The Colour Edit: Robert Frank Hunter

Illustrator and comic artist Robert Frank Hunter uses an evocative and ever-changing colour palette within his work.

The diverse, ever-evolving quality of Robert’s palette can be summed up perfectly by the project he has just finished for which he relied heavily on purple – a colour which only a year ago he describes himself as “loathing”.

Amongst Robert’s list of past clients are Nobrow Press who he has worked on three comic books with, each project growing to be bigger than the last. Robert was first invited to contribute a 7 page comic to A Graphic Cosmogony and went on to work together with the publisher to create a 24 page comic as part of their 17×23 series and most recently a full graphic novel entitled Map of Days.

Editing Robert’s extensive portfolio down to just three projects highlights both the similarities and differences which can be found in his use of colour. The palettes differ noticeably from one another – Map of Days’ bold aesthetic contrasting The New Ghost’s more subtle scheme – yet both use blue in a particularly clever way, unlocking it’s mystical hidden qualities.

Of Robert’s Nobrow titles, The New Ghost’s colour scheme is the most simple and arguably most effective. Intrigue is sparked as soon as eyes are set on it’s pages, the crisp night air flowing out and and sweeping you into the scene.

I imagined that the ghost would be quite cold if you were to be near it, probably from ghost stories where a room would suddenly plummet in temperature to announce the presence of spirit. The other part of the story is about looking up to the stars and most of the book was set at night or very early morning so the whole story just felt cold to me. I chose pink because even though it is a warmer hue, it still adds to feeling of a cold atmosphere because its basically a cold red.

Robert Hunter

Anyone battling with tricky colour dilemmas may be comforted to know even a seemingly expert colour picker like Robert struggles with choosing the right hues, admitting that he envies woodcut artists who manage to create artworks full of atmosphere in just a single colour.

Colour is on Robert’s mind from the very beginning of the design process and he constantly looks for inspiration in reference imagery he collects as well as day to day life. His most recent colour inspiration has come from vintage Disney films and their “great techniques and approaches to colouring film”

I have been looking at how the old Disney background artists used colour.. it has opened my eyes to observing colour combinations when I’m out and about.

For Robert, whether it is a single page editorial illustration or a full-length graphic novel, each brief he is tasked with is a new story to tell. His portfolio reads like a story book, the mystical blues, earthy purples and cold pinks playing as big a part as any scenery or character. His ever-evolving colour palette is the ultimate story-telling tool, enabling him to reveal the temperature of the room, show the passage of time through lighting and ultimately evoke a wondrous and captivating atmosphere.



Posted on Oct 21st, 15 by

Greg McIndoe - also known as Headless Greg - is an illustrator and design writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. He regularly writes for design magazines and online platforms, interviewing fellow illustrators and leading creatives.

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