Jiraiya Custom Playmat / Colouring Line Work

Last time we focused on line art and a number of ways to make your lines more dynamic and interesting. We continue where we left off, with the lines set out on the mat itself and ready for what we are going to be talking about today, how best to go about colouring.

But first, a slight rewind.

Before we dive into colouring I just want to mention our starting point this time around. This image should have been the final sketch before moving onto the mat proper, it’s the one I sent to the person who asked for the mat at least, all the elements are there but after moving from pencil to pen the fact the proportions of the body are all over the place was bothering me. A large stack of revisions later and Jiraiya is looking more human, more 3D, and ready for prime time.

There are many ways to check to see if your design looks right, from mirroring and flipping to changing the media your working in. It’s best to figure that out before laying the lines out on the mat though, since there’s no going back after you have.

Which is one of the reasons I tend to leave any lines until last. Something that may have happened this time had I not done the Rarity mat just beforehand.

Line and colour don’t mix

That heading is misleading, lines and colours do mix thats sort of the problem and another reason I tend to leave lines until last.When we do decide to start with the lines we have to understand how the two are going to interact or find ourselves having to waste time redrawing the lines at the end.

If your anything like me your going to be using Fine-liners for the lines. Brushes are great for large areas of colour but for complex designs or small details you want control and crisp spread free edges. There are plenty of options for this phase, sharpies will do the job if that’s all you have access to but I prefer to have access to a verity of nib sizes so use something more specialised.

The main thing to make sure of is that whatever you use is going to have some resistance to water and wear, a players palms resting on the mat is a good example of both.

What you wont be able to do is find something that resists water and the colours we tend to use. Sharpies for example will resist water but not wear or other sharpies.

We still need to know how the colours are going to interact with the lines so heres a handy picture.

Different colours have different quantities of pigment.

The light colours: Yellows, Pastels, etc,

Have the least pigment so if you brush them over a line they are the least likely to cause it to fade or spread. That doesn’t mean you get a free pass yes you can be less careful but press too hard or build up too many layers and not only will the line spread it will be really obvious and is the hardest to fix.

The Mid colours: Most Reds, Orange, Greens.

With more pigment comes greater risk one pass could be enough to cause spread and it could be quite a distance, worse these colours are still light enough that its going get noticed.

The Dark colours: Blues, Purples, Black, some dark Greens.

Spread becomes less of an issue as you get darker as your not going to see it. That doesn’t mean you can relax though since these colours introduce a new problem, Fade. If anything Fade is worse than spread since you can hide that with darker colours, Fade on the other hand is essentially the colours removing the lines you spent all that time on earlier sure we can go over them again but with care we shouldn’t have to.

The other issue should be obvious, if we are using black next to a black line we probably don’t need the line in the first place, or if we do, we need to make sure there is a gap between the two.

Which leads neatly on to the next section how do we do that? And more importantly avoid Spread and Fade in general?

It helps to have good eyes and a steady hand, or a magnifying glass and patience.

Here’s a look at an early stage of colouring. While technically an anime inspired mat Jiraiya’s design is inspired by kabuki and I’m quite interested in getting a more traditional Japanese art style into this piece. I didn’t take it quite that far in the end but after looking at the legs and red areas I did decide I preferred gradients over flat shading.

Anyway your here for tips to avoid damaging the liens so moving on. You can see in this image the green areas currently leave a slight gap between themselves and any nearby lines. We know this light green wont Fade or Spread the liens that much but when we are blocking the design in quickly we don’t want to take any chances especially around those thin lines.

The red on the other hand runs right up to lines. Here I have figured this material isn’t going to change much over the course of colouring so have spent the extra time getting it to a more finished state. You can colour as you like at the center of the space but as you approach the edges your going to want to use the way the red spreads to your advantage, you don’t need to go up to the line to get the colour there it just takes some practice to judge the distances.

Even so you can still see how reds tend to cause Spread in the corners with the most black ink. Luckily the corners are probably the places you want darker reds anyway but we will have to do a bit of a cleanup later. …

Using the enemy to your advantage.

While we want to avoid the lines spreading or fading there are some times you are going to decide you no longer want a line where it is. Thats a bit of a problem when you want them to be permanent but there are a few things we can do if we need to.

We have seen the first way to remove the line already. Just cover it with a similar colour and it will go away. Ok now you have a large black splotch rather than a line but at least its gone and if you have planned it right the splotch looks natural where it is perhaps its part of a shadow. (you can see I have used this method to reshape the lower body of the large red frog)

But what if it doesn’t look right?

The next method takes things more scientifically, we want to use the buildup of pigment to fade the line but we also need to know how lighter colours can sometimes overwrite darker ones. In this example we cover the line with a deep blue until its faded enough to no longer be visible then use a lighter blue to cover that. We can do this because the lighter blues tend to have as much pigment as the darker ones. They wont erase lines but they will erase darker blues (which is why its easier to blend from light to dark blue than the other way) With a lighter blue in place next we can blend into other colours we have to be a bit careful it doesn’t all go muddy brown but if we really need to change things this way will do the job.

Next time a look at digital design, until then try an stay inside the lines.

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