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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gene Ha And Art Lyon

I love this Harry Potter New York Times story about the guy who does the audio books.

And with JLA 11 being previewed yesterday, people have been asking about Gene Ha's stunning art and what he did that's different from his other work. I can't explain it. So I asked him. And so...from Gene:

The short answer is gray Copic markers and Photoshop.

The first stage is tight thumbnails. I scan this into my computer and print it as a blueline onto good /inkjet/ paper or Copic marker paper.

I then go to work with graphite pencil, gray Copic markers, white charcoal pencil and white paint. I mostly used Copic paper on this issue for the grainy, dusty effect. I prefer good quality inkjet paper because it absorbs the marker better without bleeding.

I use the pencils for fine details (like outlines and facial details) and the markers for most everything else. The white media lets me to create clean highlights.

After that Art puts it into Photoshop and tints the gray originals (The finished artwork couldn't have been done without a fine colorist like Art Lyon.).

There are two main techniques. Our classic technique is to select an area and Ctrl-B it. The other technique is to create another layer that makes the area darker, lighter, glow, etc. You'll have to ask him for more details!

And from super-colorist Art Lyon:

Let me elaborate on Gene's description of the coloring, if I may. Maybe no one cares and I will cry.

This issue had more than the usual number of insertions, meaning stuff Gene drew separately from the full page of art which I then inserted into the art. These are usually backgrounds, but are often common in situations where we have similar looking panels with limited but significant differences: an arm has moved, something has come into frame, etc. I've learned that in most cases it's best to insert these into the art and then flatten it and color it all as one thing.

So, yeah, Control+B calls up the Color Balance tool in Photoshop. I saved Color Balance settings for all the colors I knew would be cropping up a lot: character costumes and skin tones and hair color, rebar, cement, blood, etc. I spent a lot of time consulting with my oil painter wife Ellen, and with Gene, to get these colors just so. I knew we were going to be seeing A LOT of these colors, so I wanted to get them just right. I sampled colors from recent JLA issues, pictures of Halle Berry and Eric Johnson, and 9/11 and World Trade Center (the movie) images.

First I go through and do the Color Balance thing, which also occasionally involves the Hue & Saturation tool, too. This colors the grays in the original art layer. There are other ways to do this, but actually playing with the original art (rather than just layering in see-through colors on top of the art) will emphasize the texture of the original art, so I went with that.

I had a Shadows layer and a Highlights layer on top of the colored art. It's in these two layers that I do all my detailed coloring work, the stuff that hopefully "sells it". I lightly brush in all the niggly skin tones. I have a nice, fairly light rosey color, a pale green, and a purplish gray. Then reflected colors on an object are sampled from surrounding objects, and lightly brushed in to tint different areas. The advantage of these layers is that I can adjust their opacity, darkness, hue, and the like, and I can erase any area large or small partially or completely.

The Shadows layer is where I did all the blood effects, as well as some dust effects, the secondary light source colors, and dark reflected colors. The Highlights layer is where I did most of the dust effects and lighter reflected color.

Vibration effects are copies of this finished, colored art that have been made less opaque and less saturated. I erased different areas to let the base colored image peak through enough to keep it clear what we're looking at, despite the shaking.

Part of the trick was figuring out how dark to make it down there, and how much to make the characters costumes stand out. I darkened things a lot, and despite the need for grit and dirt and the like, I wanted to make the costumes still colorful enough to make the characters pop and to make the fans happy. Realism and flashiness was a big struggle here, color-wise.

So, that's basically it.

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