Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 262

GREEN HORNET #11. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

I forgot to post this one earlier — it came out April 2. Preview here.

My goin' out clothes

inks by my Dad
blue-line print of pencils

pencils over digital sketch
digital sketch

digital layout

Monday, April 28, 2014

Comic Book Coloring — Part 2 of 3

This is a cross-post with Muddy Colors — An Illustration Collective

IRON MAN VARIANT COVER (sans inks). 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, digital color. 11 × 17.25″.
Step-by-Step post

Part 1, Part 3

Apologies for having posted this art previously, but it's the subject of today's video (I figure that's a good enough excuse). Now that we have the technical info out of the way, I want to get to the heart of the matter: how to choose color. I've written about color many times before, but as always, there's a world of difference between theory and practice. This post is all about the latter.

Put simply, it's trial and error. Starting with artwork that's been flatted, I use the Magic Wand (tolerance set to 0) to select each patch of color that I want to modify. I then use the Hue/Saturation/Brightness command (under Image > Adjustments, or Command-U) to modify those parameters individually.

That's it. Really. Here's a video of the process in action.

Since I do this quite a bit, I'm always looking for ways to speed things up. I often use the Tab key to jump from one dialog box to another, and the Up/Down arrows to change the quantities. Holding down Shift with the arrows raises the increments to 10. If I use the cursor, I grab the name, "Hue," as opposed to the slider — it's a bigger target and shifts the color more quickly. (I have more time-saving tricks in my Cintiq post.)

The "Colorize" option

Sometimes the results of the Hue dimension can be tough to predict. When that's the case, check the "Colorize" option — it resets the all the variables so that you can achieve any color in the gamut in a predictable way. One caveat, though: if multiple patches of different colors are selected, it will unify their Hue and Saturation, leaving only Brightness to differentiate them. (Sometimes that's what you want.)

There are, of course, many other principles to keep in mind. Having a familiarity with color will help immensely, but if often shocks me how simple the process is, especially remembering how much I used to struggle with color. (The digital aspect of color alteration is so easy, I use it to plan all my traditional work as well.)

Hopefully, seeing the process in action will help to show how decisions actually get made. The first step is pretty straightforward: Iron Man is red and yellow. My assistant usually does a fine job of assigning the correct colors to each character and element, but there's always some fine-tuning to do, or certain ideas I need to get across. You have to start somewhere, and this is always easiest for me (because I already know what the goal is).

Make sure the Tolerance is "0" and all options are unchecked.

When selecting color with the magic wand, I usually leave the Contiguous option unchecked, so that it will select anything in the entire piece that's the same color. I do the opposite with the Bucket (tolerance set to "0" as well) since I usually want to color just one patch at a time. I use the bucket primarily at the outset — it's quick and easy, and best for bold moves with clear goals.

A Quick Mask to show the foreground group.

But elements don't have to be the same color to be treated as a group. I use the Channels palette to save selections that include different patches of color. These are called Alpha Channels, and they are useful for backgrounds, characters, groups of figures — anything you would like treated as a single element. If you're not familiar with Channels, it's worth your time to learn (you can start here). Once an alpha channel is saved, you can Command-click on its icon (in the Channels palette) to automatically make the selection again.

RGB Channels and saved masks

Once the easy decisions have been made, I begin to think more about mood, atmosphere, and environment. If there's an art to it, this is where it's at — give 10 colorists the same piece, and this is most likely where they will begin to diverge.

While I'll occasionally go off-model for characters, I tend to wait until I have their official color schemes in place. That way, global changes in color will retain the same relationships between isolated areas. The same goes for skin tones.

Color Balance is best for subtle shifts.

I also use Color Balance (Command-B) for adjustments, typically for less dramatic changes — a bit more cyan, slightly less green. When I'm more concerned about overall mood or lighting, I'll create a Photo Filter adjustment layer that will give a color cast to the entire piece. Be sure to check the Preserve Luminosity option if you want to retain your brightest areas. I like keeping it on a separate layer because I can tweak it as I make progress. Once I'm satisfied, I combine it with the main coloring layer. You can also mask this and other adjustment layers using your saved selections in the Channels palette.

The Photo Filter is great for getting colors in the same "key."

I wanted to make special note of color modes. I work in RGB, Photoshop's native method for calculating color. Although print is almost always my ultimate goal, I don't convert to CMYK until the very end. I'll cover the details of the conversion process in the next post, but you can find my reasoning here. The next and final installment will cover rendering and special effects.

The CMYK channels of the final, flattened artwork.

Finally, my Digital Tool Shop is up and running — as of now, it has 3 products to help streamline comic production (with more to come). My blue-line conversion template is free to download.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Advice for a 15-Year-Old

Ink & watercolor on paper, 7 × 10.5″.

Q: Do you have any school recommendations for a 15 year old that wants to focus more on his art? Night classes, private schools, etc?

A: 15's about the age when I got more serious about it. I took every class in high school that my schedule would allow. I also started to familiarize myself with the different colleges. My high school art teacher offered after school life drawing sessions once a week after school... think I went to most of those.

All the art schools are mad expensive, so he'll want to start looking around now to see if it's something he really wants to work toward. Also, National Portfolio Day is a great place to go and talk to recruiters. I went to one my senior year in Sarasota (the locations rotate) and that's how I met RISD, where I eventually went.

I can already tell you what they'll tell him, though: draw from life. If you can draw people, you can draw anything.

15th Birthday Party Invitation. 1996.
Photocopies, Expresso Pen, and Sharpie
 on copy paper, 11 x 17".

In other news, I've added another offering to my digital tool shop, the Remove Color Action. It's a Photoshop Action that automatically removes any colors from your penciled or inked artwork, leaving near-white in its place. The action then selects and copies the entire work so it can be manually pasted in a page template of your choice.

It removes all colors, not just cyan.

It's easy to install, and can be yours for $2. Thanks to everyone who has purchased tools from the shop! The next item will be be my gutters template. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 261

Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

Original Sin #0 hits shelves today! You can see a preview here. This was one of the rare occasions when my editor knew exactly what he wanted, and I was happy to oblige. I like those gigs every once in a while because they move so smoothly — I just start drawing.

While I didn't draw directly from the pic below, I was using this 3D model for drawing and lighting cues. The program is Sculptris, which is all about speed and ease of use. It's not a ray-tracing program, as evidenced by the patches of light on the shadow side, but it gets the job done if you know what to ignore... like the fact that he's not Uatu, The Watcher.

Hulk watch!

inks by my Old Man
blue-line print of pencils

pencils over digital sketch
digital sketch

digital layout

Monday, April 21, 2014

Inks to Bitmap

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #639, PAGE 13 detail. 2010.
Ink on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

Hopefully you've tried the blue-line template I released last week. Like any good businessman, my second offering will be slightly more than free. The Bitmap Conversion Template can be purchased at my digital download store for $2. If all goes as planned, the "remove blue lines" action should be ready by next week.

This purchase includes 2 separate files.

 1: A 4125 x 6262 pixel Photoshop template (.psd file) that automatically converts your finished inks to black and white bitmap files. Simply copy and paste your cropped page into the "INKS" layer. Modifications can be made with the Threshold and Levels adjustment layers.

 2: A Photoshop Action that will automatically save your converted inks to the desktop (or wherever your specify) as a flattened bitmap (a TIFF file with LZW compression). You can import this into your Actions palette using the "Load Actions..." command. It can also be saved as a Droplet for batch processing.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Doctor Who (And More)

DOCTOR WHO (TOM BAKER). 2014. Ink and watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Pictured above is a commission from La Mole last month. I managed to get about 14 done in all, which I'll slowly post over the coming weeks.

Ink on bristol board with digital color, 13 × 19″.

If you've been wanting to buy my Weird Science print, the time has finally arrived — you can order it in my store (I'm still waiting on shipping supplies, so there will be a delay). If you're in the mood for original art, my Usagi Yojimbo piece to benefit the Sakai family is up for sale. The auction ends on Sunday.

I'm also trying to (slowly) build a digital download store. The first offering is free (though you're always welcome to give a tip — I have no shame). The psd file is a blue-line conversion template for making pencils ink-ready. It's terribly simple, but I use it for every page and it really speeds things up. The next offering will be a black and white conversion template for inks.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 260

Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

This issue came out last month, so we're playing a bit of catch-up. You can see a preview here. It didn't take a great deal of reference, but every little bit helps. I used a 3D model I found in the Sketchup 3D Warehouse, as well as the 1/6 scale Mauser C96 that sits on my miniature gun rack. The honeycomb pattern on the floor was created with my perspective template (you know, the one I always mention but never find time to release into the wild... sorry).

I keep these gloves by my drawing desk at all times

inks by my Paw
blue-line print of pencils

pencils over digital sketch
digital sketch

digital layouts

Monday, April 14, 2014

Comic Book Coloring — Part 1 of 3

This is a cross-post with Muddy Colors — An Illustration Collective

Ink on bristol board with digital color, 11 × 17″.

Part 2, Part 3

For my next 3 posts, I'm going to focus on the art of digital comic book coloring. Although a rather narrow subject, I hope to address some broader concepts that apply to color in general. Today's post, however, will be a bit of a primer since many of the topics will be on the technical side.

I almost always color myself, but that's not the case with most comics, especially those produced by the major publishers. More often than not, the tight deadlines necessitate a division of labor in which the colorist and letterer are the last people on the assembly line. For our purposes, we'll begin with an inked page.

The process starts with a good scan. The typical comic book page is drawn on 11 × 17″ bristol board, on which a template has been printed. I scan pages at 400 pixels per inch (ppi). Since my inks usually have blue-line pencils underneath, I scan in full color, which means they can easily be filtered out. (I have a Photoshop action to automate this process, which I hope to make available soon.)

Daredevil #10, Page 15. 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

Cropping, although fairly simple in concept, can streamline the overall process if done consistently. I have a crop tool set to the desired dimensions, 4125 x 6262 pixels, with the "Perspective" option checked. Since this allows the corners to be dragged independently, I can match them precisely to the corners of the printed border. Aside from keeping all your page files consistent, it keeps everything perfectly aligned — this is especially helpful when matching up digital elements with analog artwork, i.e. panel borders, logos, or 3D models. You can read more about the cropping process here.

raw scan vs. bitmap TIFF, 200% zoom

Although our original scan is 4125 x 6262 px, the final color output will eventually be 2/3 that. That's because inks are saved in a different file format, a bitmap TIFF, which reduces the colors in the image to just 2, black and white. (You can control the specifics of this transformation under Image > Adjustments >Threshold.) While this saves a ton of memory (a typical page is under 500 KB) it requires a higher resolution to avoid a pixelated look.

Flats without inks

I then send the file to my assistant, Orpheus Collar, who colors the image on a separate layer. This process is called flatting, its purpose being to break up the the image into shapes, rather than to produce a finalized color scheme. Flatting makes it easy to select and alter patches of color. What he returns to me is an RGB file with at least 2 layers, more if there are "special effects," pictured below.

Elements that will "glow" can be isolated on a separate layer.

There are plenty of tutorials on-line, and even some automated plug-ins, but I'd like to go over the basic concepts. The inked page goes on the top layer, the mode set to "Multiply," which makes all the white pixels transparent. The "flats" layer goes below that. The key to easy selection is making sure the flats aren't anti-aliased, meaning that no 2 colors are blended at the edges.

Brush vs. Pencil

In order to preserve those hard edges, I use the Pencil tool when editing the flats (as opposed to the Brush tool). If I use the Magic Wand to select pixels or the Bucket to fill them, the tolerance must be set to "0" to avoid blending colors.

Ink on bristol board with digital color, 11 × 17″.

Lastly, I color every page at full resolution, just in case I ever need a bigger version. It's also to avoid a mistake I sometimes see colorists make. If you downsize your inks in their native, 2-color format, the inks will look pixelated when printed. Also, if you downsize your flats before coloring, it may not preserve the hard edges you worked so hard to create. While there are a few ways to avoid those issues, saving reduction until the last step makes everything easier.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Gouache, watercolor, and acrylic on bristol board, 13 × 19″.

The fun doesn't stop with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. After the rather catastrophic events of the movie,  the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are forced to deal with the repercussions. Marvel asked me to produce a promotional poster for the episode, and to design a logo that represented Hydra's infiltration of the organization. They ended up liking the logo so well that they asked for a clean, vector version for other venues. The poster will be available for purchase today at 1am PST.

Also, for those of you in the Jacksonville area, my dedicated inker (and dedicated father), Joe Rivera, will be at the North Florida Comic Con on Sunday. He'll have some prints to sell and will be happy to sign your books. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 259

Gouache, watercolor, and acrylic on bristol board, 13 × 19

Daredevil 1.5 is out today! Along with my cover, there are a host of amazing variants that are available as well. You can see them in the preview at CBR. While I already detailed the process behind the cover previously, I didn't reveal the "wacky reference" that went into it. Obviously, I looked at (and unabashedly traced) a lot of Daredevil art as well.

Not sure why I felt obligated to straddle the tripod.

digital sketch


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