Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fraggle Rock Cover - Coloring Step-by-Step

Recently, I did a cover illustration for the Fraggle Rock comic series. When I do large illustrations like this, I like to track my coloring progress through a series of iterative save files in Photoshop. This allows me to experiment without worry, knowing that I’ll be able to go back to an earlier version if I make a mistake. An additional benefit of doing iterative saves is that once the image is finished, I have the a step-by-step process that I can then share with you.

Here’s my coloring process on the Fraggle Rock cover from start to finish:


1) I start by scanning my clean pencil line art into Photoshop CS3 at 600 DPI. I use Brightness/Contrast, Replace Color, and the eraser tool to remove any stray lines or graininess. Sometimes I’ll leave some graininess for texture. Then it’s ready for coloring!


2) Once the line art is prepared, I reduce the file to the required output size for publication. (In this case it’s 10in.x10in. at 400dpi.) Then, using a “Hard Round” Brush (100% hardness, 100% roundess) in Photoshop CS3, I begin blocking in the basic colors and shadows, feeling out the mood and color scheme for the illustration. The cave sets in Fraggle Rock come in a rainbow of colors and lighting schemes, so my palette choices were pretty much unlimited. After some deliberation, I decided that a glowing blue interior chamber would be the perfect backdrop for the mystical and mysterious minstrel, Cantus. From there, I decided to play off the blue with yellow cave walls.


3) I continue building up the Fraggle characters, background, and foreground elements with additional shadows and highlights. At this point, I also start layering texture on the walls using a custom brush with grainy speckles. I’ll apply the textures a shade lighter or darker than the surface color, or sometime different colors altogether for extra “oomph”, and then soften the effect by lightly painting over them with the Hard Round brush. I frequently use this custom speckle brush  in The Last of the Polar Bears for the den walls and snow.


 4) Don’t be afraid to make changes midway through the process! (Do be sure to make backup saves, though!) I started to wonder if the red and brown shadows of the cave walls were too eye catching, and experimented with painting over them with a neutral blue. Experimentation can sometimes lead to fantastic, unexpected results, but in this case, it just helped me realize that the previous colors were fine, and that I needed to just keep going. I discarded this iteration and went back to the previous version.


5) I continued working up the shadows and highlights and refining colors. Once I get to this stage, I focus in on an area, and work my way up from background to foreground, finishing sections as I go. Here you can see Gobo is very close to complete, while work on Cantus hasn’t yet begun.


 6) And here’s the finished illustration!

Fraggle Rock Vol. 2, Issue 3 comes out later this year at comic book shops everywhere (visit comicshoplocator.com to find a local comic shop near you). In addition to the Cover B illustration, the issue also includes a short comic about Uncle Traveling Matt illustrated by me. Be sure to pick up a copy! :)