Beginner’s View of Inking and Painting Cels


There was no problem when the figures were walking forward (fig. 3), but when the figures turned to walk across the screen the problems started. (Fig. 4) Obviously I could not just paint up to the line and over it because there would be no demarcation between the front leg and the back leg. I could have used the old convention of making the rear leg darker, but this would have meant another colour run and it would have looked a bit strange if I had tried to do the same thing with the arm.


I had drawn in the face on the figures and was intending to try and paint around these so as it was not covered up. I decided to do this with the back lines which bounded areas which had no difference in colour.

Perhaps I am a little out of practice with a paint brush but for a start I found painting up to the line and not over it nearly impossible.

I can remember being told many times that you do not need a fine brush to paint detail, merely one which comes to a good point. I tried using a No. 6 brush which seemed to come to a reasonable point but found this a rather mixed affair, and sometimes I resorted to the No. 1 brush with only a few bristles and the constant problem of running out of paint on the brush on even fairly small areas.

Keeping a fine point on the brush seems to be a matter of getting the correct consistency of paint, but this is at the same time as trying to get the right consistency to cover the cel smoothly.

I did not have all that much trouble in getting the blue to cover properly but when it came to the shades of orange I ran up against the problem of opacity. One coat would not make it opaque enough although it turns out that I was not applying a thick enough coat.

Finally I went over the lines that I had half covered up, and then just used ink to black out the boys hair instead of using the paint. In fact I had already used brown paint to pick up the lines that I had lost completely in the blue run, when I was doing the brown run for the shoes.

Having reversed all the conventions of cel animation in this first attempt I am learning what works.

Some ideas that came to mind are that I could have ‘Inked” the cels on the front with paint to match the area, although this would have taken a careful hand with a fine brush. Coloured wax pencils might be the answer. I can also see the advantage of painting on the back. On the areas like the face where I did want line detail I wouldn’t have had to worry about going over the lines.

But I am not going to change at this stage of the film. I am going to photograph the cels for a finished result. I will tell you how I get on in the next issue.

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Originally printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 5 (Summer 1983)