More efficient flatting?

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More efficient flatting?

Postby CoffeeStained » Sat May 29, 2010 11:47 am

Does anyone have any tips for more efficient flatting? I've set up an action that automatically preps the work for flatting, I've created a custom swatch that contains only the colours I need, and I've mapped Cmnd, Shift, Opt, Space, Zoom, L, G, B, Cmnd+Z, Cmnd+D and X to my tablet. (I tried to map Cmnd+Z to my eraser, but Photoshop still thinks of it as an eraser, so I erase something, then the tablet driver kicks in and undoes the erasing.) I've created a workspace specifically for flatting that only has layers, channels, swatch, colour, Navigation and Actions palettes showing, and most non-relavent menu items have been hidden.

I don't think I'm slow at making selections, but I may be going about it the wrong way. I fill the panel, then work from foreground to background, outlining objects, filling them, and work my way to the back. I don't make precise cuts for every object, I know that once you butt up to another colour that you don't need to follow the outline, you let fill do it's work. I don't waste a lot of time deselecting, once again, fill does it's job.

I have all my tools preset to adding selections so that I can zoom in and make chunks of selections rather than having to awkwardly make a single large one. Often I leave the centre unfilled, concentrating just on the outlines. When I finally deselect, I just pop in all the centers, rather than deselecting all the time.

So is there a particular strategy I'm mIssing? What I am looking for is to increase my speed.
Last edited by CoffeeStained on Sat May 29, 2010 12:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby Eagle » Sat May 29, 2010 12:16 pm

Text doesn't really tell me how fast you're using all these tools. Only familiarity will speed that up.

You don't necessarily have to work front-to-back or back-to-front. If there's a really complicated thing, like a zillion branches of squiggly lightning, or something, I'll usually select whatever's around or behind it. Easier for my brain to think of small, disconnected areas, rather than random paths snaking all over a page. You avoid prematurely closing selections more, too.

Any shape you choose to select on a page is a bunch of lines you no longer ever have to trace on that page again. If you sit there and plan out what strategy you're going to use, that can slow you down. Just select something and work it out as you go.

Selecting an entire character and blocking it out in a single colour, then blocking out each individual area on that character can be quicker than than doing the individual areas first. It depends on the situation.

Are you using the polygonal lasso? Or maybe the regular lasso and Alt to prevent premature closing? Or you can trace the outline of an object with the pencil, then fill it with a bucket.

A tablet's not going to have enough keys to really fill all your needs. If you have the cash to blow, you might consider investing in a small programmable keyboard, like a Nostromo, or Wolf King. The N52TE meets my own needs. It also lets me waste less space on the screen, since I've got keys set to display and hide the Swatches, Channels, Layers and Actions palettes. So I can have them right in the center of my screen when I need them [less reaching around to the edges of the tablet], but nowhere at all when I don't. Also, I have the wheel set to scroll back and forth through the History states. No need for an "Undo" key.

If you save a lot [if not, why aren't you?], saving as a PSD can save you a lot of time on a slower computer. If you're sent TIF files, be sure to save the final as a TIF before sending it back. Or you can ask if they mind getting PSDs back. TIFs may end up being smaller files, though. Lineart in a channel, flats on one layer [most of the time; I'll put reflected things in a separate layer if other things are visible behind], LZW compression [PSDs automatically use a lossless compression].

If you have some meditation technique to put your mind "in the zone," that'll be your best trick.
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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby Lobo_quiddity » Sun May 30, 2010 10:10 am

when flatting color it's always more efficient to work from back to front..not the other way around.
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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby grafika86 » Sun May 30, 2010 6:23 pm

Zombie Dave McCaig wrote:How long does it take you to flat a page? It takes me 20 minutes to an hour, depending on complexity, usually 30-40 min.


viewtopic.php?f=5&t=14172&start=15


Maybe, try to ask dave... :)
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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby CoffeeStained » Sun May 30, 2010 11:35 pm

Lobo_quiddity wrote:when flatting color it's always more efficient to work from back to front..not the other way around.
How so? Backgrounds tend to be fragmented because of the characters and objects in front of them. You would have to select underlapping elements separately to fill them to avoid spilling into the character space, creating extra colour fills. If you fill the character first then select an underlapping element, you can avoid time consuming selections and multiple fills.
Can you post a video of your technique? I'd be happy to be wrong if I can save some time.
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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby Laura » Mon May 31, 2010 7:05 am

Question: How long DOES it take you to flat a page? I noticed that you didn't mention that.

I find it quicker to work back to front as well. I select the whole panel, then subtract-lasso the background elements, bucket in another color, subtract-lasso the next furthest background element, etc. I'm always subtracting from one continuous selection. Or, I'll select the whole figure of a character, bucket a color, then subtract-lasso the hair, bucket again, subtract-lasso the skin, and so on. Either way, I start with the largest shape and shave away each section as I go. I'll clean up with the pencil tool afterward if I got sloppy.

Have you seen Sweeney's flatting tutorial?

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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby Zombie Dave McCaig » Mon May 31, 2010 3:09 pm

Eagle wrote:regular lasso and Alt to prevent premature closing?


This is the way to go. I never use any other lasso method, and can't see any advantage to doing so, since this method encompasses every other lasso method.

One other thing I do is to close off spaces in the inks (in shapes like clouds) with the pencil tool, wand the closed-off shape, expand by 1 or 2 pixels, and fill.

I have my stylus button set to option-delete (FG fill). It's a huge, huge time saver.


Also, I have function keys set for "expand 1 pixel" and "expand 2 pixels" for when I wand stuff.

Become familiar with intersection-selections if you're not already. That's when you have one shape selected, then make another selection over it while pressing command-shift so that your final shape will be the intersection between the first and second selection.

As others said, work large shapes to small most of the time. It's the fastest way to go, and helps you break up planes effectively.
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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby Jamesabels » Mon May 31, 2010 9:36 pm

Laura wrote:Question: How long DOES it take you to flat a page? I noticed that you didn't mention that.

I find it quicker to work back to front as well. I select the whole panel, then subtract-lasso the background elements, bucket in another color, subtract-lasso the next furthest background element, etc. I'm always subtracting from one continuous selection. Or, I'll select the whole figure of a character, bucket a color, then subtract-lasso the hair, bucket again, subtract-lasso the skin, and so on. Either way, I start with the largest shape and shave away each section as I go. I'll clean up with the pencil tool afterward if I got sloppy.

Have you seen Sweeney's flatting tutorial?

-- Laura


Do you know of any or have you made any tutorials on the large selection method? I do this at first but then make new selections for things in the BG, but this sounds like it might be a bit more efficient.

I would like to see an example if possible, I've been messing around and trying it out a bit and cant seem to get it to work quite they way I imagine it working, lol.
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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby Laura » Tue Jun 01, 2010 4:38 am

As soon as I get back from HeroesCon, I'll try to make a video. I have to learn how to do this sometime... :)

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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby CoffeeStained » Tue Jun 01, 2010 7:46 pm

Okay, thanks, people, The subtract lasso really makes sense, it can't ADD time to my workflow, I'll give it a shot.
Laura wrote:How long DOES it take you to flat a page? I noticed that you didn't mention that.
I didn't know if that was useful info, as different levels of detail = different times, but my colourist says he could flat these pages in about 45 min, and I'm taking about 1 1/2 hours. I am very familiar with photoshop, any given instruction I will know how to do, but I am wholly unfamiliar with this workflow.
Laura wrote:Have you seen Sweeney's flatting tutorial?
No! I was looking for tutorials but did not see this one, thank you!
Zombie Dave McCaig wrote:I have my stylus button set to option-delete (FG fill). It's a huge, huge time saver.
I'll admit, I never knew this one, and I know it'll help immensely.
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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby Jamesabels » Tue Jun 01, 2010 8:11 pm

Laura wrote:As soon as I get back from HeroesCon, I'll try to make a video. I have to learn how to do this sometime... :)

-- Laura


Not trying to add anymore work on you haha, but I would love more vids on flatting, I learn best that way, but if you do decide to try a vid out let me know if you have any trouble with the technical side of video making, I'm pretty good with that kind of thing.
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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby CoffeeStained » Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:56 pm

I want to thank everyone who responded. The tip that I thought was most absurd, working background to foreground, ended up being the biggest time-saver! Combined with option-deleting, it doesn't really allow you to forget anything. I guess my biggest drag was tool selections, which, even with shortcuts, reaaaallly slow you down. Plus I ended up taking more than one run at panels because I forgot something. I'm still no Speedy Gonzales, but I've gotten to a point where flatting is worth my time. Before, I was working so slow that I was making less than minimum wage at it.

I do have some questions;
Zombie Dave McCaig wrote:I have my stylus button set to option-delete (FG fill). It's a huge, huge time saver.
I do a lot of non-flatting Photoshop work, do I have to change my tablet preferences every time, or do you know of a way to set more than one tablet profile for photoshop?
Zombie Dave McCaig also wrote:Also, I have function keys set for "expand 1 pixel" and "expand 2 pixels" for when I wand stuff.
How does one do that? I can set a shortcut for Expand, but how do you enter a specific value?

As I practice, I'll only get faster, so thanks, guys and gals!
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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby PeterK » Tue Jun 08, 2010 11:07 am

How does one do that? I can set a shortcut for Expand, but how do you enter a specific value?


You can record an action. Make a new action, and let it record as you go to Select-Modify-Expand, enter your pixel value, then stop recording the action. Assign a function key to it, then you can apply it with one keystroke.
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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby oktarb » Thu Jun 10, 2010 11:53 am

If you have clean inks and only if you have clean inks you can use Bpelt Pugin to flat automatically. You can not use this on pencils or sloppy inks. Depending on your art you have to decide: Is it more effiecient to close some line and use BPelt or am I going to spend more time trying to clean-up work than I would just flatting it.

Tutorial: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/5095210
Actual Plug-in: http://www.bpelt.com/psplugins/flatting.html

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Re: More efficient flatting?

Postby CoffeeStained » Sat Jun 12, 2010 5:50 am

I have the Bpelt plugin, which I find vastly inadequate for most flatter's needs. If you were doing very stylised stuff like PVP, Penny Arcade, QC, sure. But for comic books? That type of line art is pretty rare.
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