Colored Line Art, Yea Or Nay?

We’ve all seen it before. Instead of strong black outlines on artwork, sometimes artists use a darker hue of the fill color used on that specific character. Professionally, this is known as a ‘color hold’. It is a nice way to make your characters stand out but not be too bold, but is it the style you want to go for? It’s a look that has been quite popular in content such as Disney cartoons, and using various outlines these days can even be a way to organize different animation elements. That’s what we’re discussing in this weeks Friday Artist Talk.

Most web comics that I can think of tend to favour black outlines, including myself. This could be partly due to our creative process in roughing out art and then inking it in. Animation is after all a different creature entirely. Similarly related, Dark Wick (a comic written by Marty Basto from here on Top Web Comics) features occasional haze or bloom that affects the line art quite significantly. It’s something that is fun to experiment with.

Another use of color hold can be for background characters or details. If you really want to blend something into the background, even using a grey outline instead of black can make it seem less important than your main bold characters.

What do you think? Do you prefer one style over the other?


  1. DemonDan June 14, 2014 9:00 am 

    You know what would make this entry pop out? Links to and images of examples. Being not that artistic myself, those really help me get these talks ;)

    • Les Major June 16, 2014 12:18 am 

      That’s the trouble with artwork. Mostly I’d need to ask for permission to use it for an article and I didn’t have time to make any of my own this week.

      • DemonDan June 16, 2014 9:36 am 

        Would you need to permission to just link to examples, without showing them in the article itself?

        • Les Major June 16, 2014 1:46 pm 

          No, but it’s usually better to have content directly in the article when I can.

      • vaslittlecrow June 16, 2014 11:30 am 

        If you EVER need emergency art, just contact me at anytime, and if I have time, I will gladly help. Dan can probably vouch for me. :)

        • Les Major June 16, 2014 3:03 pm 

          Thanks! It’s good to know. However it is all volunteer work on the blog. :)

          • vaslittlecrow June 17, 2014 9:13 pm 

            Yes, I am aware of that. Hence the volunteering. :)

          • Les Major June 18, 2014 4:43 pm 

            Awesome! Just wanted to make sure. :) Thanks Vas, I’ll keep you posted!

        • DemonDan June 17, 2014 8:09 am 

          I can most certainly vouch for Vas as an awesome and helpful webcomics sensei :D

  2. vaslittlecrow June 16, 2014 11:35 am 

    I love color holds, especially with thick lines. They seem to add a lot of life to art, especially with shaded color work. Alas, I find them extremely labor intensive so I don’t use them as much as I’d like to.

  3. MarkKB June 22, 2014 7:14 am 

    When I was regularly drawing webcomics, I’d go with a hybrid approach – I’d draw the background with colour holds and the characters with ink, which helped make the subjects stand out while giving the background a more colourful feel.

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