process section 3
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process contents

section 1: pages
chapter one: planning a page of the spirit
chapter two: drawing a page of the spirit

section 2: covers
chapter three: planning a comicbook cover
chapter four: making the final cover
chapter five: making a comicbook back cover

section 3: computer coloring NEW!
chapter six: the line art scan
chapter seven: the color art
chapter eight: color and design

section three
chapter six
the line art scan

Computers haven't changed the basic method of comicbook coloring. Only the tools are different (fig 1). Artists used to take their original line art to a photostat shop and have two copies made, the first on clear acetate, the second in non-repro blue on a piece of illustration board. They'd color the blueline board and the acetate image would overprint the color art on press. The process was awful, but it made for dark and crispy blacks.

fig 1 Digital technology has changed art faster than the capital-intensive printing technologies. Coloring, as a result, is comprised of the same steps now as before, but done on computer instead of with a combination of cameras and grubby paws.

Coloring Methods
Graphic byGF Realizations.

The only drawback was that the blueline and film cost about 40 bucks if you could find a stat shop that would make a blueline, and if you couldn't you'd have to grovel to your publisher to make the blueline. You'd usually have to ship your original art to the publisher via FedEx on your own dime. Then you'd get the blueline back invariably shot at a reduction that was either too large or too small. You'd toil away in some unforgiving medium that stuck to the back of the acetate and made a huge mess. Finally, you'd send the art to a paste-up guy, who'd actually peel the painted top layer off your illustration board, ruining the original so he could roll it on his drum scanner.

Not only is computer coloring cheaper and easier, it puts more of the process in the hands of the artist. Comic artists no longer have to surrender their original art. They just e-mail it.



fig 2

First I hand-draw the line art Ill later color. This is an illustration of the writer Charles Willeford.

The current technology doesn't require you to draw on paper. Art software in combination with an electronic palette can simulate pencil, pen, and brush. But the result is similar to replacing a real drummer with a midi keyboard it rings phony.

Photo by Ellen Sawyer.

The goal is to make a high resolution bitmap of your black line art. This requires a digital scanner. I use the Microtek ScanMaker connected to a laptop PC with a Windows-based operating system. IBM and Mac both support Photoshop, my coloring software, so the following instructions apply to both.

Warning: the next discussion is pretty technical. If you prefer aesthetic discussions,
skip ahead to the color and design section.

Step 1: I determine the final size of the printed artwork. Standard comic page size is 6.62" x 10.19" with a smaller image size, around 6" x 9.5". Some comics vary, so measure past issues to be sure. Covers fill the page and bleed past the edges, so when its a cover or any page that exceeds trim extend the page 1/4" on all sides. (I hope you don't intend to have most of your interior pages "bleed" we'll talk aesthetics later.)

I open Photoshop, select File/New, and create a bitmap (all black-and-white with no grays) page at 1200 dpi (dots-per-inch) resolution at the exact size of the final printed page.

Step 2: I select File/Import and pick my scanner's driver. The little interface menu allows me to customize my scan. I select line art (bitmap) mode. I select 1200 dpi resolution so all the type and fine lines read properly. This creates a massive file, but I save it in TIFF format with LZW compression, a Photoshop check-box that reduces the file size.

Next, I choose the percent by which the original image size will be reduced to match the printed image size (a rare practical use for high school algebra just divide the printed size by the original size to get the scaling factor). Finally, I use my scanner's advanced options menu to set the image tolerance around 140, which eliminates the dropout of fine lines but doesn't close the spaces in the hatch marks. Basically, I eyeball the tolerance settings till the art looks clean and strong.

Step 3: I scan the art in pieces. My scanner bed only fits 8.5" x 14," so Ill scan half of the image, cut it out with the marquee tool, and paste it into the empty page I made in Step 1. Ill center it up using guidelines so it fits like a printed image. Then Ill scan the other half, cut it out with the marquee tool and paste it over the first half into its own "layer." Ill scootch it around till the two halves form a continuous image. It helps to hit Ctrl-h, which hides the moving dotted line at the edge of your selection. These steps are covered in greater detail in fig 2.

fig 2 Steps for scan-
ning large art.



Step a 

Step b) 

Step c) 

(a) The second half of the scanned art is pasted over the first half, into its own layer. The top layer is shown as white and the bottom tinted in these illustrations.

(b) The two halves are brought together using the "move" arrow.

(c) The magnifying glass
tool reveals that the halves are still not perfectly joined.

Step d) 

Step e) 

Step f) 

(d) With the move tool selected, the keyboard arrow keys move the top half one pixel at a time till the halves are perfectly joined.

(e) Finally, as much of the top layer as possible is cut away using the lasso tool (and Edit/ Clear) until the seam between the two halves is imperceptible.

(f) The art is cleaned up as much as possible and the layers are flattened.

Art: Rene French and Gene Fama.
Graphic by GF Realizations.

Step 4: Finally, I take the lasso tool and cut away redundant chunks of the top-layer image, usually along panel gutters and empty spaces, revealing as much as I can of the image in the layer underneath. The goal is to create a seamless, continuous image.

Step 5: I select Layer/Flatten Image. I now have a single illustration to work with. Ill clean it up with the Photoshop toolkit, using the lasso to clear out any little flecks of crap that got scanned. Ill even fix drawing mistakes with my pen palette. I pay especially close attention to all the tweaked lettering, centering stray word balloon type and correcting my numerous spelling errors.

Basically, I aim to get my line art as final as possible, because it'll be impossible later. Now I'm ready to color.

next page: step-by-step coloring





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