Cube Watermelon and Blue-Ten on Coloring

3 min read

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Not long ago, Mary "Cube Watermelon" Cagle, writer and colorist (and, currently, line artist) of Kiwi Blitz and Sleepless Domain, posted a tutorial on how to pick colors for the screen/multiply layers she uses to color and shade Kiwi Blitz.

Check out Cagle's coloring tutorial on her Tumblr [via]. The basic idea is:
  1. Fill in the flats for the panel on one layer.
  2. Add a Screen layer and paint highlights on it in the same color as the light source.
  3. Add a Multiply layer and paint shadows on it in a color that reflects the ambient light or mood of the panel.
  4. When the situation calls for it, add adjustment layers as needed.

This post is more about the color-picking than the actual creation of the layers, so she doesn't go into much detail about her actual procedure. You can still get the gist of it.

I had already planned on sharing this here, but just today I found another coloring tutorial from Michael "Blue-Ten" Sexton, the writer/artist of Everblue. He covers the basic procedure involved in the soft yet cel-shaded style he uses to color his comic.

Check out Blue-Ten's tutorial over at his Tumblr. Here's a short summary:
  1. Fill in the flat color for the shape you're coloring, on its own layer, then lock the transparency.
  2. Use a soft-edged brush to add big, soft shadows.
  3. Go back with a hard-edged brush to add the sharper, more cel-style shadows.
  4. If necessary/desired, go back to a somewhat softer-edged brush to shade larger, curved shapes.
  5. If necessary/desired, pick some additional colors and repeat the last two steps.
  6. If the background warrants it, go back and add some bounce lighting (using hard or soft brushes depending on the situation).

Blue-Ten recommends using Photoshop's History brush, which in effect will let you erase the additional painting you've done for a given step, without needing separate flat/soft/hard shading layers for each shape.

These different tutorials take two quite different approaches, each of which has its pros and cons. I'm eager to try Cagle's technique, as it looks like it would make it quicker and easier to produce reasonably pleasing, coherent panels. Blue-Ten's technique looks similar to the techniques I've tried before, and it looks to me like it's a lot more flexible, but also more time-consuming, and for artists without a good handle on lighting (like *cough* me) it appears to have a higher risk giving different objects different lighting setups. 

Of course, my text summaries can't possibly do these tutorials justice. You need to see the pictures. What are you waiting for? Go see the pictures! And then go read Everblue and Kiwi Blitz! (And probably Cagle's other comics, Sleepless Domain and Let's Speak English.)
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Just found out that Cagle's Tumblr is now a spambot, so I replaced the link with one from