Monday, June 18, 2012

Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain

I'm waiting on an issue of MacGyver to open up for a last minute check, and while I do I figured I might write up a bit on my process for colouring comics.

STEP 1- Read the script. OK, this usually isn't step 1. Usually I get the pages- digitally- and drool over them somewhat and THEN read over the script. Twice. Once on it's own, as a squee-filled fan who counts his lucky stars to be working on awesome books, and again with the pages in mind. I play it out as a film in my head, and think about how the colours play out in my brain. Not EVERY SINGLE PANEL, but the main beats.

STEP 2- MR FLATTER, I SUMMON YOU. I've been using a flatter for MacGyver, and this presents advantages and disadvantages. The selections are INFINITELY cleaner than I would do solo, particularly on loose work like Mr Sliney is wont to do from time to time :D So, I send my pages off to Ranvic and he works 'em up for me. The colours that come back are OFF THE WALL, but that's good for selections.

MEANWHILE, STEP 3- I take low res versions of the pages, and thumb out the main colour beats. This is where some of the more off the wall colours come out of. Sometimes.

STEP 4- The pages come back from the flatter, and I press F6, my magical lineprep button. This takes the document, convert the lineart into a transparent layer with alpha (cloned, so I still have the original), set to CMYK and with a plain white layer to obscure the original lineart. This makes colour holds as easy as any other part of the page with locked transparency, and no need to rely on multiply layers  and the strangeness that can have with inks. I still cringe at some of the earlier work I did before I learned about this and trapping your work when I had a multiply layer. Ugh. Great pages ruined.

STEP 5. Correct them flats. No toning this time around, just go on the hues. Like the exact opposite of starting a painting in greyscale, it forces you to make decisions of colours, and shows when things are blending too much , and forces you to push the bar somewhat. I find that if I play it safe with this approach, with completely local colour, I get quite frustrated and change things up dramatically. One such scene had been coloured, finshed and ready for exporting, when I hid the layer and thought 'what would I do if I didn't hold back?' and re-keyed the scene to be what is now my favourite in the book to date.

I try and do different things every book, and for the next project I do, I want to stop at this point. The style we're going for with Mac calls for full on tones and everything, but work like Will's doesn't need rendering- it's all there already. I see other colourists with flat tones and it sings, and to be honest, it's terrified me. I usually feel like I haven't done enough and need to earn my keep more. Pushing my palettes, and not holding back, I can rest easy on a book not rendering things. But for this book, I'm not done

STEP 6- Now's where the rendering comes in. Things like shadows, highlights, material transparency, translucency, reflections, bounce lights and all that jazz. The icing on the cake. The page COULD be sent off now, but I'm not done.

STEP 7- Line Holds. I said before I try to do something different with every book, and for Mac I'm pushing my use of line holds. It looks subtle onscreen, but Danger Academy showed me they really sing in print. SUBTLE PLUGGING IS SUBTLE.

STEP 8- and this is what I'm doing right now. Wait a day (if you can) and read the whole issue. Mistakes should pop if there are any, and any inconsistencies will be more noticeable than if you've done a horrible grind.

I know I haven't gone into WHY I pick certain palettes, but that'll be another blog post. The pages have all opened, and it's time for that last run over. I should finish with

STEP 9- Edits. Writers and artists both pour hours and love into a book, so if they see something they think is wrong, you listen. Thankfully pretty much all the folk I've worked with have known their trade well, so I don't think I've gotten an edit I didn't think 'd'oh!' for missing out on. Hopefully they'll be minimal, but either way the book'll be better for it, and that's the most important thing.

Peace :D

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