The Greatest Color Story Ever Told

Again, disclaimer as enthusiast and non-authority (and misleading title is misleading.)

courtesy of

So we’ve had some posts discussing layout (by chewedanimaltoys) and lettering (by myself) in comics, I’d like to try to continue in that vein by discussing the element of color in comics!

Now, of course not all comics need to be in color. The most easily called to mind of this ilk may be newsprint comics and manga, though even these may find their way into color through Sunday strips and cover illustrations.

There is undoubtedly much to be said of unique opportunities afforded and challenges posed to black and white comics, but perhaps another time.

In this post I’d like to offer some information and resources on color in comics so that you might have a new or deeper angle of consideration regarding the comics you read and the comics you may make.


This post will be more on the subject of the use and application of color than the history of color in comics, because that is a whole different bag of badgers and ain’t nobody got time for that.

That being said, in the nowadays of digital color color is everywhere, unfettered by printing limitations in the days of yore. So now with the virtually unlimited options of every hue under the sun and then some, it is perhaps all the more challenging.


A good place to start (more for the making of comics than the reading thereof) is wrapping your brain around some basic color theory. You might remember this from elementary school, but I swear it is an Actual Thing that is Good and color wheels exist for reasons other than keeping a room full of seven-year-olds occupied.

Renew your relationship with the various color relationships, analogous, monochrome, complimentary, split complementary and the rest of the schemes that continue to sound more and more made up but are real I promise.

The importance of balance, and awareness of warm vs. cool colors, values and contrast, is of vital importance when composing a scene, or when analyzing an existing page.

The careful application of these schemes plays a huge role in how a comic is read. Consider the function of the colors.

What are the colors doing? Are they simply conveying that character x has brown hair and red pants or do they extend beyond that?

Choice of color is huge in conveying not just the literal aspects of the story, what colors things really are or should be, but the tone or mood of a given scene or work. Color does not have to be literal; you may even wish to consider the potential symbolism of color.

Whether you are reading the comic or creating it yourself, keep at the forefront of your mind when analyzing or making choices:

How does the color further the story?

I would like to take this opportunity to provide this link. In addition to being a great drive by course on color theory addresses some concerns of colors particular to web comic production, which is nicely relevant to the class project right now.

Another great drive by on color theory is as follows (check out the rest of the site, there is a large section about color symbolism that provides a possible starting point for comic analysis.)

  1 comment for “The Greatest Color Story Ever Told

  1. junewalker
    March 29, 2013 at 12:25 am

    Some questions about color have been sort of stewing in my subconscious since this class started, so thank you for providing some answers to them. The third link was especially helpful for understanding color itself. The webcomic tutorial is also really interesting even though I lack any sort of talent and therefore am not one of the artists for my webcomic. It still seems extremely useful and at the least answers questions I didn’t realize I had. I also appreciate your point that whether we are creating or just reading a comic (printed or on the web) or graphic novel, how color advances the story is pretty important. Your post is also made even more interesting given the fact that we have just started reading the mostly monochromatic adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time.

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