The Comic Company: True Colors Part 4

The last blog that I wrote about the flat color guides in True Colors Part 3 was very well received and prompted inquiry about how the colorist used the guides that I posted.

The color guides were just as important of a tool to the colorist as they were to the color separator and were intended to eliminate any doubt about the colors being used on a page.

Comico Color Chart by Gerry Giovinco

The colorist would be given black-and-white photocopies of the original art reduced to 80% of the original which was a bit larger than the final print size but made it easier to fit in the codes. These pages would be painted in using water color, Doctor Martin Dyes, designer markers or whatever else would lay in a color field.

Traditional flat color usually just filled areas that were trapped with black line art with one particular color. The color in this area was coded to match the color chart, say YR3B2 (100% yellow, 50% magenta and 25% cyan which would produce a medium brown color)

The code was what the separator was concerned with. The area could be colored red but if the code said green that is how it appeared in print. The colors primarily defined the area to be filled with color. Most colorists did attempt to keep the colors consistent with the code but if a mistake was made only the code needed to be fixed, the area did not need to be repainted.

Though most colorists were meticulous about their application and finished pages were usually beautiful, they were always peppered with code. This made them look less like the work of art that they were.

It was possible to be rather sloppy when applying colors since, as I described earlier, the main purpose was to identify the area to be filled and apply the final code. This was usually the situation when color, which was the last step in the creative process, was being rushed to meet a deadline that had already been jeopardized by either the writer, penciler, inker or letterer.

Color guide that I did for Next Man #4

Regardless of the quality of the application, if the codes and fields were appropriately identified, the final print job would look fine.

How the colors appeared in print.

As the broader range of colors became available colorists were better able to model areas with different values of color to created shaded or tinted areas.

Minimal example of how a seam might show when two percentages butt together.

Generally colorists attempted to alter values on just one of the layers of color and avoided butting percentages of the same color in a single field to prevent a seam from appearing in the finished work.The addition of the 10% and 20% black made it especially easier to shade colors.

When it was necessary to show a gradient, usually in a larger field, it was possible to note the area to be graded. This was usually found on covers of the traditional flat colored books. By the 80’s the gradients were popping up in the interiors due to the better production values available.

At Murphy Anderson’s Visual Concepts, Murphy Jr. would apply an airbrushed fill to the films to match the specs of the gradient. Murphy was a master at this and made many a Comico product look fabulous.

Acid washed denim effect created by Murphy Anderson, Jr.

There was something special about that era when every person along the production route had a hand in the final output of the printed product.

The collaboration and the camaraderie that was developed has long been replaced by the digital file.

More production history to follow next week plus BIG news from CO2 Comics is coming so Stay Tuned!
(Don’t say you weren’t warned…)

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

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4 Responses to “The Comic Company: True Colors Part 4”

  1. paul zdepski says:

    Gerry – I’m loving this series. Like going attending a lecture… which I hope you’re developing along with these blog posts. Art students and designers would benefit from this comprehensive history of the trade.

  2. […] pretty sick, pals, so all I have for today is Gerry Giovinco’s latest column on comics coloring from the ol’ Comico days. An interesting […]

  3. Joe Williams says:

    Another terrific article! Thanks for writing these!

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