Tips on Coloring Comic Book Art
Alex Sinclair has been a colorist for DC comics for more than 13 years and a professional colorist for 20 years; he has colored nearly every DC character in dozens of covers. Interested in learning to color comic book art? Professional colorist Alex Sinclair shares his coloring process with an awesome Superman Unchained cover.
RGB Or CMYK?
Each page starts with a black and white image scanned to 1200 dpi. People ask him, “Do you work in RGB or CMYK?” Sinclair says he works in RGB because he can still look at color in the CMYK spectrum. By turning on Proof Colors in the View menu, you can see the colors you are working on in CMYK if needed. Any colors that go off the printable specs are automatically shown.
If he is working on a page, Sinclair initially works in one layer. All the rendering on the piece is one layer, including highlighting and shading. He brings in layers mainly to do special effects or similar work. “Is layering important?” he asks. “Yes. But should your piece have 50 layers on it? Not necessarily.”
Sinclair uses the lasso tool to select different parts of the character or the image. Then he fills each with color using the bucket tool. Everything on the page has to be selected and filled with color. “That is the most tedious stage to do,” he says. He starts to look at values here, considering the decisions he will make later. For example, he adds a light grey in the background, and the characters seem to jump forward.
Sinclair explains some of the color swatches. The first rows of colors come with Photoshop. Following that are flesh tones. And at the end, “What looks like a bag of Skittles spilled there, those are actually Justice League colors,” he says. “Batman’s color, Superman’s, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern. Each character has a set of colors that I use.”
He also creates specific palettes for each series he works on. Sinclair draws lines of colored dots for each repetitive character, with their own colors for flesh tone, eye color, hair color, and outfits. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same color every time,” he says. “That’s the starting point.”
Not Using Black
There is NO black in Sinclair’s color palette. “Black is the other people’s art that you don’t necessarily want to mess with,” he explains. “Just like you wouldn’t want them to mess with your art. So I’m very aware of that as I’m working with it.” He creates a line art channel, and by highlighting the color channel and looking back at the line art channel, he can go back in to affect everything that is color, but nothing that is ink.
Comic books are filled with incredible, otherworldly images, and Sinclair’s complex coloring work brings them to life.
See more of his amazing work here.
For more information:
Sinclair’s Comic Book covers
Sinclair’s Comic Book Interiors
How To Become A Comic Book Colorist