Flatting Tutorial: Color your comics quickly!

tpirotpiro Registered User
edited February 2009 in Artist's Corner
I wrote a short tutorial on flatting in my blog. It makes use of a great plug-in for Photoshop that I don't think enough people know about.

Hopefully you'll find this helpful. It saves me a ton of time, and is a big reason why I'm able to consistently update a full-color strip:

http://www.calamitiesofnature.com/blog/index.php?blog=111

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  • bombardierbombardier Moderator mod
    edited January 2009
    You can post the full tutorial here, otherwise the link can go in the Q&D thread and this gets locked for sitewhoring.

    bombardier on
  • tpirotpiro Registered User
    edited January 2009
    Sorry about that! Hopefully this is better.

    I've found a free photoshop plug-in that does this all for you. It saves me a ton of time and is one of the main reasons I'm able to update a full-color comic three times a week.

    So how does this magic flatting plug-in work? First, you can download the photoshop plug-in here. Once you have it correctly installed, you should have two new options under your Filter menu option, BPelt->Flatten and BPelt->MultiFill. Next, bring up your line art. You need to make sure a copy of the line art is saved in the background layer. In addition, you need another copy of the line art somewhere else, either as a separate layer, or as one of the channels (I do the latter). You need this separate copy because the background line art will be erased in this process. Your artwork should then look something like this:

    flatting1.jpg

    Next, go to Filter->BPelt->MultiFill. This will fill all of the line work with colors from a chosen palette.

    flatting2.jpg

    But we're not done yet. The line work has been filled with color, but the colors don't butt up against one another yet. So go to Filter->BPelt->Flatten. This will expand the colors and erase the line work, so that your comic looks like this:

    flatting3.jpg

    That's it. We're essentially done. You can use a combination of the paint bucket tool and the lasso tool to fill the flattened colors with your comic's normal color palette. If you have simple line work, this can be done in seconds. Because of the crosshatching I use, it takes me a little longer, but it's still super fast. The result is this:

    flatting4.jpg

    Your comic is all ready to add shading. Here's the final product:

    flatting5.jpg

    That was easy, huh? Now you have no excuse but to make comics in full, glorious color, so get at it!

    tpiro on
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  • TheJacksTheJacks Registered User
    edited January 2009
    I think the guy that does QC uses this too

    TheJacks on
  • AllanAllan Registered User
    edited January 2009
    No offense tpiro but I think it's easier just to use the paint bucket with thresholded lines (very large pure black/white).

    This seems like you are doing a bunch of different steps to get the same outcome? Or am I reading it wrong?

    Allan on
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  • tpirotpiro Registered User
    edited January 2009
    Allan wrote: »
    No offense tpiro but I think it's easier just to use the paint bucket with thresholded lines (very large pure black/white).

    This seems like you are doing a bunch of different steps to get the same outcome? Or am I reading it wrong?

    The plug-in has the added benefit of trapping the color under the line art, which is what you want if you're going to have your artwork print ready. Alternatively, you can use the magic wand tool to select areas, and then the expand option to do the trapping, but this is more time consuming and less exact.

    tpiro on
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  • NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Is this really faster than just doing the ole "Multiply" + brush trick?

    NightDragon on
  • Synthetic OrangeSynthetic Orange Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Well, the multiarea colour seperation could be used to produce selection areas neatly and quickly...

    If the flatten tool worked. All that tool did was to mess around with my lineart.

    edit: after trying it out a bit more, it seems to have real problems with heavily antialiased lines.

    Synthetic Orange on
  • MagicToasterMagicToaster JapanRegistered User regular
    edited January 2009
    If its a matter of speed, I think a wacom will help you paint faster.

    MagicToaster on
  • NotASenatorNotASenator Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    This really isn't a painting sort of thing, it seems targeted towards someone cranking out a comic everyday and looking to boil down the process some.

    NotASenator on
  • Synthetic OrangeSynthetic Orange Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    2yy6tdu.jpg

    It's pretty bad for soft edges, but if you produce hard sharp linework that should work okay. Maybe.

    Synthetic Orange on
  • Synthetic OrangeSynthetic Orange Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    On the other hand it works well with a very hard edged brush, and GREAT with the Pencil tool if you're the type who only works with shrunken artwork. Scanned pencilwork is really iffy.

    Synthetic Orange on
  • tpirotpiro Registered User
    edited January 2009
    On the other hand it works well with a very hard edged brush, and GREAT with the Pencil tool if you're the type who only works with shrunken artwork. Scanned pencilwork is really iffy.

    You're totally correct. Anti-aliased line work does not work well with this plug-in. You want sharp line work.

    Sorry I forgot to include this in the tutorial!

    And I agree with the others that there are other ways to do this, but I've found this plug-in to be by far the fastest. If you're trying to put out a full-color comic on a consistent basis, every second you can save in the process is a big deal!

    tpiro on
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  • Synthetic OrangeSynthetic Orange Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    That does limit its usefulness quite a bit. Even if you crush down your levels to produce sharp linework you'll still end up with a ton of jagged artifacts when you go through this process. Maybe with a bit more tinkering it could be quite useful, but right now it looks like you've got to have a very specific work process and style.

    Synthetic Orange on
  • tpirotpiro Registered User
    edited January 2009
    That does limit its usefulness quite a bit. Even if you crush down your levels to produce sharp linework you'll still end up with a ton of jagged artifacts when you go through this process. Maybe with a bit more tinkering it could be quite useful, but right now it looks like you've got to have a very specific work process and style.

    Good points. I guess I never thought of that. If you're doing work that's sufficiently high resolution for print, it won't look jagged, even for sharp linework. I typically work at 300-600 dpi, so the plug-in always worked great for me.

    tpiro on
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  • BetelgeuseBetelgeuse Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Yeah. I think a lot of you guys don't really realize the value of something like this. I helped S_O with a lot of the flatting for Whistles (dozens of pages), and this would have been a godsend. Multiply + brush took fucking forever.

    Betelgeuse on
  • AllanAllan Registered User
    edited January 2009
    I don't mean to be a know-it-all over here, but really the fastest way to color is to scan your image HUGE, then make all the lines pure black and white and then just fill them in with a paint bucket with no anti-aliasing (on a separate later, preferably). When you size 'em down and flatten them they'll be smooth as can be and look great in no time at all! Much faster than Brush Multiplying!

    Allan on
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  • crawdaddiocrawdaddio Tacoma, WARegistered User, ClubPA
    edited January 2009
    Except that if you're publishing, you need adjacent colors to but up against another in the absence of the lines (it's a process called trapping, as mentioned in the tutorial, which is so that there's no white showing if the alignment of one of the four colors is a teeny bit off during printing).

    crawdaddio on
    Try putting your donger in a dishwasher and see how that comes out.
  • BetelgeuseBetelgeuse Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Allan wrote: »
    I don't mean to be a know-it-all over here, but really the fastest way to color is to scan your image HUGE, then make all the lines pure black and white and then just fill them in with a paint bucket with no anti-aliasing (on a separate later, preferably). When you size 'em down and flatten them they'll be smooth as can be and look great in no time at all! Much faster than Brush Multiplying!

    That's not a very good way of doing it.

    Betelgeuse on
  • NibCromNibCrom Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Why not?

    NibCrom on
  • BetelgeuseBetelgeuse Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Because of what crawdaddio said.

    Also because bucket-filling inked lines does not work properly. The areas right up against the lines won't be filled and you'll have to color it in anyway to fix it. Seriously, you're asking why it's not a great idea to bucket fill inks? People here correct noobs for doing that all the time.

    Betelgeuse on
  • NibCromNibCrom Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Well, my basic procedure for flats is to select the area, expand it, and fill it in on the next layer and set the original layer to multiply. I guess that's a combination of different procedures. Not trying to be a jerk, just trying to figure out if I would have any trouble printing my stuff if I ever decided to. :)

    NibCrom on
  • NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    NibCrom wrote: »
    Well, my basic procedure for flats is to select the area, expand it, and fill it in on the next layer and set the original layer to multiply. I guess that's a combination of different procedures. Not trying to be a jerk, just trying to figure out if I would have any trouble printing my stuff if I ever decided to. :)

    I'm pretty sure that's fine (thought I can see where you may run into trouble with that method if the lineart's a bit iffy)....but I think the main problem Betel was talking about was if you're coloring on the *same layer* as the lineart.

    NightDragon on
  • NibCromNibCrom Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Oh, okay. Yeah, I put it on a different layer from the lineart. I scan in black and white at 1200 dpi and work at 600. Thanks for the clarification folks.

    NibCrom on
  • MagicToasterMagicToaster JapanRegistered User regular
    edited January 2009
    OK, I don't really do that much line art scanning in PS, but what is the difference between scanning at 1200 dpi and resizing at 600 than just scanning it at 600dpi?

    MagicToaster on
  • NibCromNibCrom Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    For me, it's just easier to clean up my inks at 1200 dpi and then shrink it too 600 dpi. I also figure the higher resolution, the better? But I'm sure at some point it kinda doesn't matter. I wouldn't mind hearing other people's opinion on the subject.

    NibCrom on
  • ProspicienceProspicience The Raven King DenvemoloradoRegistered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Makes the lines look a little sharper if I remember correctly. It's kind of like when you resize a photo, the smaller it is, a lot of times the sharper/cleaner it looks... unless it's already a really sharp pic.

    Prospicience on
  • AllanAllan Registered User
    edited January 2009
    crawdaddio wrote: »
    Except that if you're publishing, you need adjacent colors to but up against another in the absence of the lines (it's a process called trapping, as mentioned in the tutorial, which is so that there's no white showing if the alignment of one of the four colors is a teeny bit off during printing).

    Isn't a quick solution to this just to fill an entire background layer with, say, purple, then have your lines on the foreground and your colors on a layer in between?

    Also, to fill in the small places you can't use a bucket on take the pencil tool and just draw it in in a layer below. If you fill in the large areas with the bucket tool and then only have a few stray pixels to correct with the pencil you are saving a bunch of time.

    Allan on
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  • tpirotpiro Registered User
    edited January 2009
    Allan wrote: »
    crawdaddio wrote: »
    Except that if you're publishing, you need adjacent colors to but up against another in the absence of the lines (it's a process called trapping, as mentioned in the tutorial, which is so that there's no white showing if the alignment of one of the four colors is a teeny bit off during printing).

    Isn't a quick solution to this just to fill an entire background layer with, say, purple, then have your lines on the foreground and your colors on a layer in between?

    Also, to fill in the small places you can't use a bucket on take the pencil tool and just draw it in in a layer below. If you fill in the large areas with the bucket tool and then only have a few stray pixels to correct with the pencil you are saving a bunch of time.

    The nice part about the plug-in is that it automatically does the trapping. I'm not sure how what you describe does the trapping.

    tpiro on
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  • crawdaddiocrawdaddio Tacoma, WARegistered User, ClubPA
    edited January 2009
    Allan wrote: »
    crawdaddio wrote: »
    Except that if you're publishing, you need adjacent colors to but up against another in the absence of the lines (it's a process called trapping, as mentioned in the tutorial, which is so that there's no white showing if the alignment of one of the four colors is a teeny bit off during printing).

    Isn't a quick solution to this just to fill an entire background layer with, say, purple, then have your lines on the foreground and your colors on a layer in between?

    Also, to fill in the small places you can't use a bucket on take the pencil tool and just draw it in in a layer below. If you fill in the large areas with the bucket tool and then only have a few stray pixels to correct with the pencil you are saving a bunch of time.

    But then how do you separate the linework from the colors? The fill tool only works if they're on the same layer, and then when you separate the work by channel, you're still stuck with the same no-trapping problem as before. And if you keep the original linework, you're stuck with two copies of the lines, and a misaligned black channel will lead to ghosting.

    crawdaddio on
    Try putting your donger in a dishwasher and see how that comes out.
  • AllanAllan Registered User
    edited January 2009
    You separate the linework by copy and pasting it. Because it is threshheld (?) they are all solid, black, jagged lines which you can simply use the magic want (turn off Contiguous) and copy and paste on a new layer of its own!

    ...I feel like maybe I should make a tutorial, haha.

    And just to clarify, "trapping" means getting rid of all white color? Or what? I am still unclear about that.

    Allan on
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  • crawdaddiocrawdaddio Tacoma, WARegistered User, ClubPA
    edited January 2009
    Alright, let's see if I can get a few crude pictures to help address both of your points.

    Anyway--I set the linework layer on the trapped version to 50% opacity to better show what's happening with the channels. The first one is a background done more or less (from what I could manage quickly from your explanations) how you do the flats. The twist, though, is that after I was all done, I offset the linework layer (functioning as the black channel in a four-color printing process) by two pixels horizontally and one pixel vertically, to simulate a misaligned black channel. This is what happens to the colors:

    no-trap.jpg

    If you're using the edges of your linework as boundaries, no matter how you do it, you're going to have colors peeking through somehow. That's where trapping comes in; here's the same image, properly (well, sort of) trapped to that the colors butt up against each other along the middle of the lines (with the black at 50%, as mentioned earlier)--I applied the same misalignment of the black "channel":

    trap.jpg

    It's full-sized to make perfectly clear what's happening. The trapping allows the color changes to stay hidden under the lines. You might say that it's only because the lines here are very thick, but misalignments (with good printers) will be very small. It's extremely hard to get absolutely perfect alignment with even the best printer, and that's the kind of alignment that your flatting method requires. Hopefully that makes things clearer.

    crawdaddio on
    Try putting your donger in a dishwasher and see how that comes out.
  • tpirotpiro Registered User
    edited January 2009
    That's great crawdaddio! Thanks for clarifying this for everyone. Hopefully this will end the confusion.

    tpiro on
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  • Synthetic OrangeSynthetic Orange Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Basically it's a printing issue.

    Synthetic Orange on
  • crawdaddiocrawdaddio Tacoma, WARegistered User, ClubPA
    edited January 2009
    Yes.

    crawdaddio on
    Try putting your donger in a dishwasher and see how that comes out.
  • AllanAllan Registered User
    edited January 2009
    I guess if I ever start printing large booklets in full color then I will beware of this. Though, the misprints does give it that cool Old Marvel kinda look which some people might like.

    Allan on
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  • MykonosMykonos Registered User
    edited January 2009
    sorry if I look like an ass for doing this but....

    http://www.studioqube.com/tutorials/painting/index.html


    goes into the specifics as how to handle cleaning up linework and coloring. That aside, adding in flat colors shouldn't take more than few minutes depending on what your working on. Just take a flat circle brush with the opacity jitter turned off and color over the linework on a multiply layer. If you want to change the color of the lineart, just select the layer its on and adjustment -> hueshift with colorize checked in and ur set.

    Sorry I just honestly think throwing out tutorials centered on plugins like this will do more harm than good for new guys starting out digitally. It narrows your creative freedom and hinders development, in addition to narrowing your hindsight to more standard and efficient methods used by professionals in the industry.

    It still cool that ur taking time to post a tut like this, and hey if thats your thing whose to question it - but theres a reason why plugins and filters are considered no-no's by many.


    edit: after rereading many of the posts I'm not sure the link or anything I said can be applicable to what some of you are doing. Maybe this IS a big help for you guys....

    Mykonos on
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  • AllanAllan Registered User
    edited January 2009
    Still a somewhat useful link to those looking to learn how to color better, though!

    Allan on
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  • ManonvonSuperockManonvonSuperock Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    Allan wrote: »
    I don't mean to be a know-it-all over here, but really the fastest way to color is to scan your image HUGE, then make all the lines pure black and white and then just fill them in with a paint bucket with no anti-aliasing (on a separate later, preferably). When you size 'em down and flatten them they'll be smooth as can be and look great in no time at all! Much faster than Brush Multiplying!

    I used to do my inks like that, but we had a whole lesson on getting good lineart from a scan in my photoshop class. If you've got relatively simple lineart like you do (which is about on par with the type of lineart i usually deal with), it can be lightning-fast, and you only have to do it once.

    Scan in your lineart as grayscale that's representative of your average work at the dpi that you normally scan it at. Then, follow three steps:

    1. levels (don't go so extreme that you lose detail, just enough to get your blacks fairly black and your whites fairly white).

    2. filter->sharpen->unsharp mask, (the settings will vary depending on your average line thickness and dpi but make sure your amount is high, and your threshold is low (0-2 at the most).

    3. image->adjustments->threshold (this cuts your art to just black and white. the number you choose is the division i.e 156 takes the 156 levels of gray beneath that and makes them black and the 100 levels over that and makes that white. 128 is centered. my lineart usually looks best around 114)

    4. image->mode->(either CMYK or RGB (whichever you work in)

    Now, when you do this, record it as an action. That way after you scan your grayscale lineart, you have only one mouse click and you get gorgeous lines.
    OK, I don't really do that much line art scanning in PS, but what is the difference between scanning at 1200 dpi and resizing at 600 than just scanning it at 600dpi?

    It doesn't really help from a printer's perspective. Ideally, what should be done is the lineart scanned, cleaned, and thresholded at 1200 dpi. Then, in a separate file, color at 300 dpi so you're not raping your resources, then upscale your color to your lineart for the file to give the printer. That's the format that DC comics insists of their artists, and it works really well.
    Mykonos wrote: »
    Sorry I just honestly think throwing out tutorials centered on plugins like this will do more harm than good for new guys starting out digitally. It narrows your creative freedom and hinders development, in addition to narrowing your hindsight to more standard and efficient methods used by professionals in the industry.

    It still cool that ur taking time to post a tut like this, and hey if thats your thing whose to question it - but theres a reason why plugins and filters are considered no-no's by many.

    edit: after rereading many of the posts I'm not sure the link or anything I said can be applicable to what some of you are doing. Maybe this IS a big help for you guys....

    Your edit is correct. This is a discussion mainly of people that are printing artwork that has solid lineart.

    Also, your statement about filters is skewed. There are two types of filters available. Gimmicks and tools.
    Tpiro posted a tool. Sharpening? it's a tool. Lens flare, mosaic, everything under 'art'? They're gimmicks.
    You can learn to use some of the gimmicks as tools, but don't discourage people from using tools that are available to them.

    ManonvonSuperock on
  • AllanAllan Registered User
    edited January 2009
    Manonvon, usually I just skip the whole 1., 2., and jump right into 3., but I will try testing out 1. and 2. first and tell you how it goes! Plus an action is really smart. Why didn't I do that earlier?

    EDIT: Here's the comparison shots to what I normally do (just threshold) v. what you do (the other stuff as well):

    My Threshold:

    lineart1tv7.gif

    Your Steps:

    lineart2rb4.gif

    There's not much of a difference, here. All I can really see is the black from the side of the notebook is a little darker in mine than yours, but everything else looks practically the same. Perhaps I just saved you a couple steps?

    Allan on
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  • ManonvonSuperockManonvonSuperock Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I usually don't clean up the pencils too much underneath my inks, so 1. and 2. is pretty necessary or 3. gives me a lot of random shit from my dirty paper and pencil marks. Also, I have the settings on my scanner to scan without bumping the levels or contrast there. My professor got me in the habit of being in complete control of my inks without relying on the scanner. He'd have us do some crazily detailed shit, like the portrait off a $20 bill. His instructions: I want it thresholded and exact. You'd have to do different levels and threshold settings for different parts of the image depending on complexity. It was a pretty cool exercise, I'd suggest doing it for anyone that'd like to hone those skills.

    Allan, do you mind posting a full resolution of the ballcap and pants from the image you posted? It looks like there's some noticeable difference there, but I can't tell for sure at such a low res.

    ManonvonSuperock on
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