I feel like talking about colour tonight. I'm really not up to doing a full in depth tutorial, with techniques and every minute detail, and by no means am I an expert on the subject, but I''ll examine my most recent X-Factor cover and talk a bit about how I approached that.
Okay first let's look at the primary job of the colourist. The colourist's main job is the same as everyone else's in the comic book creative team i.e. tell the story in the best way possible. So looking at the line art of the cover it features members of the X-Factor team in the foreground, with silhouettes of each character, hanging from nooses around their necks, in the background. Basically it's trying to tell a story of impending doom/danger for the members of the team portrayed on the cover. So how do I portray that in colour?
Well now that I know the story I want to tell, I need to pick a colour scheme. First I look at a colour wheel (as seen below on the left):
I like working with triadic colour schemes, which consists of three equidistant colours on a colour wheel, so I'm going to try and fit that scheme to my story. The visual of anyone being hung by their neck is a very strong image, even in silhouette, so I want some strong colours in my colour scheme, to match the strong image. Primary colours fit the bill nicely. The primary colours, red, blue, & yellow actually make a triad on the colour wheel (you could also use other triadic combinations like orange, violet, & green, or cyan, magenta, & yellow-orange... but I want the strong primaries for this one).
Now that I'm set on using the primaries I need to assign a job to each colour. Red is a colour usually associated with danger/warning so immediately I'm thinking of using that in the background directly with the silhouettes. Yellow is usually seen in light sources, and blues work well in shadows, so I assign those jobs to those colours and will use them mostly in the foreground, to pop forward against the red background (you can see my basic triadic colour scheme above on the right).
Right now I've got that all sorted I can move on to colouring the image. I'm not going to go into the technique of doing flats (there are plenty of tutorials for that online), or picking local colours (the natural colour of objects is pretty straight forward). So let's assume that's all done, the next step I like to do is put the background in. Simple step - paint bucket fill red.
Next I want to place my shadows in the foreground.
The blue I'm using in the shadows is obviously going to lean more towards a darker blue, and I want it to be less saturated (i.e. greyer) than the highlight colours I will be using; I like drawing attention to the highlights with saturation, and so I want the shadows to contrast against this by making them less saturated. This blue will affect all the local colours in the areas that are in shadow. So let's take Banshee's hair for example. It's local colour is a red-orange colour, so applying my blue in the shadow areas will make a purple colour. I use a combination of colour and darken to achieve this, but if you are using the colour sliders, or mixing paint it's the same principle - make the red-orange local colour of her hair, bluer, darker and less saturated.
Once I've applied my blue shadow to my local colours in the foreground, I start on my foreground highlights.
The basic yellow I will be using for my highlights will be #3 (fairly bright and saturated). Obviously the brighter the highlight is the lighter it will get, and further away from the light source it gets, the darker it will be, but instead of just using a light yellow to a dark yellow (which can be dull and muddy), I want to enrich my highlights with some colour temperature (I posted a [link]
in an earlier journal to an example of colour temperature). I often work with my Photoshop paintbrush set to screen mode 10% - 50% when I colour highlights, and progressively screen brighter, and brighter. Looking at the diagram above you can see from my base highlight #3 I choose two darker colours which get progressively warmer, and two lighter colours (sometimes they get progressively cooler, but I don't want my highlights to start going into the green i.e. bluer, which is the shadow colour I want the highlights to contrast against). So the first screen colour I will use over my local colours, not in shadow, will be #1, then #2, then #3, 4 & 5 (depending on how bright the highlight is). The highlight will start off warm, and as it gets brighter it will get cooler.
And that's pretty much it. Of course I add effects, and other bells and whistles... but they're just flourishes. The main meat of my thought process for colouring this cover is above.