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24 April 2010 @ 12:50 pm
Tutorial No. 03., Part I: Scan Preparation and Color Schemes  

It's been nearly two months, hasn't it? University has been taking up much more of my free time, which is ironic considering that I started working with my tablet in January of 2009--that is, in my first year of college. That aside, I've finally finished the tutorials you requested!

As we'll mainly be focusing on one scan from beginning to end, you can think of this as one very large tutorial split up into three parts. Feel free to skip any one part if you like!

Program: Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0. The brush mechanics here are more or less the same as in other versions of Photoshop; users of Paint Tool SAI, openCanvas, and Corel Painter will almost definitely have an easier time following the tutorial (and may even get better, more natural-looking results).
Difficulty: Easy to Difficult, depending on the individual sections of the tutorial, whether you use a mouse or a tablet, and your own current level of skill. I tried my best to take progress shots at every relevant step, but I'm not a particularly good teacher--please tell me if there are any gaps or unexplained spots.

A Note on Choosing Scans

Almost every decent tutorial on manga coloring opens with something along the lines of, "Don't use scans from Onemanga.com! Ever! EVER!" It's true that images from read-manga-online websites are often grimy, blurred, and pixelated--especially if the images come from a popular series that demands to be hastily scanned in and translated coughcoughhagarencoughhackwheeze. Faulty source materials will create a faulty end product: poor scans lead to poor coloring, which in turn lead to poor graphics.

I am here to tell you that you can use whatever scans you want. Icon-making and manga-coloring are not serious business! Just be prepared to do the appropriate amount of cleaning and redrawing, and you'll come out fine.

"Before" and "After" shots of two scans from Tokyo Babylon. I used a combination of Levels and painting to fix these.

Scan cleaning is already covered in this tutorial, so we'll move on to a specific example. This is a scan from the wonderful series Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou of its protagonist, Alpha Hatsuseno. She is a robot who plays the yueqin, dances, and takes photographs around her little coffee shop at the end of the world. (I'm not quite sure who the giant insect is, but as a fun note the series has a species known as "kamas." The one kamas that we get to know spends most of its time wearing sunglasses and chillaxing. I am not making this up.)

Scans Redux!

As beautiful as Hitoshi Ashinano's cross-hatching is, we'll have to erase it if we're going to do a good job. (This is integral to good coloring: never, ever paint over screentones if you can help it.) However, his shading makes for a good reference, so we'll keep it around by duplicating the image (File > Duplicate).

Save or minimize the duplicate, and start erasing the screentone on the top of the page using the Brush Tool (Hard Round brush, with pressure set to Size and Opacity). This is very easy if you have a pressure-sensitive tablet, less so if you're using a mouse--be careful to preserve the lineart!

The same goes for the cross-hatching on Alpha's coat, hair, and hat. Try to keep the lines smooth and the general shapes intact; for smaller areas where the difference between the lineart and the screentone/cross-hatching is difficult to see, you may just have to leave it alone. We don't want to mutilate the image too much.

Be sure to erase the chapter title, too. I've seen some colored scans utilizing chapter titles and text to great effect, especially this Kobato. scan by regis, but it just doesn't work here. I'd say leave the text if it's particularly relevant or well-designed, but if not, then erase it and redraw the lines covered by it.

Redrawing lineart is best achieved by painting in the lines with black, then going around the lines with white to smooth it out. Fox_orian on deviantART made this amazing brush set which, in my opinion, better replicates the feel of the lines than the basic Hard Round brush. We'll save the discussion on brushes for Part III, though.

There are still some jagged scraps of gray, but we can iron those out when we come to them. Let's get down to coloring!

...After we set up our color scheme, that is!

The Miniature Color Tutorial

Here are some cardinal rules to remember:

1) In most lighting situations, light is not white.
2) Shadows are the inverse of highlights. Cold highlights make for warm shadows; warm highlights make for cold shadows.
3) The color wheel is your friend.
4) Your color scheme will change depending on the medium you imitate (e.g., oils, watercolors, the real world).

I referenced her before, but Toerning's tutorial on color is much more thorough and useful. I myself often use photo and illustration references for both my manga coloring and my actual artwork--there are some fantastic things to find out there. Pixiv and deviantART are both excellent places to start, as well as all of the individual artists' sites around the web; I'm currently working on compiling some on the resources page. (Of course, I'm hesitating with the Japanese web sites because I know someone is going to snag the artwork for icons or other graphics. Come on, guys, have a heart--a lot of these people don't get paid to do what they do, unlike the professional artists whose series we use as glorified coloring-books.)

Here we have a color palette laid out for Alpha's hair (the spots on top) and coat (the spots on the bottom).

Alpha, as a robot, can afford to screw the rules and have green hair; note the saturated yellow-green near the top-right corner of the palette and the large splotch of navy blue to the far left, as well as the shades of grayish-blue, sea-green, and teal in between them. I read once that green is the color human eyes are most sensitive to; while I can't yet provide an academic source, Wikipedia has it that
The sensitivity of the dark-adapted human eye is greatest at about 507 nm, a blue-green color, while the light-adapted eye is most sensitive about 555 nm, a slightly yellowish green. Human eyes have color receptors known as cone cells, of which there are three types. In some cases, one is missing or faulty, which can cause color blindness, including the common inability to distinguish red and yellow from green, known as deuteranopia or red–green color blindness. Green is restful to the eye. Studies show that a green environment can reduce fatigue.

Now, why am I telling you this?

It's because green is by and large the most abused color, especially where manga coloring is concerned. I can't tell you how many times I've seen an otherwise well-done work marred by bright, #12ff00-green eyes, or leaves, or hair, or clothing. It's painful! It's tasteless! It defies artistic convention! And no, it's not avant-garde for doing so!

Liberate Yourselves from #12ff00, #00ff24, #1eff00, and their demon kin!

(clears throat)

Going back to the palette, note the colors for the shadows on Alpha's coat. They aren't merely lighter and darker shades of one kind of blue, but a combination of sky blues, grayish-blues and purples, and even some shades of lavender. We're approaching the scan with an artistic, rather than realistic, mindset, but the subtle mixing of many different colors is evident wherever you look. It's not as clear in darker settings, but it's still there.

Moving on, we set down the colors for Alpha's skin.

What's different about the palette here is that I swabbed the paint in the rough position that it will be on Alpha's face. (On the left you can make out a nose and lips; on the right, the brows, jawbone, and ear.) Note the cool purple used for the darkest shadow, the one that will be under Alpha's chin, as well as the warmer oranges and reds used around her nose.

You've most likely noticed, however, that the shadows were painted on white rather than a base skin tone. This is due to a stylistic choice, and will be discussed in Part II: Coloring.