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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.