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Comics

A further description of what my role as a digital color artist entails:

 

Lineart by Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano for Daredevil 100.  Copyright 2007 Marvel Entertainment, Inc.
Daredevil #100, page 5 lineart.
The first step is receiving the black and white lineart in a digital format.  These are TIFs that I download from an FTP server, usually from Marvel, DC or Vertigo.  I receive the script from the writer and read through it to get an idea of pacing, storytelling and color, looking for tone shifts in the story.

 

I then send the lineart off to a flatter.  A flatter is someone who will trace out the page and fill it with random colors so that I can make selections more easily.  I don't use any of their colors and they are not an apprentice.  They are, however, a great help in saving time and usually do a great job.

 

Flats by Yes Flats.
Flats from flatter.
When I receive the flats back from the flatter, I then lay in my own flat color choices.  I work in RGB with my CMYK preview turned on.  I like the color transitions better in RGB.  I work out the palette at this stage.  The flat color choices are very important and skipping over making proper choices that will be "fixed" in the painting process is a bad mistake to make.  So I usually take some time doing my flat colors.  I'm very careful to make sure that there's good storytelling and a clear dilineation between different scenes in the book.  I want the reader to very easily understand if we've changed rooms, changed moods, changed scenes or whatever.

 

Mr. Fear is scaring me.
My flat colors.
After that, I set about rendering the page, which is to say I paint in the lighting, painting in the highlights and shadows.  I pick a key light color to use then base my shadow colors off of that and work from there, painting it in with custom made brushes.  All of this work is done in Photoshop.  If there's a rim or bounce light I will paint that in too.

 

Look Ma, no lineart!
Painted colors without lineart.
When the painting is done, I will color any lineart that I feel is better used in color.  This is usually some effect like fire, clouds or lightsaber outlines.  Those look much better in color than as a black holding line.  Any other effects such as glows or blurs will be done at this end stage also.

 

Finally, an action in Photohop is used to prepare the page for printing.  This consists of flattening all layers, converting from RGB mode to CMYK, trapping the lineart, filling the lineart in the black channel, deleting all excess channels and saving out a Tif file.  "Trapping" simply means that a version of the lineart that is a couple of pixels smaller is used to fill in a nice gray under the lineart.  By shrinking a couple of pixels, misregistration is avoided.  If any of the plates, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow or Black shifts a pixel or two during printing, you won't see a halo around the lineart with this approach.  And it gives a nice, rich black.

 

After this, a smaller 72dpi jpeg is saved out as a proof.  I upload this to a website and send the link off to the writer, artists, letterer and editors.  They review and see if I missed something or if they have any comments.  If I receive any comments back, I address them and send out a new proof. 

 

And finally, after being written in Seattle, penciled in Dallas, inked in Washington State, edited in Manhattan, flatted in South Korea and colored in Croatia, it's done!
Final colors.

 

If you want to see more Digital Colors, look in the Digital Colors submenu, under Comics above.

 

Click "next" to read about the old days and color guides.

 
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