Part 3 – Art Directing your Graphic Novel

For those of you who just want a bunch of quick links to get free textures, here are a few I’ve used before.

But for those of you who want your project to be truly you own, it’s not as hard as it seems and the end result will be something unique to you. The textures you use are just as much your art as the pencil lines, character design and dialogue.  I encourage you to take it seriously and put in the extra day to make your own texture library that nobody else will be able to easily download and use. I use the above sites all the time for work related projects, but the texture library that has been the most invaluable to me is the one I created myself. 

When you make your own textures, you can really art direct your graphic novel exactly the style you want. For instance, when I was trying to figure out what kind of coloring I should do for reMIND, I was walking around the San Diego Comic Con back in 2006 looking for inspiration.

It was hard because everything looked the same. Every book was bright, smooth, flashy and Photoshopped. Sure, back in the 90’s when comic coloring started going digital it stood out on the shelf and was unique and impressive. But now EVERY colorist uses Photoshop, throwing lens flares, motion blur and bright blue rim lighting over everything accentuating every bulbous orifice in all it’s shiny and clean glory. It’s so common now that it’s boring to look at.

There’s a great quote I just heard, “If everybody’s thinking the same thing, than nobody’s thinking very much.” – David Morgan of

That quote is about investing, but it applies to much more than that. In fact, I’m going to change it a bit for the sake of artists to go something like this:

If everybody’s doing the same creative things, than nobody’s being very creative.

This is the biggest reason I suggest making your own textures and art direct your colors AND textures. Don’t just copy what the majority is doing (unless you really love that style). Find something unique and inspiring and try to imitate that instead. We are in charge of creating the next stylistic wave.

After scouring the convention, the three books I found back in 2006 that inspired my decisions were Youngblood, WildC.A.T.S. and Spawn. Haha! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Seriously, I loved the coloring of Spawn and WildC.A.T.S. back in THE NINETIES WHEN IT WAS UNIQUE AND HARD TO GET A COPY OF PHOTOSHOP. Notice I didn’t say I loved Youngblood. That’s another story. Check out this blog.

The three books I found back in 2006 that inspired my coloring decisions for reMIND were:

Mouse Guard by David Petersen – This little comic totally shook up the world of comics as far as I’m concerned. It’s totally unique in content, color, characters and even size. David was a no name artist when he started it.  It blew up. How awesome is that!

Sky Between Branches by Joshua Middleton – These are some of the most beautiful comic pages I’ve seen in a LONG time. Joshua is now one of my top favorite artists of all time. I can’t get enough of his sketches and he’s the one who gave me the idea to not ink reMIND. From what I can tell, he either uses pencils as his final lines or just draws on a Cintiq. Anyway, the coloring of Sky Between Branches really stood out to me as the level of quality I wanted to produce with my colors.

LA/SF by Christian Schellewald – This is not a comic but I came across it at the convention. It’s an amazing art book full of quick sketches and gauche paintings of places in California. This is the single biggest influence of how I wanted the textures to look in reMIND. I studied these pages over and over to try to understand why it looked and felt so nice. The details were so sloppy but it didn’t matter because the paints had such energy. My decision to make all the sky color a solid white in reMIND is also because of this book. Christian has a genius approach to compositions as well as negative space.

Orange / Koji Morimoto / Scrapbook – I found this one earlier in the year, but it also inspired a lot of the decisions I made. It’s the best sketchbook I’ve ever seen! I absolutely love this book.

With these four books I found my key inspiration for coloring, compositions, pencils lines, textures and negative space. I had officially figured out the art direction of my book. Now I needed to deconstruct what made it tick.

I scanned some textures from LA/SF and used them in an experiment to see if this kind of painting worked with my line art. At the time, I wasn’t planning on coloring it myself so I asked a designer friend, Jonathan Kim, to take a stab at coloring a page with these scanned textures to see what would happen. Here’s what he came up with.

This got me really excited and I realized I was onto something. Now I just needed to create my own high resolution textures to convey this mood and feel.

Obviously I’m not suggesting you scan other peoples work to use in your own art. It was merely a test for myself to see what it might look like if I were to go through with it for my book.

I had a bunch of Acrylic and Gauche paints from a long time ago, so I decided to have a painting party with my friends. I brought my paint and some large sheets of watercolor paper into a studio where I was freelancing at the time and we all (3 of us) just spent the morning creating a giant texture library. I had my books open in front of me and I tried to recreate some of the same colors and paint strokes. Between the three of us, we must have created 50 painted textures, which I spent the rest of the day scanning and cleaning up for digital use.

I narrowed it down to about 10 quintessential textures that work best for reMIND and it only took a day. I’ve been using these same textures for 4 years now and people still don’t know how I do it.

Until now.


Coloring a Graphic Novel Series (How I color reMIND)

Part 1 – Multiply and Flatting

Part 2 – How I use Flats

Part 3 – Textures – Art Directing your Graphic Novel (You are here)

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