Brand New Nostalgia

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Brand New Nostalgia is a group of comic artists of varied backgrounds, styles, and nationalities.

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Comic Coloring The Brand New Nostalgia Way!

A recent email chain between BNN contributors led to a make-shift coloring tutorial. We thought we’d cram all of it together and post it for anyone who’s looking for new ways to approach comic book coloring.

It all started with a question from Joseph Querio:

Hey guys, I’ve got a coloring question that I hope someone can answer. Do any of you know a trick for coloring inked lines. For instance, say you’re coloring some fire and your line work has the flames as an outline with “interior” open… like a coloring book. Now, you color the interior shape as fire - but now you want to color the inked line only as orange or red or whatever. Is there a technique in photoshop where you can color that line ONLY? I’m hoping there’s a much more efficient way than I’ve been doing it in the past. I normally make an additional layer and set the opacity at around 55-60% and literally color the line, without trying to color off that line. I feel like it’s a sloppy way to do shit and it’s bugging the fuck outta me. :)  Anyway, any advice on this matter would be extremely appreciated.  Thanks guys!


Here are a couple of responses from the group:

Giannis Milonogiannis:

I don’t do much colors on inks, but you can use the “lock transparent pixels” layer setting on your inks layer, if you’ve got them set as a bitmap. You click on that, then you can just use any brush over the inks and color just the lines.

Andrew MacLean:

I like Giannis’ suggestion. I’ve never tried that. Probably works better than my way…

I’ve always just gone to select: Color Range: and chosen “shadows.” This selects all the black (inks). Then I just fill that selection, on a new layer, with whatever color I wanted (secondary color fill is command delete, if you don’t already use that). Now that ALL the lines are your secondary color, I erase whatever I didn’t want. Now if you don’t erase the black version of those lines (underneath) there will be a strange greyish outline around them from the black lines. Also, this process can leave those new colored lines a little pixelated, so sometimes I’ll go to filter: guassian blur and select anywhere from .5 to 2 pixels just to soften those edges a little.
This may be a little complicated but it’s the system I came up with.

Jorge Coelho:

If you press cmd and simultaneously in any layer icon, you will select everything there is in that layer wich the same if you press cmd and in a channel icon.

In a grayscale file, you can simply do that, open an empty layer and fill with black, in this way you will get the exact same result as the original greyscale but with transparency instead of white…

Another way to do it, ps has different ways to the same things ;)

Joseph Querio:

Thanks guys! I feel like I’m getting an education again. heheheh. I’m definitely gonna be playing with some different things. Giannis, method works perfect, if only my lines where “clean” . I have some many gray areas in my inks. I’ve tried some very similar techniques to Jorge’s suggestions. The problem is I get too much of a “halo” around the inks. Again, too many gray area’s. Not to mention, my scanner isn’t the best. i may just have to use my sloppy method in the end. Thanks again for the suggestions!

Joe DellaGatta:

If your black and white contrast is good enough you should be able to make an additional layer of your inks, then use your magic wand to select all the white area. Then, go up to your tool bar, hit “selection”, then click on “inverse”. That should leave you with a selection of just the black line work. You can then just color right over the inks. You can also modify that selection inward/outward however many pixels by going to “selection” then “modify” then using the expand/contract options and entering in a number. I know there are other ways to do it, but this is the method I used before I got a cintiq and was still coloring with a mouse. After you’ve colored whatever lines you want, you can then erase all the other lines on that layer so it doesn’t interfere with the “line work only” layer underneath it. 

Mateus Santolouco:

I liked Giannis technique too. I do this in a number of ways.

If you scanned your art in gray scale you have to options:

a. open the file of the inks alone (in grayscale) and go to image/adjustments/levels. Pull both arrows more or less to the middle of the graphic, you’ll need to find a mid term where this doesn’t screw your art too much. Then change the file mode to bitmap. Now you have a cut edge black and white lines. Change it back to grayscale. Now you can select and delete all the white (white will be empty space) and then select the black lines and colour it at will. You’ll need to leave this black lines layer over the coloring layer.

b. this is a new one I’ve recently learned and is similar to Jorge’s. On the inks layer press cmd + A. This will select all the canvas area. Now press cmd + C to copy this layer. Go to channels and create an “alpha” channel (you do this the same way you create a new layer) and paste your copied selection (cmd + V). Now holding cmd click over the alpha channel creating a selection of the lines. Turn him off and turn on the color channels again. Now back to the layers create a new layer, invert the selection (cmd + shift + I) and fill that with black. Now you have a layer with lines only (white will be empty space) and you can select it and color at will. But be careful cause if your lines levels are not well balanced and there’s too much grey in it the coloring can mess the lines too. But to fix that you can follow Joe’s tip of modify that selection inward/outward. Is important that you delete that alpha channel after you have your lines alone.

We hope you guys found this helpful!


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