Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Spotting Blacks, part 1
Matt Jenkins resently requested that I jot down and share some of my theories on spotting blacks for the comics page. For those of you not familiar with the term, "spotting blacks" means strategically placing areas of black within a drawing. It's almost a lost artform. Very few comics artists, especially mainstream comics artists spot black areas any more. I suppose in this day of photoshop bells and whistles, it seems an anachronistic way of creating depth for an illustration.
But it is a lovely art. There's a finesse and specialty to spotting blacks. And it doesn't serve exclusively to create the illusion of depth. It can be used to create mood. It can be used as a storytelling tool, a way to specifically focus your reader's eye. And, at it's most ephemeral, it can be used to create a rhythm, and vibration to an entire comic book page.
I love spotting blacks. It's hard to do, but very rewarding. I'm okay at it, and I've gotten quite a lot of good advice about how to do it through the years.
Some notable wisdom:
Almost 20 years ago, Kyle Baker told me that spotting blacks was "adding little images of white in large black fields, or little images of black in large white fields."
Keith Giffen, more than 20 years ago, held up a page of the LEGION he'd just completed, and asked me, "What jumps out at you immediately on this page? The black areas, right?"
And, to that point, Jaime Hernandez, arguably the finest black-spotter in the business today, responded to my asking for advice in this area by saying "Always put your character in black clothes."
Remember, the eye will always go to a black area on the printed page.
There's a lot of complexity to spotting blacks, so I'll try and organize my thoughts to continue onto part two. Anyone with their own theories are certainly welcome to post!