Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Inking Comics Techniques: Tone Map and Thatch Hatch

by student Victoria DeMaria

One of the projects we get into in my Inking Comics course is a Noodling Worksheet, where students try out a number of rendering methods such as feathering, hatching, cross hatching, stippling, scribbling, trap shading, and more.

Let's take a good look at a couple of the more esoteric techniques, thatch-hatching and tone-mapping. You'll see that they open up broader discussions of illustration philosophy and art history.

pen strokes like a basket weave. From Alex Nino's adaptation of Moby Dick

Thatch hatching is a way to establish textures and gradients with a controlled, deliberate look. Practice with this opens up the habit of varying stroke directions to register plane changes, and to assert edges by abutting tones.

Jack Clifton explains the accented line approach, from Manual of Drawing and Painting,  1957

This has been a primary rendering method  since the earliest woodblock prints.

I couldn't resist sharing this Terry Gilliam sendup of Durer.

It was used widely in the era of the pulps.

from Spicy Detective Stories, circa 1936...

...artists unknown, I regret to say. 

The term tone mapping comes, as far as I know, from animation, though it wouldn't surprise me to learn painters have done this along, as it can resemble paint by numbers.

from Disney's Fantasia

As a direction to cel painters, tone mappers would use a blue or green pencil to delineate breaks from a form's base color to its highlight color, and a red pencil from the base to the shadow color.

Never to be outdone, maverick comic artist Jim Steranko shows his deftness with tone mapping in Our Love Story #5, 1970.
This approach was brought to the foreground in the psychedelic 1960s when artists like Peter Max filled tone maps with vibrating and unexpected colors.

Sci fi illustrator Mike Hinge made beautiful use of the technique in the 1970s.

Ink illustrators evolved a variation in the 1970s. Instead of wild colors, why not fill the tones with crazy patterns or underlayed images?

these examples are by Gonzalo Mayo from Eerie #66, 1975.
Will Eisner and Wallace Wood, 1952.

The overall effect is like peering through a reflection in a window onto a darker background. We see this memorably in the design of the Marvel character, Eternity.

Steve Ditko, 1965.

Techniques like these come in and out of fashion and turn up from time to time. We can't escape feeling that they haven't yet achieved their fullest potential. They seem ripe for a comeback. What would you bring to them?

The fall semester of Inking Comics runs on Fridays, beginning Sept. 20. Come hone your skills!