The frustrating thing about talking about our new comic book is that I can't show you any of my favorite artwork from my story....I want the reader to experience the story in a certain way and if I post my favorite stuff it will give too much away. Anyway after July maybe I will post some of the stuff I like better. Also keep checking the official website for updates and (hopefully) soon there will be a peek at other people's stories.
So the challenging and scary part about doing the comic book was that doing it involved doing a lot of things that I don't have much experience doing, including doing final cleaned-up artwork (see precious post) and using color. I don't really know anything about color or have much experience playing around with it, so right from the beginning I planned to keep the palette simple. It's not an exaggeration to say that I honestly can't tell you off the top of my head what all the complementary color groups are (shameful, I know), but one that I can always remember is blue and orange, and that just happened to be perfect for my story which takes place at night on Halloween.
I always like stories with limited palettes so I wanted to do that anyway. The next problem I faced was: how was I going to know what my colors would look like when they were finally published? My Cintiq certainly isn't calibrated to show exactly how it will look when it's printed. So a friend of mine (who was working on a certain project of his own and facing the same problem turned me on to a life-saving solution.
He showed me the "Color Index" books, which are great because they not only show how different colors will look when they are published, but they arrange the colors into different combinations so you can pick a color scheme where you know all the colors will work together. And not only that but the book provides all of the numbers you need to find exactly the colors listed in the book within any digital graphics program you might be working with.
Bear with me if everybody else already knows this, but here's how it works for Photoshop. All you have to do is take the numbers listed either next to the RGB values or the CMYK values and then type them into the Color Picker in either the RGB columns (the green rectangle, below) or the CMYK columns (the blue rectangle, below). Then you know exactly what it will look like when it's printed.
A sample book page from "Color Index" by Jim Krause
The Color Picker window from Photoshop
The only other thing I know about color - and, luckily, it's the most important thing to know - is that value is the key to creating great color. If the values work then you're halfway there to a great picture. And, of course, when you're coloring in a computer you can easily turn the image into a Black and White version and check you're values while you're working. Some artists even work in Black, white and gray first and then convert the values into color after the values are all figured out.
The other thing that I enjoyed about working with Photoshop is that you can turn off the ink lines and see how the color looks without it. I actually prefer how it looks with just the blocks of color. Some of the pages look almost like nice abstract paintings without the ink lines. Maybe if I ever do this again I will avoid an ink line and just describe the forms with tone.
I will show you more of that stuff after July when the book has come out and people have had a chance to read it. Even though this isn't some of my favorite stuff from the book I do like the way the visuals seem to work well at telling the story, even without the dialogue.
I somehow managed to avoid learning much about color because it was never really integral to anything I was doing, job-wise. When I was in Art School I never felt like I knew enough about drawing and I didn't want to start tackling the world of color until I felt like I had a good handle on knowing how to draw. Of course that's a silly way to think and you should always be learning everything you can about all aspects of art....there's no excuse to keep from learning anything and everything you can. Everything you learn helps inform the other aspects of art as well.
If there's some point to all of this it's that you should always tackle projects that force you to grapple with things you're not comfortable with. It's the only way to get better at those things you're not good at. People tend to stay in their comfort zones and play off their strengths as much as they can, and it's hard for us to force ourselves to stretch, artistically, and work on our weaknesses. But it's the only way to get better and, just like working out, it can be painful and uncomfortable at first but it will definitely provide great benefits over time.