Coloring Techniques

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Coloring Techniques

Postby Anselme » September 15th, 2017, 9:24 pm

Hi guys! I'm gonna try my best to update my comic more regularly now (gonna go for weekly), but the one thing that painfully slows me down (like walking through quicksand slow) is the coloring process. I was wondering if anyone had any tips or tricks, or any secrets they are willing to share, to speed up this step of the comic process. Any input is appreciated. Currently, I only have access to a free version of Photoshop CS2, as I am poor.
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Re: Coloring Techniques

Postby eishiya » September 15th, 2017, 11:53 pm

Could you provide examples of the sort of colouring style you're aiming for? Colouring is a huge topic, and not all techniques work for every style.
It would also help if you provided more details of what aspects of colouring take the longest for you. Is it flatting? Shading? Choosing colours? Other things?

General time-savers I'm fond of:
- actions and shortcuts. If you do something more than once per page, you should probably create an action or shortcut for it. If it's something you do many times per page, put it on a hotkey you can access from your tablet.
- swatches, but only for elements that recur constantly, such as main characters. I eyeball everything else and don't bother sampling from earlier pages as that tends to take too long and the minor inconsistencies aren't noticeable since the lighting is rarely completely the same from page to page, since characters move around the environment and locations change.
- using a limited palette per story or per scene. The fewer colours I have to choose from, the easier my decisions are. I plan my palettes as I thumbnail. I don't just limit my hues, I limit my actual colours by reusing the same colours for multiple objects. This lends each scene a more cohesive look and saves time. It does also look rather stylised, though.
- using a single Multiply or Overlay layer for shadows on top of all the characters; saves time over shading everything separately and allows me to focus on forms over details. I use another such layer for the backgrounds. These layers are shared across all the panels on a spread, so my layer count is low. This makes it quick to get the layer I need and makes saving faster.
- avoiding flatting when possible. If I can keep my colouring loose and painterly, and let my inks do the work of separating objects, I do. For longer comics, it usually helps with consistency to at least flat the characters, though.
- using selections to mask off panels or shapes when adding shadows, colours, effects, etc. Many artists use selections in combination with flats, but you can use selections independently of or even without flats, too.

If you have a style that works best with flats and your inks aren't super-complicated, consider flatting automatically instead of manually. This plug-in is free for Photoshop versions older than CS4. I haven't used it much myself since my current comic is B&W, but it seems pretty nice. Note that it requires fully aliased inks to work well, though.
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Re: Coloring Techniques

Postby mitchellbravo » September 16th, 2017, 2:08 pm

eishiya wrote:- using a limited palette per story or per scene. The fewer colours I have to choose from, the easier my decisions are. I plan my palettes as I thumbnail. I don't just limit my hues, I limit my actual colours by reusing the same colours for multiple objects. This lends each scene a more cohesive look and saves time. It does also look rather stylised, though.

I'm seconding this because this applies whether you color digitally or traditionally. I was amazed at how much faster coloring went for me once I started choosing a palette deliberately rather than chasing down some ideal of photographic accuracy.
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Re: Coloring Techniques

Postby Anselme » September 16th, 2017, 5:38 pm

Sorry for not claryfing! Here's a link showing the latest page to my own webcomic!

What I dread is just overall everything in the coloring process. Flatting. Shading. (Even if I think the type of shading on my pages is really simple compared to the webcomic giants I follow.)

As of now, I color pretty much everything on one layer (except for the skins, which are all one shade (until I reach pages where people aren't undead)), then shade everything on multiply on another layer (just like you suggested!). I also use select various times while coloring. I have a file where I keep character colors drawn into it, but I haven't considered turning them into palettes (I feel kind of dumb for not realizing this).

Another thing that really slows down the entire process is using the "visual effects" so much over the colors/lines. I like playing too much with these things, putting the effects on multiple layers on different settings (Hard Light, Soft Light, Vivid Light, etc..) until I achieve the idea look.

I guess limiting my colors would be the best bet though, huh?

Thanks for all the input so far. I really appreciate it.
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Re: Coloring Techniques

Postby thelordbaeron » October 15th, 2017, 5:21 pm

I m'self have base colors in flats under the lines, then I add a 50% opacity Linear Burn layer to shade everything. Another separate layer for highlights, and then any additional effects on one more above (scratches, bruising, sweat, etc).

Typically, after inking, I'll go panel to panel filling the flats, and making small corrections as needed, then I move on to shading.

Backgrounds are my biggest weakness, as I'm not skilled at them anyway, and am working to get away from "flat" colors for them, but I'm decidedly awful at using soft brushes to give any sort of "painted" feel.

I run my own webcomic which is 65 pages in, updated weekly. Hope this information helped!
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