Fighting the Paper I

As soon as I had finished all the necessary pen and ink illustrations for the fairytale book Below the Floor, I started doing the first colouring tests. And, honestly, the results were not as good as I had expected. The inks, which I wanted to use to save time, did not look good on the sketchbook paper. Sure, this can be be overcome but it would take time – the one thing I am running out of.

colouring test for fairytale book by John E. Brito

So I went back to my watercolours and did some quick tests on some pages of another project of mine. The results were devastating. The sketchbook paper behaved in a completely different way: In the past, it would bend when you laid down too much water. Now, it was bending all over the place as soon as the first drops of water would hit the surface. This would make it impossible to keep on colouring as the colours would not stay in their spots. I also noted that the heavier pigmented areas would create some kind of fuzz now, which makes the colour look unclean.

colouring test for fairytale book by John E. Brito

Furthermore, the colours would bleed onto the back side of the page, which in most cases ruins the illustration on the next page. Of course, I had drawn every illustration I needed for the book on a new double-page (just in case something like that would happen, so the book artwork would be safe), but it was uncool anyways.

colouring test for fairytale book by John E. Brito

I had done a ton of watercolouring in this kind of sketchbooks from the same brand and it had always been a pleasure to work with these papers – even though they were not intentioned for watercolours. Maybe the manufacturer had changed something in the production process which now causes the paper to react in a different way.

As watercolours were not an option any more I tried colouring some of the sketched pages with coloured pencils. I really did not want to fall back into digital colouring, as it is the way most books are created nowadays and it would not be the right choice for this project. Below on the right side you can see one of the fairy creatures which I coloured using my trusted pencils. It was not what I had in mind for my book, as the pencil strokes would not quite fit with the heavier textured ink illustrations. Also, there is a big chance of loosing the finer lines during the printing process.

colouring test for fairytale book by John E. Brito
colouring test for fairytale book by John E. Brito

Then a close friend of mine came by my studio to visit me. We talked a bit and suddenly he asked me what I was currently working on. I showed him the last test pages and asked what he thought about it. His answer was something like:

Hm, nice. Ehm… it’s …different…

Enough said. 🙂

I knew this was not the right way to go with the colours, either. So: Back to square one.

colouring test for fairytale book by John E. Brito

I needed to find a way to get my illustrations coloured – in a fast way and which would not kill the artisan look of the book. Problems always arise, and it is of no use to focus on the things that go wrong. You just keep your finishing line in mind and overcome the obstacles. Check out the next blog post to see how the quest went on.

10 responses to “Fighting the Paper I

  1. Eek! Good luck! It annoys me when companies change their products – for the worse – to save money. I know that it’s not quite the same thing, but have you tasted M&Ms recently? Blech! They are now off my menu for good! Anyway, I like your illustrations. Good luck with the pigmentation!


    • I have to admit, that I haven’t bought M & Ms for years now, but it’s always a bit uncool when things like that happen. On the other side there are products like the Kellog´s Corn Flakes which seem to get better over the time 🙂


  2. I can totally relate. I’m on my third type of paper and my third type of think. All the inks say waterproof and only one actually is and then if you put it on too thick it isn’t.
    I can’t wait to see how you solve this problem. Good luck.


    • Oh, this is really annoying, Kid. I can asolutely relate to that. I had the same problems with the pens. I took extremely long to find ink pens that are *really* waterproof and don’t get thinned out when you erase the pencils lines below it. I´m using GEO College Pigment Liners (02 and above are waterproof, 01 and 005 are not). And about the watercolours: The trick was to use less water, less pigment and more pressure on the brush. Also, painting slowlier helped a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Fighting the Paper II | I create worlds. John E. Brito's Blog·

  4. Pingback: Finally the First Coloured Illustration | I create worlds. John E. Brito's Blog·

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