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Webcomics Tutorial 10 Lessons For Better ColouringPosted onNovember 1, 2010byadmin

This how-to-colour-comics tutorial is geared towards webcomics but applies to regular comics as well. Im not going to teach you the ins-and-outs of a particular art program. Instead, you will learn 10 important things to consider whether you colour with Photoshop or a paintbrush. These lessons will keep your comic storytelling clear and dynamic. If you do a goofy strip like my ownPrincess Planet, or an all out action fest like the X-Men the lessons still apply.1. Read vs RealComics is sequential story telling and therefore its primary goal is not making the nicest picture its about making the clearest picture to illustrate your story. Just like you dont draw every hair on a persons head, every pore on their skin and every leaf on a tree, you need to make decisions about what colours you will and wont include. How much shading is enough and how much is too much? With the advent of computer colouring there are a lot of mainstream comics coloured in a way that makes them more realistic. This is often at odds with what is most clear. So I recommend that choosing colours for your characters and their surroundings becomes a question of what reads best, not whats most real.For a simple gag strip I think the first head is over drawn and the last head is over-coloured. Depending on how real you want to make your strip you may find your level of detail varies.

2. Basics of Colour TheoryThe colour wheel is made of 6 major colours. Colours opposite each other are called complimentary. They make the biggest impact when you put them beside each other. You dont lose a green snot monster on a red wall, but they might seem a little more subdued on a yellow or blue background.

Analogous colours are ones that are 3 in a row on the colour wheel. We start to include the non-major 6 colours like orange-yellow, blue-green etc. They make a very pleasing combination. This is good for home decorating.If you just use two colours beside each other some people think these colours clash. Ive heard a lot of people say you dont wear red and purple (bad news Dracula!) and blue and green should never be seen except round and round in the washing machine. This isnt as bad if you use stretch the colours to be almost analogous, so that you have blue and yellowish green.

Another reason colours clash is that they are at the same value. Picture value being If this colour was on a black and white tv, what grey would it be?. You can test this out by converting your computer file to greyscale. If you have colours too close to each other on the scale of grey, they become hard to read, especially if you dont have an outline between the colours. If you colour your outlines or dont use outlines at all, be very aware of this.

If you add black to a colour its called a shade. If you add white its called a tint. But adding black to a colour is bad news. It makes colours muddy and flat. If you want a darker colour try adding other colours to it, like painters do. A purplish shadow is deeper than a blacker one.Heres a linkto a Photoshop palette that has all the basic colours without black that recreates the traditional mainstream comic colours.A monochrome colour scheme is when you colour with only one colour, white and black.TXcomicsstripsThe Abominable Charles ChristopherandSin Tituloboth use this simple version to add a quiet tone to their comics. Its harder to make a clashing or unappealing picture with only one colour besides black and white. Its also harder to make a bold, grab your attention from the other side of the room one. If you want bold in a monochrome scheme, you usually rely on stark white and black to grab attention (click to enlarge).

Neutral colours are ones not on the wheel, like greys and browns. These colours wont dominate the other colours. You can create dusty or sandy tones of regular colours by making the values of cyan, magenta and yellow close to each other on your computer programs colour sliders

3. RGB vs CMYKSpeaking of CMYK, if you are making a webcomic you may be tempted to use all the colours of the computers spectrum and colour in RGB. Unfortunately if you ever want to make a print edition, your comic will need to be converted to CMYK and you may lose a lot in translation. If you plan ahead you can save yourself a lot of headache. And obviously you want to make files at AT LEAST 300dpi (but preferably 600), then save a 72dpi version for the web. Using CMYK sliders also more closely mirrors natural paint mixing, so if you learn how to colour on a computer this method will be easier to make the switch to paints. You can work in RGB in CMYK preview mode which will let you know how it will print, and thats just as good.If youre colouring in Photoshop, make yourself a swatch palette of your most used colours. This can be your characters clothes and skin tones, their home base, or whatever.This CMYK lesson also applies if you are drawing or painting your work by hand and scanning it in. If you draw in black and white, scan it in as line art for crisp linework, before you convert it to CMYK. If you are scanning in paintings you will have to adjust the colour balance of the images to get the truest colours to your painting. Taking a hi-resolution photograph may yield a better result. Either way, the file should be CMYK in the end if you want to see how it will print in a book.Print is dead! you say? Well webcomic creators still make a good chunk of their money from prints and books. At comic conventions we almost never have fans ask us creators when will you have this as an iPhone ap?. The question we are most frequently asked is When will you be collecting it in a book or When does the next collection come out? People still want books.4. Character DesignComic characters usually have very different colour schemes to identify themselves. For instance Spider-Man is primarily red. His main villains are his complimentary colour, green. This gives the greatest punch and easy separation when Spidey gets tangled up with Doc Oc, The Scorpion, The Vulture, Sandman, Electro and of course Green Goblin.

I remember watching the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace where Bond (in a black tuxedo) fought against similarly proportioned white guy (also in a black tuxedo) in a scaffolding-filled room. They zipped up and down ropes, kicked, shot, climbed and all the good things youd expect in an action sequence. But with the quick cuts and shaky camera I couldnt tell the two apart. This would be great storytelling if there was someone off to the side trying to shoot one of them but unsure which one to shoot at. Alas, that wasnt the case. So if for some reason you are drawing all of your characters in the same outfit and they have to be the same build and race, at least change their hair colour. I mean, it worked for separating blonde Betty from raven-haired Veronica.

Think not only about what will set your characters apart from each other but apart from their backgrounds. So, if your character spends his time in the jungle, and you make him green, your character becomes a ghost that even the reader cant see half of the time. As cool as that might be, remember that it can become frustrating. People may not bother trying to figure out where that word balloon is coming from. They may just click onto another easier to read webcomic. While red might make the hero look foolishly confident, a blue, yellow or black might work well.

If you really want a green person in a green location, like Swamp Thing in the swamps, you need to be brazen enough to colour the background in colours that are not real. A quick look through a classic Swamp Thing comic and I see old Swampy against lilac tree trunks, bright blue swamp water, red skies, and pale, pale green empty backgrounds.

This seems less unusual if your comic takes place in a made-up world. In The Princess Planet I havepink skies and purple grasssometimes so I can do whatever I think suits the story. In a realistic setting it takes real guts to colour things the wrong colour. Andy Bs comic,Raising Hell, colours with red and blue. He only introduces new colours when hes drawing attention to something new, like a yellow school bus appearing out of nowhere.

5. Start SimpleThe next lesson is really simple: Colour the things youknowhave to be a certain colour. Once youve established your characters colour scheme, stick to it. For instance I know Princess Christi has spray-tan orange skin, white blonde hair and a reddish-orange jumpsuit. Thats not going to change unless theres something dramatically different in the scene. The Gorgon character in my strip is always the same colour too.

Then you colour the things that are usually the same colour, like tree trunks are brown, grass is green, sidewalks are grey. Sure, untended grass can go yellow but its thats atypical.

Then you turn on your thinking cap and colour the things that are a bit more variable in their colour. Like leaves on the trees are usually green but its not illogical to see red, brown and orange in the fall. Could your comic take place in the fall? Would it help the colour scheme of the page? What about the sky? During the day its blue but at sunset it can be a rainbow of colours. Does that help or hinder your storytelling? Is your character hiding or are they the centre of attention? Here I can make rock grey, brown, sandy yellow, biege there are a lot of applicable colours to choose from. I selected a cool pinkish grey.

Then you should have a pretty good framework to start in with colours that never have to be any particular colour, like cars, pants, walls, ice cream etc. You can start referring back to your generic colour theory like complimentary, analogous, etc. For this gag I want the rock to sit apart from the stone, so I made the stone a warmer,