Thursday, September 28, 2017

An Introduction To Working in Batch: Watercolor Basics

Before we go much further into Watercolor Basics, especially Watercolor Basics for Watercolor Comic artists, I need to let you guys in on my worst kept secret.  I work in batch.

There's a difference between Batching and Working in Batch, both of which I do.

Batching- completing all of a stage of a project before progressing to the next

Working in Batch- Working on several pages at the same time, keeping everything at the same stage.

I create my comics using Batching from script until my final pencils are completed.  This means I finish all of my thumbnails for the chapter before moving on to any of my roughs, I complete all of my roughs before scanning and correcting anything, I print out all of my bluelines and pencil all of my pages before I start painting.  Although for some webcomic artists, this isn't a feasible system, its the only way I can keep everything straight while also juggling this blog, the Youtube channel, conventions across the country, and working on commissions.

From tight pencils on, I work in batch.  This means I work on two to four (sometimes as many as six, but I usually regret that) comic pages at a time.  I try to work on a full scene when possible- this allows me to mix all my colors and keep things consistent.

Don't forget to check out my other watercolor tutorials in the Watercolor Basics series!

Why Work in Batch

  • Consistency
  • Dedicated schedule for longer projects
  • Keeps you producing pages
  • Takes advantage of in between times

Skip lightboxing- printing bluelines using an inkjet printer like the large format Canon Pro 9000 Mk II means you can go straight to pencils- stretching your pages will reactivate the printer ink, and it will wash cleanly away.

Working in batch is the secret key to how I produce 7" Kara sustainably. 

Tips for Working in Batch

  • Prepare your work area ahead of time, clean things up, make plenty of room, clean your palettes, assemble your paints.  Have everything in arm's reach.  

  • Establishing work flow is important- once you get in the painting mindset, you don't want something trivial holding you up.  Start your project with clean brushes, fresh paints, lots of palettes.

  • Work with two cups of water- start with fresh cups every day, your clean water will last longer.

  • Work with multiple welled palettes- this allows you to mix color ahead of time, and work consistently.

  • Do everything you can in batch- it's boring but effective.  Stretch in batch, do washes in batch, this way everything is drying at the same time, or drying while you paint.

  • Try to avoid working on humid or rainy days, and if you can't help it, set your watercolors under a vent to dry.

  • Don't expect your usual level of attention- you are splitting your time and attention between multiple pages.  Simplicity is key.

  • Create systems for how you address shadows, folds, etc.  A shorthand that works visually.

  • PRACTICE A LOT beforehand, so you spend less time thinking about how to solve problems, and actually solve them.  Practice doing standalone illustrations, doing studies, using your paints, using your paper, different papers, practice solving paint problems, creating happy accidents.

  • It takes time to get good at batch painting- Chapter 1 of 7" Kara was painted in two pages per batch, and Chapters 5 and 6 were painted in 2-6 pages per batch, yet look much better.  A lot of practice happened between chapter 1 and chapter 5.

  • Give yourself time to think- you might end up painting yourself into a hole if you try to rush things too much.

I hope these tips, collected over the years while painting 7" Kara, will inspire you to try painting in batch.  Batch painting can be a great solution to handling a chapter efficiently, although it may require you to change how you handle your watercolors.

And if you enjoyed the art used in this post, don't forget to check out the source- my watercolor comic, 7" Kara, now available to read as a free webcomic!

7" Kara follows the adventures of minature Kara- a sheltered girl facing a huge move.  Determined to have adventure while she's able, she sets off to explore the outside world, and perhaps meet a human.  You can read 7" Kara for free at, or skip the cliffhangers and get caught up by purchasing Volume 1 from the Nattoshop.

And if you're looking for more wonderful webcomics, make sure you check out Ink Drop Cafe, a webcomic collective.

7" Kara is a proud member of Ink Drop Cafe, and the Nattosoup Studio Art and Process blog is a proud affiliate.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Digital Flats Tutorial: Intro to Comic Craft

Love my art?  Check out 7" Kara, now available as a webcomic!

What is Flatting, what are flats?

Flats are an opaque layer (or layers) of color applied as an initial color pass on an image or comic.  For some artists, the flats are the ONLY stage of digital color applied, for others, they are a fast way to select areas for later color and effects, for still others they're a

Your finished flats will look something like this:

Or if you're doing a comic page, something like this:

If you'd like to practice flatting, I have lineart available for purchase through my Gumroad.

Create a neutral background color

This allows you to better gauge how colors actually look.

After you've color corrected your inks to drop out any pre-existing bluelines or grays, you're ready to begin laying down color.  I start with filling the background with a neutral color- usually a greyish brown- to help me more accurately gauge how colors work together.

If you hadn't yet, go ahead and convert your file to the mode you wish to work in.

Rule of Thumb:

For Web: RGB

For Print: CMYK

You can do this by going into Image- Mode- and select either CMYK or RGB, depending on your final destination.

For my own inks, I'll duplicate my ink layer, and turn off the original, then set the duplicate to Multiply.  This will be my top layer- all colors will go beneath.

Then we're going to want to select a gray that is desaturated and neutral as our background color.

I then create another layer beneath my inks layer and fill it with this neutral gray.

This comic tutorial was sponsored by Ink Drop Cafe, the creator's collective.  From comics to resources, Ink Drop Cafe has you covered!  Swing by to sample our selection of webcomics, or check out our fantastic resources in the Affiliates section!

Nattosoup Studio Art and Process Blog is a proud Affiliate of Ink Drop Cafe.

Brush Settings

I use Basic Round, largest brush you're comfortable working with for my flats, with the control set to Pen Pressure for inking on my Surface Pro 3.

Alternate Method for Filling in Lineart 

You can also create fills by selecting an enclosed area on your inks layer using the Magic Wand Tool, creating a new layer, then filling that area in with the Paintbucket.  This only works for totally enclosed inks, which is why I typically rely on filling things in by hand.

Make sure you're on your Inks layer.

Select the Magic Wand tool.

Select your totally enclosed area you wish to fill.

Create a new layer.

Using the Paint Bucket, fill with color.

Every Color Gets Separate Layer

This practice has come from doing freelance digital flatting for other people.  By keeping your colors on separate layers, you can easily tweak one color if necessary.  After you've finished flatting, if you need to reduce your file size, layers can be grouped together and merged, or you can merge all of your color layers into one layer.

Naming Your Layers

This is particularly important when flatting for others, but can also be very useful when flatting comic pages!

For every discreet object, I create a layer and name it after the object.

Filling in Areas and Reorganizing Layers

Once I've selected colors for every object, I start filling in my objects with a large round brush.  

Once all areas have been filled, I begin cleaning up my outlines, erasing anything that crossed the inked lines.

Erasing Excess

To create finer details by erasing, simply adjust the size of your brush.

When erasing, I work from top layer to bottom, and turn layers off as I go.

While cleaning up my fills, I decided I wanted to add more leaves to the background but didn't want them to have lineart- creating a softer focus for the background leaves.

I selected the green used for the foreground leaves, and then selected a darker green based on that.

And using a Round brush with the pen pressure toggle on, I began sketching leaves in the background.

And filled them in.

Other options for flatting:


Multifill- Free

Flatten Pro-$99 USD

Both Flatten Pro and Multifill are Photoshop plug ins.

Other Examples of Flats

Resources and Outside Opinions

Omocha's Mega Cell Shading Step by Step
Jasmo's Flatting Tutorial:
Splicer's Flatting Tutorial
Vest's Flatting Tutorial Superman 
Celesse's BPelt's Multifill and Flatten Pro Tutorial