Sorry for my hiatus from the blog - I've been busy keeping up with my daily strip quotas! It's a challenge to keep new ideas coming, but one of my biggest time obstacles have always been in flatting.
Flatting is basically the process of laying down the base colors so you can manipulate them later with shading/effects. It's a tedious and time-consuming process, but necessary for cel-style shading (like in nemu*nemu).
For those unfamiliar with the coloring process, this is a quick overview - a full tutorial is forth-coming~:
- Once the strip is scanned, pieced together, and cleaned up, I separate the lineart from the background using channels and fill on a new layer. I always lock the transparency so I don't accidentally draw over my original lines. My borders are also on a separate layer, which helps KS when he does the lettering a little later.
- I drop-fill some neutral color to the background layer so I make sure I flat my characters cleanly without missing areas. I create a new layer that I usually name "characters" and use the PENCIL tool to color within the lines. The pencil tool is anti-aliased so when I drop fill within enclosed lines, I don't get weird areas that don't fill properly. I also use some color that will stand out from the background fill - not necessarily the character color, BTW.
- Once all the characters are colored in (and transparency locked), I then create a new layer and group it/make it a clipping mask it to the "character" layer and start coloring in the clothes, accessories, eyes, hair, etc - leaving the skin areas untouched. I create new layers and group them all together with the "character" layer. When I'm done with all the basic colors, it should look like a kid's coloring book - all colors, no shading. I then return to the locked "character" layer and drop fill it with the skin tone (or color it in manually if there is more than one skin-tone on the page.
Now, this is where the Cintiq 20WSX comes in.
For years, I've been doing this with a Wacom tablet and primarily the lasso tool (and pencil tool for the generalized areas). This is a trick learned from my days coloring comics - where shortcuts help you keep on schedule. Don't get me wrong - a tablet is great for coloring, but can be really tricky for clean detailed lines. Unless I was working at 100%, my lines would come out jagged and messy - a very time-consuming thing to fix manually.
Since San Diego Comic Con this past summer, KS and I have been contemplating investing in a Wacom Cintiq. They have been on the market for years now, without an update - but have turned out to be very invaluable to the artists who now use them. To be honest, it is a hefty investment and we were skeptical. KS read up on some reviews and I watched some other artists via Youtube regarding their techniques and how they choose use to use them. Then, a few weeks ago, Wacom announced the release of 2 NEW Cintiqs - the Cintiq 20WSX (a shorter/wide-screen edition) and a smaller Cintiq 12WX (a 12-inch portable tablet). They still have the larger Cintiq 21UX as well.
After some thought, we decided to purchase the Cintiq 20WSX as it was a little more affordable than the standard Cintiq 21UX and could easily double up as a second monitor for my iMac. It came in less than a week and has been in steady use since arrival.
My thoughts? Read on!
KS and I both agree that for the amount of coloring work I now do, it's well worth the investment.
The tablet can be adjusted to whatever incline and tilted to whatever degree you feel is most comfortable. I always make sure to calibrate my cursor by checking my preferences before starting my work.
Also, as a second monitor, I can keep my work area clean while I keep all my other applications on my desktop. It takes a little while to get used to using the express keys to swap the cursor quickly between monitors, but over all it allows me to utilize the full screen to do my coloring. The Cintiq still takes up a lot of space on my desktop. When not it use, I simply tilt it back up and use it as my monitor.
I color MUCH more efficiently - without having to go over my lines a number of times to get that clean crisp edge. Flatting is much more like coloring directly to paper and feels much more natural. While on average with a tablet, I colored roughly 2 pages a day, I can easily do 4 or so without too much strain.
To test things out further, I also drew the January EOS strip directly to Photoshop - something I never do... as it usually causes a lot more frustration than its worth. I can't say I work more quickly that way, as I still have difficulty judging size ratios on an ever-changing screen, but the linework is much easier to do than before. I would probably do best by sketching my drawings directly to paper, then scanning and digitally inking for the cleanest, sharpest lines.
Maybe I can even give Painter a try... again.
In short, so far, so good! :D