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Flatting (retired)

UPDATE:

As of January 2012 I have officially “retired” from flatting.  I found that even though I was making money at flatting and enjoyed doing the work…it had taken over my creative life. So much so that I was just barely drawing or coloring anything else.  So as hard as it’s been giving up that income every month…I let it go.  Thank you to all my clients over the years. It was a great time. I’m leaving my previous post unedited but will NO LONGER BE TAKING ANY FLATTING WORK.

Thanks!
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If you follow any of my online presence…you’ll notice that I post a LOT that I’m “flatting” or need to get some “flats” done.  Unless you’ve been to my house and stared at the back of my head for the evening while I’m working or are in the comics coloring business…you probably have no clue what I’m talking about.

“Flatting!? Huh…? It he, like…making a panini out of those comics or something?”

No. No sandwiches (though…now that I mention it…a panini sounds good). Flatting is a step in the process of coloring line art which is widely used for comic books.  The line art is pulled forward on the file and flat, solid blocks of color are dropped in behind them so that when the colorist renders the page it’s much much quicker for them to select individual areas on the page. Not sure what I mean? Need an example? How about this:

Dr. Colors want to render all 6 instances of Superman’s cape on his page. Dr. Color can either spend a couple minutes on each cape individually drawing a selection around each cape OR he can simply click on one of the 6 capes using the magic wand tool. That will select all 6 capes at the same time. Dr. Colors is now a happy colorist!

12 minutes versus 1 second. A comic book colorist is a highly skilled position that takes years of training and experience to become proficient at. Spending their valuable time on a process that basically anyone with a wacom tablet, photoshop and a basic understanding of the process can do is unrealistic.  Relatively inexpensive, flatting benefits the colorist but drastically increasing the number of pages per day they can deliver PLUS it allows the flatters, like myself, to back into the comic book industry.

Fraggle Rock artwork by the awesome Katie Cook

I’ve been flatting for a few years now for some of the best colorists around. My first ever paid flatting job was for a guy named Kevin Volo who is a really nice guy and taught me a lot. Some time shortly after that I heard a guy named Brian Miller on a podcast called Comic Geek Speak. The CGS guys were interviewing Brian about his book that had just been released called “HiFi Color for Comics”.  (If you don’t have this book and are interested in learning to color using photoshop go get it now. You’ll love it. You can find it here on Amazon.)  Brian sounded like he knew his stuff and I thought right away that I needed to get that book. A few days later I had it in hand and read it through in an evening. I set to work on learning how to color right away.  CGS had opened up some space for Brian on their forums to post on topics about the book and I began posting there. Not long after Brian emailed me about helping him with a few things on the  site. He also mentioned that his studio, HiFi Design, was looking for a flatter. I jumped on the opportunity!! Within a couple days I was flatting some Superman and Nightwing pages. I couldn’t believe it!!  Brian has since then gone on to become my virtual artistic mentor and I’ve made flatting practically a second full time job.  I’ve worked on just about every title out there for maybe a hundred different studios and freelance colorists.

My flats behind Katie’s artwork

Sometime last year I kind of hit a wall with flatting. I came to a point where it became WORK.  I’m sitting there staring at this amazing pieces of art for some of the best artists in the world…and I was miserable. I haven’t been dreaming since I was 4 about becoming a flatter. I want to draw and color. But there I was pushing and pushing to make my deadlines.  I have a real hard time turning down paid work so even as it became harder and harder for me to get myself in work mode every evening I was taking on WAY more pages than I should have been. The result was about 6 months where I was averaging probably about 3 hours, at most, of sleep a night.  There were a lot of weeks where I’d look at the calendar on Friday night and count up my hours of sleep for the WEEK…and it would barely be register as a double digit number. Obviously that’s not healthy and certainly not sustainable for any length of time.  During that time…my family needed the extra money so I don’t regret that I was bringing in extra money but I knew I needed to pull back some. I was burning out BIG time, not producing the high quality work that my clients demanded and, most importantly, it was starting to affect my health. So as 2010 started to wind down…so did my flatting.  I stopped actively looking for new customers sometime in mid-2010 and have since started to turn away work. At this point I keep flatting for HiFi Design (Kristy and Brian are two of my favorite people) and a few other select clients but I don’t over burden myself with it anymore. Sure…there may still be late nights and all nighters but they are not happening as often and will probably be because I’m drawing or coloring.  If I’m going to be up all night (and not having sex) I might as well be doing something I enjoy, right?

The finished product!

I keep a flatting portfolio on a Carbonmade site. You’re welcome to check that out. It hasn’t been updated with newer examples of my flats in a while but it’ll give you an idea of what I can do.   http://geekywhiteguy.carbonmade.com/

You can find more information about Brian Miller and HiFi Design right here: http://www.hifidesign.com/

And one of my most favorite artists, Katie Cook, rules the internets here: www.katiecandraw.com

Your welcome. 🙂

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 4, 2011 1:25 pm

    Thank you for this! The first time you mentioned flatting I had NO CLUE what you were talking about, so I ran Google search and ferreted out the answer–I had no idea that flatting existed, but it makes a lot of sense.

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