Amaze your friends with super realistic comic color halftones in Procreate
ColorLab for Procreate makes it easy to create vintage comic color halftone effects. We talked to some of our favorite illustrators to discover their 7 best tips and tricks for creating amazing work with ColorLab.
Don't have ColorLab yet? Grab it here for Procreate, Photoshop, Illustrator, or Affinity Designer.
01. Match your brush and swatch
When applying your halftones you must use the matching brush and swatch.
- RSCO Red brushes must be used with the red swatch.
- RSCO Yellow brushes must be used with the yellow swatch.
- RSCO Blue brushes must be used with the blue swatch.
If you do not use a matching brush and swatch your work will have interference patterns and just look strange.
This is because each brush is applying haltones at a unique screen angle. When you mismatch brushes and colors you will end up applying colors and dots in a way inconsistent with process color printing.
One simple mistake results in 80% of the problems users have with ColorLab.
02. Scale your halftones
You want people to see those beautiful, ink halftones that you're using in your work. So be sure that you've scaled your halftones to a size that is consistent with the halftone size of the style of work you're trying to emulate.
Here's how to scale your ColorLab halftones:
- Click on the halftone brush — this will open a brush customization window.
- Locate the Grain setting for the brush.
- Type in the percentage in the scale slider
Be sure to read the next tip about using the same halftone size on all brushes in a project.
03. Use the same halftone scale
As mentioned in the previous tip, you'll often want to scale your halftones up or down based on your canvas size and the style you're trying to achieve.
Always adjust the size of all halftone brushes within a project the same percentage.
For example, if you test out your RSCO Red 2 halftone brush at a 25% increase in scale be sure to adjust the size of all of your brushes (red, yellow, and blue) by 25%.
Being consistent in your percentage adjustment will create an authentic Ben-Day dot effect and avoid interference patterns.
04. Understand how to scale your work
If you want really large blown-out halftones start by making your work in a smaller size and then enlarging it.
For example, in the burger illustration above we wanted to have really cheap big Ben-Day dots. To get them this large started by drawing and adding the halftones to the hamburger at a smaller size and then enlarging it.
Here's how to enlarge your artwork on your canvas:
- Click the layers panel in Procreate.
- Select all layers you need to enlarge by swiping right.
- Scale your work using the Uniform option to the desired size.
05. Don't use halftones as individual textures
One of the most common abuses of ColorLab is using a single halftone color to add texture to an area.
For example, let's say you want to use ColorLab to a blue sky with tasty halftone colors.
If you haven't read the instructs or experimented it might be tempting to just put down a solid layer of blue and then add ColorLab halftone dots to add halftone texture.
Don't do that! The result is a halftone effect that doesn't exist. But worse, it makes your work look like you don't understand how halftones work.
ColorLab should be used to apply either a solid color, a single halftone color, or a mix of two different colors.
06. Add a edge starve effect
Some of the example work in ColorLab has a highly desirable edge starve effect. This effect is the result of a printing plate creating an impression in the paper and ink flowing to the outer edges — creating a lighter ink tone in the center.
We haven't found an automatic way to achieve this effect in Procreate. But here's how illustrator Robin Banks created this effect in the preview images:
"After I have my keyline art complete, I double the layer up. On one copy I set a gaussian blur to 1.8% and bring the opacity way down to like 20%. On the other layer I blur it maybe .5%. Then I merge those.
After that, I will rough up the lines with the print defect bushes and erase a little in the middle of the line.
Finally, I use the dry nib brush as an eraser, with the opacity really really low to erase the middles of my lines in random areas and any spots where a couple lines meet."
07. Use a gaussian blur
For an extra authentic print look try adding a very small amount of gaussian blur. The percentage you use will vary based on your canvas size. Be very subtle with the blur or it will just look out of focus. The goal is recreate the look of ink bleed and the subtle edges where the ink spreads.
Here's how to add gaussian blur:
- Select your desired layer.
- Click on the adjustments icon.
- Select Gaussian blur.
- Slide you finger on the canvas to adjust the blur.
I can't stress enough how important it is that you are very subtle with this effect. Add the effect very subtly so it's almost no perceivable on a conscious level.
Final Thoughts on ColorLab for Procreate
ColorLab gets amazing results but like any tool there are some best practices to follow.
- Read the instructions (even if you think you don't need to)
- Watch the short video guides on the download page
- Study real vintage comic art to better understand common practices
Did we miss anything? Leave your best tips for using ColorLab in the comments — you never know, we might send you something cool!