Hello there and welcome to a hopefully insightful and helpful gander at how I do some of the colouring in FLUMP. I will being putting outmore than a few of these tutorial efforts as the years come to get us, but in this one I will concentrate on my main digital colouring style which I incorporate in the rather rambunctious tales of Gad.
First up let me explain a little bit about how I approach this biz from a technique standpoint and then we’ll get down to the quivering meat of the situation. So other than this being done on a computer with a tablet I basically treat the whole piece the same way as I would an acrylic painting. I utilise under-painting, varying opacities, flows and tints in basically the same way I do when I am painting for really reals. The only difference being that digital jiggery-pokery affords me the freedom to work in an inside-out fashion where, after I have considered my pallet and lighting, I colour my foreground/character elements first. The reason for this is that I find it makes it quicker to determine the characters as the focal point of the composition, as they often are in comics, and then I paint the background to complement and emphasise them. The reason I mention all of this is because for anyone who jumped straight into digital painting, and skipped the whole messy to and fro of canvas jabbing, I do highly recommend giving the traditional stuff a really good go because it will bolster your digital work with an authenticity and depth that has certainly helped me immeasurably.
Anyway enough of that – this is how it’s achieved:
First off I scan in the completed page, and as you can see with Gad I draw on a recycled, rough-grained paper and keep my sketches pretty loose with no shading. The reason for this choice is, for this strip at least, all of those paper freckles and excess scribbles will add a world of textural interest that I would only be trying to reinstate later if I went and cleaned them up (you’ll see what I mean further down the line.)
So you clean up as much or as little as you like, I’m not here to fuck with the boundaries of your comfort zones, or instil the “toa” of digital painting, this is just a particular grungy, junky style that I use. Plus being a bit of a scruff like this can be freeing: like sitting in your undies eating cheese twizzlettes and watching Gizzard Munchers from Beyond the Rim. So let’s focus on this one frame so we have a more singular, compositional view:
First up after making a new layer from the background layer I set its blending style to multiply (using the drop down menu at the top the Layers window.) Then I create another layer under the sketch/line-art layer and flood it with colour: usually a sort of raw sienna, or dried-out old teabag, colour. This sets a basal tone for the entire work to build upon: so depending on what kind of atmosphere you’re trying to achieve you can work from any colour or brightness you’d like. N.B. Those in the know may spy a nod to Inio Asano’s traumatising masterwork Goodnight Punpun.
Next up after picking a hard round brush I set its flow to 55% and use opacities ranging from 10% to 60% and add in some undertones on certain parts of the picture that I want to have a different aspect. This gives me the kind of translucency I get from acrylic paint: which as you may have seen from my traditional pieces is my main squeeze. So, for example, with Gad I use an under-painted patch of red around his eyes, mouth, nose and ears so when I work my block colours over the top I have this sort of “flesh & blood pumping under the surface” feel to him.
After my under-painting is complete this is what I’m left with. Yeah looks a mess right: like a kid has used its mums make-up to doll-up a cardboard box. Stupid kid. Anyway moving away from this ugliness post-haste, and using the same flow and opacity range I used for the under-painting, and will continue to use throughout the entire piece, I create a new layer & block in the colours on my character/s.
As we all know blocking in colours is arse-numbingly boring, but it’s at this point I can set the groundwork for some interesting textural features by varying that opacity, and leaving gaps to let the under-painting peep through and do its job.
N.B as I’m working I will often alter elements that I don’t feel sit well with the overall composition: Remember nothing is set in stone, we’re working loose and free here, so if you’re having a stand off with something you thought would work better when you first drew it then kick that shit right on outta there.
Okay that’s out of the way and so I continue to build the wrinkles, dips and folds that make everything worth looking at. Make it as lumpy and as gross as you want to and really work in those details. This is where you can fully ride your personal style-trip and make it all your own.
Once I’m happy with my details I create a brand new layer that sits above everything: including the lines layer . On this layer I paint in anything that has a particularly high light value: light reflections on eyes, moist bits on tongues, glittering spots on liquids and any other points of light that would catch the eye and require emphasis.
Yet again I create another layer for all of the shadows and darker points. That sits just below my lines and I set the blend mode to multiply (see the screen shot belowfor how my complete layer structure looks).
While we’re on the subject I’ll just give some quick pointers on shadows for anyone who wants to know a bit more. For the rest of you who are up to scratch with your colour theory you can just move on to the next step and ignore my jibber-jabber. Whenever I am adding in shadows I always consider an object’s local colour and the colours of any object in the vicinity. Sure enough shadows can be really dark but they are never just black: in fact shadows are mostly made up of blue tones, but to truly make them work in your pieces I recommend adding in some complementary environmental colours to give them a subtle boost.
And there we have it, for now at least, I have Gad and I can build the background around him to give him as much prominence as possible, and so draw the readers eye to the naughty little bastard.
Next it’s back to blocking in background colours and then building details in the exact same way as I did with my character. Throughout this entire process I absolutely revel in every detail and often completely lose myself. It’s a truly meditative process and without a daily dose I find myself turning into a right grumpy old fucker: If I can add bugs or clutter protruding from the cracks in paving stones then I am all over it like an vicious rash. Some of this stuff might well go overlooked (including some of the symbols and frame narratives I pop in there for the true seekers), but this is the part of the creative process that really gives me a throbbing art-on.
Again I follow up on my highlights and shadows layers, same as before, and soon we’ve got what looks like a finished piece but, hold your various movements, we’ve still got to plonk the glistening cherry on this repulsive little muffin!
This next step is another of my favourites: Texturing. I love going out texture hunting with my camera and finding an interesting surface: be it as crispy and fresh as your Sunday best, or icky with environmental filth and nature jizz, I shall capture it and drape it over my scribbles! As you probably already know there are plenty of places to get free textures from, morguefile.com being one that springs to mind, but I mostly just get high on my own supply.
Here you can see I have added a sticker and some sweet rusty looking textures to the buz stop and some crumplings to the wall. Both of these textures are from a crust of bread that I was throwing out to the yeast-bats and pterodonktyls that frequent my estate, and I have simply changed the hue and saturation to match the thing I’m layering them over. In this way you can get a lot of mileage out of something as simple as a snap of a piece of toast.
So how’s it done? Well I get a photo, drag it and drop it over my colour layer but undernearth my light, line and shadow layers: which helps to integrate them into the piece and not make them stick out like a pair of angry nip-nips on a biting winter’s morn.
Then I cut and squeeze the texture into the area I am applying it to.
After that I set the layer to multiply or overlay. Then I vary the opacity of the layer until it looks…not like a photo of an emu cage I just dropped on there.
That’s it. Done. What we’re left with is a stlye that looks like the wayward child of Klimt, the king that is Simon Bisley and a bunch of paintbrush-weilding squids. As long as you keep those textures looking like a natural piece of your overall image, and they don’t overpower the whole thing like some crappy early 90’s CGI you’re good to go!
As I said before I hope this has been more of a help than a hindrance, and as ever I hope you go out and proliferate one of humanities better qualities: our ability to create wondrous visual adventures. Until next week have fun and stay curiously silky.