• Equestria Daily Interview Series: Interview with IDW MLP Colorist Heather Breckel

    The art of Friendship is Magic has always been one of the big draws of the show, and the fan art community only helps fuel it.  We have styles ranging from heavily detailed paintings to anime-esque chibi fueling a variety of different portrayals of our favorite characters. 

    This is something the comic series has always been an interesting topic on. With a variety of artists and colorists on the stage, things stay fresh on that front.  Heather Breckel here is one of the colorists on staff, and The Illustrious Q decided to ask her a whole bunch of questions about that, and the other projects she has worked on or is currently working on.

    Head on down below the break to check it all out!

    Who is your favorite pony and is that pony that same as your favorite to color?

    Rainbow Dash is my favorite pony but I don't like coloring her because she's a pain in the butt to color for an obvious reason. My favorite pony to color is probably Rarity or Luna because they have fun effects on them and don't have a million colors.

    Oh, don't like coloring rainbows?

    No, there's just no shortcut for doing her or Celestia's hair. Well, Celestia I could probably make a gradient, but it'd be tough to make it look natural.

    So to get it to look and flow naturally, you have to color each color separately?

    Yeah. I like to try to make the hair conform to the shape of the hair. For someone like Andy's art, it would just look awful to do a pre-made gradient.

    And when you consider how detailed his art is ? yeah, I can definitely see that.


    So, how did you get started in art?

    I've always been into art since I was a little kid. I started drawing my own comics after my mother picked up the first issue of the Archie Sonic comic for me.

    Why does that blue hedgehog keep showing up with every artist I talk to. Not that I should complain since I own the entire series? and then some.

    Well, I've always loved videogames, so I grew up with Nintendo and Sega, so Sonic was a big deal to me.

    I'm not as into Sonic anymore, but yeah, it was still important for getting me into doing comics.

    Did you start by drawing him and his adventures?

    Well, I drew before Sonic, but I started doing my own Sonic fan comic when I was like 5 or 6. They were really bad and I still have them somewhere.

    I'm sure you'll find them when you least expect it.

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure my mom has them.

    Now that is sweet.

    And speaking of sweet, For those of us who don?t know, just exactly does your job as a colorist entail?

    Pretty much I'm given scanned inked lineart from the penciller/inker and I color everything and add in lighting/shading/texture.

    So it's a little bit more involved than just taking a paint can in photoshop and dumping the colors where they're supposed to go?

    Yeah! Like back in the day coloring was less involved, but now it's a very big part of the final look of a book. Bad colors can ruin a title.

    People might not believe it, but it's possible for certain colors and color styles to clash with particular artists. You're not going to color Todd McFarlane the same way you would color Jeff Smith. If you over render on top of extremely detailed lineart, it can really make the piece look muddy. Poor use of color theory or amateur Photoshop effects can make a title look like it was done by a beginner, even if you're working with an amazing penciller.

    Obviously you don't want a big title to look like it was done by someone first starting out.

    Obviously. And everyone has to start somewhere. And I take it for you, that place was at the Columbus College of Art and Design? I know Sara Richard studied there as well, but what can you tell us about your experience?

    CCAD is a great school that's pretty well known for having a high drop out rate because it's really tough. I went through 6 or 7 roommates Freshman year because the foundation year was so hardcore, most people dropped out. It's a really brutal school, but it gets you good at speed and meeting deadlines. While there wasn't much of a comic program like SCAD, I felt getting me more prepared for making deadlines is more important than anything.

    Which in the comic industry, you have to be nice, quick, and good to really get anywhere. So naturally it's a good skill to have.

    Yeah! 90% of issues I color I get about 7 days to do it in. There's even been instances where I've had to do an issue in 2 days. This is pretty common for colorists, so it's good to be fast.

    *whistles* A week to two days to do 20 some odd pages? Holy cow.

    Yeah, and sometimes my deadlines overlap! Despite not going to SDCC, all my deadlines were effected by it so the past few weeks I've been doing 60+ pages a week.

    I think a good number of pencilers and inkers would cry at that number.

    Yeah. It's pretty much industry standard for the penciller/inker to get a lot more time. Colorists are the last step as letters can be done with the pencils, so we usually get the shortest amount of time.

    Was this week long deadline the same you experienced while working for Image and Dark Horse?

    Yeah. I've always gotten a week or less with them too. Really the only time I get a lengthy amount of time is with smaller publishers or if I get a really fast artist.

    Like when Amy Mebberson managed to turn around pencils and inks for one of her issues in under a week?

    Yeah, I don't know how she does it. I love working with her because Bobby'll be like yeah you have like weeks to do this. So it's like Christmas.

    And that's on top of everything she does for Disney.

    Yeah, I'm always really impressed with her. She does quality work at the speed of light.

    ...so surrender now or prepare to fight?

    haha yeah!

    So, who do you consider to be the biggest art influences on your style?

    For coloring I've always been inspired by amazing people like Dave Stewart and Jordie Bellaire. Anime like Madoka Magica and Kill la Kill are good about giving me ideas on palletes and cel shading and such.

    Which I supposed helped you break into IDW?
    Not literally break in, but you know what I mean. XD

    Yeah. I was pretty lucky with how I got into IDW.

    How did that happen?

    I had befriended James Stokoe and Marley Zarcone through a comic battling site called EnterVOID a million years ago. One day James was like hey want to do flats for Godzilla with me. So I got to do the flats for Godzilla:Half Century War with James. Then I got to do with TMNT:April Micro series with Marley. So I met Bobby Curnow through both of them. I was just lucky to happen to know some incredible artists that were able to help me out.

    And the TMNT: April Micro probably helped out a ton with getting you your other fairly standard comic on TMNT: New Animated Adventures!

    Yeah! It pretty much went Godzilla then TMNT then MLP then TMNT Adventures

    Which has to be pretty fun, coloring both the Turtles and Ponies every single month, right?

    Yeah, it's really great because I love both MLP and TMNT. It's the greatest thing on the planet to be able to work on series that you love that were big when you were a kid.

    So I take it you collected both the Turtles and the Ponies when you were little?

    I was more of a turtles fan and my sister was into pony. I liked all the stuff for boys, but I did enjoy the cartoon and movies for pony, even though the toys weren't my thing.

    Well, that might have something to do with them not being pose-able, and movable, and? I might know a thing or two about little sisters having more fun with G.I. Joe and Transformers than MLP and Barbie. XD

    Yeah, even as an adult I still generally prefer franchises directed at guys. When I was a kid I was just like, I don't want the girly frou frou stuff. I wanted swords and explosions.

    I wanted fun! Not cheap poorly made? junk.
    Kind of like that?


    I was just lucky to have parents that were supportive of that instead of forcing me to like girl stuff. Of course now I'm obviously more open to that.

    Obviously since you make a living off of that. *laughs*

    Yeah. I think Sailor Moon really helped me be a bit more open towards girl stuff when it came out of here.

    So the TMNT: April Micro lead to MLP. Were you already aware of the Brony fanbase when you get the job from Bobby?

    I got into pony at the tail end of season 1 so I knew about bronies. I had heard about it through the infamous Cartoon Brew article. So I was already a fan of the show long before getting the job. Liking the show was pretty much how I got the job as I asked Bobby if I could work on the series because I love pony.

    And did that have any impact on your work?

    Bronies don't really impact my work because I approach the title as a fan of the show and not what I think the fandom wants to see.

    And you always want to put your best forward on what you love to do.

    Thank you! I care a lot about the show so it's important to me that I do it justice.

    Which I suppose is how you're able to correctly color any pony by cutie mark alone, as Tony was bragging about you?

    haha Yes. I know most of the background ponies by name. Provided there will always be a few really obscure ones I forget. I don't follow the blindbags really, so Andy occasionally sticks random ones from there I don't know. But if it's from the show I try to stay on top of it.

    And it shows.

    Thank you.

    So, out of the 20 issues you've colored on the main series, 2 on the micro series, and the 3 on Friends Forever, which has been your favorite to work on?

    My favorite is always changing. I really liked working on the Reflections arc because I got to do a lot of cool new techniques which was exciting for me. Nightmare Rarity was a ton of fun too because I felt I really got to show off with all the cool effects in the arc.

    Neat, any effects or techniques that really stood out?

    For Reflections I got to do a lot of fun things with texture like Starswirl's place and SSJ Celestia. Nightmare Rarity there was just a lot of opportunities for dramatic lighting.

    Cool. So on average, how many books do you color a month?

    Usually about 4-5. This month was 6 I think.

    ...120+ pages in a month. I'm so glad I'm sitting down for this.

    Yeah, and compared to some colorists that's still on the low side.

    Low side?

    Yeah, I've seen some of the more well known colorists doing like 7-10 a month. Provided they generally have flatters, which I usually don't use.

    Cool. You mentioned that you generally don't use a flatter, but I know you did for the 2013 MLP Annual. Can you explain what a flatter is and why you had to use one for the annual?

    A flatter lays down flat colors so it's easier for the colorist to quickly knock out a page. I know that might sound weird if you're unfamiliar with the process, but at least 50% of my time is spent flatting. So most professional colorists use them because it saves a significant amount of time. I generally don't use one because I'm very fast on my own, but I needed assistance on the annual. Lauren Perry was awesome and really saved my butt on that. There was just a lot of schedule problems on my end and Tony's end and I had other deadlines piling up so I needed help.

    Are flatters covered by the comic company or do they have to be paid out of pocket?

    It depends. For Godzilla I just had IDW pay me directly because James was in Canada so it was just easier that way. Usually flatters are paid out of the pocket of the colorist.

    Very interesting.

    In addition to your work at IDW, you?ve also done work for a few other comic companies over the last two years. Namely Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and an independent comic bookcollective known as Monkey Pipe Studios. What can you tell us about your work for Monkey Pipe, and if it differs from working for larger comic companies like IDW, Image, and Dark Horse?

    Monkey Pipe is run by a friend, Jamie Gambell, who has pretty much been given me work since I first started out. The deadlines are a lot more loose because Jamie knows I have so much going on, so that helps a lot.

    So it's just one man running the show there?

    As far as I know. I don't think he has anyone else on the business end aside from artists he hires and stuff.

    Well, every business has to start somewhere. Not even Image started out a huge as it is.

    Yeah, he's been awesome to work for and really helped me get my start.

    And speaking of Image Comics, you've worked for them on a few interesting titles. Like, for instance, Peter Panzerfaust. How big of a difference was it going from coloring pastel colored equines to grim and gritty World War II era humans?

    While both books are very different stylistically and palette wise, I was already used to working in different styles. In my personal comic work I've always changed up my drawing and coloring style from comic to comic, so it wasn't that big of a deal for me to switch gears between titles.

    I take it being flexible is helpful in the comic industry?

    Yeah. The more styles you're able to do, the more valuable you are. I get a ton of work that way.

    So, you mentioned your personal comic work. My I assume this involves Angie?

    Yeah, Angie was a character I used for EnterVOID and is the main character of my self published Winter and Adorable Mini Adventures books and soon to be web comic called The Phinora.

    What can you tell us about those comics?

    Winter is a revenge story about Angie, a cat monster that was taken from her family and raised by humans. The Adorable Mini Adventures is a cute slice of life story about Angie living with her girlfriend and learning about human stuff. The Phinora is going to be an adventure story where Angie is traveling the world to try to reunite with her family.

    Those sounds like really cool comics. Where can they be read?

    Most of my stuff can be read at http://angieness.deviantart.com/ but the web comic will be at http://phinoracomic.com/ it also has links to where to buy my books. (not a lot there yet, I started building it before I got pummeled with deadlines this month)

    Will definitely have to check it out.

    So, is there anything else you wanted to talk about that I didn't cover?

    Not really! I think that just about covers it all.

    Sweet, thank you for the interview Heather! It was a pleasure.

    You're welcome! You too

    Heather Breckel will be in Baltimore at Bronycon on August 1st-3rd. She can be found at Booth 522 in the vendors hall.

    You can follow Heather on the web on:

    Deviant Art: http://angieness.deviantart.com/
    Twitter: @angienessyo
    Tumblr: http://hbreckel.tumblr.com/