The iconic imagery of the 2007 movie "300" showcased a powerful illustration style that had long been popular in the realm of the graphic novel, but might not have been all that well known to the general public. These illustrated stories have cult status in France and Belgium, where graphic novels are referred to as bandes dessinées or BD, "drawn strips," and where they have been considered a serious art form in their own right since their origins early in the 19th century. With the 2011 release of Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin," based on Hergé's famed graphic novel adventurer who first appeared in print in the 1929 story "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets," we again see the merging of these two artistic forms.
"Photoshop CS6: Save in background, recovery, filter layers, video enhancement, Adaptive Wide Angle, a bunch of JDI enhancements — is it my birthday?"
Many key players in the BD field use Adobe® Photoshop® to help bring their visions to life. Stéphane Baril and co-artist Naïts have developed a production approach that marries the best handcrafted illustration techniques with the digital strengths of Photoshop.
Like many creatives, these Franco-Belgian BD artists highly value the way a crayon, ink, or brush interacts with the surface of paper or canvas. They appreciate the way these physical tools capture the artist's gesture and want to preserve that look as much as possible. So even against the backdrop of ever-increasing support for natural drawing techniques in Photoshop, many illustrators still prefer to start the creation process with pencil, pen, or brush and then proceed to digital.
Baril explains, "Today’s digital systems can now simulate almost all traditional coloring techniques. Knowledge of techniques used in painting, combined with the power of today's software, provides a much greater impact when colorizing graphic novel illustrations. Well-controlled gradients and the placement of key lighting are all important techniques for a digital BD colorist."
A typical BD workflow involves drafting the original ideas by hand and then outlining them in ink, brush, or pen. The designs, drawn on artboards, are then scanned to convert them to digital. The line work is captured either in pure black-and-white as a bitmap image or as a grayscale image, which retains more of the original texture and shade. The image is then opened in Photoshop and the outlines are cleaned of artifacts using a combination of tools and techniques, such as Curves to increase contrast and Dodge and Burn tools to eliminate unwanted texture.
The cleaned-up base artwork is then kept in a "line master" layer, and color, shading, and texture are all added in separate layers using the power of the Photoshop toolset. Finally, both volume and lighting are added to the individual characters and the scene to provide a more 3D feel to the illustration.
Book details: Stéphane Baril is an Adobe Creative Suite® expert who works for Adobe France. This article features ideas and images from his book, written with co-author Naïts, which details how to use Photoshop to colorize BD illustrations. Currently the title is available only in French, but hopefully we'll see an English edition soon.
Title: Coloriser ses BD avec Photoshop
Authors: Stéphane Baril, Naïts