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″.

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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