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A Step-by-Step Tutorial by Will

17 May 12
Jerrod Smith
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I’ve had requests to show my process with prisma marker coloring, and though I can’t video record myself yet, I think I’ll use this sketch to show my progress step by step.

Step 1: Penciling
So far, you’re seeing the very messy pencil lines that I lay down first. This is normally where I think the pic looks like crap….
Step 1: Pencils

Step 2: Inking!!!
Inking is pretty much where I do all of my cleaning up. All the lines become definite.

A tip that I picked up from LeSean Thomas was using different pen sizes to pull off line weight and perspective. I kind of did that here. I gave each character a solid outline around them, and then there is one solid outline around the entire collection of bodies, or the silhouette of the picture in technical terms. Pretty much, the thickest lines are around the characters, while the thinner lines are in the folds of their clothes and and hair texture and facial lines and what not.

From here, I’ll erase the leftover pencil lines and proceed to the next step, which is laying down the first layer of colors, or what we call in the comic realm “flats”.
Step 2: Inking

Step 3: Flats – Common Colors
My process of laying down my flats happens in three steps. The first part is what I refer to as the “uniform phase”. Pretty much I lay down all the colors that the team shares, which are: cool grey 70% for the black highlights, and a Warm French grey at 60% for things like Mercer’s shirt and Sequoia’s jacket cuffs.

And also, the main part I do here is give all the characters an under layer of a very light brown (called cinnamon toast) for their skin tones. In color theory, I was always taught to put an under layer color for things like skin tones, cause if you look at your skin, it isn’t exactly just one color. Technically, you can do this with just about all colors, and lately I have experimented with doing it with other colors, but I ALWAYS lay down the cinnamon toast color as an under layer for my African skin color characters.
Step 3: Common flats

Step 4: Flats – Skin Tones
During this part, we begin to see the team as individuals. For the most part, they all have different skin tones. Mercer and Odan both have a sienna brown tone. Geronimo and Sequoia both have light tan skin tones. Darius has a walnut skin tone. With Staples being from England, his skin tone is the lightest, a sandy brown. And with Melanin being from Africa, and also because she absorbs the sun’s light for her super strength, she has the darkest skin tone, which is a light umber color.

During this phase, I also go ahead and knock out any other brown colors, such as Sequoia, Doome, and Geronimo’s hair, as well as Staple’s outfit and scars, and Geronimo’s jacket.

P.S. *ahem* I normally color Odan’s fro during this part as well……..but I forgot :/
Step 4: Skin tones

Step 5: Flats – Individual Uniform Colors
Now that all of the common colors such as the greys and browns have been laid down, I begin adding the separate colors to each member’s outfit: Odan’s purple, Melanin’s red, green and yellow, Doome’s blue and metallic colors, etc. This is the part where the characters really began to shine on their own while still looking like a crew. The Blacks and Greys keep them in uniform, but their individual colors give them each a look of their own.

For some people….this would be good enough……..but nah, son…..nah……………so far, all of this has been the foreplay. The next step: GETTIN’ IT IN aka LAYING DOWN THE TONES!!!!!
Step 5: Individual colors

Step 6: First Layer of Tones
“Tones” are pretty much the shaded areas of the colors. Tones help give a sense of where the light in the picture is coming from (the technical term is called the light source). Going off where all the tones/shadows are coming from, the light in this pic is coming from the left (their right in the picture).

Tones also give the characters a sense of a 3-D look. If you look at a ball, you’ll notice that the ball has a light area, and the area furthest away from the light becomes darker. That’s pretty much what you’re doing when you lay down the tones. You give all the shapes in the picture a sense of depth.

This almost looks done, but there’s one more step…..
Step 6: First layer of tones

Step 7: Final Tones and Shadows
During this part, I lay down some very dark greys and warm blacks to act as my solid blacks. They pretty much act as the solid blacks that are normally laid down by the inking artist in comics. Since the coloring is a strong point in my work, I try to only use the black for the black parts of their outfits. In my color theory classes, I was taught that black isn’t actually a color, so when it comes to shading, it’s best to use greys or darker versions of the color to provide a sense of darkness.

After doing all of that, I normally go over a few of the thinner lines in the character’s faces/facial hair/designs in attire and pretty much any line that may have lost some volume during the coloring process to make sure everything is defined.
Step 7: Final Tones and shadows

Step 8: Scanning
This is probably the easiest part. Scan in the work and crop it to the size that I want. You may be thinking this is the final part, but no. Though the image is scanned in, the scanner doesn’t immediately capture all the colors the way I want it to. So now I move on the final step, the part where the drawing goes from looking like a marker drawing on paper to looking like it came fresh out of a printed comic…..
Step 8: Scanning

Step 9: Brightness, Contrast and Saturation Editing
During this part, I make the colors POP. I raise the level of saturation to bring out the brightness of the colors while also increasing the contrast to solidify the blacks. After that, I simply apply a filter to the final piece and that’s it. DONE, SON!!!

I will say this. Just about everything you saw in this tutorial were things I learned through trial and error. Even though I couldn’t finish my time at the Savannah College of Art and Design, I never stopped teaching myself. I know this sounds corny to some, but don’t ever let anybody tell you you CAN’T. The art you see in BLACKGUARD is the result of me WANTING to get better with my art. With that being said, whatever it is you want, go get it…………. within reason and legally of course.
Step 9: Brightness/contrast/saturation editing

Read the BlackGuard comic here!

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