Zub here. I wanted to give readers some insight in to the elements of comic making that can sometimes be overlooked but are absolutely crucial to the overall package. Misty Coats is the colorist on Skullkickers and her lush palettes and atmospheric choices have done a lot to help make the artwork jump off the page.
Check out more of Misty\’s amazing colors and illustrations at her DA site here.
Where did you learn digital colouring and using Photoshop? Do you have any formal art training?
— Most of what I know about digital coloring in Photoshop has been self taught with no formal training. I started off in Jasc Paint Shop Pro back in High School, then a couple years after got my first copy of Photoshop 6. From that point on it was nothing but trial and error, figuring out what tools worked best and so on. By the time I got to college I was pretty much proficient in Photoshop, so much so that most other students were asking me how to use the program. I\’ve learned tips and tricks along the way, though, from various artists I\’ve talked to and I\’m always learning something new from people I meet. When it comes to digital coloring, you never stop learning.
What\’s your basic process for planning colours on Skullkickers scenes?
— I generally try to plan around the events going on in each scene and what the time of day it\’s supposed to be. That\’s usually the jumping point I start from. If it\’s a night time scene I take into account that I\’ll be going with colors more blue and purple in tone, day time warmer and brighter colors. This can cause issues with keeping things clear and easy to read in each scene so I do a lot of adjustments with the colors after everything is laid out. Once the general atmosphere is placed I can go back and tweak anything in the scene that\’s important and needs to stand out more to the viewer. Even after I\’ve planned out the colors and gotten them on the page there is always a lot of tweaking and editing done after the fact to get everything to look its best.
Any favourite tools that come in handy come to mind?
— Oh boy there are quite a few actually! My number one tool that makes the coloring a lot easier are the Layer Adjustment tools in Photoshop. This allows me to change colors on the fly and throw in special effects that can really make things stand out on the page. My number two favourite would be the variety of custom brushes I have saved up. One in particular is a sponge brush that is very versatile and can be used for multiple things. Custom brushes for textures and special effects are a life saver and really speed the process along… I can only imagine how much longer the coloring process would take me if I didn\’t have those nifty tools at my disposal.
How long does the comic coloring process typically take?
— Well the time it takes can vary depending on the pages and their level of detail. For the most part a page, from start to finish, can take about 6 or so hours to work through. Time really flies when you’re coloring so I usually lose track of it pretty easily. For larger and more interesting pages, usually multi-page spreads, this can take longer. The most time consuming part would be getting all the colors to look just right. I tend to be pretty picky so I sit and stare for long periods of time analyzing how objects look on the page and make revisions constantly.
What\’s the most difficult part of the colouring process?
— Lighting I\’d have to say for me is the most difficult, especially \’mood\’ lighting. I try to use color to convey the time of day and mood of the scene and this can prove to be a bit problematic. It takes a lot of trial and error to get the right look for certain scenes that have a lot of atmosphere to them… like dark tunnels with low lighting from torches, or dark moonlit nights with fire as a secondary source. They can be a bit of a headache to work on at times but I find they also prove the most satisfying once they are done.
What\’s your favorite scene so far in Skullkickers?
— Oh, now that\’s a tough question… I have quite a few favorites so far, especially a particular sequence in Issue #3 that is just a riot! But currently I\’d have to go with the scene from Issue #2 of Baldy and Shorty slowly walking away from the burning morgue 🙂 That one had be giggling the entire time I was working on it!
Any advice/tips for would-be comic colorists out there?
— I know it\’ll probably sound super cliché…but practice, practice, practice! Coloring and color theory is not an easy thing to get down and I\’m still learning a lot about it myself…study up and analyze colorists that you admire. Read up on tutorials or just peruse your favorite comics to help get an idea of what other colorists out there are doing. Comic coloring is also about efficiency, so work on getting your coloring down as fast as you can while still maintaining a polished finished look. Just keep coloring everyday as often as you can whenever you can, persistence and practice makes all the difference!