When you’re coloring in Photoshop, the trick is to keep your line art clear, and use your colors help tell the story. Now, a perfect example would be Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy”, colored by Dave Stewart, or “Criminal”, colored by Val Staples.
Of course all this is a matter of taste. You might like other kinds of colors. Great. But I can’t tell you how to color every character in a gazillion different tones, except to tell you, that it probably takes a long time.
So, what to do?
First off, you have your line art. I’m old fashioned, so I still draw on paper and then scan it in. Sometimes I’ll have blue lines underneath my inks, like I talked about in episode 7, but those can be removed in Photoshop by adjusting the levels, or, if your scanner will allow you, just scan as bitmap and the blue will disappear. Make sure you scan in high resolution. If your page is done in oversize, 300 dpi should be enough. Less than 300 dpi is NEVER enough, especially line art has a tendency to get pixelated if it’s scanned in too low resolution.
Once you have your scanned pages, open them up in Photoshop. You might need to do a little clean up. I find there’s always little dots or grub from the scan. I tend to never zoom in more than 50% when I’m ding the clean up, to avoid needless work. If it’s not visible at 50% on your screen, it won’t be visible in print.
When you’ve got your clean line art, you need to make a separate layer for the colors. There are several way to go about it. My method is to convert my bitmap image to grayscale, then to rgb. I duplicate my background layer and set the layer mode to multiply. Then I click off the original background layer. I don’t delete it. Trust me, you WILL accidently paint in the wrong layer once in a while, so keep the original as a sort of backup.
Now you need to put in a new layer in normal mode for your colors. You put that under your background copy. This is a quick, basic way of getting ready to color. You can of course make as many new layers as you want. I sometimes make a new layer on top of my background layer or line art, where I put in special effects like bright lights and stuff like that. You’ll have to experiment yourself. Just remember always to make a new layer for those experiments and don’t forget to save your Photoshop file along the way.
In lesson 8 I’ll be talking a little bit about Actions in Photoshop, but let’s just skip that part for now…
My approach for coloring comics pages is this; I try to set a certain tone for every new setting. To help the reader understand what’s going on. Oh, this is inside the nightclub. Oh, now where outside, early morning. Stuff like that. I usually do just a flat color or a gradient on every picture, or even the whole page. Then in a separate layer, I put in the colors on characters and objects. I often set the opacity of that layer to 50-60%. That way, everything sort of takes on the color tone of the background, just as a background color is often visible in a painting.
Always remember foreground, middle ground and background. A lot of artists tone down the line art in the background, to get the reader to focus on the foreground, but I’d say that’s something for an advanced lesson. For now let’s just say you need your primary characters to stand out against the background, and there are many ways to do that. One way is to color them in a warmer tone than the background, that will make them appear closer. As long as they’re not painted in the same tone as your background, you’ll probably be fine. The stronger the line work, the easier it is to color.
When I do colors in Photoshop, I tend to drag my color palette over in the more grey areas, stay clear of primary colors. But that’s a matter of personal taste, of course, and it all depends on the story.
When you’re finished with a page, flatten all the layers and save it as an image file. Tiff format is the best, jpegs are fine for web and lower resolution copies, but for print always go with the tiff format. Also, you need to convert your colors mode to CMYK if it’s for print. RGB format gives you a little more room for effects when you’re coloring, but after that, CMYK would be the way to go, unless it’s for web use- More on this in episode 10.
First, let’s talk about stealing. See you in a bit in lesson 9.