Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

How do you make a black and white comic as good as a color comic?
JillyFoo at 2:34PM, Nov. 12, 2007
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Yep everyone likes the color comics. And why not.. they look fabulous!

Now if you have a black and white comic… how can you make it as visually appealing as a color comic?
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:08PM
mlai at 2:43PM, Nov. 12, 2007
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By using techniques only a B&W comic could accomplish. Sin City for example.

FIGHT current chapter: Filling In The Gaps
FIGHT_2 current chapter: Light Years of Gold
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:06PM
JustNoPoint at 3:28PM, Nov. 12, 2007
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I am still trying to find a good way to make fight scenes in a color comic as nice looking as a B&W comic's fight scenes.

Look at action scenes in a well made B&W comic. IMO they always look better than a color counterpart of equal or greater quality.

I don't generally like B&W comics as much as color myself. Look at mlai's comic, it's one of the few that I absolutely love.

Also look at anything cs3ink makes.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:12PM
kyupol at 3:29PM, Nov. 12, 2007
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Regarding colored comics, I'd say the fact that its COLORED makes it look about 20-30% prettier than it actually is.

My only advice to make black and white good… is to have a high technical skill in art. You must have a solid understanding of concepts like light and shadow and perspectives.

NOW UPDATING!!!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:25PM
CharleyHorse at 3:49PM, Nov. 12, 2007
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You have to agree with all of the above, of course. In addition, though, for black and white, inking skills are paramount. Hmm, let me rephrase that, inking and shading skills.

For exceptional inking skills on on a purely dramatic level this DrunkDuck artist is currently knocking the artistic ball out of the park http://www.drunkduck.com/Tales_From_The_Cornerstone_The_Midnight_Shift/
Although I'm studying his work, he's a lightyear or so further along than I am at this point.

For excellent shading skills take a DrunkDuck gander at http://www.drunkduck.com/The_Wrong_Hero/Is he using screen tone or just shades of gray? Marvelous work!

It seems to me that most artists are a bit too timid when working only in black and white, particularly if they are used to working with color as the primary attention-getter for their work. This may just be me, of course, but I find that I have to force myself to take chances when inking strictly black and white art work.

But the more chances I take, the more daring I get with ink placement, the better my stuff looks. Anyway, I noticed that with a previous comic book strip of mine.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:40AM
TheMidge28 at 12:24PM, Nov. 13, 2007
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One major pitfall I see when someone does a B&W comic is lack of balance.
So much white that it washes out the illustrations.
The artist is more interested in just drawing the lines and not think of the overall structure of the piece.

Questions to ask yourself when developing and finishing a page(this goes for color pages as well):
When looking at a page how does it look wholistically and not in its individual aspects?
Is there a balance of B&W throughout the page?
Is it dynamic but not busy?
Does the flow of the page draw the readers eye about the page as you intend?


I found these listings from wiki to be helpful to understand your approach which surprisingly if defined for yourself really helps define your style…

Approaches to design
A design approach is a general philosophy that may or may not include a guide for specific methods. Some are to guide the overall goal of the design. Other approaches are to guide the tendencies of the designer. A combination of approaches may be used if they don't conflict.

Some popular approaches include:

User-centered design, which focuses on the needs, wants, and limitations of the end user of the designed artifact.
Use-centered design, which focuses on the goals and tasks associated with the use of the artifact, rather than focusing on the end user.
KISS principle, (Keep it Simple, Stupid), which strives to eliminate unnecessary complications
There is more than one way to do it (TMTOWTDI), a philosophy to allow multiple methods of doing the same thing
Murphy's Law (things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance)

Also varied methods to design to consider:

Divergence: Exploring possibilities and constraints of inherited situations by applying critical thinking through qualitative and quantitative research methods to create new understanding (problem space) toward better design solutions
Transformation: Redefining specifications of design solutions which can lead to better guidelines for traditional and contemporary design activities (architecture, graphic, industrial, information, interaction, et al.) and/or multidisciplinary response
Convergence: Prototyping possible scenarios for better design solutions that incrementally or significantly improve the originally inherited situation
Sustainability: Managing the process of exploring, redefining and prototyping of design solutions continually over time

one final thought…
I would encourage individuals to take a intro to graphic design class.
understanding the principles behind visual communication and design takes a person who has excellent illustration skills to create a overall dynamic and appealing presentation.





last edited on July 14, 2011 4:22PM
Knuckles at 12:54PM, Nov. 13, 2007
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uhh.. well you can always just do it the cheap way and just color it normally then turn the saturation down in Photoshop to make it B&W… :P

Myth Xaran (manga) - http://www.drunkduck.com/Myth_Xaran
Exodus Studios (Games & More) - http://www.exodus-studio.com
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:19PM
Broken Minds at 1:19PM, Nov. 13, 2007
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Lay your page out more dynamically as possible, experiment, have a firm grasp on shadows and light. Understand gradations and how they generally apply to the sense of color.

If all else fails, do like knuckles said, color it, then swap it to monochrome. Wala.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:35AM
cartoonprofessor at 5:13AM, Nov. 14, 2007
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Search for “Here there be Robots” here on DD.
This comic has great texture, balance and excellent light/shadow.
(Very funny too)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:36AM
CharleyHorse at 6:28AM, Nov. 14, 2007
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Thanks Cartoonprofessor! I did a search, and you are right about the fellow's art work quality. Very nice! It's located here:

http://www.drunkduck.com/Here_There_Be_Robots/index.php?p=1176

I'm faving it for further study. I don't know how I over looked it before since it looks like we share a similar penciling and inking style .

Anyway, it brings up a point that I didn't want to slip by. It's not bad advice to color a page and then grayscale it to fake black and white work, IF you are in a hurry. The only problem with that technique as I see it is that black and white work that is deliberately created to be without color is also given additional dramatic touches through the inking techniques alone, techniques that are frequently left out if the artist intends to color the final work.

Am I being coherent here? All I mean by this is that artists intending to keep their work exclusively black and white sometimes incorporate a great deal more in the way of line variations and blocks of contrasting ink work than they would if they were definitely going to color the work after the inking process.

Sigh . . . sometimes I'm not sure if my brain is on line or not while I'm writing something like this about the technical aspects of art work.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:40AM
Broken Minds at 8:12AM, Nov. 14, 2007
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Well line weight, cross hatching and other methods play a part in color and b & w alike. It's just down to artistic preferance.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:35AM
killersteak at 8:15AM, Nov. 14, 2007
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Contraaaaaast.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:15PM
CharleyHorse at 3:39PM, Nov. 14, 2007
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Yeah, contrast and line weight, cross hatching and everything, just that same as in full color work. It's exactly the same . . . only sometimes with different emphasis for dramatic effect.

My best suggestion for someone wanting to turn out really top quality black and white work is to study light and shadow theory and composition, and anatomy and other people's ink work, and to take a gander at everything available on the Internet that purports to tutor in inking techniques.

The above is what I've done. Granted, none of the above has worked wonders for me, but I'm at least the second laziest artist with pages up on DrunkDuck and so this is a case of do what I say do but definitely for darn sure, do yourself a big favor and don't ink like I ink. For-sure!
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:40AM
angry_black_guy at 1:33PM, Nov. 15, 2007
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People have to remember that working with strictly ink is that you have to add in the elements that color normally takes care of for you chiefly shading and texturing. Just do a search for Robert Crumb (my favorite artist) and look at his work. Even his still-life drawings look photorealistic.

But let's face it, a lot of people simply don't know what coloring is. And I'm not talking about coloring within the lines, I mean actual THEORY. The eyes are naturally drawn to certain colors and there's numerous techniques you have to follow such as varying warm and cool colors, contrast, and saturation. Anyone looking for advice on coloring well should read Minus (and if you haven't figured it out, it is my favorite webcomic).

last edited on July 14, 2011 10:52AM
lemon_king at 3:18PM, Dec. 9, 2007
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Writing!
If it's not sane to spell words with your Cheerios, I don't want to be sane.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:34PM
Frostflowers at 4:37AM, Dec. 10, 2007
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B&W comics can do awesome things with contrast that colour comics can't - playing with lineweight; exaggerating shadows and light in stark blacks: doing an entire page in B&W and adding a single colour detail; pure blacks with no greyscale, etc., etc.

A lot of it rests on technical skill, but that doesn't mean B&W comics have to have perfect anatomy and perspective - the exaggerated and twisted often works quite well in B%W. When the reader isn't “blinded” by colour work, the visual style of the artist comes across more clearly, too.
The Continued Misadventures of Bonebird - a poor bird's quest for the ever-elusive and delicious apples.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:31PM
twistedrabbit at 3:24PM, Dec. 10, 2007
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Definetly strong shadows with black lines and shapes.
Really punches it off the the page!

My only semi-black and white was actually more grayscale…and unplanned, I just ended up chosing a very…gray pallete for Daughters of Dougary.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:35PM
cetriya at 6:38PM, Dec. 11, 2007
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since all (untill recently) of the comics I was exposed to was BW I fell more comfortable working in bw. why? cause now I dont have to deal with color temperature….

you be the judge…
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:39AM
BKKiMP at 9:25PM, Dec. 11, 2007
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Personally, I don't feel that the technique of coloring a page and then changing it to greyscale works well. Colors that are completely different but have similar values end up being the same shade of grey. Unless you're doing major tweaks after the fact, this usually leads to an unplanned muddy look.

I've seen fantastic results from the reverse though. Greyscaling your work and then adding a layer with flat colors can create a near finished color piece. It's a technique that's even used by an artist such as Alex Ross, though he does his with gouache rather than digitally.

I'd suggest working from black, white, and grey to color, and not the reverse.

I also love to see more artistic mediums used in black and white. Does anyone else enjoy the look of just plain pencils? I love to see penciled work. Using something like pencil or charcoal in a black and white comic, either in addition to, or instead of just inking, to me are artistic media that just “work” in black and white and help highlight that format choice. White conte on black or grey paper rocks too.

-Bryan “the Imp” Imhoff
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:23AM
cetriya at 6:12PM, Dec. 13, 2007
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pencial is nice but it doesnt print well….

I just like what best matches the style and mood of the pic
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:39AM
SarahN at 8:11PM, Dec. 13, 2007
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People have said my gray work is better than my full color…and I agree with them. Most of the time…I think I've gotten better at color recently. ;)

Still, that proves full color doesn't automatically mean it's better looking.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:23PM
spacehamster at 1:47AM, Dec. 14, 2007
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I made the switch from color to B/W for purely practical reasons about half a year ago. It scared the pants off me, but I've since gotten pretty comfortable with it. Here's some of the stuff I've learned since then.

-Rule #1: don't think of the absence of color as a lack of something that you have to work around. Think of working in black and white as a different method with its unique advantages and disadvantages, just like any other.

-Yes, your illustrations will have to be more solid if you can't hide your weaknesses behind color anymore. Be afraid of this, because you should be. But see it as a reason to try harder. In the end, it will make your art better.

-Ink only means you don't have to worry about how you're going to color something anymore. You don't have to define every little shape anymore - everything you draw is a shadow now, really. Outlines can be broken, especially on shiny surfaces. Shapes can blend into each other as long as it's clear what's where. You can render differently, a bit more loosely maybe, and it can be great fun to work this way.

-As others have already said, you need to become very aware of where your blacks go because the contrast between black and white will become the first thing (NOT the only thing, though) that guides your reader's eye across the page. You'll likely have to plan your pages more carefully.

Dropping the colors is a great challenge, but challenges should be fun. You want to improve as an artist, right? You want to master as many different things as possible, right? Once you notice that you're actually pulling it off, you'll feel incredibly proud of yourself. Plus, even if you do decide to go back to coloring someday, your art will look better. Because a lot of the stuff working in b/w teaches you still applies in color.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:50PM
cetriya at 6:49AM, Dec. 14, 2007
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spacehamster
-Yes, your illustrations will have to be more solid if you can't hide your weaknesses behind color anymore. Be afraid of this, because you should be. But see it as a reason to try harder. In the end, it will make your art better.


I find this in reverse. I notice my lack of drawing more so when in color…

but realy, dont think of BW as an abstance of color but as BW in its self. that way you're not so preoccupied to make regular distinctive shapes but more ‘expressive’ shapes
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:39AM
The Devils Toilet at 11:57AM, Dec. 19, 2007
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Another thing which might be helpful when doing black & white is to think of ‘color’ as different b&w tones and textures. The same shade of a gray area can feel very different when done with stipple (black dots) than with cross hatching or just parralel lines for ‘coloring.’
One book which might be helpful to look at is Arthur L. Guptill's ‘Rendering in Pen and Ink.’ He shows a variety of techniques, as well as giving a bunch of different samples from different artists, so you can get a feel for the many ways, the many variations of doing b&w inking.
…and also, practice, practice, practice. I've switched sketching and doodling from pencil to pen, so as to be more comfortable and more, well, practiced.
To add to the good advice TheMidge28 wrote, balance is important, but don't be afraid to take chances (…as CharleyHorse wrote). Some (old school) illustrators like Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke were great at using excessive amounts of white/white space or black/black space, and did it in ways that worked amazingly well. …Which is to say that you can get balance in other ways than just balancing the ratio of b&w. (…which isn't quite what TheMidge28 said, and is kind of covered with his questions on the whole of the page vs. it's parts, the dynamics and the flow.)
…and lemon king makes a good point- a good story will go a long way, regardless of the medium.
Thanks for the recommendations, CharleyHorse & cartoonprofessor!
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:14PM
ShadowDion at 6:32PM, Dec. 19, 2007
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i think psychologically, no matter what you do, visually people will naturally prefer color. i think a lot of good suggestions have been made but i think most people don't have the right comic for BW. it should really be an artistic choice to make a comic BW, not just because you're scared of color or want to make comics quicker. SinCity worked well in BW because it supported the comic. really what you should ask yourself is does BW support my comic as far as theme, story, etc. if the answer is yes, then you should concern yourself with some of the above suggestions.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:32PM
Blackmoon at 4:45AM, Dec. 20, 2007
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Hmm. I always try and go for a black-and-white aesthetic simply as a time-saver. It takes me upwards of an hour and a half to just put screentone in my work anyway- adding color would take even longer, and I don't have that sort of patience.
So we end up with something weird. I don't really do color, but I'm not doing pure black-and-white, either. My basic rule is, don't go nuts on color, but don't go spartan about it either. Color in moderation.

For instance, it's a rule of thumb that if it's red, I'll color it red. If I need to show that a character is blond, and I don't want to do it through an ambiguous screentone, screw it, I'll just color it in. Stuff like that.

One of the things I've been complemented on is my use of washes of black shading. No grayscale or anything most of the time for shadows, just black. It's really tricky to work with, though- you have to know exactly what you want. More often than not, I find myself waffling between a desire to show realistic shadows, and a desire to show all the details I drew in. Of late, I tend to… throw realism out the window in favor of style, which is probably not a great thing to do, but as long as it looks good in the end- that's really all I'm getting at, here. This is a visual medium. Don't follow prescribed rules. Just do something that is nice to look at, and that works for you.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:23AM
spacehamster at 4:23PM, Dec. 21, 2007
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ShadowDion
i think psychologically, no matter what you do, visually people will naturally prefer color. i think a lot of good suggestions have been made but i think most people don't have the right comic for BW. it should really be an artistic choice to make a comic BW, not just because you're scared of color or want to make comics quicker.

I'm inclined to agree (because my own comic really SHOULD be in color, given its general theme and feel), but I think you're leaving out the simple consideration that for a webcomic to read well, it also needs to be published at the right pace, and the time it takes to color (if you want to do it well, anyway) becomes a real issue there. A relatively fast-paced, straightforward action comic loses all momentum if it only updates once a week. That's basically why I dropped the colors. I'd love to keep doing it, but I seriously think the comic wouldn't read as well if it updated that slowly.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:50PM
mlai at 5:40AM, Dec. 22, 2007
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spacehamster
A relatively fast-paced, straightforward action comic loses all momentum if it only updates once a week.
Shoot, I gotta update more. How often you update, Hams?

FIGHT current chapter: Filling In The Gaps
FIGHT_2 current chapter: Light Years of Gold
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:06PM
spacehamster at 5:23PM, Dec. 25, 2007
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mlai
spacehamster
A relatively fast-paced, straightforward action comic loses all momentum if it only updates once a week.
Shoot, I gotta update more. How often you update, Hams?

Twice a week. I still think that's too slow, really, but it's the fastest I can manage without getting fired from my dayjob, ahem.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:50PM
StaceyMontgomery at 4:41PM, Dec. 29, 2007
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I went with b&w (with some minimal greys) to save time as well. Im producing my strip 5 days a week - in colour, I'd be much slower.

I'm sure that the lack of colour has cost me some readers. The flip side, however, is that it's really helped me focus on my drawing. I'm planning to do more colour some day - just as soon as I've figured B&W out.

One thing at a time, says I.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:55PM

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