At first, I intended to have a more traditional comic style in just black and white. Collaborative communication issues had decreased the amount of time available for me to work, and I thought that black and white could be simpler. It would have been if I was working physically with ink on bristol board, in the traditional manner of comic book artists. After working for several days refining my sketches, however, I realized that achieving the epic emotional impact of this apocalyptic battle demanded the use of color. This did not change the working duration, however – the expected time for drawing detailed inks was instead spent digitally painting. The result is much more cohesive than color behind inks would have been.
There’s no way that I can describe the use of color in one post – Color Theory is a fascinating subject encompassing several disagreeing schools of thought – but it’s also a very instinctual process that relates to the key properties of composition. Effective composition involves guiding the viewer through the visual space in such a way that their interest is piqued. This is achieved through a variety of principles guiding the elements of design. Color is one of the most subtle of these elements. Other elements include line (both implicit and explicit), shape/form, value (closely knit with color, if there is chromatic content) and space.
Here’s a brief low-down on these conceptual tools:
Line – it’s everywhere. Drawings are replete with marks usually in the form of lines. Edges of representational things are often the most powerful lines in a composition – the most potent are the implicit lines created by the gaze. A viewer will follow that line to the target just as faithfully as a best friend wanting to know what you’re looking at out the window.
Shape/Form – The presence of some THING within the picture plane – shape refers to apparent 2-dimensional things, and form to illusionistic 3-dimensional things. Shape/Form has a yin-yang relationship with Space, which is the presence of absence.
Value – lightness and darkness, everything in between. Crucial in creating an illusion of reality – value contributes to illusionistic depth and form. Value exists by itself in black-and-white, sepia, and monochromatic arenas, but otherwise has a very close relationship with Color, as each color has its own natural value. For instance, yellow is naturally a light-value color, while purple is a predominantly darker color. Infinite variations exist, limited only by the physical human capacity to register differences in color and value. Other species see color differently – some creatures can see infrared or ultraviolet, which completely changes human ideas of color and contrast.
There’s several schools of color theory – likely the most familiar one is Itten, who purports three primary colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue. Practically useful when learning how to paint, as his theories are based off the properties of pigment mixing. An important aspect of his theory is Temperature: the apparent warmth/coolness of colors, which has emotional impact. Warm colors (yellow, orange, and red) advance (they appear closer) and have associations with physical warmth, welcoming, and friendship, as well as the emotional spectrum of pleasant comfort (yellow/sunshine) to anger (blood/red). Human skin tones are all warm colors. Warm colors contrast with cool colors (most greens, blue, purple). These colors recede (appear farther away). They resonate with ideas of the natural world – sky, trees, flowers. Purple especially is associated with majesty, because historically deep blues and violets were the most difficult dye colors to achieve – consequently very expensive. There is a great deal of study into how colors affect emotion, especially in advertising and psychology.
Color can be very practical and instinctual. To set the tone for the beginning of the comic, I chose a stormy medium-dark grey-violet. There is an entire layer of this color behind all other colors. The focal areas of the comic I knew would involve ships and people, which are warm variations of brown. Consequently to create visual texture in the waves, I used translucent layers with blue and blue-green cool colors. So that the comic have a consistent feeling of environment, All the layers of color are partly translucent – a little bit of the violet comes through, darkening and cooling the color. Without this subtle change, the yellows and browns are too strident – contrasting too strongly with their cool environment, they seem out of place. Examine the difference in color between the railing and the ship above – they are the same color, but the fully-painted ship is slightly translucent.