Coloring Pencilled Images in Photoshop by Ed Hopkins -

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Coloring Pencilled Images in Photoshop by Ed Hopkins

By Adam Thur     August 13, 2003

Photoshop is not just forphotographs. It's also a powerful tool for enhancing pencil art. Hereyou will learn how to make the most out of your pencils (or someoneelse's pencils).

We'll start with this drawing of Spider-man by Solid Snake. (Thanks, Jorge.)

This is a color scan of a black and white drawing. If you have a scanner, you should import your drawings as grayscale images and convert them to RGB when you color them.

If you are using a camera, shoot from directly over the paper with the flash off and several lights coming from multiple angles but not overhead.

Our fist step is to get rid of the pink tinge by choosing Image > Adjustments > Desaturate.

I have also drawn a pure white box to show how gray the paper came out. We'll need to fix this.

Using Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast we can make the paper as white as the box and the pencil lines as dark as ink.

Here I used +5 brightness and +85 contrast, but different images will vary. Play around.

Filter > Noise > Despeckle will clean up some of the stray marks but you will have to get in there with a white paintbrush to cover the major stuff.

Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur may be appropriate but don't overdo it. I used only a 0.3 blur and that's probably the max for this picture. The idea is to smooth the jagged edges without making them too fuzzy.

At this point we have a pretty good b/w pic for the gallery, but we want color. The key to quick and easy coloring is using layers. The ink, the paper and each color needs its own layer. This will allow you great freedom to make changes late in the game and let you fix mistakes without starting over.

Create and manage layers with the Layers tool bar found in the Window menu. Put a new layer under your inked image and fill it with white. Change the ink layer's blending mode from Normal to Multiply. You should notice no visual change but now you have transparent inks and white paper at two separate levels. Add a blank layer in between them; this will be for your first color.

Use the Magic Wand Tool to select the blank background part of the inks layer. Choose Invert from the Select menu then Select > Modify > Contract > 1 pixel.

Fill this selected area in your blank layer with color. (This is what it looks like with the inks layer hidden.) I chose red as my first color since Spidey is mostly red. Use the full saturation and brightness for your first color even if it's not exactly what you want. You will alter it later.

Obviously the wand isn't perfect but it makes a good start.

Use the eraser (not white paint!) to get rid of color where it's not supposed to be.

Now we duplicate the color layer and use Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to make our second color - blue.

There are only two major colors on Spidey's costume (this is true of most other heroes). You should repeat this step for every major color but not for tiny details (like the white eyes or purple-gray weblines).

Here I've erased parts of the blue layer to let the red show through.

Notice there are no white gaps where red meets blue. This is an advantage of using layers.

Now come the details.

The white eyes are a new layer with the eyes painted in. Don't think you can just erase away part of the red layer to let the white paper show through. If you add a background later you will mess up the eyes.

The weblines were painted easily by clicking at one end of the line, then while holding shift, clicking at the other end. Voila, a perfectly straight line. I did the same trick with the eraser to taper the weblines. I also set this layer to 80% opacity so the webs would be somewhat see-thru.

Now we can stop here or refine our color layers to our hearts' content and even add backgrounds.

I used Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation again to fine-tune the colors. Then I used the Burn and Dodge tools to add subtle shading as many comics today have.

For the webs I used Layer > Layer Style > Inner Shadow.

The background is a gradient fill with some burn tool clouds.

Once again I have hidden the inks layer.

Here's the finished piece, but we don't have to stop here.

I can change the order of my layers to put the webs and blue layers above the inks layer.

Why would I do this? By merging these layers I can Overlay them over the original pencils to get this...

Colored pencils!

Using Filter > Brush Stokes > Crosshatch on the background makes it look like colored pencils too.

A little bit more saturation on the figure and I think we've really got something.

Next time I'll show you how to makean airbrush style painting out of this same picture.


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