screen tone to.  With the newly saved version, scale it down to the size you want it to be.  Then go image >fit canvas to layer to shrink the canvas to fit the new smaller size.

Now select the area you want to fill with screen tone by selecting it with the magic wand tool.  Next, use the paint bucket and set it to ‘Pattern Fill’ (click the image of the current pattern to be given more choices).  Choose the pattern you want and then click the selected area on your doodle to fill it.  Repeat until you have filled in all the areas you want with screen tone.

Some things to remember when filling in with screen tone:
  • Don’t over do it!  Use the already available white space to your advantage and don’t fill every space with tone.
  • If more than one area is supposed to be the same color, use the same tone to convey this.  I.E, Wonder Woman’s top, boots and star on her crown are all supposed to be red, so I used the same tone for that.
  • Try to use different types of tone to keep things from running together.  I always use a dot tone for the hair (manga influence?) but like to use the noise tones for solid colors in the clothing.  I think it gives a nice contrast.
  • If you’re trying to fill in a space but the magic wand is selecting more than you want, check your lines.  If the space isn’t closed in completely, do touch up with a black paintbrush to close off the area.
  • The patterns I used are default to gimp, but if you want to find more just google “download gimp patterns”.  Deviant art has many good manga/comic screen tones you can use to add more tone to your art.

Step 7: Save Your Final Work!

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Looking good! Now make sure to save your work, and make sure it's saved as a PNG.  Here’s my original, uncleaned raw next to the cleaned and toned finished pieces. Note that when I cleaned the raw, I removed the smile (decided I didn’t like it) and touched up many areas where the ink had gone over the line.

And that’s all there is to it!  Happy doodling :D


kaylaangelkisses (author)2012-06-21

Can you please make a 'ible on how to use gimp? I just got it and I have no idea how to use it.
can you use pixlr?(yes I spelled it right)
some of your people dont have mouths.....

mrsthursday (author)2012-06-04

OOh I think I may try this - don't have scanner, it blew up, long story- could I use a digi camera? Probably, right?

if you use a digital camera, find a neutral gray color, and set that as the transparent in gimp. then overlay what is now mostly the black lines onto a white background. at this point brightness and contrast should clean up most of what's left. works great for to get strong contrasts with scanners too.

thanks I'll give it a go

I'm sure you could, if you took a very clear picture without any shadows :) Good luck!

pfred2 (author)2012-06-08

The traditional mechanical way of doing this is using an object called a Scummex bag, or scum bag for short. It is a porous little cloth bag filled with bits of rubber eraser granules. First you knead the bag over your work to get some eraser sand all over it, that way you don't get lead on it to begin with, then you scrub your picture with the bag, to remove lead "haze" if any develops. I searched the term but Google is blissfully ignorant of all of this, so I took a picture of one of my scum bags I keep around to do my dirty work for me, just so you don't think I am kidding about any of this.

noahms456 (author)2012-06-06

If you use a blue pencil for the sketch, you could skip the "erasing" step after you have inked it. Once scanned, you can use the Gimp to threshold level remove the blue sketch and leave only the inked artwork. Saves on erasers, too! Nice tutorial!

Oh I never thought of that! I'll have to give that a try, that would be much much easier :D

kenkaniff (author)2012-06-04

Wow that sounds relatively simple why didn't I think of that sooner!!

Awesome 'ible, very idiot-proof. 5*

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a crafty country girl with a slight Star Wars obsession :) I craft, cook, garden, sew, doodle, homestead, crochet, knit, weight lift (obstacle race ... More »
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