I’ve been playing around with lighting a lot this week. I’m working on a side strip as well as Universe Gun, and reached a point in both where the action takes place in dark rooms with artificial light sources. I’m learning as I go, and adapting my art style to handle more complex situations like this, and this is what I came up with.

In the picture above, the characters are inside during the daytime, in a building without working windows. The room has been cosily lit by the glows of various monitor panels and artificial lights, and now someone has carelessly blown a hole in the ceiling, letting the light in.

I start paying attention to the lighting at the inking stage, where I draw those thin lines that demark the colour boundaries on faces and objects. I’ll add extra regions for light edges, such as the green glow reflecting off Coriolis Boy on the left. He still has the usual lines that he would in daylight, such as the wrinkles on his tshirt, and the shadows on his arms and face.

I then colour them in with the usual colour palette, and it looks like this:

Now, certain colours are reserved as lights colours. Here that’s the pale yellow sunlight, monitor green, and the pink light from off camera that’s catching on Kid Identity on the right, and on Princess Amtora’s hair in the foreground.

I then make a layer in Photoshop called “mask”, set to about 30% transparency, and fill the panel with black. I’ll then cut away at the parts of the image that are meant to be lit well.

Because I’m working with flat colours, I can use the Select Colour Range tool to select the aforementioned light colours on the Inks layer, and then cut that selection out of the mask.

I’ll then play with the mask transparency until it looks right. Here it is at 60%, way too dark! As you can see, the outside of the room where the taxi-cab is parked was also cut out of the mask, because its sunlit. (That “S” bottom right is a sound FX – they sit above the mask because the darkness doesn’t muffle sound, I guess.)


Here’s a similar trick used in Cold Atlas, a short strip I’m working on. Here, Deacon is standing in front of a projector image, and has that sinister backlit effect, with the cold blue of the projector image giving him a halo. Here I improvised and filled the projector screen with cold blue in the mask layer (30% transparent) and then slid a real weather map underneath and distorted it to fit the perspective of the scene.

This isn’t really intended as a tutorial, as the method works so quickly and effectively for me because of my flat colour art style. It’s more just a peek into the evolution of my own art process, and a chance to show off some cool pictures that I would otherwise have to keep under wraps until the strips catch up. I’ve got perspective down, I’m pretty happy with my figures. One of these days I may even draw someone with a shadow!

See you in seven, seekers of the semi-realistic specular highlight!

Dr Mike 2000, 25 Apr 2014