How To Survive Inktober 2017

It’s been a little over a week since the start of Inktober, but if your fingers already ache and your spine makes a disconcerting creaking noise whenever you start to turn your head, you’re not alone.

Some artists say that Inktober helps beginner artists find community and learn how to work on a deadline. Other artists say, “oh god; why did I do this to myself; help; my body is in so much pain and I have been sitting in this position for nine consecutive hours.” Regardless of your skill level, inking can be grueling and surprisingly taxing, both mentally and physically. A few of my favorite artists are taking the Inktober challenge — so I asked them to chat with me about their tips for how to best survive Inktober 2017.


What Is Inktober

As many of you already know, Inktober is an annual art challenge that pushes artists to ink one new drawing each day throughout the month of October. Inktober encourages artists to fine tune and experiment with their line work and inking style. Like other comics concept drawing events like Hourly Comic Day, Witchsona Week, and Mermay, Inktober pushes artists to make compelling, timely content, and helps foster a sense of community among the Comics Art Internet.

Inktober was started in 2009 by illustrator and comics artist Jake Parker. The rules are pretty simple:


1) Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want)
2) Post it online
3) Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2017
4) Repeat

Note: you can do it daily, or go the half-marathon route and post every other day, or just do the 5K and post once a week. Whatever you decide, just be consistent with it. INKtober is about growing and improving and forming positive habits, so the more consistent you are, the better.
That’s it! Now go make something beautiful.

-via Jake Parker’s Inktober website.


In 2016, Inktober added daily prompts to help reduce the burden of brainstorming new concepts on top of soothing your aching, nubby fingers each day. That process has continued here in 2017.


Survive Inktober 2017 Official list of drawing prompts
via Jake Parker’s Inktober website.



Inktober Tips & Tricks

In order to advise y’all on how to power through this semi-Herculean task, I asked comics artists Sarah Winifred Searle, Ashley Franklin, and Victoria Grace Elliott to give us tips about their process.

My questions:

  • Have you participated in previous Inktobers as well? (And if so, how many?)
  • Do you prefer to ink digitally or traditionally (or both/no preference)?
  • What is your biggest challenge during Inktober?
  • What tools do you rely on to get through this month? (Art tools, or even things in your home to make you more comfortable as you draw or to stimulate creativity — whatever makes it easier for you to keep up the pace!)



Sarah Winifred Searle

Sarah Winifred Searle is a comics artist and the creator of Graphic Universe’s Sincerely, Harriet. Her comics have also been featured in Iron Circus Comics, Fresh Romance, The Nib, and more!


Survive Inktober 2017 Sarah Winifred Searle art featuring "Ruined" protagonists Catherine and Andrew
Catherine and Andrew, the protagonists of Ruined, Searle’s ongoing romance comic from Fresh Romance / Oni Press.


POMEmag: Have you participated in previous Inktobers as well? (And if so, how many?)

SWC: I try and fail most years! I usually do a few scattered drawings through the month and call it good. I suppose I just take a casual approach to challenges, and this year I’m only succeeding (in my own way) because I have so much inking already on my plate because of work, haha.


POMEmag: Do you prefer to ink digitally or traditionally (or both/no preference)?

SWC: I always always ink digitally for my professional work. I have pretty significant nerve/muscle issues with my drawing arm and digital is just a much more forgiving medium for my body’s limitations. I’m inking every day this month regardless of the challenge, but I’m also using it as an excuse to draw traditionally as often as possible, honestly just because I miss it! It’s nice to be able to hold a drawing in my hands after spending most of my time on the computer, and it feels extra nice because those little low-pressure drawings are just for me.



POMEmag: What is your biggest challenge during Inktober?

SWC: My drawing limb probs. I have carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, and repetitive stress injury, all of which make drawing really challenging at times. I’m fortunate enough to have gotten help through physical therapy and now I do exercises that have certainly improved things, but while I’ve adapted pretty well to digital drawing (I use a large, soft grip on my tablet stylus), going back to regular pens and pencils can really aggravate things. So I’m taking it easy, and I’m not going to let stricter interpreters of the inktober guidelines hinder how much fun I’m having with it.


POMEmag: What tools do you rely on to get through this month?

SWC: Okay, here’s where I probably get disqualified –– I do my lineart with pencil! Pencils are a bit easier on my hand than the pens I like, so I sketch with that, then color it in and add flair with various forms of ink. (I don’t erase anything, if that helps.) To be specific, I use 2mm leads in different colors/brands, Prismacolor markers, and an assortment of metallic paint pens and gel pens and other stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. For an idea of how (not) often I work traditionally, most of those Prismacolor markers are over a decade old and they still work somehow! Kind of amazing, actually.

So I guess my approach to staying comfortable is just to use Inktober as an excuse to enjoy drawing in ways you usually don’t, and don’t push yourself because others observe it more strictly than you can! Be kind to yourself. You deserve it.


Update: Sarah sent a short update after our initial Inktober conversation:

SWC: I should add another disclaimer at this point that I’m uh, well, I’m inking every day during Inktober, but not stuff I can share (or if it’s personal work, it’s wonky doodles that aren’t worth putting on social media).


Sarah makes beautiful comics and illustrations ranging from lovely period drama romance comics to heart-wrenching personal essay comics. You can check out Sarah’s website, follow her on Twitter @swinsea, or become Sarah’s patron to see even more of her gorgeous art.



Ashley Franklin

Ashley Franklin is a comics artist from Austin, Texas. You might know her work from Free Rent ATX, but you might also recognize Ashley Franklin’s art from this very site!


Survive Inktober 2017 - A few panels from Ashley Franklin's "A Lone Traveler From Earth"
Franklin’s A Lone Traveler From Earth.


POMEmag: Have you participated in previous Inktobers as well? (And if so, how many?)

AF: This is my second year doing Inktober. Last year I was determined to complete it, and I actually did! I really feel like I got a lot out of it last year (Iots of new followers, was noticed by someone from a local gallery who invited me to be part of a show, and just got better at inking/working without color). I really enjoyed the prompts, but [also] really wanted to also have some sort of whole finished project at the end of all that work, so I decided to do a daily inked comic page this time around. It’ll be a 31 pages of one spooky story.


POMEmag: Do you prefer to ink digitally or traditionally (or both/no preference)?

AF: Traditionally. I do everything traditionally 🙂


POMEmag: What is your biggest challenge during Inktober?

AF: Carving the time out to work on it every day. I remember last year, there were a bunch of times when I’d be inking a drawing at a bar with friends or at someone’s house or while eating breakfast (if I knew I was going to have a really busy day). I feel like it’s great practice for building time-management skills and figuring out your limits.



POMEmag: What tools do you rely on to get through this month?

AF: Using a daily planner is a big one! It’s really important to know how much time you actually have in the day to work on your Inktober drawing, and find windows between other work and your social life. Knowing ahead of time how large or small that window is and planning accordingly definitely make it less stressful.

Also, last year I pre-cut all of my paper on the first day. That way I knew how big I was going to work, and also, not having extras as a safety net meant that I couldn’t mess up helped (starting over meant spending more time). I used nice paper and kept the page sizes pretty small … I’d just be wasting all that nice paper, so that also helped keep me from quitting. There are lots of artists out there who work pretty big for their Inktober pieces and that’s amazing, but because it was my first year and I’m not the fastest inker, I’m glad I decided to start small.

This year, I got these great new brushes that a friend recommended; they’re called Silver Ultra Minis and they have these nice thick but short handles that are just much more comfortable to me, so that’s helping with the hand cramps/fatigue. Two other things that really help are: keeping my work area clean and organized, and doing hand/wrist stretches before getting started (when I remember). You can find lots of great information on good stretches for artists online.

I think my number one biggest tool/tip though is having someone, hopefully another artist friend, that both holds you accountable & supports/cheers you on! This year I made a pact with two other artist pals to try our best to make it the whole month through, and so far we’ve all been keeping up and encouraging each other, which has been great. Being a cartoonist or illustrator can feel kind of isolating, since most of the time you’re just sitting at your desk, working on your art alone. Making friends with other people working towards similar creative goals is an invaluable resource — one that I’ve been thinking a lot about/trying to cultivate more of lately.  Also I’m the kind of person that once I announce that I’m going to do something, I have to follow through, hell or high water.  


Visit Ashley’s site to see even more of her work, follow her on Twitter @ARFranklinstein, or stop by the ARFranklinstein StoreEnvy shop to grab some of her stylish zines, prints, and patches.



Victoria Grace Elliott

Victoria Grace Elliott is a comics artist and animator living in Austin, Texas, and a longtime friend of the POMEmag coven. Victoria is the creator of balderdash! or, a tale of two witches. You may also know her work from Spera, Boom Studios, or wherever comics about friendship and feelings are found.


Survive Inktober 2017 - art of Victoria Grace Elliott's "balderdash!" protagonists
Afia and Georgie from Elliott’s balderdash! or, a tale of two witches.


POMEmag: Have you participated in previous Inktobers as well? (And if so, how many?)

VGE: I’ve participated in probably two Inktobers, and last year was the most successful for me. I think I did like 10 days worth for last year, more or less, and that’s better than I’ve ever done before!


POMEmag: Do you prefer to ink digitally or traditionally (or both/no preference)?

VGE: I honestly prefer inking traditionally, but usually I do digital because it’s more convenient for the most part. But even then, nothing comes close to traditional inking and how it feels and looks. If I could find a way to traditionally ink and digitally color without producing pages of waste and having to scan and adjust tens of pages, I totally would.



POMEmag: What is your biggest challenge during Inktober and what tools do you rely on to get through this month?

VGE: Just staying dedicated during Inktober is by far the most difficult part. I’ve had the most success when I come up with a theme that I’m passionate about and that’s accessible to other people — my theme last year (and carried over this year, for as many days as I end up doing it) was shoujo/josei heroines from manga and anime I’ve loved. I wanted an excuse to do fanart of mostly regular women and girls I admire and identify with, and since it was my first time drawing fanart for a lot of my childhood manga heroines, I got through quite a few days!

It also helps me to break it down into tasks by days. Ink this day, color or backgrounds the second day; it’s not a true Inktober because I’m decompressing the time, but it allows me to actually get stuff done without kicking my own ass. Also having specific technical goals for the month help keep me on task. Last year my aim was to do full bodies for practice, and color each piece with copics. This year hasn’t been nearly as successful, but I’m aiming for inking with a nib and watercoloring each piece. Having restrictions seems to help keep me focused.

This year has also been helpful with other IRL friends doing Inktober as well. We have a whole table at my house where me and my roommates have inking supplies, sketchbooks, and more nearby. Some nights a couple or all of us will be at the kitchen table, inking our pieces or sketching something out. That alone makes it a bit more fun, like a social gathering and an excuse to draw and not look at a screen for a little while.


Victoria’s ongoing comic balderdash! can be found here. Follow @fridayafternoon on Twitter or become Victoria’s patron to see even more of her comics and creations.



The Big Takeaways

All in all, these three artists imparted some really valuable wisdom. As you power through the rest of this Inktober, these four takeaways can help you make it through the month:

  • Set goals that work for you — set deadlines you can live with. Inktober should be a challenge, but it’s not a race or a test!
  • Whether you’re inking traditionally or digitally, pick tools that feel right for your work and your body.
  • Use Inktober as an opportunity to draw things that excite you!
  • Collaborating and hanging out with other artists can keep you sane and motivated while inking.

We hope that you’re able to hash out an Inktober plan that you enjoy — whether you’re inking elaborate cityscapes or drafting up a tableau of All Might full-length portraits. Best of luck, Art POMEs! We’re wishing you a fruitful month of creativity and fun. May all of your fingers callus quickly, and may your lumbars have only the very best support.


Featured image: an Inktober piece by POMEmag’s own boss crone Rachel Weiss


CC Calanthe

CC Calanthe

If you prick your finger and write “Cat Fancy” on your mirror during a harvest moon, CC will appear behind you and make you put human clothes on your pets. CC is Head Crone in Charge at POMEgranate Magazine, as well as the co-host of Moon Podcast Power MAKE UP!!
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