Color Designer

All of the drawings are done, the animation is working, and the director is pleased. The only problem is that it's all in black and white. There's no color. Better send everything down to the ink and paint department.

Everything in an animated world has its own color, and those colors should work together to create a visually pleasing whole. In other words, make sure the shirt and the sky aren't the same, or you'll never see one against the other.

Carol Wyatt's job is just that. She gets to spend her days coloring, and as long as she stays within the lines, everything's alright.

As a designer, Carol takes a background design, photocopies it onto a clear piece of acetate, called a cell, and paints it, using colors at her discretion. Since Carol has a background with color skills and theory, her discretion is usually trusted. Once a BG design is colored, the director and producers have approval. If they don't like it, Carol has to go back and do it again. At up to eight hours for a complicated BG, you can see how this could get old real quick.

When she started the ink and paint department on "The Simpsons," Carol instituted a computer color design system. The BGs still have to be painted by hand, but the higher brass could see several different samples on the screen from which to make a choice. "The Simpsons" was the first TV series to use a computer system like this.

The same process is used for characters and props. Each design is scanned into the computer and colored. Once it is approved, the design is hand painted by cell painters. The finished paintings are called color keys.

Most animated feature films are now done this way as well, including both Disney's film Lilo & Stitch and Fox's Ice Age. This is why there were no cells produced for those films. All the backgrounds and animation were scanned in, painted electronically, and output directly to 35 mm film for editing.

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