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They Wasted a Perfectly Good Line Art

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Some artists are great at drawing but not so expert at colouring; in Japan, this is largely due to manga being mostly in black and white. The most extreme cases make you facepalm and think "This gorgeous line art deserves sooo much better!" This isn't a trope about bad artists—it's about the ones who can draw but can't colour properly, or at least whose line arts are much better than their colouring. Alternatively, the coloring work can be done by a separate person, who is either totally incompetent or has different ideas to the line artist. This often gives an "off balance" impression.


Please keep your Complaining About X and justifying edits out of this trope. Part of this trope is subjective and some examples are bound to be controversial. If you think an example really doesn't belong here, please bring it to the discussion page. Also keep in mind that you can genuinely appreciate and respect an author and still think their colouring isn't as good as their drawing style.

Of course, the trope title is an allusion to They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Katsu Aki (Psychic Academy, The Vision of Escaflowne manga, Futari Ecchi, etc.). His drawings are consistently amazing, but his colour covers tend to look like he just used the very basic functions of Paint Shop Pro and never finished. He got better further on in his career, but the contrast used to be very striking. Examples from Psychic Academy.
  • Some works by (ack!) Osamu Tezuka had this problem, such as Swallowing the Earth.
  • Koji Inada's artworks for Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai. The colouring isn't bad, but it isn't as good as the drawings to a noticeable degree.
  • Ryu Fujisaki from the Shiki manga. Though this actually works pretty well for the series, given that it's a horror manga.
  • Looking at Monkey Punch (creator of Lupin III) and his experiments with Photoshop makes his usually excellent lineart look soft and dated.
  • In Masami Kurumada's original Saint Seiya manga, the characters often ended up in bland colors—the suits of armor always got light coloring, for example, and the characters usually wore white clothing beneath (notably, Seiya and Hyoga could pass for wearing all-white outfits, since the Bronze suits didn't give off shine). Only Gold Cloths escaped this treatment due to them being, well, golden. This is probably the reason why pretty much 90% of the palettes were reworked for the anime.
  • Many people say that Death Note's coloured art looks odd and falls under Uncanny Valley compared to the usual black and white.
  • Shinichi Sakamoto is very well-regarded for his detailed, realistic artwork in Kokou No Hito and Innocent but his coloring is often underwhelming and makes his art fall into Uncanny Valley when combined with the stylized proportions and features of the characters.
  • Averted with the Dragon Ball Full Color books, which deliberately use flat, simple colouring to not distract from Akira Toriyama's lineart, and overall help the panels be even more readable than they already were. That said, the original inked chapters can fall into this due to their frequent use of a limited palette, using only reds, oranges, yellows and greys (which then make the chapters more difficult to parse when printed in the black-and-white Tankbon volumes).

    Comic Books 
  • V for Vendetta was originally released in black and white, and then recolored by a different person. With watercolors. In quasi-impressionistic colors. Without paying attention to the lines. The most obvious problem with this being that all the blood had already been done in ink, which suddenly looked a bit strange next to a bunch of colors.
  • The classic Batman story The Killing Joke is an interesting case in that there are two separate colorations that, depending on the person you talk to, may or may not fall under this trope. The original coloring, done by John Higgins, used a bright, garish palette, giving the feeling that the world of the comic was itself as sickening and nightmarish as the themes it dealt with. Some people, including line artist Brian Bolland, were not pleased with how brightly the colors turned out and felt they robbed the book of its darkness, but others praised the demented energy and atmosphere that the coloration gave the book. Then the 20th-anniversary edition was recolored by Bolland in an attempt to fix what he saw as a problem. The results were controversial. The flashback scenes, which had a coloration in line with the rest of the book in the original, are colored black and white with a few colors popping out instead. The book as a whole features a lot more shading, much more toned down colors, and a generally gloomy, dark feel as opposed to the more manic feel of the original. The recolored version also features some disturbing new details, like how when the Joker emerges from the chemical-laced waters, his eyes were supposed to be bleeding. The original version colored the blood white, making it look like tears. Some people praised the change and how chilling it looked, but others found it to be a Narmy attempt to make the book needlessly Darker and Edgier, and that the tears worked far better within the context of the scene.
    • As if to solve this problem, DC released a black and white version of the story. Unfortunately, this removed some of the plot points that could only be told through the coloring, such as Batman seeing stains of white on his glove that are not present in the colorless version.
  • John Ridgway's black and white art in the Transformers Marvel UK comic is very detailed and realistic. About half the pages had colour added in the original release, and they were all completely recoloured for the American re-release; in both cases, the colour took out a lot of what made it impressive.
    • And on the Marvel US side, the colorist for the entire run, Nel Yomtov, is often given flak from Transformers fans who feel he degraded everyone's art, for reasons ranging from frequent and large-scale use of monochrome block coloring to numerous (very blatant) errors.
    • It happened again with The Transformers (IDW). In Escalation and part of Devastation, EJ Su's lineart was colored by a fairly unimpressive colorist. Later, a much better colorist took over, and the difference is like night and day.
  • While Frank Miller's art for The Dark Knight Strikes Again wasn't exactly gorgeous, the colors were often garish, which is a stark contrast to the muted coloring of the original (which was done by the same colorist).
  • Colorist JD Smith's brief stint on Ultimate Spider-Man. He basically ruined Bagley's line art by giving absolutely everything this weird orange tint and by making everything look rather muted and uninteresting. Fortunately, he was replaced.
  • This trope applies to much of the art from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, but most especially the amazing artwork from "The Season of Mists." Ty Bender's non-fiction "Sandman Companion" featured excepts of the same artwork without the hideous colouring, and the difference is astonishing. Similarly, The Annotated Sandman reprints the entire series in black and white. While the publisher apparently did so for reasons of cost, some readers consider the lack of colour an improvement.
  • Leah Moore's The Trial of Sherlock Holmes has horrendously garish colours over line artwork that is clearly noirish and evocative. The result is a resounding mess.
  • Happened with ElfQuest not once, but twice. The colourised Marvel Comics reprints were patchy at best, and the later computer-coloured versions are incredibly garish and obscure a lot of the original black and white linework. On the other hand, if you can find copies of the long out-of-print pastel editions of the first four ElfQuest volumes, they're gorgeous.
  • Edwin Biukovic is known for having great detail and just all in all being very good at rendering faces and crowds. But compare this page from the comics version of The Last Command to this page from The Phantom Affair. The latter's not terrible, but it's more heavyhanded, and faces are often weirdly dark.
  • Quite a bit of Dark Empire is drawn in a rather unusual, stylized way. However, the colorist made some very odd choices, most notably deciding to tint nearly every page in some specific color and being overwhelmingly dark. Sure, a comic where Luke goes to the Dark Side might be expected to have dark colors, but there should be enough light to make things stand out.
  • The vast majority of the Disney Mouse and Duck Comics, at least in the United States. Characters will change the color of their shirts between panels, entire characters will be rendered in one color, gradients are used like they're going out of style, and very little background art is colored with detail. This trope is especially prevalent in Don Rosa comics, where the intricately detailed artwork is half the appeal.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) contains a variety of examples—the comic not being exactly known for tight quality control—but a few do stand out. Any issue where Frank Gagliardo colored Steven Butler's art brings this to the front (especially at the start of the Chaos Knuckles saga, around Issue #90). Between just plain not knowing what color the characters were (the infamous green-clad red Gala-Na, giving Amy purple eyes instead of a shade of green, etc.) and painting the whole landscape of the echidna city of Albion in a dull gray, it just didn't do justice to Butler's tight, flowing art style. A slightly less jarring example would be the whole "Enerjak Reborn" arc—while Jason Jensen is not usually a bad colorist by any means, the bright, vibrant, nigh shadow-less style he was using at the time felt a tad inappropriate for the darker turns of the story, making them feel overly light and cheerful.
  • Dark Horse Comics reprints of old Conan comics have drawn criticism for digitally recolouring Barry Windsor-Smith's work in shades of grey and brown instead of his expressionistic purples, greens and golds. It was made even more egregious by occasionally losing details through mistakes like erasing entire rivers by colouring them green. The chief criticism was that the original book was coloured by Windsor-Smith himself, meaning there's no excuse that the original colouring wasn't serving the line art or against his artistic vision.
  • The release of Marvel's Essential Line generally averted this by allowing a lot of old school artists to shine in a black and white glory. People got to see artists like Jack Kirby, Dikto, the Buscemas, and even artists of the 80's really shine due to not being inhibited by gaudy colors or technology not being up to to date to give proper colors (at least in the mid-1980s).
  • Grandville has lovely line art, as the flats are done by a professional...and then Bryan Talbot uses mostly dodge, burn, and eye-searing photoshop brushes to finish them into the looks of a beginner's webcomic.
  • One of the reasons Bernie Wrightson moved away from comic books was his dissatisfaction with the way coloring affected his art. He prefers black and white, which less and less publishers were willing to use.
  • When the original seven issues of The Rocketeer by Dave Stevens were collected and reprinted by IDW Publishing, they were completely recolored by Laura Martin at Stevens's own request. While the new coloration has its supporters, the change was controversial and many fans of Stevens feel that it doesn't mesh well with his lineart, fit the period piece style of the book, or communicate the same kind of warmth and energy that the older colors had.

  • Line art of Frozen (2013) from back when it was going to be a 2D animation film can be found online. It generally looks much better than the actual film itself, being closer to the animation done during the Disney Renaissance.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • This tends to happen a lot with modern black-and-white strips. Since most modern newspapers generally prefer all their comic strips to be in color, syndicates will often just slap a color gradient onto each panel of the strip without paying the least bit of attention to the line art, which often has the effect of making it near-impossible to tell what's actually going on.
  • Dick Tracy started running color editions of the weekday strip in early 2011. Unfortunately, it was obvious that whoever was doing the weekday coloring didn't know anything about the strip's history. Consequently, Sam Catchem's suit spent about a week being sky blue instead of green, while Gravel Gertie, despite her white hair being one of her defining characteristics, temporarily got turned into a redhead.
  • One cartoon of The Far Side originally had a penguin bursting into song with the caption "I gotta be me... Oh, I just gotta be me..." while in a crowd of identical black-and-white penguins. when it was reprinted in color, Gary Larson discovered that someone in editing had given the singing penguin a pale yellow color while leaving the other penguins alone, completely missing the punchline.

    Video Games 
  • The unlockable sketches of assorted Mooks and townspeople in Sonic Unleashed look a lot more impressive in sketch form, where their exaggerated Pixar-esque designs are better able to express themselves.
  • The iOS game version of gamebook Appointment with F.E.A.R. has digitally-colored versions of the original book's illustrations. Illustrations that were meant to be in black-and-white, in homage to vintage superhero comics. Having smudged, drab digital coloring kinda kills its purpose.
  • Re-releases of Higurashi: When They Cry tend to replace the character sprites, which were originally drawn by the writer himself in a charmingly amateurish Puni Plush style, with newer and more refined art by professional artists. Many fans prefer the original artstyle, which is seen as more charming and unique compared to the more generic style of later art.

    Western Animation 
  • As good as the animation of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is, it also unfortunately downplays the talents of the storyboard artists whose individual styles tend to be lost once it's animated using the show's Adobe Flash assets. Thankfully the cast and crew are very open about behind-the-scenes work on the show, and their work can easily be found on Google or Derpibooru.