So what's the best way to add color to a strip?

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So what's the best way to add color to a strip?

Postby CodeGuy on Mon Nov 10, 2003 1:38 pm

I've done about 8 comics so far (only 4 are on the site right now). I've been doing them in color, but that is taking so long that I'm considering giving up and just leaving them in Black and White. I really like having my strip in color, so I was wondering if anyone had any tips for speeding up the process.

Here's how I'm currently doing it:

1) Draw the comic and ink it. I ink my comics with an india ink pen, then I erase all the pencil marks. This part doesn't take long and I feel pretty good about it.

2) Scan it as grayscale

3) Using Gimp I adjust the levels of the drawing so that it is only black pixels and white pixels. This is tricky because if I set the levels too low then the lines get too thin; if I set the levels too high then I pick up some of the stray pencil marks that didn't erase. Either way, the pen lines look more inconsistent than they did as grayscale.

4) Clean up. This is the gigantic time sync. Getting rid of stray lines doesn't take too long, but making the lines consistent thickness takes a bunch of time. Another big problem is that straight lines turn very messy when changed from grayscale to B&W. Lots of extra pixels on the edges that need to be cleaned up.

5) Add color. This is pretty quick once everything else is done. The nice clean lines that I made in step 4 allow me to just draw a few colored lines and then flood fill with the colors I want.

So really, it isn't adding the color that is the problem, it's the massive amount of clean up that I have to do first. :) Here's my comic:

http://questofthesilly.keenspace.com

Any comments or suggestions for speeding up the process would be appreciated.
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Postby Phalanx on Mon Nov 10, 2003 4:01 pm

Well, I guess I should step up and answer this one...

Firstly, I use photoshop, which is close enough to GIMP that you shouldn't have too much trouble, I think.

Most people colour using layers. This allows the artist to keep the colours seperate from the line art, which in turn means that any slips up while colouring do not affect the original picture.

My colouring process, condensed:

1) Scan image, crop and adjust level/curves. Resize.
2) Edit Background layer into a unlocked layer and rename 'Lines'- set Layer property to Multiply. This allows colours to show through the white part of the pic, but not the black, which is what I want.
2.1) (this is the method I used before getting my tablet)
Lasso the outlines of every human figure. (Yes, it's tedious as hell). Save selection as 'figure'
Lasso clothes portion from 'figure'. Save as 'clothes'.
Lasso hair portion from 'figure'. Save as 'hair'.
Lasso eye... you get the idea. This is tedious, and takes about an hour average for me. Learning the use of invert select, and overlap select helps a lot.
3) Create new layer beneath 'Lines' called 'fg' (stands for Foreground). If I don't have a tablet, I'd then load my painsakingly lassoed selections and colour them all in about 5 minutes using the paint bucket tool. If I have my tablet, I'd be just colouring them straight now.
4) When all base colours are applied, I create another layer called 'bg' (Background' for the background area and colour that. 'bg' goes behind 'fg'.
5) With 'bg' properly lighted and in place, I now do the shadows. Create new layer called 'shd' (Shading), set to layer property 'Multiply' and it's time to break out the lassoed portions again. Using either light brown, grey or grey blue, I produce the suitable shadowing.
6) A little bit of clean-up and I'm done. The process takes typically 2 hours, if I'm fast.

Here are examples of the work done using the 'tedious' lasso method:

http://thejaded.keenspace.com/d/20030503.html
http://thejaded.keenspace.com/d/20030511.html

Using a tablet:
http://thejaded.keenspace.com/d/20031001.html
http://thejaded.keenspace.com/d/20031022.html

And it can be done without a tablet and with a mouse. I know, because I could do it with a touchpad. (Yes, a touchpad! Stop looking at me like that!) Also, if your style is simple and not texture based like mine, you can actually use the magic wand tool and cut an hour, which I am sadly debarred from.

In the end however, there is no denying that colouring takes a lot of time. But... The more you do it, the faster you get. It used to take me 3 hours to do a page. Now I can do it in 1 and a half.

I hope that helped. Happy colouring!
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Postby YarpsDat on Mon Nov 10, 2003 4:18 pm

I don't usualy color, but it usualy goes like this:
1.Scan, tweak with curves, resize to 1800*something(around 2100)
2.Panelborders, so I know where to end one bg, and start another.
3.setting up the layers...umm, come to think of it I have no ultimate way of setting the layers, I usualy make something up.
ie, I put the scan at the bottom, then colors above it in multiply mode.
Sometimes I put scan at the top in multiply mode, and below I put colors, and yet below I put backgrounds. And this one is cool, because you can draw the background separately, without worrying about character.

5.then I colour: I use medium size pen tool, and just paint around the edges, then I switch to big one, and paint inside the color areas.
Then I turn on a big zoom, and "smudge tool" and fix the places where I crossed the lines. Maybe I'm just weird, but I find it easier: you just drag the color to the line, instead of switching tools, colors and sizes.
Besides it's fun. Like fingerpainting.

4.I usualy shade before coloring:
I add a "brightness-contrast" adjustement layer set to -100 (whatever it means), and I draw shadows on it.
That way I don't have to increase color depth to 24bit for shading, and it always saves some time. Sometimes it takes a bit of tweaking after the color is in place though.
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"1.Scan in high res 2.tweak with curves,levels or something to clean up the scan (or use channel mixer to remove blue pencil lines) 3.Add colour using a layer set to multiply. 4.Add wordbubbles and text as vector shapes. 5. Merge all layers. 6.resize to the web size. 7. Export/Save for Web" that's all I know about webcomicking.
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Postby CodeGuy on Mon Nov 10, 2003 5:50 pm

This sounds like pretty good stuff. Thanks, I'll give it a try!
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Postby Faub on Mon Nov 10, 2003 5:52 pm

I have almost nothing to add to this that hasn't been said already so here is a couple links that you might find helpful.

http://www.machall.com/indexcontent.php?doshow=info_art
The Mac Hall coloring tutorial.
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Postby Terotrous on Mon Nov 10, 2003 8:11 pm

Use MS Paint! It rocks!
Note: The above was complete sarcasm. Under no circumstances should you use MS Paint to colour a picture that was not made in MS Paint. God forbid if it's anti-alaised. But there are still noobs out there who do it. Remember, only you can prevent crappy coloured bitmaps that are 4megs each.
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Postby CodeGuy on Mon Nov 10, 2003 8:35 pm

haha, MSPaint is what I've been using for color. :D
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Postby Terotrous on Mon Nov 10, 2003 9:54 pm

I speak from experience. I actually drew my comic with MS Paint a long time ago.
But as they say, you have to experience the bad to be able to appreciate the good.*hugs Photo-Paint*
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Postby Taiwanimation on Tue Nov 11, 2003 2:01 am

Why not just scan it in at a hi res as black and white if it's donein india ink?
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Postby Mr.Bob on Tue Nov 11, 2003 4:08 am

Well, by my book there are two ways you can generally use in order increase your speed.
The first is by experiance. The more often you use your method to colour your comics, the faster you will get at doing it over time.

The other is my method of 'speed colouring' in photoshop when I just want to get itsomething done ASAP. Basically you scan in B/W or grayscale (depending on your line quality) and completely neglect cleaning up the image (unless there are horrible messes that are just to grotesque to be ignored) ... or if you cant stand that, click autolevels and auto contrast. But that'll cost you about a good 5 seconds in your running time!
If you value speed over shading, special effects or the strength of your outlines then you can forget about layers. To get the job over with you pump up the tolerance of your paint bucket and fill in the plane areas as fast as you can - adjusting the tolerance to your needs. Obviously the quality will be lower than it would have been, but you got it done in record time!
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Postby Mr.Bob on Tue Nov 11, 2003 4:16 am

Or you could do the entire thing using on computer, hence completely removing the need to clean up.
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Postby ZOMBIE USER 14998 on Tue Nov 11, 2003 1:23 pm

Here's my quick n' dirty method, when I do color toons. I use Paint Shop Pro; I imagine that any other moderately advanced drawing program can do the things discussed below. This method works for simple toons like mine; if you've got complex shading and detailing, it probably won't go so well. The big advantage to this method is that it all happens on one layer.



Draw out the toon freehand. Make sure you use fairly thick lines.

Scan it in, setting the resolution high and the color to straight black and white (<I>not</I> grayscale). This gives you a large picture with jagged lines.

Use a program's "color fill" feature to paint in the various white patches however you want.

Shrink the drawing by a large percentage. Depends on how big you want the finished product to be, but at least 50% if that doesn't make everything <I>too</I> small. In the resulting drawing, the black outlines should blur nicely. Add any needed text on a new layer, and you're done.

I do my Keenspace toon entirely on my computer and in gray-scale, but you can see some of my scanned-in color toons <A HREF="http://www.olywa.net/cook/toons/misc.htm">here</A> if you want to see how they turn out.
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Postby Cheebs on Tue Nov 11, 2003 4:01 pm

Me, I typically avoid doing CG like the plague. I don't really have the patience to get really good at it. My process, then, goes like this:

1. Draw comic, layout and all.
2. Ink comic, layout and all, and erase pencil lines.
3. Break out the markers and color. (interchangable with next step)
4. Vary line width carefully with brushpen if inked with Sakura pen rather than fountain pen and, depending on time or motivation, shade things with fineline Sakura pen. (interchangable with previous step)
5. Scan
6. Tweak colors because my scanner makes everything slightly yellow.
7. Tweak levels because tweaking colors makes everything paler.
8. Upload.
9. Done!

The whole thing takes between 1-3 hours, depending on how fancy I get or how complex the page is. The program I use for tweaking is Corel Photo-Paint 8 (or is it 9? I forget.), if it matters.
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Postby Kyouryuu on Tue Nov 11, 2003 10:10 pm

I've found three ways of doing it at varying levels of quality. In all three approaches, you should use Layers to seperate the various elements of the strip - i.e. "Outline," "Colors," "Shades," etc.

- Pencil, ink, and then scan. This is probably the most common way. Lay the foundation of your outlines very faintly (perhaps use a really hard pencil) and then go over the lines you want to keep with dark ink. If you didn't do your outlines faintly, you might opt to erase them. Also, faint pencil outlines also allow you to use a darker pencil for the "ink." Once you scan it, you can play with the channel settings (see YarpsDat's tutorial that is mentioned in other areas here) to rid yourself of all white, and then color from there. If you scanned very cleanly and your lines are bold and dark, you might be able to get away with flood filling most regions with color. Just make sure you stop those annoying "leaks" in the outline when they do happen. The drawback to this approach is unless you're good with ink, it's rather easy to screw up. Granted, once you scan it into the computer, you can play around with the outlines.

- Pencil, scan, virtual "ink" by hand. This is my current approach. Basically, you scan the very faint pencil outlines into the computer. Instead of using ink or a dark pencil, you actually use the marker tool to trace the outlines directly into the paint program. The end result is a clean outline that's ripe for flood filling. The drawback to this approach is that there is bound to be a certain "wobble" to the lines. To fix this, you can augment it with the third approach, or you can tolerate it. Actually, the "wobble" looks sort of natural which may or may not be a bad thing.

- Pencil, scan, virtual "ink" with line tool, Bezier curves. This is like the previous approach, only instead of outlining by hand you use Bezier curves or the line tools whenever possible. You'll end up with a very precise outline if you do this right, but consequently this can take quite a long time. I do this for all of my CG artwork and despite having done over a dozen renderings this way, I still haven't conceived a good way of speeding up this process. Some paint programs do this better than others - I personally think Paint Shop Pro's approach is just a bit clunky and the Gimp forces you to use the stroke tool to convert a line into a physical ink stroke.

Anyhow, Layers are your friends. It's nice to seperate the Outline from the Colors. In Paint Shop Pro, you can use the "Sample Merged" checkbox when you flood fill to force it to consider other visible Layers. Shades can be realized as another Layer with either "Darken" "Burn" or "Multiply" properties. Shines can be realized as a "Dodge" "Hard Light" or "Lighten" Layer. Play with transparencies too. If you have Shades on a seperate Layer, for instance, you can have bold and dark shades like the old Jonny Quest cartoon, or shades of gradual tint. ^_^
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Postby Taiwanimation on Wed Nov 12, 2003 1:39 am

I just got a great idea! Someone should make a blackand white sprite comic! (and I mean black and white, no grayscale)
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Postby Terotrous on Wed Nov 12, 2003 6:23 am

Taiwanimation wrote:I just got a great idea! Someone should make a blackand white sprite comic! (and I mean black and white, no grayscale)

But the sprites themselves have to originally have been in colour, so all you can see is the guy's sword and a bit of his hair.
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Postby Superhappygoodtimes on Fri Nov 14, 2003 12:08 am

wow.. I feel so amatuer, probably because I am but that's not the point... I made the mistake of scanning my first comic in true color, but I didn't have any pencil lines to deal with so it looks ok. All I do is scan in black and white then color in photoshop... all Phalanx's talk of layers gave me a headache...
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Postby Phalanx on Fri Nov 14, 2003 2:22 pm

superhappygoodtimes wrote:.. all Phalanx's talk of layers gave me a headache...


Whoops. Sorry. As a few people might have noticed, I'm a layer fiend. I even use layer sets to organise my layers.
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Postby LennyZ on Fri Nov 14, 2003 2:32 pm

I love layers. I really don't know what I'd do without them.

Sometimes how you color isn't really as important (or significant) as what you color. That's just me, I'm a bit of a minimalist, but sometimes I like to color in only the body (no clothes) or maybe just the eyes and hair, or the background...

Of course coloring the whole strip makes your readers feel you put more effort in it. And really, you did.


How I color:

scan, clean up, layers, do shadows and highlights using burn and dodge (I know, I'm a bad person), resize, and flatten.

But I'm trying to get into markers. Because color pencils look good on paper, but scanned in they're kind of blah.

By the way, I doubt the capabilities of the magic wand. It seems like a good idea, but unless your drawing is incredibly simple, don't chance it. Go with the lasso.
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Postby YarpsDat on Fri Nov 14, 2003 3:19 pm

Phalanx wrote:
superhappygoodtimes wrote:.. all Phalanx's talk of layers gave me a headache...


Whoops. Sorry. As a few people might have noticed, I'm a layer fiend. I even use layer sets to organise my layers.

I love layers. I can't imagine doing anything without layers.
You are the Non. You must go now, and never return."

"1.Scan in high res 2.tweak with curves,levels or something to clean up the scan (or use channel mixer to remove blue pencil lines) 3.Add colour using a layer set to multiply. 4.Add wordbubbles and text as vector shapes. 5. Merge all layers. 6.resize to the web size. 7. Export/Save for Web" that's all I know about webcomicking.
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