Flatting Tutorial: Color your comics quickly!
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
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:
Next, go to Filter->BPelt->MultiFill. This will fill all of the line work with colors from a chosen palette.
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:
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:
Your comic is all ready to add shading. Here's the final product:
That was easy, huh? Now you have no excuse but to make comics in full, glorious color, so get at it!
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.
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.
It's pretty bad for soft edges, but if you produce hard sharp linework that should work okay. Maybe.
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!
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.
That's not a very good way of doing it.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
...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.
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:
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":
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.
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....
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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.
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.
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.
EDIT: Here's the comparison shots to what I normally do (just threshold) v. what you do (the other stuff as well):
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, 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.