Creating a Snowflakes Strip – Part 4: Colouring


Home stretch post! In the other three parts, I’ve covered the process for creating a strip from sketch, to pencils, to inking and scanning. Now I will go over my process for colouring a strip.

When I colour a strip, I lay out all of the flat colours first, picking and adjusting the colour scheme as I go. This process usually takes anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on the complexity of the strip. Once I have all the colours flatted, I then start applying the shadows, highlights, miscellaneous details, etc. I do all of my colouring on the Wacom Cintiq 12WX. Below is an animated progression of the colouring process. This will give you a little bit of an idea how the colouring comes together:

This image may take a moment to load (1MB in size).

When I colour a strip, I like to set up my layers palette like this:

This is how I organize my layers in Photoshop

I keep all of the background colours on one layer, and all of the foreground colours (mainly the characters) on another layer. I also give the background and characters their own layers for shading. Separating them this way allows me to make adjustments easily. If, for example, I wanted to adjust the levels of the shadows on the characters, I could do so easily without affecting the colours on the characters or the background. Or, if I wanted to add some broad shadows or fades to the background, this is easily accomplished without affecting any of the foreground elements.

Separating the “shadow” layers for the foreground and background allows me to easily select the layer I want to shade. So, If I want to apply shading to the characters, I simply (Ctrl-click) on the “CLR-characters” layer to select it, basically creating a mask around the characters, then I move up to the shadow layer above it, and start shading. I set the blending mode on my shadow layers to “multiply”, and usually select a darker shade of the colour I will be shading on top of. For example, if I’m applying shadows to Enzo’s face, I would pick a darker brown or reddish tone, or maybe even a cool blue colour – depending on the lighting I’m trying to achieve, then set my brush opacity to anywhere between 15-30% depending on how strong I want the shadows. And, if I find that I need to make the shadows darker after I’m done – this is easily adjusted since they are on their own layer.

For the highlights, I set them up on a separate layer, and usually set the blending mode to “overlay”. The general layers in the screen shot above are my starting point, but I usually find myself adding extra layers as I go, mainly for certain highlights or other elements that I may want to adjust separatly later. For example, I used extra layers in this strip for the clouds, the fire, and some of the background texture.

In my blog post on inking and scanning, I went over the steps I take to prepare the ink lines so I am able to paint on them directly. The following is my process for painting the lines when I need to change their colour, etc. for atmospheric effect:

1. First, I select my “lines” layer, then I click on the little button in the layers palette to lock the transparent pixels

Here, I lock the transparent pixels on the lines layer

2. Now that the transparent pixels are locked, I choose the colour I want to paint the lines

Selecting the colour to paint the lines

3. Now I simply paint over the lines. I am free to colour without worrying about painting anything except the lines, because everything on the lines layer is lock, except the lines!

Painting the lines!

This technique is great for creating depth in your backgrounds, or background characters.

That’s the end of my 4-part series on creating a Snowflakes strip. I hope you enjoy it, and if there is anything you have a question about that I haven’t covered, I’d be more than happy to answer in the comments below.


Got something to say? Feel free, I want to hear from you! Leave a Comment

  1. John Hageman says:

    Very informative, Chris! When I scan I scan as text or document and it picks up the black lines only. I dunno if that helps you skip a step, but I felt compelled to share. Thanks again for posting all this!

  2. Samantha says:

    Thanks for posting this. It’s always helpful to learn how others make their webcomics. I’m still tweaking my process with my first webcomic/blog.

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