I am a bit tired this evening as I write this. Just normal life tired but also tired from doing a lot of coloring on my “Ghost of Fifth Street” comic project. I had mentioned before that I was having trouble starting the coloring because I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do until I decided to keep it simple. That and it was a daunting forty two pages of coloring work.

I’m not a huge fan of coloring on the computer. Sure I do it all the time and once I start can get into it but I’d still rather paint and draw with real three dimensional tools. But often the computer is the most efficient and effective way to add color to something. Especially if that something is a digital project.

Normally it takes me a long time to color a piece on the computer. Always longer than I think it will. It’s mostly my art prints that I color on the computer and that could be why it takes so long. They’re not like coloring a sketch or a comic. An art print is a single image that’s got to stand on it’s own. That usually means that the color has to be just so. It has to say something in conjunction with the drawing and often the color is what holds the whole drawing together. It’s not uncommon for me to color a piece half a dozen different ways to get the one I want. And then I often do more drawing in the color. I build the color up as shapes and those shapes have to be drawn just right. I’ve had many prints that I wanted to color in a day take three or four days. It can really be a pain.

That’s why this forty two pages of coloring seemed really daunting. Was this really going to take me eighty days? That would be crazy. That’s when I finally figured out how to keep it simple. I just started adding flat color in Photoshop. No drawing with the color. That isn’t really needed either. My comic is not about the color like one of my prints is. I like it pretty well in black and white but wanted a color version too for some reason. Probably because more people will read it if it’s in color.

Keeping it simple means a lot of thinking though. It means I have to make the color work right here and right now and not leave anything to be decided in the future. Sure I can add technique over it later on if I want to but that’s not a necessity. I’ve got to find the right colors to define the drawing’s space right now. That was my task.

I fell back on the very old technique of doing the background first. That’s how paintings have been done since the beginning of painting. Work from the deep space forward. And lots and lots of neutrals. That was key. Neutral colors are earth tones. Browns and greys of every hue. They are what you have to set up so that all the bright colors can stand apart from them in the way you want. It’s essential to learn how to work with neutrals. They are also very safe and if you overdo it with them can make things boring. I’ve seen a lot of boring pictures where the artist was too timid with color.

I started with the skies. Somehow that was the key to me getting things done. I figured out what color the sky was going to be in each panel it appeared. Turns out I had a lot of skies in my drawings for this comic. I didn’t want them to all be the same color blue so I mixed it up. I had a few different shades of blue, some more blue/greens, oranges, and some occasional pinks. Clouded skies were done in shades of those colors. Once I had the skies all colored things didn’t seem so bad.

After the skies I moved on to the other background objects. That was where I did most of my work with the neutrals. Sometimes it was objects, buildings, and landscapes and sometimes it was design elements. I had a few pages that were full image splash pages made up of lots of figures and design elements. Not so much a real space but more like one of my art prints. I kept it simple and didn’t do any drawing with color on these pages so they went along fine like the rest.

But what is the reason I’m tired you ask? Because I have been knocking out these pages like a crazy person. It seems that once I make my mind up to do something I have to put everything else aside and get it done. Every spare moment for the last three weeks has gone into getting this coloring done. At first I was getting a page a day done. It was taking about two hours a page. Then as the pages pilled up I could see that there was an end down the road. Some days I was able to get two pages done and on the weekends three pages a day. All my other art got pushed to the side as I did more and more coloring. It was a little frustrating because I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I wasn’t even trying to get three pages a day done on the weekend but couldn’t get anything else done so I kept going back to it. I’d call it obsessive but I’m really not a very obsessive person. It was a little annoying though since I couldn’t switch from project to project as I often do but once I settled down and got more and more done I was okay with it.

I’m especially okay with it now since I only have two pages to go. It’s hard to believe I’ll be finished soon. Another stage down.