troy archer

anonymous asked:

any advice for colouring in black and white? I'm colouring a fantasy short comic (4 pages) in b and w (original plan was colour but deadline is too close) which is not common bc most fantasy is in full colour. Anyway, any things to watch out for and tips to make it look better/more contrasty?

Thanks for the ask!  As you might be able to tell, I love coloring in black and white. ^_^  I can share some of the stuff that I think about when I’m working.  And apologies in advance if any of this is stuff you already know.

Disclaimer: I’m on a Mac, using Photoshop CC 2015.  Some of these tips are pretty universal, and some are specific to the software I use, but you can probably find an equivalent in most other digital art programs.  Also, Windows users: feel free to translate my shortcuts to your language if you’d like. :)

1. Simplify your palette

Working with fewer swatches helps you to mentally plan out the lights, darks, and middle areas in your work.  I always try to figure out where my darkest darks and lightest lights will be, and then I figure out my light source and shadows. I like to use multiply layers to build depth gradually, but do whatever works for you.  You could easily get away with using even fewer shades than I use.

2. I like to work against a gray background.  I recommend working against a middle to light gray background (less eye strain, and your art is more likely to still look good on a drastically different background), but if you know where your work will be posted, it’s nice to also check your art against a background similar to that.

In Photoshop, control+click on the background area of the window next to your art, and you’ll find a dropdown menu allowing you to choose your background color.

3. Effective b/w art isn’t as much about having high contrast in general as it is about using contrast at the right time and place.  You can get away with having an overall middle-key image if your contrasty areas are placed effectively.

a. Use contrast to direct the viewer’s eye.  Apply more contrast in your focal areas to separate them from their surroundings.  Here’s an example of some very busy line art in a small, crowded comic panel.  They eye doesn’t know where to rest.  I wanted Troy, Merritt, and Archer as the focal point, so I applied contrast accordingly.

Here’s another example.  The line art would suggest that Pogo (in the foreground) is the focal point, but the shading directs the eye to Samsid in the background.

b. Another important thing to keep in mind is the psychological and emotional impact of light, dark, and contrast.  There isn’t a whole lot of high-key (very light) art in Demon of the Underground because I’m going for a darker, grungier overall mood.  I also like to keep my more emotionally level scenes a little less contrasty so the dramatic scenes have more punch.  Sometimes the line art of a panel is already sufficiently dramatic, so I keep the contrast lower in order to avoid it feeling too tense or melodramatic.  In other words, use lighting and contrast as much for storytelling as you do for visual impact.

4. Sometimes after all is said and done, your work just looks dull and dingy and low contrast, and you need to fix it.  There are about a million ways that you can do that, but I’ll share the ways that I like the most at the moment.  This is where we get into some of the Photoshop-specific stuff.

a. When I want full, detailed control, I like to use color dodge and color burn layers.  These layers will intensify the contrast and color of any layers below.  Color dodge will intensify the lights, and color burn will intensify the darks.  I usually end up having one layer for each.

When working with a color dodge layer, start by painting with a medium gray.  If the effect is too intense, shift to a darker gray.

When working with a color burn layer, start by painting with a medium gray.  If the effect is too intense, shift to a lighter gray.


b. If you want to quickly shift your entire image and don’t need precise control, you can use the Curves tool in Photoshop.  This is good for if you just kind of missed the mark overall and need to adjust your work.  There are a few different ways to use curves:

-Use the tool from the top menu (Image > Adjustments > Curves, or command+m), and it will affect your active layer only

-Create an adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves), and it will affect all layers below itself.  You can also come back and make changes to it, or you can mask out some areas if you only want your curves affecting specific parts of your art.

I recommend opening the curves tool and just playing with it to see how dragging the line and points affect your art.

5. Is b/w really your only option?  Like I said, I love working in black and white.  But if the only reason you’re working in b/w is for the sake of the deadline, then maybe you can also consider limited color or monochrome as an option.  As much as it pains me to admit it, any little bit of color will usually catch a viewer’s eye more than b/w, and you may have noticed that more and more color has been creeping into DOTU.  The good news is that, if you have fully rendered b/w art, it’s super quick and easy to add color while preserving all your shading and contrast.  Just create a new layer on top of your art and set the mode to color, and then toss in whatever color you want.

And if you later decide that you want to fully color your b/w art, there are ways to do it without having to redo all the shading….

…mostly using normal, multiply, overlay, and color burn layers.  But that’s a story for another ask. ^_^

Anyway, that was pretty long, but I hope it helps a little!