Coloring a Graphic Novel – Part 4
Part 4 – Creating Your Own Texture Library
Here’s what I suggest doing if you want to make your own sweet, coveted textures to use in Photoshop.
First, find the ideal style you are trying to achieve like we talked about in the last section. I suggest looking outside of comics, otherwise you will just rehash the same old thing. Look at your ideal style as reference while you are creating your own.
What surface should you use?
Figure out what surface your ideal style was created on. This all plays into the final look more than people think. Is it on canvas, wood, glass, watercolor paper, tracing paper, art board, or just pain old photocopy paper. It all affects the end result. If you don’t know, then experiment. It’s fun.
What medium should you use?
Figure out your medium. There’s oils, acrylics, watercolors, Ad markers, Prismacolor markers, color pencils, pastels, Gouache, charcoal, spray paint, airbrush, ballpoint pen or something more abstract like wood textures or fabrics. It’s all there to experiment with and they all create different textures. There are countless options.
What I used for reMIND.
For reMIND, I used watercolor paper and Gouache and Acrylic paints applied pretty thick.
Edges are important to make an organic look.
Okay, now that you know what style you want, there are a few simple things to remember when making texture swatches to use in Photoshop. Remember that these need to be versatile so you can use them over and over. I’ve found it helpful to make the edges of your textures one of two ways. Either fade out the edge or have an organic edge that matches the texture itself. The main thing to avoid is the edge of the paper or making a hard edge. This always creates lines in your art that you constantly have to remove. You don’t need your textures to be massive in size. I’ll show you how to blend them together in Photoshop really easily as long as you make the edges organic in some way like I suggest.
Here are good and bad examples of edges.
You could fill up a whole 11 x 17 sheet to the edges thinking it’s going to be big enough, but I guarantee you will move it around and want to use one of the parts near the edge of your paper and then you’ll remember this tutorial and be mad at me for not USING CAPITALS TO EMPHASIZE THE IMPORTANCE! Okay, there’s the caps. Lets move on.
What size should you make your textures?
Try to create your textures at the same size that your finished product will be. So if you have a manga sized comic in mind, make textures that don’t need to be enlarged or shrunk down to fit your page. I suggest creating them at around 12 x 12, personally. You want to avoid enlarging them more than they need to be when applying, otherwise it will look like you used a 5 inch paint brush to goop house paint on your comic. You definitely don’t want your beautiful textures to be all blurry from zooming in too much either, unless that’s what you want. Another thing I’d avoid is stretching your textures. I never stretch mine for reMIND because it becomes more and more clear that you are just hacking it up in Photoshop when you do this. Brush strokes are never stretched in traditional paintings, so why stretch them digitally? Stretching textures is another thing that immediately screams, PHOTOSHOPPED!
A good rule of thumb for if you need to enlarge a texture more than it’s scanned size is don’t enlarge it more than 110%. I’ve worked with lots of high end studios in print and media and most agree to not blow up any art more than 110%. In some cases I’ve heard people say 120%, but more than that and you start to see it get blurry. Not very professional looking.
Choose one or two colors per texture.
You want to be able to adjust them in Photoshop and if you have to many colors in one texture then you will have a harder time dialing it to the hue you want. I’d even go as far to say to only use two very similar colors or one color and black or white.
Scan and Clean your textures.
Now that you’ve made a batch of 10 or so textures in various colors it’s time to scan. Scan everything at 600 dpi to start with. You can shrink everything later but it’s a good idea to make your master files plenty big. Here is a coffee texture that I never cleaned up so I’ll use it as an example.
Adjust the Levels only if needed.
It’s time to use the levels again in Photoshop to adjust out the white of the canvas to be completely white.
Clean up specks and document edges.
Any specks or blemishes can be painted out with a solid white paint brush.
Now take a white fuzzy airbrush and go over the edges of the canvas. Try to avoid painting over your textures though. Just paint out the paper only. Make the edges as clean as possible with no junk around the corners of your documents. You don’t want to be cleaning the same file every time you use it.
Believe it or not, even though this texture is really sloppy and has crazy hard edges, it’s still organic and can easily be used. I’m not sure if it would fit into the world of reMIND though so I’ll save it for another project.
As an example of how well these organic hard edges blend together, I’ll duplicate this texture and set the top layer to Darken.
I rotated the top layer and slid it to the right and look at how nicely it blends together to look like one nice big texture. The only problem I see is the darker shapes within being easily spotted as repeating objects. Other than that, it looks pretty good.
Croping your file.
Crop your paper only; don’t crop the actual texture. Here’s another example. This is one of the textures I use all the time in reMIND. (Of course it’s much bigger than you see here)
Inverted Textures or painting on black paper.
It’s a good idea to make light textures on black paper as well. This is one thing I never did and I’m really in need of some now that I’m getting to my darker scenes. What I’ve been doing lately is hitting Apple+I (MAC) or Ctrl+I (PC) to Invert my texture so the white background turns black. It also creates some crazy new colors I never thought to paint. Too much of this and you will start getting a totally different style so I use it sparingly. That’s why I want to make a new set of light colors on black paper.
It’s important that your textures be on a completely white or black background for the method I use. This will become clear why, later in this series. Here are more examples of good texture files that I use throughout reMIND. Sorry they are so small, I want you to make your own instead of just taking these.
Next we’ll talk about how to use these in your pages with your line art.
Coloring a Graphic Novel Series (How I color reMIND)
Part 4 – Creating your own Texture Library (You are here)
Part 6 – Masking and Applying Gradients
Part 7 – Light Source and Shadows
Part 8 – Dialing it all Together