Finding jobs as an inker for newcomers.
I have been asked… well… not many times, but some times… about how to get jobs in comics… I like to reply in a long detailed way to be specific about the subject because I like to give my little knowledge to people that ask for it… just because I didn’t got it all the time when i started.
These are the sad set of truths than no one likes to read:
Aiming high of yourself, but start low:
Well… First of all, get experience. My first paid job was inking 8 pages for a short story for only $5 USD per page. At the time I was obviously worried since my inking costs were just 5 USD per page (Between scanning, printing an 11 x 17″ opaline sheet and the use of materials). However, despite that scenario, I decided to do it digitally as a inking trainee, and most important, to end up having material to show around, and then making profit of it, if there was any. I did the gig on time, I delivered the pages one day before deadline; I did it fine – editor loved the job even thou I did it while I was ill, so it was a great start. I learnt how to ink digitally, and face deadlines while I was in bed.
However, accepting $5 USD per page is a contradiction of making a living out of inking. With that rate you are lowering yourself and it’s a dangerous thing to keep thinking that inking is a quick and easy work that worths $5 per page. Is not good for the business, but I took it because it was MY start in the biz.
It took me from 8 to 10 hours per page. Thinking “I’m 35 and this is not worthy NOW” all the time was excruciating, I must admit. Still I take from 6 to 8 hours per page, but quality has improved, of course… at least I think that. But one thing was almost clear. Having zero experience on the business made me accept this first job to catch the train before it leaves me behind. Start moving myself and ask the first questions.
At the end: I think that having this first deadline with a limited number of pages was helpful.
From that moment on, I kept searching for inking jobs and I got great response from several pencillers that were looking for inkers for teaming up. That helped me more grow confident every day about my craft skills. However, most of them offers me non paid jobs. Back end or work for free jobs.
If you want to be an inker, my strong advice is that work on your inking skills over not famous pencilers, but amateur ones with an eye to a strong collection of professional inked jobs as a work guidance. I know it’s tempting inking cool known sequentials, but some of those well known artists does not like it and the ones that do then, asking for permission is the polite thing to do. But the main reason I don’t recommend inking known pencils is that those stablished artists have all the know-how about the art. Almost every drawing situation (line weight, lighting, texturizing and modular lines) are solved from the pencils. They have passed their training period and then, if you ink that you won’t be learning that much. Introducing yourself to amateur artists for me is the best option. I posted an ad in a comic website forum and three artists came from there. One of them, Erik Roman I have worked with him in two different projects and still we follow each other. With those teams you create, work from pin ups to sequentials and you both will be growing on the spots to pulish your art.
And think of this: If you get a gig from one of the big publishers, then this article is not for you, because you are obviously more crafted than me. 😉
However, beware what artists you team up with. Your inner work ethic must be the curator of the deals and choosing. I can remember when I started finding a guy who told me that inking for free for him would make me break in Marvel or DC Comics. (That was, well… quite insulting… I’m not that dumb, sir). You’ll also find artists who’s style is – to say the least- painful to ink.
Once you gain more trust on your work, I think it’s time to set up a collaboration and start doing comics. If you want to break into comics, comics must know that you do make comics.
However this is the most awful truth: Many pencilers will not be trustworthy on their regular schedule. Prepare to nights of jamming up pages, and days of nothing on your drawing board. I could have 6 paid / pitch project one month and for a week I could have never received a single page to ink. Those days are, for me, the worst. It makes me feel a burden, not talented enough and many times, like a mom bitching about the importance of trust in the team.
Collaborations: When and where doing them:
Collaborations are a good way to show your craft but beware taking so many. Most collaborations are work for free and / or back end projects. Choose carefully.
Some of them are paid, mostly are from 5 to 10 pages comic pitches, even one or two collaborations are paid the whole first issue but it’s up to the creator and his/her pocket. But for the most part, is a work for free thing.
If you have the mindset focused on the craft instead of making any money, do as many you can. I know many artists does not like work for free or back end work. I also don’t like it, but for starters is a necessary evil. Throughout the last 3 years I developed a rule: Do one back end project at a time, only one and the rest of the time must be paid work. That would assure you published work, exposure, but must be realistic on that. Not everything gets to the eye of an known editor or publisher. Then, the one collaboration I do must be outstanding in quality, with a name or a guy I must trust and hopefully published by an at least partially known publisher. Starburn is a book done that way. And after Starburn, The Drif T is also done that way.
If the editor can’t pay you: Focus on pitches. At least you won’t work 22 pages, but 8 or 6. Make him clear that you want to be credited and if there’s an interested publisher, editor must pay you for your work and send you copies of the book so you can move them around and last but not least, ask the editor permission to use the material as additional portfolio.
Setting a realistic page rate:
That’s something hard to define, but looking at some examples helps to set your craft into a realistic and competitive range. If you are starting into comics, having a very low page rate won’t give confidence to artists / editors to hire you and having a high page rate won’t even worth their time. I have seen inkers setting their page rates ridiculously high in comparison with the quality of their art.
By the time you set your page rate you would probably have some cool comics out there for people to read so probably setting your page rate would be something that grows with you. One thing as important as having a competitive page rate is to deal with your rights and duties. For instance: requesting a time production schedule range, and a payment method. I use to give an realistic range of production (6 pages in a 7 day period) and after sending a low res JPG files (150 dpi) for corrections, the editor points some corrections for me to fix on the pages. Once all pages are approved I wait for the payment (I use Pay Pal) and only after that I release the high res pages (11 x 17 ” 600 dpi Grayscale Tiff files).
So, summing up: aiming high, teaming up with artists your level, collaborations and setting a realistic page rate are a great idea to work your style up. But have in mind that more on the projects you will be start working on that will ending up to make yourself a name, a reputation, and just after that, reputation and better paid job would help pay your bills.
If you know any other way to be involved, please, let me know… still I am also a beginner in this job.
Thanks for dropping by. I am thinking in showing you the real benefits of back end gigs. I have some mind blowing numbers.