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Coloring a Vintage Style Comic Panel in Affinity Photo

Today, we will show you how to create a vintage comic book coloring effect in Affinity Photo. For this task, we will use our Splat Illustration Kit  (Full Pack version).

Tools needed:

  • Splat Inks (Optional)
  • Inked Drawing
  • Splat Color Palette
  • Splat Color Process (Macros)
  • Splat Textures
If you want to follow along, feel free to download this inked drawing in Affinity Photo format for testing purposes.

Splat Colors

As the default Splat color palette comes from a vintage comic chart, using it to add color to your artwork will ensure you’ll get an overall old-school look right away.

You can use the Pen Tool to create editable color paths. We’d go after the latter option as it allows you to change your colors faster using vector paths.

Start filling in your paths with any color you like. Then, you can change your mind later and pick other colors.

In this case we switched the entire palette of our character.

TIP: Keep everything editable

The Splat Color Process, works strictly on a two-layer structure:

  • Line work layer
  • Flat colors layer

To keep your color layer editable, we recommend embedding your color layers and ink layer as flat documents into Affinity Photo. This is how we do it:

Duplicate your original document and hide the layers containing your line work. Leaving only colors visible.

On the duplicated document, delete or hide, the color layers. Leaving only the ink layers visible.

Embedding Editable Affinity Documents

In Affinity Photo create a New Document using the same dimensions of your inks and colors document. In this case I’ll use a page width of 7200px and set the height to 5400px, @300 DPI. If you’re using our demo template, use these values.

As if you were importing regular images, go to the top menu and select File > Place. Locate both, the inks document and the colors documents. It doesn’t matter if they were made in Designer or Photo, they will be imported as single layers.

Above you can see how your final structure should look. Don’t forget to rename your layers as shown in the picture: Inks and Colors.

To prevent Affinity from rasterizing your embedded documents when applying Macros, open Affinity Photo Assistant and from the “Applying filters to vector layers” option, select: Take no action.

This is all you need to do to prepare your documents for color processing using the Splat Color Process. Of course, you can use flattened raster layers if you are fully committed to your palette and have no intentions of further editing your colors.

Splat Color Process

Now, onto the fun part! The Splat Color Process is a set of Photo Macros that will help you transform your image into a vintage piece of art.

Step 0

If you’re using a transparent inks layer (no white paper), you can skip the first Macro: Erase Paper.

Let’s jump to the Misprinted Inks: Global Macro. This Macro features a single setting: Ink Damage. What Ink Damage will do, is to add a grunge texture on your inks. It’ll be more noticeable over larger portions of black fills.

Step 1

IMPORTANT: Before applying this Macro, make sure your primary color is set to white (RGB: 255,255,255) to ensure you won’t get any unwanted tones interfering in the process.

This step contains only one Macro, which is Film Separation (1.2). Film separation will split your color layer into three plates: Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. These layers’ colors will affect each other to reproduce a classic four-color output.

Try hiding the resulting colors one by one. See how your overall palette change with the lack of the Yellow channel, for example. It’s getting interesting already!

Step 2

1. Apply Red as Spot Color. Even though this Macro is optional, we strongly recommend using it in your process. It will isolate pure Magenta colors (as close as possible) and will apply them as spot (solid) colors on a separate layer.

A combination of solid and processed colors will give your final artwork a more authentic look. At the moment, the Splat Color Process offers two solid colors: red and blue

Let’s keep going to see what can we do using these emulated Spot Colors to our advantage.

1. Spot Red Damage is the second part of the Apply Red as Spot Color Macro. It will add an organic texture to the Spot Red layer, to simulate actual ink being applied on paper. This Macro has two settings:

  • Ink Damage: will degrade the quality of solid reds.
  • Pores Density: will increase the grain of paper.

When modifying Macros’ sliders, it is a better idea to input values with your keyboard, instead of moving the sliders around, your computer will work much faster.

Apply Blue as Spot Color.

This Macro does the same as Apply Red as Spot Color, but creates a new layer for all tones closer to pure Cyan instead.

This is how your layers structure should look so far. Our original Cyan, Magenta and Yellow layers, plus Spot Red and Spot Blue.

Spot Blue Damage features three settings:

  • Scratches: will add a scratches texture. The higher the value, the more scratches will appear.
  • Ink Damage: will set how spot blues are affected by ink density.
  • Intensity: will sharpen the overall ink damage.

In the image above you can clearly see how Spot Reds (cap) and Spot Blues (sky) would look like on your artwork.

Optionals

Line Work Phaser. Will misalign your Inks layer and will compromise the quality of black inks. It features three settings:

  • Black Ink Fluidity: will alter the opacity of black ink.
  • Horizontal and Vertical Misalignment: will shift your black ink by pixels.

Colors Alignment. Will do the same as the previous Macro, misalign all plates, but for color layers. As controls for this Macro are still experimental, we recommend leaving them as default.

Step 3

This part also includes a single MacroScreening. If you created Red and Blue spot color layers, screening will ignore them and create halftones for Magenta and Cyan tints only. Your solid colors will remain intact.

Screening Process

Screening has two controls (for now), both designed to tweak Cyan and Magenta dots’ size. Usually, these parameters share the same radius. However, using different settings for both would produce fascinating results.

Note: By default, Yellow is always applied as Spot Color

Finishing Macros

Above. Before/After colors baking.

Bake Colors. This Macro will visually ‘glue‘ color plates and inks together. It will dry out inks, make them look more solid, and with more defined textures. Color halftones will also appear sharper.

As its name indicates, Vintage Printer will make your artwork look as printed out 40 years ago. It will also even out all hues and make them look fuzzy, like seeing them in a newspaper.

  • Paper Age: will add a vintage colorization, affecting all layers
  • Line Work Temperature: sets the tint of black inks. Positive values will turn them warmer, negative values will make them cooler.
  • Colors Shift: will alter all colors. Recommended values to 10°

Non-Destructive Process

The entire Splat Color Process gives you enough room to experiment, whether by hiding and reordering layers or altering layers themselves, without the need to commit to these changes permanently.

Above, you can see how the Layers’ structure looks so far. Now, let’s see what we can do with these layers to add a human touch to our illustration, tweaking them using some tools in Affinity Photo.

Altering Individual Colors

Let’s say, for instance, I’d like to keep the sky (Fig.1) and certain blue details (Fig.2) of this image as pure cyan (no magenta dots) to emphasize the solid ink effect.

Since the major portion of the halftone Magenta layer would disappear, select this layer, go to the top menu: Layer > New Empty Mask Layer. This action will hide the entire Magenta layer.

Above, the result. We got our clean spot blue colors back, But…

We lost some cool details from our character’s face and ears, as the Magenta layer is also affecting their colors (Fig.3). Let’s add a small extra step to fix this.

Select the mask you’ve just added and paint over it using a white color, to bring back the desired details. Our character looks tanned again. On the other hand, if you’d like to do was to only delete certain details, then you should add a blank mask. This way, it would be easier to delete only the parts you won’t need.

We also painted back certain halftones from the pipes at the bottom of the ship to add depth to this particular area. As you can see, despite this being primarily an automated method, you’re free to add and remove whatever you want to fine-tune your final artwork.

Above is a comparison of both scenarios, with and without magenta halftones on certain spot blue areas. In the end, it’s all a matter of taste and how you prefer your artwork to look. The masking method we shown above can be used not only on regular layers, but also on Layer Adjustments and Live Filter layers.

The Final Result

The image generated by the Splat Color Process was too grainy to our taste, so we also hid one of the grain layers generated by the Macros (Film Grain); sometimes you’ll need those, sometimes you won’t. We also added two paper textures from the Splat Assets Library, one at 25% opacity and the second at 50%.

Remember, all tools are there for you to use in any way you want. So you’re free to experiment and make the Splat Illustration Kit YOURS, which is our ultimate goal. 

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