Sunday Mailbag- Digital Coloring?

May 31st, 2015 | Posted in Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: Two questions about digital coloring:

1) I realize that probably 99% of your coloring work is digital, but when you do go old fashioned do you exclusively use watercolor? Or do you use other mediums as well to get the effect you want?

2) Do you see a trend in the marketplace where clients are preferring to see work done either completely digital or at least colored digitally? Or is there still a demand for more traditional mediums such as watercolor? I’m asking because I can’t think of the last time I saw an actual feature cartoon that had that traditional look, it’s all that Pixar style now and I was wondering if that is a trend that’s happening across the board?

A: 1) Actually it’s pretty safe to say that 100% of my color work is digital these days. I’m having trouble remembering the last pro job I did where I had to use traditional media for color… probably some of the team posters I did for the Minnesota Twins back in the 2000’s. I am quite sure I have not done a traditional media job since 2010.

That said, when I do pick up the paintbrush to do something (say for a rare original commission) with traditional media, I use a combination of things. Mostly watercolor, some acrylics, and even a little airbrush for certain effects. Here’s one I did exactly four years ago as a gift to outgoing NCS President Jeff Keane as a gift from the rest of the board:

Jeff Keane

2) That “trend” of which you speak where clients started preferring digital illustration to traditional media happened in the 1990s. Today a young art director would probably look blankly at you if you turned in an actual painting as opposed to a TIFF or PSD file. He or she would probably say “We don’t have a scanner big enough for this! What am I supposed to do with it?” Color processing services, who used to be everywhere and handled color separations of physical artwork and later the scanning of large art are all but gone as the technology to do such things went from large, expensive equipment to cheap desktop scanners. No, all clients today expect a digital file.

That’s not to say they expect the work to be done digitally. They don’t care how you do it, they only want the delivery to be digital. Some art directors prefer a hand painted look, which can be achieved entirely digitally or done with real paints and then scanned for digital delivery. That all depends on the art director and the nature of the job.

That last bit of your question pertains to animation, which I have only a little experience in. I know some old school animators lament the “death” of hand done 2-D animation… but it’s not entirely dead. Like anything, it has to evolve in the digital world. The days of “The Little Mermaid” might be behind us, but we’ll still see wonderful 2D animation like “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” created.

Thanks to Joe Caratenuto for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


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