Colouring In- Process Special!

Whatson, process lovers?
A few people have expressed an interested in how i colour my artwork using photoshop, so I’ll tell you. Firstly, I’ve got to say that I based a lot of my technique on these fantastic series of posts by Dustin Harbin, so have a look there for much more technical info than you’ll find here, as mine’s a simplified version of that. Let it also be said that I am by no means a photoshop expert, and this is just the way i’ve found (via a lot of trial and error) that seems to work ok and deliver decent results. Anyway, here’s my ten penceworth.

I used to use the most straightforward way of colouring line art, which is to scan the black and white art, and have that as the background and then simply create a new layer with the properties as ‘Darken’. This means the colour layer sits behind the line art it’s pretty straightforward if you’re doing a simple colour job, and I’ll still use this technique occasionally if it’s just a quick colour job. The downside of this is when you need to keep coloured layers separate as the image gets more complicated, you need to split everything up. So-o-o:

1) Lineart

yeti3line

Taken for granted at this point you’ve scanned your image and you’ve got line art that your happy with, you can extract the line art from the background by going to Select> Colour Range and clicking on an area of black (it should be fairly easy at this point to separate the black from the white, but if you have other colours on there you need to experiment your fuzziness to make sure you don’t any phantom greasy looking ghosts in there). Your line is now highlighted, so liberate that bad boy by opening a new layer, then go to Edit> Fill and fill it with the black in the bottom right corner which is apparently the blackest black. If you then open another layer and fill it with white (and move your line layer above it) you’ve got the two things separate, and you can get rid of the original background (I usually keep it until near the end anyway just in case of any disasters though).
The above image shows those two layers from a page 3 of I, Yeti, which i’ll use as an example cos it’s got loads of colouring on it.

2- Background Colour

yeti3bg

Although I don’t stick rigidly to what goes on in these layers, and keep tweaking all the layers til it’s finished, I like to get started by getting as much colour into the background as possible as a rough colour guide. My best friend here is the gradient tool, which i use loads, even if i paint over it all, it seems more natural than a block of flat colour, particularly in skies and that. I’ll very rarely use solid colour, and i’ll then start to add texture using a normal paintbrush at about 50% opacity, and blending these by selecting the semi-opaque colours again to get an increasingly light tone. I’ll also blend by increasing the brush size, but decreasing the opacity to about 20% to subtly blur it a bit more. I don’t use a special brush or anything, just the standard at 100% hardness. I’ll work from photos a lot too, and usually I’ll take the colours directly from the source via the eye dropper thingy, although with jpegs this can sometimes be a bit hit and miss.

3- Foreground

yeti3fg

So the foreground objects will naturally sit on top of the background, but still underneath your line layer, and the colouring technique is largely the same. Fun fact: I based the yeti’s colouring on a polar bear. If there’s different layers to a background, i might stick this in the foreground too, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the other elements i’m colouring.

4- Special Effects

yeti3fire

The fire and it’s glow (bottom 4 panels) was a bit of a pain in the arse to get right. Same thing again though, semi opaque brush tool to build up a blended effect.

5- Snow

yeti3snow

Unusually, i had a layer on top of the line art for this one, to try and capture the blizzrd effect of the snow in panels 9 & 11. I selected the text on the line layer using the magic wand in panel 9 though and deleted it from this layer so the text wouldn’t be obscured.

yeti3layersbig

with this last one you can see the layers and how they’re ordered- it’s usually a good idea to label them but i don’t always (layer 5 is the snow layer).

Obviously this is a technique that works for me, and as i am a painter at heart, i like a rougher painterly quality.  Hopefully there’s a bit of insight here though, and please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions (not super-technical ones please) and i’ll endeavour to answer them.

If you want to see the complete I, Yeti, it’s here, and you can even buy it as a set of 2 prints here.

About banal pig

i have a masters in fine art, i scrape a living doing various freelance things and i make comics
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