01 February 2008

Coloring Basics: Flatting

As I mentioned in my first post, I'm a comic book jack of all trades. However, my very first paid comic book position was that of a flatter. I've flatted for John Rauch, Val Staples, Chris Blythe and a couple others. It paid the bills for a short period, but I positively hate it.

Why do I hate it? Mainly because it's not a creative job. Flatting is a production job. As a flatter, it is your job to make the job of the colorist easier by creating a layer of easily selectable color blocks from the lineart. Your job is to make it easy to just select the hand or the face or even the iris or the eyeball. This mind-blowingly dull and tedious job is necessary to allow the colorist to quickly lay down colors and color effects and if need be quickly make changes for the editor.

A flatter changes this:

into this:

so that when put together, it looks like this:

which ultimately becomes this:

Depending on the page and the amount of detail, flatting can take anywhere from 1 - 5 hours. I consider myself to be a fairly slow flatter, so most pages are in the 2-3 hour range. When flatting, I try to get 3 pages done in 8 hours. A good flatting tutorial by Mark Sweeney can be found here.

As a self-publisher, you should not have to worry about the job of a flatter. Most colorists have a flatter (or a team of flatters) that they use for most of their work. Me? I don't use a flatter for most of my work unless I'm under an extreme deadline. As long as the deadline allows me to churn out 1-3 pages a day, I don't need a flatter. However, when I need to get 5 or more pages out a day, that's when I seek out a flatter.

If you do find yourself in need of a flatter, good flatters will cost you about $10-20/page. It should be extremely easy to find a flatter in that price range. The best place to find flatters on short notice is GutterZombie (the colorist message board). Of course, Digital Webbing is a good back-up should you not find someone at GutterZombie.

All images that appear in this post are from MegaStar: Opening Night. MegaStar is copyright Mike Exner, III. This panel was pencilled by Jake Bilbao, inked by Stacie Ponder, flatted by Eagle Gossner, and colored by L. Jamal Walton. The story appeared in Digital Webbing Presents #34. More pages from this story can be found in my online portfolio.

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