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Part 1 : Preparing Line Art & Flats


First off I would like to welcome everyone to this, the first part of a tutorial on how I currently color images. I hope you find this tutorial helpful!

For this tutorial I will be using Adobe Photoshop CS4, although every tool I use can be found in Photoshop from version 7 up. I will also be using techniques and methods that I feel most comfortable with when coloring. I suggest that after following this tutorial, you find out what works best for you.

This coloring process can be done with a mouse (as my friend Andy Pool who showed me this technique can attest) as well as a Wacom tablet.

Here is a quick explanation of the Photoshop window (CS2) with the names I'll use throughout the tutorial (Fig.01).

Fig. 01

Preparing Your Line Art

So you've found the line art you want to color, or someone just commissioned you to color something for them. You open the drawing and you realize that the contrast between the white and lines isn't very good, or in the case of this piece (which was done directly from pencils) it's usually got pencil lines or the lines are too grey. Luckily the artist who drew this image, Carlos, has very tight pencils, but to give it a bit more contrast, let's do the following:

Go to Menu > Image > Adjustments > Levels (Fig.02).

Fig. 02

In the pop-up window, introduce the following settings (Fig.03):

  • Channel: RGB
  • Input Levels: 68 - 0,72 - 208
  • Output Levels: 0 - 255

Now your line art is darker and more defined. This technique can be applied to any line art, whether inked or penciled.

Fig. 03

Next, go to your channels window, which can be found with the layers window. Or you can open it by going to your menu and Window > Channels. Select the Blue Channel and right click to choose "Duplicate Channel". (Please note: I like to work in RGB mode and then change it to CMYK at the end)(Fig.04).

Fig. 04

In the pop-up window put the following settings (Fig.05):

  • Name: Outline
  • Color Indicates: Spot Color
  • Color: Black
  • Solidity 100%

Select the RGB channel at the top - this will select all of the channels except the new outline channel - and fill it with white. Make sure the outline channel has the eye next to it, then go back to the layers window and you'll see that the outline is there. Now, no matter what you do on you page, nothing will happen to the lines/inks (Fig.06).

Fig. 05
Fig. 06

Now your line art is ready, and this is a great way to always have a backup of your lines. It also makes the file a little lighter. I do however have to point out that if you save a flattened image the way it is now, the line art won't show up, but we'll come back to that part later on.

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