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Quick Tip: Preparing Line Drawings for Coloring in Photoshop

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Read Time: 3 min

In this tutorial, we'll be learning how to take a paper line drawing and preparing it for coloring in Photoshop. Learn to take your line drawing and clean it up in Photoshop. The image we'll be using is an original hand drawing provided by myself. The end result is left open for experimentation. Let's jump into it!

Final Image Preview

Take a look at the line work we'll be creating. 

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Step 1

We'll start by desaturating the rough drawing. Go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. The reason to desaturate the image, is so that no colors interfere with the following steps.

Step 1

Step 2

Play around with the levels until the image has little to no midtones. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels. Leave the outline fully intact.

Step 2

Step 3

Next we'll be selecting the outline. Make sure that the foreground color is the darkest color in the outline. Go to Select > Color Range to select the outline. Adjust the settings to match the image below. This will affect everything that is the foreground color. Make sure to hide all the layers except the layer the outline is on.

Step 3

Step 4

We will now take the selection and make it it's own layer, press (Command + J.) At this point, it's good to delete the layer that has the original line drawing on it, and replace it with a white background.

Step 4

Step 5

Now double-click the "Outline" Layer and go to Color Overlay. Adjust the settings to match the image below, you may choose whichever color you like though.

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At this point, you're ready to color in your outline in whichever way you prefer to. However, if you choose to read on I will show you
how to do an effect that makes your outline look like a vector outline.

Step 6

The first step in making the outline look more smooth and vector like, is to select the outline layer. To do this Command-click on the layer thumbnail beside the layer’s name. The hand curser will have a dotted box on top of it.

Step 6

Step 7

Choose the Paths tab located beside the Layers tab. Click on the icon to the left of the New Layer icon. If you hold your curser over the icon, it should read Make work path from selection. After creating a path go back to the layers tab and make a new layer.

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Step 70

Final Line work

Click on the Pen Tool, then Right-click anywhere on the canvas. Choose Fill Path. Adjust the Settings to match the image below. Click OK, then Right-click anywhere on the canvas and choose Delete Path.

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Things To Know

We'll delete the previous outline layer to show the end result. You can see we cleaned up the drawing, and are left with black line work on a white background to color in, we've also preserved the sketchy feel of the line quality.

The image you are using to do this effect with should be drawn, painted, inked, etc... on a contrasted background to what you are using to draw with.

Clean lines equals a more clean, smooth end result. If the image is too small the vector effect will simplify lines to the point where you will lose detail. If the image is too large the vector effect will not smooth out imperfections.

Step 8

Now Color Away!

You are free to color the outline as you please A tablet was used to create the color image below. You could also consider taking the results of this line work into Illustrator and Live Tracing. The techniques shown here are a great way to add some varied line to your vector work as well. These quick tips are open for experimentation. So, have fun with it!

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