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By Colleen Wheeler | Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Deke's Techniques: Hand-coloring artwork in Photoshop

In this week’s Deke’s Techniques, Deke will show you a range of tips and tricks for coloring a line drawing in Photoshop. Although filling in black outlines on a white background seems like a fairly straightforward task at first glance, there are a lot of ways to inadvertently spill your colors outside their designated areas. Even in a simple drawing like this one, you can see there are lots of nooks and crannies to deal with:

Line drawing created in Photoshop.

The key to keeping everything in place is leveraging the myriad powers of Photoshop layers. In fact, using layers often means you can color way outside the lines and let a layer higher in the stack fix your ‘mistakes.’

The first step is to separate out the black lines from the white background, so that you can paint on the layers in between. The cleanest, most efficient way to do this is to use the image to select itself via the Channels panel. Command-clicking (or Ctrl-clicking in Windows) the RGB channel automatically selects all the white areas, then inverting the selection gives you a selection of clean black lines.

(For more on using Channels to make clean, efficient selections in Photoshop, lynda.com members should also check out Chapter two of Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals.)

Once you move the black lines onto their own layer, you can then delete them from the background leaving a clean white backdrop and room to paint new colors on layers in between.

The topmost of these layers is a ‘sky’ layer, filled with blue via the Paintbucket, that ends up being a cover for other roughly colored areas of the image.

To see what I mean, here are the small areas of the image colored in roughly using a combination of the Marquee and Lasso tools, the Fill command, the Paintbrush, the Paintbucket, and the Fill Behind feature with the sky layer turned off:

A Photoshop line drawing colored in with big blocks of color.

And here’s the final image with the blue sky layer restored:

Hand-colored image colored in Photoshop.

As you can see, once the sky layer is restored, since it resides at the top of your Layers panel—on top of your other color fills, but under your black lines—it covers up all the overfilled areas and leaves a cleanly hand-colored image.

For members of lynda.com, Deke also has another technique in the library this week called Creating a custom wave pattern in which he shows you how to fill the sky in this image with a wavy, askew pattern:

Hand-drawn Photoshop image with wavy pattern in the background.

See you back here next week when Deke returns with another twist on this high-tech coloring book project.

Interested in more? • The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on lynda.com • Courses by Deke McClelland on lynda.com • All Photoshop courses on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:• Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals• Photoshop CS6: New Features Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals

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