Beginner’s View of Inking and Painting Cels

Beginner’s View

Inking and painting.

Morris Lakin continues his journey of discovery.
Part Two – First go at Painting Cels.

I have just finished painting the cels for the first scene of my first cel animation. Owing to the fact that my spare time has been limited it has taken me about nine months to produce 218 cels, which will fill about 15 seconds of screen time. That is work¬ing on them for about 2½ hours a week most of the time.

When I started the animation I thought I would have the whole thing finished for the start of this year. All I have got done is one scene out of 13 I have planned! However, I think that at the moment I can spare about 8 hours a week for cel painting which is a big improvement.

And I thought I was making a short film!

After I had done the drawings on 10 field animation paper on my Filmcraft light box it then came to inking the cels.

The first decision was which side of the cel to put outline on.

Most books on cel animation tell us to ink cels on the front and paint on the back. The idea of using different sides was reasonable because the ink in my Lumocolor pens was soluble, so obviously the outline and the paint could not go on the same side, otherwise the outline would smudge. At the same time I did not want all of the shapes of the figures bounded by black lines, so I decided to put the black inking line on the reverse side of the cel, that is the Opposite side to the camera, so that all the black lines would be covered by paint on the front side of the cel.

My objection to having black lines around shapes was that there is no black line around real objects. The line that you see is the difference between two areas. In fig. 1 you see two squares, one is bounded by an outline while the other is not. Or rather one has a ‘drawn’ outline while the other has a line of demarcation where an area of black meets an area of white. Here there is no drawn line. Real objects are seen as areas contrasted against other things.


In fact, when we do a ‘line drawing’ we substitute drawn lines for areas contrasted against each other, and this ‘line’ is in fact an area itself, having a thickness (fig. 2).

That was why I decided to ink on the back and paint on the front even though it goes against the accepted way of doing it. I reversed the drawings on the light box, so as they were mirror image, and inked them on to the cels.

I then set about painting the cels with Plaka paint. My figures were of a girl and boy both wearing blue jeans. The figures walk forward, coming out of the picture, then turn and walk across the picture.

1 was using colour runs – painting all the areas of a particular colour on all the cels rather than painting the whole of the cel with all the colours in one go. This seemed like the most sensible thing to do.

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