The Painter Wow! Book: Coloring a Woodcut
Here’s a creative way to add color to black-and-white art, a favorite technique of artist Chet Phillips. Yellow Jacket (above), is one of eighty illustrations that Phillips created for The Bug Book, written by entomologist Hugh Danks. The book showcases different nature environments and the insects that inhabit those spaces.
For Yellow Jacket, Phillips used the Gel Composite Method, which makes the white areas of a layer appear transparent. After drawing in black-and-white on the Canvas, he floated the drawing to a layer, and then added color on the canvas using a palette of vibrant greens and golds with accents of orange and brown.
- Creating black-and-white art. Phillips is known for his expressive drawing with the Scratchboard Tool, a versatile brush that draws lines of variable thickness, based on the pressure applied to the brush. He created a black-and-white drawing in Painter by first filling the image with black color and then etching into the black fill with white color. To draw as Phillips did, start a new document with a white background. Choose black for the Main color (front color swatch) in the Color panel, and then click on the Additional Color (back color swatch) and choose white. Select the black front color swatch by clicking on it, and then choose Edit, Fill (Ctrl/1-F), Fill with Current Color. Click OK. In the Color panel, click the Color Swap icon (the arrows) to reverse the colors and choose White as the Main Color. Use white and the Scratchboard Tool variant of the Pens to “etch” into the black fill, with the look of a detailed woodcut in mind.
- Making a layer with transparent white areas. Select All (Ctrl/1-A), choose the Layer Adjuster tool, and click once on the image. The image is now floating over a white background. In the Layers panel, choose Gel from the Composite Method pop-up menu. This method makes the white areas of the layer transparent, which allows any color you add to the background in steps 3 and 4 to completely show through without affecting the black in the layer.
- Making freehand selections and laying in base colors. In preparation for painting the base colors, Phillips used the Lasso tool to draw freehand selections so he could isolate areas of his image, for instance the sky and the insect. With the selection active, he used the Digital Airbrush variant of the Airbrushes to paint within the selection. Then, he made selections for the body of the yellow jacket and laid in base colors of brown and gold. Next, he selected the large leaf and airbrushed shades of green.
- Painting details and textured areas. For a fine-grained airbrush look, switch to the Fine Spray variant. You can see the smooth Digital Airbrush strokes on the leaf under the insect and Fine Spray strokes along the edge of the vignette. For the linear details on the bug, use a small Scratchboard Tool.
Figure 1a Black is chosen for the Main Color in the Color panel
Figure 1b The completed black-and-white drawing
Figure 2a The Layers panel showing the line drawing floated to a layer. The active line drawing layer has the Composite Method set to Gel.
Figure 2b. The Canvas is selected in the Layers panel.
To color his illustration, Phillips used a rich color palette. He used the Scratchboard Tool to paint the details on the leaf, beginning with lighter greens and then progressing to darker greens directly behind the grasshopper. The darker greens would help to bring the lighter colored insect forward in the composition. Then, Phillips used the Digital Airbrush to lay in color within selected areas on the insect.
Before beginning to work on the background Canvas, click the Canvas layer’s name in the Layers panel. Choose a color in the Color panel. Use the Scratchboard Tool for loose, freehand-drawn lines, as in the leaf. You can hide and show Layer 1 as you work by clicking the eye icon in the Layers panel.
To paint color within a selected, or isolated area, choose the Lasso tool in the Toolbox (it’s nested under the Rectangular Selection Tool), and drag to create an irregular selection boundary on your image. (You will find more detailed information about selections and masks in Chapter 5, “Selections, Shapes and Masks.”) Then, for smooth airbrushed strokes, choose the Digital Airbrush variant of Airbrushes in the Brush Selector.
Figure 3 After painting the sky with the Digital Airbrush, Phillips painted the leaf with the Digital Airbrush and Scratchboard Tool.
Next, using the Artist Pastel Chalk variant of Pastels, take advantage of the brush’s texture-sensitive capability to brush on grainy strokes in a few areas. Choose Basic Paper texture in the Paper Selector in the Toolbox, and the Artist Pastel Chalk variant of Pastels in the Brush Selector. Next, choose a color, and then brush lightly using the Artist Pastel Chalk to reveal texture.
Figure 4 The linear details are drawn with a small Scratchboard Tool.