Webcomics: Color or Black/White and other Observations

Webcomics: Color or Black & White and Observations.

First off I love comics and webcomics in color, I also love comics in B/W and eventually I am planning on doing the Bean in Full Color. Nor do I want to discourage anyone from creating a webcomic …. so before we unleash the hounds on me due to this article, I just wanted to put that out there and maybe help future creators be a little more prepared for what the future might bring.

Webcomics are growing. Growing like never before and they are getting better and better and better. Yet many of the really good ones, in full color, are struggling. They are struggling to update regularly, many have reduced their posting time due to a wide variety of issues and some them have stopped altogether. Some of which I plan to explore a little.

I’ve been asked quite a bit lately, why the Bean is not in full color right now. Why leave it in Black and White?

I hope that as you read this, you will get a better understanding on why I am waiting to color and how that helps me keep things going. I always wanted the Bean in color. I tailor my inks to fit color and it is in my long term goals in the scheme of things. I have even had a colorist complete a few pages, yet I have learned coloring to some degree can kill a project if you are not prepared for it.

So lets talk about it.

First off: Webcomics are usually a labor of love. It is a way for us to tell the stories we want to tell. Depending on the illustrator or illustrators, they are usually a one person show. The creator must be the story writer, the penciler, the inker, letterer, hopefully not editor, the colorist at times, the web guru, the store owner, the marketer, the publisher, and the list goes on. Plus most carry on a day job as well. Some of us have families and other obligations . We are the independents of the future, especially as the game of distribution is literally changing before our very eyes. The time involved is pretty taxing and many times the first thing to go when life gets rough is the webcomic.

Example- It take about 30 min to and hour and a half to pencil a Bean page. Inking takes another 2 to 3 hours, add scanning, layout and editing and that is another hour. I update bean 3 times a week. So I must do at least 3 pages a week. This does not include all the other work that needs to get done and family time. I spend a lot of long nights on art. To color a page, you need to add about 2 to 3 hours more to a page. So now it takes about 6.5 hours on average to produce a page instead of about 3.5 to 4 hours average. That’s if you are quick.  I know colorist that take between 6 to 8 hours a page.

I am not complaining and I completely understood what I was getting into. I am just breaking it done to show you what goes into the process. I actually, in a sick way, enjoy it. I know I am also not alone.

Now, most of us started posting our webcomics with a direct schedule in mind. A lot of my friends that do color comics decided 1 day a week others can do 2. A few are every 2 weeks. They look fantastic, but the wait period is rough. Even once a week can cause people to forget you are there. The b/w artist are a little more consistent ranging from 1 a week to 5 times a week, I am in the middle. Once you start a schedule, you should stick to it. Here’s the problem that usually happens…. life.

I talk a lot about having a good buffer. It’s really important, without it you’ll kill your story pretty quickly. Bean’s buffer is 3 months and that gets eaten away fast. So I have to make sure I do 3 pages a week to satisfy the buffer I set up. Yet when life gets in the way I am pretty prepared for it. So when life happens, I can still update.

So Why Not Find A Colorist….

Easier said than done. Since webcomics are usually a labor of love, most creators are not making much money on their creations. That’s why a few of us print our webcomics (a whole other subject) and still hold full time or part time jobs. Yet when you bring someone into your project, there are some things to be considered.

1. Will they be married to your webcomic like you are? Meaning they put as much effort as you do into the work. Pushing off their own projects. Do they have the patience to last out the long haul…especially for you epic creators.

2. Since you work for free, you naturally want them to work for free or promised future royaltees. That doesn’t always work, they need to eat too and I know how much I charge to color work. Paying gigs also will take priority over non-paying gigs.

3. Can they do the level of quality you expect for your work. You need an colorist that you can depend on, that you can work with and that you are happy with their work. A poor colorist can really ruin a project.

So it comes down to it’s easier for the poor webcomic creator to do it themselves. Which brings me to why I don’t color Bean right now.

It’s All About Priorities And Patience…

My first goal is to tell a story. It is one that has been in my head for a very long time. I want to tell it my way, how I envisioned it and in a form that was easily accessible. I also wanted to tell an epic story, which means that I am going to be at this for a long, long time.

My second goal was to be consistent and reliable with my updates. I promised my readership that they would get an update 3 times a week. I know that it is because I am reliable in these updates that people keep coming back. If I had the time to do 4 or 5 times a week I would… there is just no time.

To be consistent, I had to let something go….that was color. I can’t afford a colorist and I am not expecting someone to jump in and save me, I’ll just color it later.  It does not mean I stopped coloring altogether, I just save it for prints, commissions and other projects. For me to produce 3 times a week, I just cannot color the book. If I did my updates would be once a week and with a serial epic story that kills the flow. So I designed it to be colored in the future and when I do it’s gonna look even better.

I realized that by waiting to color it I would be following the same pattern as Jeff Smith of Bone and Windi and Richard Pini of Elfquest. They told their stories first and then when they bound their books for the last time they colored them. It worked for them very well…. I think it works in the webcomic model as well.

Now, I am not knocking color in anyway. It’s an awesome addition to webcomics. I would love to see Bean in color one day, it is just not an option. It works if you have the time, money and means to put it into it. If you can update several times a week … bravo. Yet the odds are stacked and some really awesome comics, a few are in my wanderings, have gone on hiatus, because of the demand of life that makes it difficult. Does this mean they have to stop…oh no and I hope not. It just means if they switch mid game, its gonna be really hard to keep the ball rolling.

So that is why I am keeping  black and white. I want to finish it and have it not finish me. I made a commitment to tell a story once the story is done and proves successful I will color it and you will really get to see the vision. Yet for now, it’s important to just tell the story.

If you are planning to do a webcomic, take this into consideration. Take a look at who has been around for a bit, who stopped midway and who quit before they could even get started. Some are in color and some are not…. You don’t have to copy their works, but I would copy their work ethic. If you are willing to do this, than no matter what you do in this world of adventure, you will succeed.

Keep creating and show me you want it…. I will be looking for you on the web and hopefully one day in print-



Andventures » 17 Jan 2013 » Reply

Yes. I have to say thanks for putting up your shop talk blogs. They are very inspiring and insightful. I think people forget that B&W can add to a story. Your imagination colours the scene perfectly. Personally I prefer Bone in B&W ( The coloured editions are very pretty ) but the B&W is effective for opening the world and making the viewer add to the creation of the art. If you look at the coloured version…the colourist has "drawn" trees in panel back grounds that were blank. Previously ones imagination filled the background with tress…colour has in essence broken the suspension of disbelief a little. Besides the chase scene escaping from the Rat Creatures in the storm was perfect for black and white! I know this a moot point as the first thing people ask me on my comic is "Are you going to colour it?" I just think it's a shame that there is not more appreciation for B&W art.

Kiarelle » 30 Apr 2011 » Reply

This is such a great read; I am really grateful that you are so willing to be so open and candid about your artistic choices and to share out advice as well.

Xiao Mao » 27 Apr 2011 » Reply

I keep my comic in black and white because I like it better that way. And I prefer to read black and white comics unless the coloring is absolutely mind-blowingly fantastical. I know I'm in the minority here, but the color in most comics doesn't do anything for me. If the color is too saturated, too obvious (grass is always green; sky is always blue) then I find it actually takes away from the art. If there's going to me color in my or any other comic, I want that color to be something really special. But that's just me.
Anyway, nice post.

Darrell » 27 Apr 2011 » Reply

I love coloring. It's the most relaxing part of the process for me. It does take time though so my updates are only weekly but for me, quality beats quantity and my strip is the better for having color.

Odo » 27 Apr 2011 » Reply

Bean, I have to say that while I like your colored end-product, I like the black and white line drawings as well. You have a very good sense of line and blocking. Your backgrounds amaze me.

I grew up on inked cartoons on pulp. For a long time, that was all we had, except on Sundays. Some comics were better in B&W than they ever were in color. Walt Kelly's Pogo, for instance, or Al Capp's Lil Abner. Shmoo were inherently monochromatic.

Line art, in my opinion, generates form. Color generates texture. Form is enough. Texture adds more but form is enough. Form, in the end, includes the update. That is the time continuum of creation and it adds to the form. If the creation is fantastic enough (for instance Kukuburi) then people will wait nearly forever for an update, but they will come back more consistently to you or to the other webcomics that update very very regularly (e.g. Girl Genius).

Thank you for sharing your story.

cedarseed » 16 Apr 2011 » Reply

I wish I could post my comic and b&w first, I hate coloring and for the reasons you laid out, I can't get anyone to do it for me. But my story is very dependent on color, so it's not an option for me.

Swn » 16 Apr 2011 » Reply

I've always loved your coloring (ever since first seeing you on Elfwood) and I'm thrilled you'll be coloring it in the end. As far as readership goes, i think the choices you've made are wise. With some comics I experienced a ' hmmm what was this about again'-feeling because the updates were so slow.

Sarrah » 15 Apr 2011 » Reply

This is the sort of thing I wish I had read, or thought of, a few years ago, when plans for Eldlor were coming together. Mind you, I'm only now confident that I can ink something well enough to stand alone in black and white. I relied on coloring to carry an image, and have only lately realized how hard I was making it on myself by skimping on the inking. Inks that look good on their own make coloring FAR simpler.
Mind you, I love well-done black and white art. I have a huge amount of respect for artists that can pull it off well. It can be very striking, as you prove with every update.
I would love to update Eldlor more than once a week, but with the time it currently takes to create pages, I can't see doing more than twice a week in full color. And I'll see it through to the end in color, since that's what I set my goal to be. But you can bet the next project might well put those black and white skills I'm learning now to much better use!
And, well, as you said: "I actually, in a sick way, enjoy it. I know I am also not alone." You're most definitely not alone there. 🙂

Tony » 15 Apr 2011 » Reply

Great post. I also do my webcomic in black and white for the exact same reasons you listed. I'd love to do it in color but I just don't have the time. Black and white webcomics are a bit of a rare breed, so it's nice to know someone is in the same boat.

Just wanted to say I really dig your art in both black and white and color. I also enjoy reading your "shop talk" blog posts. Keep up the great work, Travis.


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