Part 1 – Multiply and Flatting

First of all, I highly recommend using Adobe Photoshop in which all the steps below are achieved. It’s an industry standard and will also come in handy for everything else creative you choose to do. I know it’s expensive but it’s worth every penny.

If you are new to coloring comics in Photoshop, here are the very first things you will want to learn. Later posts will get more advanced, so bare with me all you experts.

Adjusting the Levels

Pencil art is usually really washed out when you scan it so I suggest adjusting the levels before you try to flat or color. If you want to keep your line art looking like pencil then it’s totally fine but for flatting purposes you will need to save an adjusted version. If you have inked lines, you can still use the levels to adjust it just as you would with pencils. Everything that follows will still work.  Here is a simple tutorial on adjusting your line art to look like ink HERE.

Now that your lines are nice and dark we need to set the layer with your lines to multiply.

Using Multiply

Multiply is one of the first things I ever learned in Photoshop. It’s also one of the most common layer modes I’ve seen used, and for good reason.

Multiply makes your line art act like a transparency on a white background. Any layers you put under your line art will be visible through your line art layer (unless your line art is solid black, in which no light can pass through) just like an overhead projector.

Here is a video showing how to use multiply and what it does.

Now that we understand multiply we can start making our flats or bring in flats if we had them outsourced.

I’ve talked about flatting before and I’ve found this to be one of the most important parts of the whole comic coloring process so I need to address it more before we can really get to the rest.

My definition of Flatting:

Flatting a comic page is the process of coloring different sections of your panels a unique color so they can easily be selected later. It’s not important what color each section is, only that they are unique colors and properly fitting to your artwork. For those of you who are old school, it’s like cutting out all the stencils for a drawing you’re going to airbrush.

To prepare the line art for my flatter to flat, I converted it to grayscale and played with the levels to make sure the lines are nice and black then I flattened (reduced it down to just one layer in PS) the file so it’s only one layer and removed any hidden alpha channels. This allows the file to be a decent size for emailing. I save the image as a grayscale .PSD file at 300 dpi.

A few days later after the file has been flatted, I get it back looking something like this. Notice the lines are gone and it’s just colors. Perfect!

Here you can see how the flat sections are divided right in the middle of the lines.

In this way it’s not just a matter of using your selection tool to make flats. You must split the lines right down the middle to ensure your color edge is hidden by the lines. For more specifics on flatting your own pages, check out Kazu’s flatting tutorial over at BoltCity.com.

Sloppy flats lead to wasted time. If you hire a flatter or do them yourself, you need to make sure they are perfect so you don’t have to keep repainting selections over and over.

Remember, if your making your own flats, don’t focus on the colors yet. Just focus on making them as accurate as possible, dividing up everything into as many seperate colors as you need. This will never be what people see when your page is finished. It’s just a bunch of colors that can easily be selected when we start coloring later. I’ll show you how I use flats in the next tutorial.

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Coloring a Graphic Novel Series (How I color reMIND)

Part 1 – Multiply and Flatting (You are here)

Part 2 – How I use Flats

Part 3 – Textures – Art Directing your Graphic Novel

Part 4 – Creating your own Texture Library

Part 5 – Adding Textures to your Flatted Page

Part 6 – Masking and Applying Gradients

Part 7 – Light Source and Shadows

Part 8 – Dialing it all Together