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Building Character

This month, I'm going to show how I color in a character step by step. I can't show the entire process color by color; there were too many colors to show them all in one update, it would take entirely too long to scan each step in and, frankly, it would be boring. Hopefully it's been broken down into reasonable chunks. I'll try to name most of the colors used along the way. Since this IMPrint is focusing on the creation of the bartender, there will not be a full-piece progress picture.

STEP 1: Concept
The bartender started off as a concept sketch. This sketch was shown in IMPrint issue 2, but has been included again for reference.
First look at the bartender.
The bartender sketch in the final piece. STEP 2: Final Sketch
When the bartender was drawn into the final piece, she had not changed much. Her perspective had changed and she had lost a little bit of her pigginess, but otherwise she remained very similar to the concept sketch.
STEP 3: Indigo Blue
The first color to be applied is Indigo Blue. The layer begins to set down the values (lights and darks) of the bartender. This blue layer is not heavy enough to determine the final values; the main purpose of this layer is to figure how how light and dark I want individual areas to be.
The Indigo Blue layer.
Tuscan Red layer. STEP 4: Tuscan Red
Next comes the Tuscan Red layer. The red darkens the values more and adds depth and variety to the color. I try to match this layer to the blue almost exactly to create a fairly even purple layer.
STEP 5: Light Umber (Brown)
The final step in setting the initial values is the brown layer. This desaturates the purple while strengthening the darks more. You can tell by referring back to Issue 4 that I use steps 3, 4 and 5 to begin almost every part of this picture. Sometimes the brown in Step 5 is Dark Umber instead of Light, but otherwise I fairly consistently begin with this technique.
Light Umber layer.
Darkest darks... STEP 6: From Darkest Darks...
Unlike the ceiling, a character is composed of many different parts, each with its own value, texture and color. I find it immensely helpful to establish the darkest areas first so that they can be used as visual reference when laying down the middle tones. Often the darkest areas are shadows and creases; in this case, I was lucky enough to be presented with a large dark area- the apron. Using Dark Umber, Warm Grey 90%, some mid-tone French Greys and Black, I color the apron in from start to finish.
STEP 7: ...to Lightest Lights
The next step is to color in what is expected to be a light item. Again, this gives reference for finding the right values for the mid-tones. On the bartender, the lightest area is the shirt. Here you see the first pass on the shirt. The darkest darks of the shirt are defined and the basic color is set using Cream, Slate Blue and various greys.
...to (approximate) lightest lights.
Finishing lights. Here you see the second half of Step 7. The shadows of the shirt are darkened with more Slate Grey, dark greys and umbers. The color of the rest of the shirt is strengthened as well with some pale blues and greys. There are also hints of Yellow Ochre and Jasmine to warm up the white shirt.
STEP 8: Adding Detail and Color
After adding some random "lived in" details to the shirt (subtle stains on the cuffs and front), the bartender is still very monochromatic. So I pick a colorful area, the interior of the mouth, to get some bright color going. As an added bonus, the mouth also establishes the darkest area of the head. I use some pinks and magentas to get the color down, then punch in the darks with more Tuscan Red and Raspberry. To give the mouth a more natural, fleshy color, some Peach and Cream tints are added to the highlights and Indigo Blue to the shadows. Some quick Cream, Yellow Ochre and umbers provide the teeth with their plaque
Adding detail.
Starting the mid-tones. STEP 9: Initial Mid-Tones
Now that the proper ranges have been established (tone and color) the most important area (the face) can be colored in with a fair amount of confidence. Here you see the first pass to establish the color and tone. Some of the main colors used were Yellow Ochre, Jasmine, Bronze and Goldenrod.
STEP 10: Refining the Mid-Tones
The mid-tones are difficult to get right in the first pass, though, and plenty of refining takes place until the final version is reached. In this case, I felt the skin was far too yellow and the darks were not nearly dark enough. The yellow is desaturated with some lightly applied violets and purples. It took some Tuscan Red, Raspberry, French Grey, dark Warm Greys, Indigo Blue, umbers and even Black get the darks to what I felt were both dark enough and the right color.
Refining the mid-tones.

STEP 11: Final Details
The final task is to add in the final details and accessories. Using the same process described in Steps 9 and 10, the hair is colored in using greys and hints of the same colors used in the face. The purple bows accent the yellow in the skin and add a couple more hints of color. The bar towel completes the Bartender, and we can call her D-U-N done.

The final bartender.


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This document last updated Mon Oct 2 11:00:31 2006.