Ed “Wizzywig” Piskor has created a Photoshop version of the famous 64-color chart used to color comics up until the advent of computer coloring and scanning in the ’80s.
It is, as he points out, rather than a crippling limitation, an invitation to actually think about color:
Anyhow, the color work that I’ve always responded to positively seems to share the similarities of operating within a select palette of color. With this sparse set of colors, the artist is forced to be pretty inventive and has to put some thought into his choices. The mind isn’t boggled by the “candy bowl” effect of seeing too much information at once. This goes without saying, but a consistent palette also creates a cohesion throughout an entire work which helps to pull the story together as one unit ( I have seen comics where The Hulk was 10 different shades of green throughout).
It isn’t much discussed, but surely the badly, rendered pseudo-CGI coloring that saps all drama from the art by removing the artist’s pencilled intentions is as responsible as anything for the gradual erosion of support for mainstream comics.
Piskor links to a piece by Gene Fama that covers this same topic.
Modern comic colorists, however, don’t need more building blocks. They need damage control. Colorists should be doing much, much less. They’re using too many colors, too much ink, too many effects. Comics look sleazy and grotesque with all their phallic airbrushing, cheesy transparency effects, and modeling. As Miles once told Monk, today’s colorists need to “just sit out” more.
Fama offers a few examples that show what he’s talking about:
Hard to argue with.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.