by Alex Sinclair

How to Create Texture in Comics

Think of texture as CPR for your comic book. It breathes life into your art, taking it from good to great, okay to oh wow.

Previously, DC colorist Alex Sinclair shared Tips on Coloring Comic Book Art. Now the renowned colorist gives the inside scoop on using texture to take your comic book art to the next level—and beyond.  Read on to discover the five textures that will make your comic come alive.

 

From Hair to eternity

As with most textures, it’s important to understand the color of the hair in relation to its surrounding environment. Consider a black Lab at night. The dog will look different outdoors with the scenery saturated in a dark blue wash than when it’s indoors or lit by the glow of a full moon. A brighter light source will allow you to use lighter colors to highlight and texture the dog’s fur. Length and movement also impact the texture. When working with longer hair, I start with broad brush strokes and clumps of hair to see where the light hits. Then I work my way in to the detail and include a few highlights to add texture, body and more light.

 

Heavy metal

Metallic surfaces are highly reflective, so it’s essential to capture the surrounding light and reflect nearby objects. A chrome bumper in our black Lab’s outdoor setting will reflect the light in the form of a stark highlight. It will also reflect any light bouncing off the ground or another object. Chrome will additionally mirror some of the street and/or the green grass the car is parked near. You’ll want to reflect that on the bumper, as well.

The skin-y.

Skin is a texture that exists between hair and metal. Skin reflects secondary light sources more than hair does, but not to the degree of metal. For example, skin will have a warm light over most of the body when it’s in a bright room or in the sun, but will reflect a blue or aqua tint if the subject is by a window or fish tank, almost as if the colors are being absorbed by the skin. Here’s a fun lighting exercise: Grab 3-4 different colored pieces of paper and use a bright lamp or go outside. Make sure one of the pieces is white. Place your hand (flat, palm side down) under the light source. Notice how the light creates highlights and shadows on your hand. Keep your hand there and now place the white sheet below your hand. (Do NOT rest your extended hand on the paper.) You will now see a new, slight highlight on the palm side of your hand. This is the light reflecting off the paper and onto the hand. Now test the other colors and see the results.

 

Material matters.

Before applying texture to cloth, it’s important to understand what kind of material it is supposed to be. This is especially true when working with costumes. The Scarecrow has a lot of burlap on his costume, so it is important for me to add that texture. Superman’s costume has been called armor, so it’s slightly more metallic and reflective than, say, spandex. Flash, on the other hand, is almost a blur so the highlights are longer, continuing across the entire space due to his excessive speed. When Aquaman is in the water, you’ll need to rely on a secondary light source to highlight his costume. If he’s deep in the water, you can blur and darken the images in the back, allowing Aquaman to appear closer and more focused in the forefront.

Creating cityscapes.

Cityscapes are fun for me and I like to treat them like characters. I can work with the bulk of my brushes because of the variety and quantity of textures that can be incorporated into the background. When I color Metropolis, I make sure that I not only use warm colors, but also make it clean and slick. There’s not a pebble out of place. Gotham, on the other hand, has a lot of grit and grime. I can include a yellow stain on the wall, a splat of blood on the sidewalk, graffiti on a bench, or a discarded coffee cup in the gutter. Keep your eye out and study real environments that would reflect this scene so that the reader’s eye believes the background without being distracted.

 

Those are some tips for creating detail through texture. Try it for yourself and watch your art take on a life of its own.

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