February 18th, 2011

Intro to Color

by Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman

It still surprises me when I see a daily Zits strip in color, like on the home page of zitscomics.com. Benjamin Peters-Keirn does most of our coloring now. He’s a whiz and brings nice spontaneity to the job. I email the finished black and white files to him and, on Sunday strips, some ideas about how I see the palette. But I’ve never colored the dailies and Ben has a great feel for what I like.


My own earliest color work was on my Sunday editorial cartoons for the Cincinnati Enquirer starting in the ‘80s. When I finished a drawing I’d bring it back to a darkroom in the newspaper’s art department and lay it on a huge machine that made Photostats, like a giant Polaroid camera. I’d take the photosensitive acetate out of the box under the red lights and put it on this machine, and then shoot the art.  I don’t know how it worked, but it was a big machine that took up half of a darkroom.  And this was the critical piece of hardware for the way that I was doing my Sunday color work. I would shoot the cartoon onto a piece of clear acetate, and then that would be my black plate.  Then, back in my studio, I would be lifting and setting the acetate down and coloring on a second piece of paper that the engravers then put on some kind of rotary drum and scanned.  It’s just the way it was done, so this is the way I was taught to do it.


Stat Camera?


OK, that isn’t really a picture of the stat camera but it was just as ancient and scary looking. So what happened is that the newsroom started going to computers, and the art department started going to computers.  And finally one day this stat machine broke down, and the bosses started asking around, and it turned out I was the only one still using it.  They said, “Well, forget that, we’re not going to get it fixed.  You’ll have to get used to a computer.”


So literally that day I had to learn how to color a cartoon on a computer, and from then on, that’s the way I did my Sunday cartoon.  So, like any of us, I remember those first attempts being just nightmares, where I thought I was holding the pencil tool when I was in fact holding the magnifying glass tool. I’d zoom in on the drawing, lost between the pixel planets, not understanding what was happening. I was thrown into the computer age, like how they teach a kid to swim by throwing him in the water.




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