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Frazer Irving
Marvel Comics, 2000AD
Frazer has
five years
drawing for
comics, CD
covers, magazines and
other products. He uses
digital and traditional
media together, and
thinks that 2000AD is
the baddest and bestest
comic in the galaxy.

DVD Assets
The files you need
are on the DVD
FILES: Chica full.tiff
Photoshop CS2 (Demo)


UNI03.tut_colour 82

In the last of a three-part tutorial Frazer Irving show the basic
methods he employs when colouring an illustration for comics.
olouring comics has long
been the lowest rung on the
creative ladder, partially
due to technological
inadequacies and also due to the
constant reprinting in cheaper formats
in just black and white. But in recent
years the floor has opened up, enabling
colour to take almost centre stage on

the page, giving more opportunities for

colourists to explore the medium and
readers more variety in their product.
This, I am in no doubt, is due almost
entirely to the wonders of graphics
tablets and Adobe Photoshop. For this
tutorial I will be using an A3 Wacom
Intuous3, G5 Apple Mac, and a 30-inch
Apple monitor. Go on, envy me


April 2006

8/3/06 6:16:33 pm

Quick technique Colouring comic art


Separate colours

The first stage in colouring for me

and almost every other professional
colourist I know of, is what we call
flatting. This is often a job that we give
to assistants who dont mind the menial
tasks that our creative egos cannot stand,
and Im no exception. The idea behind
this is that you paint in areas of colour
that correspond to the spaces/areas that
you wish to be separate in the illustration,
ie, clothing, hair or skin, etc. Using the
Magic Wand tool, you select the areas in
the line art (on the top layer) that you
wish to fill, then create a new layer
beneath that one and fill with a colour.
The colour itself isnt so important, as this
will change later. Whats really important
is that you lock that layer so that the area
of flat colour can be painted over easily.
You do this for the whole image,
grouping areas of flats onto their own
layers such as skin or background
or bike bits.

Balance it right

Now I have to decide the overall

colour scheme. This is usually achieved
by eye-balling a colour in the swatches
and just filling that layer with it, though
you can also use the hue/saturation
function for subtle tweaking. Its
important here to get the tonal balance
right, even though you can alter it later
its crucial to bear in mind that painting
with colour is a contextual experience,
where each element of the image affects
the way you perceive the other.

Help your eyes
Set your desktop to a
neutral grey when using
colour, as colourful
desktops can distract
the eye and lead to poor
colour choices.

Painting shadows


Having chosen basic colours, the

next step is to pick an area of flat colour
and start painting the shadows/
highlights in. I tend to start with the
shadows and do this for all the image
and then add the light later, but this is by
no means a hard and fast rule. Here
youll find the benefits of locking each
layer, as you can paint swiftly and loosely
over the area without worrying about
bleeding over the edge.

The next stage I go to is the

highlights. Sometimes I like to paint
highlights on a new layer that sits above
the rest as the highlights can sometimes
be quite minimal yet often need
noodling and fixing, and I find it
easier to do that on a new layer.


Adding depth

Using the Dodge/Burn tools, I

paint into the fill, making the most of
the textures inherent in it. Seeing as its a
flaming bike, the effect works quite well
and sets off the flatter/smoother textures
of the rest of the image quite nicely.

A final layer is added above all the

others where I can paint special effects
such as fire over the line art as well. This
adds depth to the image and helps to give
it that painterly edge that we all seem to
want from comic art these days. The
image is then flattened, converted to
CYMK and sent off to be printed.


Its now time to get involved with

some scanned elements. I have many
watercolour textures that I use for this
kind of art, and I apply it in the same
way I do with flat colour. The texture is
pasted behind the line art and its hue/
tonality is modified until I like it.

April 2006

UNI03.tut_colour 83


8/3/06 6:17:15 pm