Hi, I'm Andy Schmidt and I'm the founder of Comics Experience - an educational institution about comics. We've been teaching sold-out classes in New York City for the last couple of years. We started them off with both "Introduction to Comics Writing" and "Introduction to Comic Book Art." We later expanded to include advanced courses for both of those - but now we've got something completely new.
What Chris and I have pulled together CBR readers is a quick overview of the coloring process. Boiled down, a colorist's job is to take black and white line-art that has been scanned and exists as a digital file and then color the file on a computer. For this article, we're not going to get too technical, but please do take the time to read the Chris' comments that accompany the following samples for the real nuts and bolts of what he's doing! It's through these steps that different looks are achieved on the work, and some are more quickly done than others. But slow doesn't always mean good and fast doesn't always mean bad either.
As an editor and a writer, I prefer different coloring approaches depending on the project I'm working on. Different coloring approaches can greatly enhance (or detract from) any and all projects. And for a colorist, what editors really want are artists, not technicians. That is to say that I need someone who understands color theory, depth of field, how to manipulate the planes, render shadows, and most importantly someone who can read the line art and extrapolate the correct coloring choices from it. To be blunt, the color artist has to be a storyteller too.
Christ Sotomayor: The first thing I have to do is give a shout-out to my bud (and amazing inker & artist) Jonathan Glapion, who was kind enough to donate the B&W artwork from a commission he did (inked over Dave Finch). Check out his site over at www.jonathanglapion.com. He's a fountain of art knowledge, and we constantly have great art discussions and bounce work off of each other.
Okay, the first place I start is with a flatted image. I usually hire someone else to do my "flats," because it takes time away from doing the actual painting, and in a business with constant tight deadlines, I'd rather spend every bit of time I have on the more creative aspects.
The flatter's job is to block out the different elements of a page and/or character. In this case, I'm sure the flatter knows that Cap doesn't wear trunks, but he took the step to block it out in case I wanted to treat it differently than the rest of his pants.
The fact is, the flatter's choice of colors are almost never accurate. That's not the function of the flats. The function is basic separation. All the elements or areas that need to be colored first need to be separated and turned into distinct shapes that I can work on one at a time without effecting any of the surrounding areas.
From here, I go into the flats, and replace them with the colors I want.
Deep blue here, red center stripe (always!), and a suitable background color to make it all pop. Clarity is always key in coloring a page, and the color choices are where you start laying out your plan. This is pretty straightforward, so I'm keeping it simple.
One of the first things you have to do is define a light source. For that, you have to take your cues from the Black & White artwork. I dropped in some light (and texture, to make it a little interesting) on the opposite side of the heavier black areas that are on the character, layering it and adding more intensity here and there.
Then I drop in some complimentary shadow colors starting from the bottom.
I start playing more shadows and light against each other, until things are properly defined and I get something I like. Since the ground is ambiguous here, I kind of left it alone and did some minimal suggesting in the shadow there.
With the background finally settled, I can go in and start airbrushing in basic lighting on the main figure. Broad strokes to help me keep it all together, and build a more natural lighting look.
I keep building up the light/rendering on the main parts of the body, making calculated decisions about the anatomy and how the penciler structured the body.