Meghan Hetrick is a multi-talented artist, known for sketch cards and work with comic and role-playing game publishers. She's lined out some notes to go along with a time-lapse video tutorial that will help in character coloring! You could open the video in one window and follow along her notes in a different browser window. Or stop the video and refer to the notes as needed; she has included video time references.
- I use Arches watercolor stock because I use my markers much like—as you guessed—water colors. It keeps the ink wet much longer, because it's actually fabric instead of paper pulp.
- BLEND. Having the right stock helps this IMMENSELY.
- You need a good understanding of color theory to really get a handle on how these markers work. I never use a generic "flesh tone" for my pieces, especially not in the shadows. In these places, I tend to use a lot of purples and blues for shading (NEVER black or grey). Again, color theory. It balances out the proclivity for the flesh tones to take on an orangish hue.
- Don't be afraid to experiment, which includes making a ton of mistakes. There are no real failures in art, only lessons. Plus, if you never screw up, you never learn how to fix and/or hide those OH CRAP moments, which is when the REAL creativity comes out.
- Don't be afraid to use references if you need them. You're still learning, and that means utilizing whatever you need to.
Overview I came into this knowing that I wanted to draw Wonder Woman.... And that's about it. The piece really evolved as I was working with it: from a completely different pose to a simple background to—finally—a full background.
0:01-0:28 Skin base 0 E51 E21 E13
Tip: Lay down a good amount of Colorless Blender before working on skin. It makes the markers much easier to get nice smooth blends, which creates a more natural looking skin. I use what would be considered the "highlight" color for skin as the base color, and color every spot of exposed skin with that. It unites all the following hues, creating a more uniform look.
0:29-1:05 Skin Shadows (and lips) RV32 RV95 RV93 BV20 E70 E50 Lips: RV42 E04 This is where that color theory knowledge comes in handy. Your shadow hues will depend on the lighting conditions. Pay attention how light, at different times of the day, in different environments, can drastically change colors. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Test a color out in a small spot, or keep a piece of stock nearby to test on first. Yeah, it takes longer, but you'll learn lots of things :)
1:06-1:22 Hair B41 C4 C6 C8 T4 T6 100 Again, I use the highlight hue as the base color; in this case, blue. I've also used purple for black hair, yellow for red, orange for brown...you get the idea.... I don't render the hell out of hair, as I like to let it keep a bit more of a "cut" look to it.
1:23-1:46 Drawing/Inking stars Uh...because I'm a derp and forgot.
1:29-1:46 Blues 0 B34 B37 B39 BV29 Again, wet the stock with the Colorless Blender, before approaching large areas. For areas where I want a good contrast I'll do a base layer with the highlight color, then block in the shadows with the darker hue, and then use the mid to blend things. There's a lot of back and forth, but it works well.
1:47-2:24 Golds Y11 E21 YR23 E24 E55 E34 YR21 E77 Gold is very tricky to render properly. The best thing I can say is to find something that's real, reflective gold, such as a ring or pendant, and study it. That's because there are a lot of colors in there that you'd never expect because, well...it's reflective. It reflects the light around it, as well as the environment, if the piece is large enough.
2:25-2:49 Reds R05 R46 R27 R59 RV99 I save reds for last, because they tend to smear and bleed quite a lot, especially the darker tones. These are very tricky with markers, so be sure to experiment a bit. I use a red violet hue for my dark shadows, because the darkest red in the Copic line is still not dark enough. Plus, the purple tinge gives it a much more realistic effect.
2:50-2:58 Highlights and Touch-ups B52 R22 C4 Touch-ups are self explanatory. The highlights went on the gold—remember what I said about reflective light and surfaces.
2:59-3:20 Leathers E34 E21 E57 E77 E79 Nothing too hard here, just some basic coloring.
3:21-3:29 Sword W2 W4 C6 Just a very basic coloring for the sword, until I figure out what the light's going to look like.
3:30-4:01 Columns, base tones E40 E41 E43 E71 YR00 YG91 W2 W4 W6 Just geting the base colors down for the columns. At this point, I'm still not quite sure what direction I want to take things.
4:02-4:12 Background sketch Well, I finally decided, hey, just do a background, so now I'm drawing it in loosely—really just figuring it out as I go.
4:13-4:34 Dirt, grass, and column retouch Y32 G99 G21 G20 G94 YR23 E15 E47 E18 E74 E57 E79 E25 E55 If you can't tell by the listing of markers there, this is when the fun times kick in. As long as you stay within the same family, there really isn't a wrong color you can put down. And, if you find something you really don't like, just overlay another one. Generally speaking, a lighter color will help lift a darker one. Just have fun at this stage.
4:35-5:02 Sky 0 BV20 RV91 V000 V91 E70 Y000 R00 B000 YG000 Y0000 G000 BV23 It's super important to get a very wet layer of Colorless Blender down to create a convincing sky. Also, depending on the time of day, you really should have a good assortment of very, very light colors. Pro-tip: most are used in skin tones as well. A good reference photo is unbelievably helpful when trying to create a convincing sky. Again, pay special attention to where the colors merge, and the effect that has on the areas around them.
5:03-5:18 Miscellaneous touch-ups Just what it sounds like: clean things up a bit.
5:19-5:22 Outer border E51 E21 E34 E11 E53 E77 E74 E79 BV23 I had been debating on whether I really wanted to do this or not. I finally just bit the bullet and went for it. I'm glad I did though, as I really like the effect now.
5:23-5:34 Watercolor pencil Watercolor pencil over marker works very similarly to gouache—except without all the frustration of trying to figure out what color something's going to be when it's dry. I knew I wanted leafy brush around the columns, and marker would've bled out, so I just added it in with the pencils. Get a GOOD quality set of watercolor pencils, it makes a huge difference. Dip the tip in clean water, and you get a beautifully smooth line. Just don't press down on it too hard when you're drawing.
5:35-5:54 GouacheI tend to use gouache with my pieces, rather than opaque white or anything like that. I've found that it doesn't clog or get clumpy either, like so many of the other products do. Having a very good brush for this makes your life infinitely easier. I mostly use red sable because it holds the water, as well as gets a very crisp line, even with a larger brush. Invest in one if you find one; if you take care of it, you'll have it for a long, long time.
I have the piece backlit for the most part, so there's a bit of a glow/rim light around her. You'll see in spots where I laid down the gouache, only to remove it a few seconds later. That's one of the great beauties about that medium. All that's left is to make sure it's all dry, and then we're good to go!
The finished piece!
This tutorial should certainly give you some great ideas! So get coloring! Share your art online and tag with #CopicArt — we'll be looking for it. Please leave your comments and questions for Meghan in the comments below! Find Meghan on the web: The Art of Meghan Hetrick Facebook Twitter