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February 13, 2019

Night is Nigh by Galen Longstreth

In my last post I talked about how I first learned to use textured photoshop brushes while coloring Vera Brosgol's Be Prepared.  After finishing that project, I was very excited to try out these new techniques on my next full color project, Night is Nigh, a picture book written by my sister Galen which I illustrated.

The main thing I used the textured brushes for was highlights on various surfaces (for instance the face of the boy holding the flashlight shown below).  To help highlight this technique, I also decided to use the same textured brush to create a rough edge around each illustration in the book:

Since the entire book takes place at night, I also experimented with putting a multiplied layer of blue over the entire image and then using different values in the layer mask to show or hide the blue to varying degrees. Wherever these "lighting" highlights/shadows appeared, I also used the textured brush which gave a nice soft edge to these effects.  Here you can see an illustration next to its layer mask information (on the characters only - backgrounds were on their own layer). The darker the gray, the less blue is applied, the lighter the gray, the more blue is applied: 

One last area of experimentation for me on this book was setting up my print files using a higher resolution Black plate (in this case 600 dpi) with lower resolution Cyan, Magenta and Yellow plates (300 dpi), and then combining them in InDesign.  The final printed book had really nice, crisp lineart!  This was all a good test run for the first Isle of Elsi book which I will be laying out soon.

As you can tell, I learned a lot by coloring this book!  Below are some of my favorite spreads:
You can find ordering information for Night is Nigh on this page, including a link to a free eBook version!  It's a fun bedtime story about camp.

February 6, 2019

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Vera colored the cover, not me!
Amazingly, Walker Bean 2 was not the only graphic novel released in 2018 that I colored. The other was Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol!

Now, I turn down a lot of coloring work. When you color someone's book you spend hundreds of hours looking at every line of their cartooning under a microscope. The only way I can enjoy that process is if the cartoonist in question is a lot better than me, and if it's a story I'm really excited about.

Also digital coloring is work-for-hire (paid once, no royalties on translations/reprints), a type of work I do as little of as I can afford to these days. James Sturm had a great piece of advice for my professional practices students at CCS: "Define 'reward' broadly" which definitely applies to my approach for coloring projects.  I work a day job to provide a consistent income for my family, and also so that I have the freedom to take on freelance projects that I really believe in, instead of doing them just for the money.

When Vera asked me to color her book I leapt at the chance, for three non-monetary reasons:
1) I have long-admired Vera's cartooning, especially her first book Anya's Ghost.  I read her pencil draft of Be Prepared and was floored by the story, the characters and the drawings. I instantly wanted to be a part of the project.
2) The book was going to be colored with just three colors (black, a light green, and a dark green made by mixing the light green and black). I had never used such a limited palette before, and it seemed like an interesting challenge.
3) In the samples Vera sent me she was using textured photoshop brushes to apply the color, which is something I had wanted to experiment with, but had never found an opportunity to do so.

Getting to work with a cartoonist I admire, trying a new style of coloring and learning some new skills all made this a project that I was very excited to take on.  It was a tight deadline - I colored 3-4 pages a day, seven days a week, for a little over three months, but we got it in on time.

It was super fun working with Vera - she comes from a background in the highly-collaborative field of animation, so we often passed the files back and forth to try out different iterations, especially in the beginning when I was trying to lock in the style she was looking for.  Even when I got the final printed book, there were many small tweaks where Vera had put some extra polish on certain panels, which all looked great.

Anyway, below are some of my favorite spreads from this project (note that the files I colored never had any text in them!).  If you haven't already, buy a copy, or request it at your local library! It's such a great book and it was an honor to be involved with its creation!

I'm happy to say that I'm currently signed up to color Vera's next book, Plain Jane, which is going to be in full color!