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Photoshop Coloring Tutorial

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Welcome to the Line art and Coloring Photoshop tutorial. For this tutorial I'll be using Photoshop CS5, and a line art by Michelle84 on Deviantart. ( If you want practice coloring with good anatomy and beautiful scenes, I highly recommend you look at her page. For this specific tutorial I will use the line art "Ckyne" by said artist (Found here: If you are going to color line art, please be sure that the artist is fine with you coloring their work, and remember you can't make a profit on something not yours!

So to start, load up Photoshop. We're going to turn this into a transparency. To do this, we'll open up the image in photoshop and be sure to resize it before doing anything else. I prefer larger line-arts for their detail capability, and if you're using a tablet there's no reason to not use them. To do this, go to Image > Image Size. Try and resize with percentages. Whatever you do with the Width should be done with the Height as well to maintain aspect ratio.

Good, now we're all resized and ready to turn it into a transparency. To do this.. well it takes quite a few steps. Follow closely.

- Turn your image to grayscale. Image > Mode > Grayscale
- Then: Layer > New > Layer from Background
- After that, you'll want to make sure your layer is selected, and go to Select > Load Selection. Click invert and you want the channel to be Background Gray.
- Dots! Everywhere! Now you go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color and make it black.
- Do it again. Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color and make it white.
- Drag your white layer under your black one, or turn it off if you don't even want to use it. Layer 0, or the original image can now be deleted. If you want, you can transfer this transparency to another program that accepts layers such as Paint tool Sai for coloring.
- After all this is done, go to Image > Mode > RGB color. DO NOT MERGE.

Now that we have a transparent background, let's move on to coloring it. The big to-do is LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS. And don't be stingy! Name all your bloody layers! Keep them grouped! Be ORGANIZED, or my art II professor will find you in your sleep. She showed me the knife. So let's make a new layer for our ACTUAL background color. On windows I do believe the command for quick layer is ctrl+shift+n. On Mac, it's command+Shift+n. Go crazy.

Drop your new layer below the line-art layer. This means you can draw on it without messing up the line-art, and you can see the lines above it. I never use white for a background. It screws with your color choices for everything else. So.. let's do a red color. Remember, not too saturated. I like this, so now I'm going to make another new layer and call it "Skin."

The trick with Skintones is that they're not all on the peachy side, and they're not all on the yellow or gray side either. You have to be careful with them. Look at actual references. I like to use oranges and blues for CG skin, but just for toying around.. I'm a little more all over the place. I'll start with a tan color, and because I'm using a red background, go ahead and pick out my shadows with red tones, while highlights will take more of a bluish yellow.

I went ahead and blocked in my mid tone. Don't worry about going outside the lines yet. You can always catch it later and clean it up. The joy of layers. Here I've got my colors picked out and set as a palate beside the drawing for easy reference when I need them. Now I'm going to block in my shadows… but wait? How do I tell where my light is coming from?

The trick is to imagine a ball. when you shine the light on the ball where does it hit and what parts are the darkest? where is the shadow cast? Try this for yourself before you even think of blocking down color, or your picture will come out all wrong. If you need a visual guide, use a new layer to show you where the light is coming from so you can freely picture it. Now that I've got this in mind I'm going to lay down my shadows, keeping in mind the clothing that the man is wearing and how it sits on his body. Some artists prefer to do shadows on a different layer. I do not. Different strokes for different folks.

Now that I've blocked in the shadows I'll tell you guys a secret. I hate coloring in photoshop. I absolutely truly abhor it. Why? I won't say, but it has to do with being used to a MUCH BETTER COLORING PROGRAM KNOWN AS PAINT TOOL SAI. TRY IT. SERIOUSLY. Okay enough about me, I'm going to do the highlights now.

So we have some highlights marked out now. The next step is to flesh out your skin tones, and blend the mid tones, highlights, and shadows to a point to where it looks like skin. This is the part where most artists will pick other colors to accentuate the skin. WAIT STOP TAKE YOUR HAND OFF THAT SMUDGE TOOL. NO. DO NOT TOUCH THAT. You wanna blend? Use the colors you picked, set your opacity and flow very low, lower your brush size.. and manually blend it.

The skin has been smoothed and blended, but is still far from done. At this point I like to move on with the drawing and if I see anything else I'd like to fix I'll do it at a later time, that way the final product seems far more fleshed out. I'm going to now take a small eraser and start cleaning up outside the lines. Generally, you work on the skin first, so that if you get any paint out of the lines you can paint over it when you do clothing and other things, however I'm going to clean up everything to make this simpler.

After a brief cleanup I've messed with exposure levels and touched up some details with color that I think brings out the image. Below is the final product for now.

So here is where I'm stopping for now. Next part of this will feature filling in the tattoos and getting started on the clothing.

Updated 08-09-2011 at 02:00 AM by Caius



  1. Jas0n's Avatar
    Your skin colouring looks great, thanks for the tutorial <3
  2. Caius's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Jas0n
    Your skin colouring looks great, thanks for the tutorial <3
    Thank you :> I have some work left to do on it, but I do plan on going further with this.