Posted December 2, 2014 by Norby Ela in Comics

LET’S TALK KOMIKS: Coloring Your Comics with JAY DAVID RAMOS

Today we get to share you an interview with a fascinating Filipino comic book talent – Jay David Ramos. He is an international Comic Book Colorist. He has been involved in many comic books, such as Action Comics, Thanos Imperative, Superior Carnage, Uncanny X-Force, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy and many more.


Jay David Ramos

FLIPGEEKS: Let’s start off with a pretty basic question, how did you come to be a colorist?
JAY DAVID RAMOS: In 2002, I attended a comics creation seminar taught by David Campiti, an American agent for comics creators. He came to the UP College of Fine Arts where I was a freshman pursuing a degree in Visual Communication. I had decided to work in advertising after college, but I have always been a comics fan who dreamt of making comics as a career. After the event, I showed the agent some of my work, many of which he wasn’t particularly impressed. But he did notice my color work and encouraged me to get in touch with Rain Beredo, one of the colorists he represented. Rain and I corresponded for a time where I submit my color samples to him for critiquing. In 2004, I had built a sizeable portfolio which David Campiti shopped around, and fortunately, one editor liked my work enough to give me my first pro gig. And I’ve been coloring comics ever since. It’s been more than 10 years and I have had the greatest time coloring titles I grew up reading like the X-Men, Avengers, Star Wars, Superman, and Batman, among others.

How collaborative is the process when you’re coloring something? I’m sure it can vary from book to book, but are color choices ever anything you go over with the writer or penciler or is it more of a hands-off experience?
It really depends on the script. As long as I follow the character’s skin colors, costumes, effects details, and the time of day as indicated in the script, I am given the freedom to contribute my creative vision as the colorist.


Jay David Ramos

What does the average day of a comics colorist look like?
I cannot speak for everyone else. For myself, my typical work day begins at 8AM when I start to go over emails from editors, note corrections, and download new line art pages available. After which, I work until 11:45AM to pause for lunch break. I resume work at 1PM and stop at 5:30PM to prepare and have dinner. Then I relax a little bit, surf the net, or read a book, then get back to work at 8PM until 10:30PM. I submit whatever pages were done for the day, and then get to bed at about 11PM. I make it a point to finish three pages a day. I try to maintain a structured schedule so I have time for a good sleep, morning exercise, hearty meals, holy Mass, relaxation, and hopefully free my weekend. Of course, when it’s crunch time, I adjust as best as I could in order to beat the unforgiving deadline.

As a colorist, to whom do you take your creative questions? The writer? The penciller? The inker? the editor?
The editor would be the first person to consult with in terms of those types of questions. He’s the one who edits the work and oversees the entire production, after all. I also greatly consider the input of the penciler. It is his art I am coloring, and I need to work with his vision for the book. For example, some artists are fine with me coloring over their lines and doing color holds, others specifically ask to make sure no line work is lost. The writer sometimes pitches in just in case I overlooked something that is essential to the story.

Could you please go a bit into what your process is like and what a colorist brings to a book?
A colorist brings mood, special effects, clarity, and focus to help the reader’s eye to follow the story. Comics is first and foremost a storytelling medium, so my goal should always be to assist the flow of the story. If my colors detract from that purpose, then I failed to do my job well. As a colorist, my work should not overpower the penciler’s work, rather, it should work with his.

Jay David Ramos

When it comes to the actual coloring process, every colorist may have a different way of setting up their work files, but the essential process is pretty much the same. The first thing to do is the flatting stage, where the page is filled with flat colors to separate the different elements panel by panel. It’s a tedious process, so I often send it out to an assistant who’ll flat the pages for me. Once I get the flats, the fun part begins – I begin the rendering stage. I add lights and shading, textures, and special effects. After that’s all done, I send a low resolution jpeg file to the editor for review. When everything is good to go, I then prepare the file to make it print-ready – I convert it to CMYK and add some trapping if necessary. When all is set, I upload final color files to the publisher’s server, and hope that the colors come out okay when it hit the shelves in about a month.

Are there any characters that you’re having fun with? What’s cool about them?
When I was assigned to work on the relaunch of Guardians of the Galaxy, I wasn’t familiar with the characters at all like Starlord, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, etc. But the story won me over, and it was one of the most fun project I’ve worked on.

One of my hopes when I started doing professional color work was to color Superman or Batman. I’m very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work on stories featuring those two iconic characters.

Do you have ideas for your own characters and stories or are you more interested in doing work-for-hire?
At the moment, I’m focusing on work-for-hire stuff. I need to pay the bills, after all. Haha.

But yes, I have one story I’ve been developing for years now. I even consulted an editor for his input on it. Of course, he was honest enough to say it needed a lot of work, haha. But it’s there. Hopefully, I’d get to realize it in print someday.

As a colorist, do you emphasize surface beauty or is there more to the process and the finished work?
I would say both. I think it’s always paramount to think of it as a help in the narrative aspect of the medium, but by its very nature, color gives life and vibrancy to a page, so its aesthetic value is very important. Good colors can make a bad page look awesome, and bad colors can make amazing pages look terrible.

What’s your approach to textures on backgrounds, skies and large expanses?
As much as possible, if we should paste pictures on backgrounds and the like, my advice would be to paint over it or do something to make it more graphic or fit the art style of the artist. Otherwise, it would look very much out of place, and can stand out and distract from the reading experience.

Digital comics are clearly an important subject in the industry these days. Has the advent of comics that will 100% match the colors you lay down in Photoshop changed the way you color? Do you have to make any adjustments or avoid any specific pitfalls when it comes to coloring comics for print that you won’t have to do for digital?
In my experience, I don’t have to worry too much on how my colors translate from screen to other screens when doing work that is going to be digitized. A big concern would be how to set up my Photoshop layers in such a way the publisher needs it for easy conversion to motion graphics. For print, my layers would all be flattened before sending out to the publisher. For digital format, it is often required to send the files unflattened, and I would need to keep in mind to separate background files from foreground files so it’s easier for the digital production department to manipulate the images. So I have to take extra care in setting up my files for the digital format.

Several books you’ve worked on are already in digital and can be read in smart devices. Are you pleased with the way your colors appear on-screen?
Yes, there appears to be no change on the colors. It could vary sometimes from what screen you’re viewing on, but it has more to do with hardware calibration settings.

Overall, what’s been the most rewarding part of your work to date?
I always say that holding the printed comic book in your hands and seeing your name on the credits is a “high” that never gets old. It still is. For a comics fan, it’s very fulfilling.

Which comics artists do you currently look to for inspiration?
Jim Lee has always been my favorite artist. He’s the reason why I got into collecting comic books. And when I saw his work colored by Alex Sinclair for the first time, I had to figure out how to color digitally. I can still remember one of the first images I practiced coloring over – a downloaded low resolution black and white cover jpeg of Wildstorm’s Divine Right.


Jay David Ramos

What titles are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading and enjoying Kirkman’s OUTCAST, Ellis’ TREES, Gillen’s THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, and Vaughan’s SAGA.

Whose work is really impressing you right now? Writing, art, coloring, lettering, comics or not comics, what’s caught your eye lately? What hasn’t been getting the kind of attention you think it deserves?
Kim Jung Gi. He’s THE artists’ artist.

Gerald Parel. I love how he uses light and shadow in his digital paintings.

Elizabeth Breitweiser. Her color work on OUTCAST and THE FADE OUT are so beautiful, yet very subdued and disciplined all at the same time.
Romulo Fajardo Jr. My friend here is just killing everybody and everything with his color work on different titles. He can adapt his style at will, and he makes bad artists look good, and elevates good artists into superstars! Haha. And he’s very fast! He’s the real deal. He’s a star.

Norby Ela

Now residing in San Diego, CA, I strive to work in art and further grow FlipGeeks around the world.