The inker (also sometimes credited as the finisher, embellisher, or tracer) is one of the two line artists in a traditional comic book or graphic novel. After a pencilled drawing (or copy of the pencilled drawing) is given to the inker, the inker uses black ink (usually India ink) to produce refined outlines over the pencil lines. The ink may be applied with a pen or a brush — many inkers use both — or even digitally, a process gaining in popularity. The inker is usually responsible for every black line on the page, except for letters, which are handled by a letterer. In many comic strips, as well as Japanese manga and European comics, a single artist takes responsibility for penciling, inking and sometimes even lettering, either doing it all (e.g., Charles M. Schulz) or hiring assistants. For comics printed in color, there is usually a separate colorist.
Inking was a necessity of the printing process used in comic books and other print publications; the presses could not reproduce pencilled drawings. It is now a recognized art in itself. As the last hand in the production chain before the colorist, the inker has the final word on the look of the page, and can help control a story's mood, pace, and readability. A good inker can salvage shaky pencils—while a bad one can obliterate great draftsmanship and/or muddy good storytelling.
All the same, inking is often seen as more technical and less glamorous than penciling, and many inkers go unrecognized. This perception was parodied in the Kevin Smith movie Chasing Amy, where Banky Edwards is accused of merely "tracing" the images drawn by penciler Holden McNeil.