The Colorist: An Interview with Michael Atiyeh

April 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Art, Comic Books, Dark Horse, Interview | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,

A while back I started off my exploration of how comic books are made by interviewing comic book writer John Jackson Miller. John was able to shed some light on the comic writer’s perspective of the process. In my continuing investigation, I approached Michael Atiyeh to find out how things looked from the colorist’s side of things and Mr. Atiyeh was nice enough to take the time to answer my questions.

Traditionally the colorist is the last person to touch the comic in terms of its creation. The writer has written the script; the penciller and inkers have laid out the art; the letterer has finished placing all of the dialog. At this point, the only thing left is to color it. It’s amazing just how important color is to a comic. Good coloring can make or break the imagery of an issue.

And Michael Atiyeh is no stranger to comics. For Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics, he has worked on Empire, Knights of the Old Republic, Knights of the Old Republic: War, The Old Republic: Blood of the Empire, Tales, X-Wing Rogue LeaderBoba Fett: Man with a Mission, Brothers in Arms, The Force Unleashed, The Old Republic: Threat of Peace, Han Solo and the Hollow Moon of Khorya, Princess Leia and the Royal Ransom, and the Knight Errant series.

So without further ado, here is the interview with Michael Atiyeh.

When you begin the process of coloring a comic, do you use a color guide before creating the final pages?

MA: I don’t use color guides anymore. When we have time, I do like to color character studies before I start a title. For instance with Kerra, we had time for me to mock up colored character sketches and get all her details settled.

Can you describe how the process works, how you receive the art, what program you use, and how you get started?

MA: I download the line art directly from Dark Horse, so all files are already in digital format, usually the printed page size and at 400 dpi. I do all my coloring/painting in Photoshop. The first thing I always do is read the script and make notes of important details that I need to be aware of such as time of day, setting, or color direction. John Jackson Miller is really great to work with. Very detailed scripts, but that allow me to really play with the colors. When I actually start a page I look over the line art and start to see where the artist indicated the lighting. In the case of Star Wars, you have to be mindful of lightsabers, blaster bolts, and other energy effects that impact the scene. Once I have an idea in my mind’s eye where the overall page is going, I pick something that really sparks my interest on the page and color that first. I do this so I can establish a page/scene focus and set the tone for the rest of the page.

How long on average does it take to color a page, and a whole issue? Are there any big differences between coloring the covers versus the interior pages?

MA: Each page is really different as far as how long it takes to complete. As most colorists do, I use flatters that I hire to beak down all the objects on the page. At that stage, I can usually do 3-4 pages a day without giving up any quality. These are long days mind you. I usually at the studio by 9:00 and work straight through until dinner, spend some time with my family, and most nights I am back at the studio until after midnight. Covers do take a lot more time, since you really want it to grab the readers attention. You want people to walk into the shop, or see it on the computer and have the book really jump right out at them. So in general, I will try and allow for a whole day just to do a cover.

During the colorization process (or before and after) do you interact any with the inker, penciller, or writer?

MA: It really is one of the things I enjoy and thrive on. John Jackson Miller and I have been working on Star Wars together for about 7 years now, so we do interact on each project we work on. I love sending Jpegs to the artists on the book and getting feedback. If they love the pages that is awesome, but I also really enjoy when they point out things I could approach in a different way because it strengthens me as an artist.

When the final colored pages are complete, and the proof copy is sent to the editor, are there ever any revisions or corrections that you have to recolor?

MA: I always expect some changes and plan accordingly. They are usually very minor details that need to be adjusted. I find that using good reference and having open communication with the other members of the team minimizes mistakes that need to be rectified.

Do you get copies of the final colored pages for yourself?

MA: I do get copies sent to me from the generous folks at Dark Horse after the book is printed. I usually keep a couple copies for myself and then give the other copies to kids. Try to get them hooked on comics!

I want to thank Mr. Atiyeh again for shedding some light on colorists and his work on the Knight Errant series. The next arc, Escape, will be out in June 2012, and you can also catch John Jackson Miller and Michael Atiyeh’s work in Knights of the Old Republic: War (Issue #4 comes out tomorrow). If you’d like to find out more about Michael Atiyeh, you can check out his website, and you can also follow him on Twitter.

Interviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: