Saturday, June 14, 2008

Who Is Rocket Johnson? (part two)

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.


Simon Stahl said...

Great post, I hope you'll share any other insights you have about working with color!

Ramses said...

hi, i have a news paper cartoon that is black and white.. do you have any good reference of cartoons that where originally in black and withe then change to color cartoon, im working in an animation and need to do that, but im so lost on how i can color a black and white cartoon without losing the character essence.

Randeep Katari said...

Hey Mr. Kennedy,
These are awesome, I can't wait for the book. I understand where you were coming from in terms of not wanting to learn color and focusing on one thing at a time, I'm guilty of that as well.
Great work, and if you get a chance, I made a fairly large sketchbook dump on my blog too, I'd love to hear what you think.

Stephen said...

Mark, these are excellent posts - I love to see what your thought processes are. I take it from your comment in part one that you'll be at Comic-Con? I hope to see you at the booth and maybe have you sign my copy. Will you be there all weekend?


Vince Gorman said...

I can't wait to see more. Nice job on the colors, I prefer a limited palette in most cases as well. What a frustration, when you get the colors right on the monitor, then you have to worry about how they print! That color book sounds helpful, though. Thanks for the tip.

Andy Norton said...

That's some great theory into colouring comics. That is certainly some valuable information, and theory, about colouring in digital packages.
It's so tedious, from my past experience with those packages, to not look at the colouring wihtout the line art, in order to make sure that the colouring is working for your work.
I hope the next I do some digital colouring I will use your theory.

Hard Ei8ht said...

Can't wait to pick this up!

jodi said...

...that's why when a friend drew a character for me, I asked for the rough--because even though he offered to clean it up and ink it in, the rough had more of the right feel. It might be a pencil sketch, but now it's a framed and matted pencil sketch. :)

Jp Pollard said...

This blog is always so helpful! I do an online comic and just recently made the jump to color. It had never occurred to me to check what it looks like in B&W! Duh! It makes things so much easier to gauge.

7 camels wins again! Thanks, Mark.

gemini82 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gemini82 said...

Great work. Talk to your printer and ask the printer for color swatches (having PMS color helps) and from there you can calibrate your monitor.

Check out Leatrice Eiseman's
Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color.

Lots of information about Color and there are PMS to CMYK conversion charts in the back.
Another Trick I learn to easily remember the color wheel is to draw a triangle. Top point "Yellow"
Left point "Red" right point "Blue". The another Triangle upside down. Bottom point "Violet". Left point "Orange". Right point "Green".


Now you just go through and can just point to compliments and analogous colors. Sometimes my mind goes flat like, "whats the compliment of Red" So I draw my color wheel and point

P.S. Sorry for the lengthy post I get excited when people talk about color.

Louise Smythe said...

I am learning so much from reading your blog. These posts are so helpful and really encourage me to keep working hard at everything (especially my weaknesses). Thanks!

PS - I can't wait to hear more about Rocket Johnson. It sounds and looks great from what I have seen so far.

Ale said...

Good luck with the comic, it looks really lovely.

Jack Ruttan said...

What so completely kills me is how yucky most photoshop comic colouring is!

I have enough fun figuring out values using watercolours. But you can work those out in an underpainting if you don't like doing lots of thumbnail colour studies.

Lots of technical lore about this, of course. I haven't mastered it, but it's fascinating to work on.

Dancing Man said...

Everything you said about being uncomfortable with color, not needing to deal with it at school or at work, I SO relate to. But unlike me, who picked a "story" (concept?) for the book where I could stay well within my lazy little comfort zone, you actually pushed yourself to learn/grapple with something challenging - and you got it done and apparently did an awesome job! Even with having to perform all those tedious calculations for tone and value! No fair! ;)

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