Background Art: Electronic Compositing

Haha. “Electronic Compositing.” That’s probably what someone might call this process 40 or 50 years ago. And in fact, the style of background art I am emulating is from the 1960s.

But anyway, I haven’t posted a post on my workflow experiments in a while. So, I thought I’d reflect on the background art from the last comic.

I’ve had limited success so far with traditionally colored backgrounds. I’m still getting a handle on controlling Copic markers, and I’ve been hesitant to commit to watercolors and all that that unforgiving medium demands and implies. Usually, I color the backgrounds digitally. But recently, I’ve been making forays.

Two layers of traditional background art

For a few comics now, I’ve tried completing the layouts of the backgrounds in pencil, and even shading to some extent. Then, when I scan it in, I usually do an adjustment layer. I adjust the levels, bumping up absolute black to match the bottom end of the histogram.

Background art: pencils

Usually, from there I set the pencil layer to “Multiply,” and then digitally color the backgrounds on a layer below. But for this comic, I thought I’d take advantage of my new light pad. On a new sheet of bristol, with the pencilled art underneath, I used my copics to block in the colors.

Background art: colorsThen, I scanned in the new art. And, using the wonders of MangaStudio and the “multiply” blend mode, I layered the two pieces of traditional art together:

Background art: layeringIn the end, there are a lot of textural notes that I can get using this process which I can’t by digitally coloring (at least in my limited skill).

Background art: final


Of course, I’m not very happy with the color scheme, and there are other problems here. But the art feels more unified and supports the foreground figures pretty well. From here, I think I’ll try this process again. But I’ll try to be more bold with the Copic markers, or even try watercolor.


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