I did a process post on the art of Bandette a few months ago, but some people have asked for more specifics on how I go about coloring the comic. So here we go! There are some elementary Photoshop terms coming up, so I’m assuming a bit of familiarity with that program and its tools, but I’m going to try to keep it as basic as possible.
1. At the point when I’m ready to begin coloring, I have the grayscale ink art on one layer, with lettering on a group of layers above it, and panel borders on a layer on top of it all.
Why do I letter the art before I color it? Because if I find that I need to nudge the art or resize it a bit for word balloons, I can. Once the coloring is done, those adjustments are gonna be a lot harder to make.
2. I hide the group of lettering layers. Then I convert the grey ink art to a sepia-tone, to give it more warmth.
How do I do that? It’s easy! First I choose a color to set as my “foreground color”. For consistency’s sake, I select this color from the preset selections in my color swatches.
With the ink art layer selected, I go to Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation (Cmd+U on Mac, Ctrl+U in Windows) and click the Colorize button. Bam! The layer’s pixels are automatically converted to values of the selected hue.
Now I set the blending mode of the ink art layer to Multiply, which makes that layer “transparent”.
3. OK, now we’re cookin’! I use the magic wand tool to select the panel areas from the Borders layer, create a new layer below the Art layer, and fill those selected pixels with a bright blue (or some other color which I know will contrast with the colors I will be using. This gives me selectable areas to work on as I color. With the borders and art layers hidden, it looks like this:
On this new layer, I fill the main figures only with a single color, using a combination of the lasso tools, the paintbucket tool, and the brush tool. Whatever tools you use, be sure to have anti-aliasing checked off, and all opacity settings at 100%. The idea is to have hard edges between all shapes so you can select their pixels later.
Why do I only fill in the main figures? Because I want to color the background on a different layer. More on that later!
Here’s how the color layer looks with the art layer hidden:
4. Now that the areas of the main figures have been defined, I go back into those areas with the lasso, paintbucket, and/or the brush tool, and color the individual parts. I find that it is much quicker to select large areas to color and work my way down to the small detailed areas than it is to go the other way around.
And with the art layer hidden:
5. Now I use the magic wand tool to select all the blue pixels that make up the background, create a new layer above the color layer I’ve been working on, and fill those pixels with the yellow I use as a base color for all my backgrounds. It’s kind of like putting down a primer coat before painting a wall.
Here’s how the background color layer looks with the art and main figure color layers hidden:
6. I color the those yellow background pixels, using the lasso, paintbucket, and brush tools again. Again, it’s most efficient to pick out the larger shapes (sky, house, ground, trees) and then go in and add details with the brush tool. That’s most evident here on the house around the windows, and the bricks on the wall.
You can see it better with the art layer hidden.
You may have noticed that the background is done with a very limited number of colors. In fact, I try to only use values of three hues (yellow, green and blue), which I have saved as preset color swatches. I very rarely deviate from these colors for backgrounds in daytime scenes:
Why such a limited color palette? Two reasons. First, it assures a pleasing continuity throughout the comic–nothing is going to hit you in the eyeball because it clashes with the rest of the world, unless I want it to. Second, it helps keep me from dithering over choices. Without this structure in place, I might very well spend a lot of wasted time trying to decide what colors to use. This way those choices have already been made, and I can just work.
7. Almost done! But there’s one more tweak to be made. This is why I do background colors on a separate layer! The colors I used for the background are paler than those I use for the main figures, but they’re just as saturated, or intense, so they compete a bit for the eye’s attention. By desaturating those colors a bit, the main figures pop out more!
Here’s how: with the background layer selected, I go to Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation again (Cmd+U on Mac, Ctrl+U in Windows), and set the saturation level at -40.
…And now the final art (with the letters visible again) has a nice watercolor wash look to it!
Why do I not just do the backgrounds with the desaturated colors to begin with? I could do that, but it’s likely that I would forget which colors were the desaturated ones and which were not. It’s much easier to color everything with the same color palette (I sometimes use background colors on figures as well) and adjust the saturation all at once.
That’s it! If you have any questions, leave a comment. I’d be happy to try and answer. But first, read Bandette #3!