Here’s a drawing I did shortly after IndieCade East, as a birthday present for Mom. Unlike the images in the game, this drawing was colored by hand, using colored pencil on paper. Even though I haven’t mastered colored pencil and often struggle to get the effect I want, I like the visual texture and this is the look I originally wanted for Gorogoa.
In this image, colored regions are imperfectly filled by pencil strokes that have a grain to them, recording the movement of the hand that drew them and, therefore, the thought process guiding that hand. Colors are layered on top of each other–again imperfectly–and the result is a more complex tone. The physical texture of the paper shows through.
The approach I use for coloring in Photoshop tends to produce rather flat colors, with none of the aforementioned features, unless I expend considerable effort to create internal color variation. I’ve thought about using post-processing effects to mimic colored pencil–or watercolor or what have you–but nothing procedural seems satisfactory, and in any case I don’t really have the time.
So why color on the computer? It’s not necessarily more efficient. No, I use the computer so that I can endlessly change my mind. With colored pencil, there’s no going back. After laying down one color, it’s very difficult to change (I can change colors a little, but I can’t turn purple into yellow for example). Working with physical media I often feel my fingers groping for a keyboard so I can hit “undo,” before I realize with a chill that I don’t have that option. The need to actually make permanent decisions is disconcerting after working with a computer for so long. My massively layered Photoshop documents are all about avoiding commitment, eliminating any requirement for boldness on my part.
This isn’t necessarily the healthiest thing for me as a visual artist, but I consider it essential for the sake of the game design process. There are so many different, constantly shifting design constraints pushing and pulling on every element in every scene that the visuals need to be able to adjust fluidly.
Still, it’s a good thing from time time to work with purely physical media, just for the reality check.