What Tools do Comic Book Colorists Use?

   If you are new to comics and digital artwork you may look around at the computers, monitors, software, and peripherals and think to yourself, “I can’t afford the tools to become a digital artist”. If you want to outfit your home studio with a workstation like you might find at LucasFilm or Pixar then you might be right. The good news is coloring comic books no longer requires the sort of computing horsepower needed to land a Mars rover and you can equip yourself to create digital art and comic color for less than you think.


Adobe Photoshop has long been the industry standard for comic book coloring as it is one of the few applications that can accurate convert RGB color to CMYK color for commercial printing of comic books. In the past Photoshop was priced high and remained out of reach of many aspiring creators. The good news is Adobe now offers Photoshop on a subscription basis. Depending upon how many adobe applications you want the monthly rate varies from a little to a lot with the typical user spending $25-$50 per month on average. Adobe is currently running a special offer for a Photoshop & Lightroom bundle. Learn how you can get Adobe Photoshop CC for only $9.99 per month for the first year. Visit the link below before the offer ends.



The computer:

When digital coloring was in it’s infancy you needed expensive hardware with lots of upgrades to run Adobe Photoshop. My first Macintosh cost $5,500 for an 80Mhz processor, 16MB RAM, and a 700MB HD and I paid another $500 for a 15″ Sony Trinitron CRT monitor. It was one of the fastest computers you could purchase for under $10,000 at the time and Photoshop 2.5 and then 3 ran slow as molasses on it but I was just happy to be able to use Photoshop at all to start coloring comic books. Computers have become faster and cheaper since then. Pretty much any computer made today can run Photoshop well enough to color comic books. You don’t need to spend a fortune either, a new iMac or MacBook Pro can be purchased for $1,200 – $2,000 and will run Photoshop faster than you can color (you can find used models on eBay even cheaper).  I like iMac’s because they are fast, relatively inexpensive, have large color accurate monitors, and offer higher than average reliability. That said, any Macintosh or Windows system will work so use what you are comfortable with so you can focus on being creative.


Graphics tablets:

I meet a lot of aspiring comic book creators at comic book conventions that think they can’t be comic book colorist because they can’t afford the top of the line $2,599 Wacom Cintiq. The truth is you can color comics with the $79 Wacom Intuos Pen just as well and the smaller tablet may actually make you faster (I know it does me). If you plan to do a lot of digital painting you may want to step up to the Wacom Intuos Pro for $249 as it adds tilt sensitivity but it is not required for comic book coloring. If you are just starting out the smaller, less expensive tablets will work perfectly and you won’t be missing out on any features. If you want a Wacom Cintiq or feel you will color and paint better working directly on the screen’s surface prices start at $999 for the 13″ model and go up to the $2,599 model mentioned earlier. If you can afford a Cintiq it can be a great tool, just remember you do not actually need one to color comics.



Here are some extra items you may need but none are required for coloring comic books.

Scanner: If you are working on a project that requires you to scan in hand drawn art you will need one. Hi-Fi Color For Comics teaches you how to scan and assemble 11″ x 17″ comic book pages using only an 8.5″ x 11″ sized scanner.

Printer: You may want a color printer to output your colored files. Remember, no printer can show you exactly how your art will look when printed on a commercial printing press.

Monitor Calibration Device: If you are working on professional projects for clients and publishers and find your own instincts for color are not matching what you get back from the printing company you may want to invest in a Monitor Calibration Device. These can range from $200-$500+. Not needed if you are coloring your personal web comic but you may find one useful if pursuing professional work with outside companies and publishers.

I hope this post sheds some light on the tools needed for coloring comic books. If you already own a computer you may just need to invest ten bucks a month in Adobe Photoshop and $79-$350 in a Wacom Intuos graphics tablet. Even if you want to upgrade to a newer faster computer you should be able to have your complete home coloring studio equipped for under $2,000… if you have the means and desire to spend more then the sky is the limit.

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Brian Miller is the founder of comic book color studio Hi-Fi colour deisgn and the co-author of Hi-Fi Color For Comics