For the longest time I’ve held fast to coloring my comics with watercolor, using my own two hands (and a brush of course.)

My technique has gone through a few changes, but ultimately I found a way of working that gives me a crisp black line and vivid colors that are easy to edit. The original idea for my technique came from Alison Bechedel, who makes her wash and ink layers separately, which is how she gets such rich drawings.

After tinkering around with her method, I came up with a modified way of working involving lasers. Everything is better with lasers.

First, I’ll pencil and ink the drawing.

ink drawing by Laura Terry, comics and illustration

Then I’ll scan it in and change the black line to a 10% cyan line and print that on 90 lb watercolor paper, that’s thin enough to go through a laser printer. And that’s the real secret. Ink jet printers use a water-soluble ink, so if you tried to paint on paper run through an ink-jet, those blue lines would run. Laser printers melt the toner into the paper and the ink is waterproof, so you can watercolor over it and the lines will sit under the paint.

ink drawing by Laura Terry, color & comics

Once I get the blue line ready I take out my trusty watercolor palette and brushes and get painting. The blue line lets me know exactly where my edges are, so I the coloring is pretty tight and I don’t have to do a lot of cleanup with the clone tool in photoshop.

ink drawing by Laura Terry, color & comics


You can see the blue line faintly underneath the watercolor, but when I match it  up with the inks, they vanish.

watercolor technique comics

This way my inks are 100% black, the colors are vivid, and I am one happy cartoonist.


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