Thursday, September 3, 2009

How To Color (if you're me)

This is a tutorial on How to Color with Adobe Photoshop- or rather how I color with Adobe Photoshop. It is by no means the only method for coloring, or even the best method. It's just how I was taught to color way back in 2002, when computers were still powered by coal and Adobe's primary sales were in huts made out of clay.

I'm going to start with this drawing I made a while back, when I was first tooling around on the Cintiq.
I titled it The Questioner, because it sort of looks like she's pondering something. Though when I look at it now, it seems more like the Virgin Mary getting ready for bed. Anyways, here's the final line art I'll be working with. I added a little question mark thingy in the corner to create some half assed composition.

The rookie Photoshop user would just choose the Paint Bucket tool, and start filling things in. That's not gonna work. I mean it'll work, but it's going to look like this.

Unless you're drawing pixel by pixel, your lines will always have these gray pixels that make up the curves and angles. The paint bucket does not know to fill in those pixels. The result is this ghosting effect; little white outlines around the details.

The proper way to color is by using the Magic Wand tool, layers and blending modes.

Step 1. Use The Magic Wand To Select An Area

Select the Magic Wand tool. Set your Tolerance to 100%, with Anti-Aliasing and Contiguous checked. Then select the area you'd like to color. You can see in this picture I'm trying to select her hair, but because of some incomplete lines it didn't work. I went back and filled in the gap.

You'll have to run some tedious checks for these holes during the coloring process. This is why you don't often see cartoons with sketchy, dashed lines.

Step 2: EXPAND!

Go to Select>Modify>Expand and expand your selection area by 2 pixels. This is usually enough to bite into your line, over top of those gray pixels, but not enough to bleed outside of the line.

Step 3: Create a New Layer

Create a New Layer (duh) and here's the key part- set the layer's blending mode to Multiply. When it's in Multiply mode, the layer becomes translucent, like a transparency sheet that your 8th grade math teacher would use with a projector. It's hard to explain, but play around with it, you'll see how it works.

NOW you can use that Paint Bucket tool. Fill the area, deselect and VOILA! Color. The multiply mode allows the black line to show through, while allowing the color to cover up all those white and gray pixels.
You might have to go in and fill in some tiny areas that the wand missed, but otherwise it's done! No ghost lines AND the color is on a separate layer. So you can always go back and tweak or do a hue shift without affecting the rest of the drawing.

Bonus Stage: Make An Action

You can record an action so that most of these steps will be automated. Making coloring even faster.

Make a selection with your Magic Wand tool, then go to your Action Tab, select New Action, and do the following steps.

  • Expand Selection by 2 pixels
  • Create New Layer
  • Set Layer to Multiply
Then stop recording. All that's left is to hit the G to choose your Paint Bucket, and fill. Now coloring will be a cinch.

If you're not familiar with Blending Modes, I'd really encourage you to experiment with them. You can do some cool shit.

For example, I made a layer of blue covering just the body of the girl. I tried out the Color Burn Mode, and it gave me this cool look. Next, I tried out Hard Light mode, brought the opacity down to 39%, and it looked like she was standing in the dark. So I erased some of the blue away, and created this lighting effect like she's looking at some glowing, creepy thing. Like a glowing baby Jesus. I dunno, use your imagination.

As I said, this is just the way I color drawings, not the ONLY way. It's a method I was taught based on working with scanned pencil drawings, which usually have a lot of white gaps and holes you have to tackle. Anyways, hope that helps somebody out there. Thanks for scrolling through all of this madness.