A day in the lab!
Back on entry #209, I posted some black-and-white expanded thumbnails of various Fringe locations. At last it’s time to tackle the holy grail of Fringe locations – the Lab. I personally am of the opinion that the Lab is fundamentally unknowable (indeed… the set and its layout changed many times over the course of the five seasons, and I’m convinced the set dressers would just randomly move everything around in between every episode, just for the hell of it). Is there no end to the tables, the equipment, the glassware? However, nothing ventured nothing gained…
I didn’t show the coloring process last time, but this time I will give a loose step by step.
Working from a 200px wide thumbnail to begin with, then bumping it up three or four times until I reached 1024 pixels… this time I wanted to concentrate on making things sharper in the focal area. My reference image was focusing on a character in the middle ground, so that’s where I tried to at least make things a little more focused.
One word about the glassware, which can be very intimidating. You simply can’t treat the glassware as individual items because (a) you’ll go crazy and (b) it will probably not give the effect you want, which is a shitload of random glassware. So, just as with hair, treat the masses of glassware as a form first, and then just pick out the details as you go with lights and darks. Gradually it will become clear to you where a beaker or jug can be seen, and the rest is up to your creativity.
As for the coloring from grayscale, I follow (roughly) the method recommended by Matt Kohr of Ctrlpaint.com.
Taking my finished grayscale image, I created a layer in Photoshop above it and set it to Multiply at around 50%. As you may know, glazing over grayscale with color cannot really give you true depth of color. It will look “Ted Turner colorized” and not real. However, what we are doing here with this first layer is a color temperature study. All we’re putting in to start with are two colors – warm and cool. I use orange and blue for the warm and cool. Here it is just a subtle reminder of what should be on the warm side and what should be on the cool side. Sometimes, lights can be warm; other times, cool. In this picture, the light sources are cool – those fluorescent lab lights, you know.
Next (without merging the layers) I created another layer above this one and set it to Color. In this way I get it a little more lively than just sepia and blue.
This time, again, we’re not laying in final colors, but expanding the warm and cool colors we put in earlier. You can do this in different ways, but I recommend not going crazy and being subtle and thinking about what narrow color range this picture is supposed to be in (more on this later). Also, be careful to blend the edges of your coloring, as sharp edges and sloppiness will show up later (mea culpa).
The last layer I used on this project (there are other steps you can take, such as using Color Dodge to add glows) was an actual paint layer (layer set to Normal). This was to add color to things that it is impossible to glaze over, such as the green computer monitor, the orangey desk, the red bottlecaps and so on. And to add other highlights where necessary. It is important to choose colors that match the value of the grayscale you are painting over.
This looks OK, but there is one more step that is a good idea if you have the time and resources – and that is to run your colored picture through a filter. The reason for this is that especially when starting out, we tend to not unify the palette. In other words, we pick too many colors to work with. Using a narrower palette always makes for a better picture. Ideally, over time you will learn to do this right as you start your project, but a lot of times it’s an afterthought so better late than never.
Here’s a filter I considered but didn’t use:
You can go hog wild with filters, but subtle is always better, and each one puts a slightly different mood on the picture, so choose carefully.
Of course, your colored picture will only be as good as your grayscale original. I like the blown-up-thumbnail method, but I think they work better as studies rather than as finished works.