Valiant Presents: The Craft of Comics Part 4

Part 4: Coloring

The fourth and final session of Valiant Entertainment’s and Hasting’s special Craft of Comics series was livecast on October 10th. The focus for this session was coloring and featured Valiant color artist, David Baron (Bloodshot Reborn).

Host Jacob Rivera with David Baron

Host Jacob Rivera with David Baron

Each week of this live workshop had a different focus: writing, penciling, inking, and coloring. Hastings guests received a free exclusive workbook in which to create and hone their artistic skills. Guests can enter The Craft of Comics contest, where one winner will have their work published in an upcoming Valiant comic. Official rules and submission forms are available in the exclusive book and online at goHastings.com/Valiant. Submissions are due by October 31st, so get to work!

The role of the colorist is to establish the mood, emotions, and theme of the story. Colorists start with the finished inked line art and add color, creating depth and visually emphasizing the relationship between characters and objects within the story. Color artist David Baron explained that color art must serve the story. It needs to establish the mood, bring focus to the correct subject, and guide the reader’s eye. It must never distract from the content. Good color art remains consistent in style, rendering, and texture so that the reader stays immersed in the story line. Baron applies mood to everything.

Baron is a digital colorist, working in Photoshop. Coloring digitally as opposed to traditional painting methods saves enormous amounts of time and increases page output. Another benefit to working digitally is the brilliant colors available on the computer. Baron’s standard output is to color 2-3 pages a day. He feels this is an ideal amount to finish and still retain a high level of quality. He often colors two titles a month. He usually works on just one book each day, but occasionally will work on both titles if timelines deem in necessary.

Moderator Jacob Rivera posed questions while Baron led viewers through an overview of the coloring process. Baron noted that coloring takes both technical skill (understanding Photoshop) and artistic skill (color theory).

Colorists do more than apply color to the page. The coloring process includes cleaning, flatting, coloring, rendering, and then texturing.  Baron discussed each of these, illustrating concepts using Bloodshot Reborn and Book of Death.

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Cleaned page of Bloodshot Reborn #7 pg 18.

Baron “cleans” the page by removing any unwanted pencil lines and making sure the black areas are sufficiently dark. Colorists were sometimes referred to as “separators”. This was due to the color separation process necessary for printing. Baron colors in RGB and blocks colors first to separate. The process is called “flatting”, and the blocks of color serve as placeholders. Later he fills in the blocks with his palette of choice. The flatting method allows him to easily make color changes or corrections. He then re-flats the page and renders.

Rendering adds depth to the flat colors. It may involve adding shadows, color gradients, or light. Rendering can be done with a variety of techniques and brushes within Photoshop.

Textures and special effects are added last. Textures can create depth and realism. Texture is often an element or quality of a story, but rarely is it the focus. Baron used the example of adding a rust texture to the truck shown in Book of Death. He generally uses texture brushes to create effects then adjusts blending modes as needed. Special effects should be used sparingly. Baron recommends that they only be used if they add to the story. An example of an effect would be a lens or solar flare.

Baron was asked when he as a colorist becomes involved in the process. Baron prefers to get involved as soon as possible. He likes to read the script because it gets him enthused for the project as well as allows him to plan where he wants his work to take the story. He and the artist may share notes. Baron tries to compliment the artist’s style. He approaches each book as a unique project. For example, his color art in Bloodshot Reborn is very different from what he created for Book of Death. He also makes a point of not obscuring or removing any of the art lines unless the story absolutely calls for it.

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Bloodshot Reborn #7 coloring process

When asked what advice he would give to aspiring colorists, Baron stated “practice”. Practice as much as you can. Baron says he is always learning. You must continually work and listen to the input of others in order to grow.

Baron stressed that a colorist needs to understand how light works. For example, the light of twilight is very different from that of a candle. You need to study how light falls on subjects to know where to place shadows and highlights. Light is crucial in storytelling. It directs focus and therefore directs readers’ attention.

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Book of Death: Tama’s facial highlights

Baron said that Valiant does a good job of giving the artists the freedom to work together and to choose who you preferred to work with. As for the fans, he says we are very communicative and positive. He is energized working with Valiant and feels that it is some of the best work of his life.

When asked what his greatest achievement is, Baron replied that it is his continuing work in the field. He has been a professional colorist for over 20 years and colored over 1,000 books. He has worked with award winning artists and writers, and he loves what he does.

This was the final session of Craft of Comics. David Baron gave a detailed walkthrough of both the artistic and technical processes. It’s obvious that he greatly enjoys his work, and that enthusiasm shone throughout his talk. He’d make an excellent teacher.

Now that the livecast sessions are over, be sure to submit your own art for the chance to have it published in a Valiant comic. If you want to view this session or any of the past ones, check out the recorded sessions on YouTube.

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