Review: Comic Book Coloring with Steve Firchow

Never before I had this mixed feelings when I decided to review a product.
Last week I purchased another DVD from the Gnomon Workshop: Comic Book Coloring with Steve Firchow .

The reason for my mixed feelings when it comes to reviewing this DVD are that I didn’t know if I should love it or hate it. In fact the best thing to do here is going from the first impression to the last one. I think this will make things more clear and you’ll understand why I have some problems here.

The first statement I have to make is this and I stand for the full 100% behind it: If this had been the first product I ever purchased from the Gnomon Workshop this would have been the last one. Anyway, let’s go.

The very first impression when I browsed through the DVD fast was that this is an amazing piece of art we going to work on. Yes, WE going to work on it. The great thing is that the project files are also on the DVD and you could assume that the content will cover everything step by step in tiny detail. Just like you expect it from a tutorial.

Why would they provide the project files anyway if not for this purpose?

After making some coffee and watching Steve’s intro I sat down in front of my computer with anticipation. I started Photoshop CS3 and had my drawing tablet and my mouse in position to follow.

What I didn’t know at this very moment as Steve points this out later on the DVD is the fact that it took him 13 hours to finish this amazing piece of art. The DVD is "just" 3 hours long. So guess what! Of course they had to speed up the DVD and let Steve do the voice over later. Not that this is a weird thing to do
as David Finch also does the voice over after the recording.

The main different here is just that David Finchs DVD’s are easy to follow.

Steve Firchows DVD just to a certain extent. This is because it doesn’t takes long until it is not possible anymore to follow what he is doing. Of course it is a good argument to say that this isn’t a DVD teaching Photoshop, but wouldn’t it at least be helpful to  say what you are clicking on?

It’s not that Steve didn’t do this at all, it’s just at the points where you really want to know where he is clicking he just doesn’t tell.

I dare say that I have a good background experience when it comes to Photoshop but after watching the first 2 lectures I just had to give up following him. I decided just to watch the lessons and when I took some breaks I drew something for myself and applied the things he had done so far.

I really had to re-watch parts of the lectures over and over again. In the beginning I nearly had to watch it frame by frame, play it backwards and forward to find out what the heck he was doing.

I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed and thought: ‘Hey, I paid for this so tell me what you are doing, Steve.’

But of course there has to be something I love about this DVD.

The first thing is that you have the opportunity to watch how a top professional colorist is doing his artwork. While he does so he explains pretty detailed what he is doing and why he makes certain choices for coloring.

Again, he is explaining what he does but he isn’t explaining how he uses the program! Don’t misunderstand me at this point.

After re-watching the DVD a couple of times in the meantime I come to the following conclusion:

You have to have an above average level in using Photoshop if you even want to try to follow along without rewinding the DVD over and over again. If this isn’t the case make sure you first follow some good courses on Photoshop.

Especially working with channels is important here, what is by the way a great way to work. I love it.

When it comes to products from the Gnomon Workshop you have to see it as an investment in your profession. The products are made by the top players in the industry. They really are as good as if you have an individual face to face training session with top artists.

Even though I think that it isn’t true for this product.

If you are serious about it this is the real deal. The prices of this DVD’s are considerably high. You can see this as a downside. The upside on the other hand is that you learn a lot, what is of much more value than the prices that vary between the $40 and $50.

Here are some specifications on Comic Book Coloring With Steve Firchow:

This topics are covered:

  • Preparing Black & White Line Art for Color in Photoshop®
  • Establishing a Foundation of Light/dark Values
  • Picking/Establishing a Palette
  • Working with Imported Textures
  • Finishing/Balancing Final Colors and Values


  1. Setting up Black + White line art
  2. Foundation gradients + textures
  3. Border colors
  4. Decorative elements / flags / mountains
  5. Mountains / buildings / the horse
  6. Finishing the horse
  7. Starting the figure: Skin tones
  8. Rendering the hair / starting the armor
  9. Detailing the armor
  10. Rendering the cape + swords
  11. Rendering the shield / tweaks + cleanup
  12. Creating depth + separation
  13. Color + value balance / light bloom
  14. RGB/CMYK conversion

Duration 180 minutes.   

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