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Fantasy Art Tutorials in the FARP Section

Coloring Pencil Drawings With Photoshop

By Keres (pkeres@euroweb.hu)

    First off... you'll need to draw something with pencils. Get inspired. If out of ideas, go to a gallery, open a book, or simply browse lothlorien. The computer is only a tool. As is the pencil itself. But why people think that it is still cheating to use it, is pretty simple. The technics you practice with a pencil can be used anytime anywhere with anything. Even with a piece of coal on the surface of a rock. The technics you practice on a computer... well those skills can be used only with a computer. And computers don't grow on trees, neither are they cheap. So first, draw a picture. And make it good.

Now. Select a sketch out of the many. Make it one, that you are proud of. Doesn't need to be flawless, only your personal best :-) Okay, this rule i already misobeyed, my example will not contain my very best. Just a decent picture. I mean, compared to my capabilities.


The most important part

    Choose a drawing. Make it a good one, so you won't regret working on it so much. Scan it, resize it to the maximum that you and/or your machine can handle to work with. Here is my example:


Step 1

    Open the file in Photoshop. Make sure that the color mode is set to RGB. If not, make it so. This is necessary to do for you to be able to access every color that computers can handle. Furthermore, the so called Photoshop filters will not work otherwise.


Step 2

    Now you'll need to select the exact area you want to work in. This will be useful for two things. First: if you let the computer know, what on the sheet actually NEEDS to be colored, you won't be able to go overboard the parts you are painting on. A better way of putting it... you will be able to go overboard, but the tools you are painting with will not add color, just to the parts that are within the borders of the selection. The selection is the selected area. For this you can use whichever selection tool you like. I prefer the Polygonal Lasso Tool. Select it.


Step 3

    The more precise you draw the conturs, the better results you get when using colors, or special effects (filters). Take your time, to trace the outlines of the parts you want to color. This tool works as follows: You click on the image, drag the cursor and with that move, you draw a line onto the screen. If you click again, you can change directions. If you double click, you can close the shape you were drawing. If you go back to the starting point with the cursor and click on it, you close the shape. Take it as a cutout, the tool is your scissor. The parts you snip, will not be colored. The parts that are left, will.

    You don't need to draw the outlines to your picture in only one try. if you want to add parts to the shape you have selected so far, hold down the SHIFT key, and with the same tool, draw it further. If you want to take away from the selection ( remember, this is like a cutout... my drawing had such parts, like the space between her legs... don't ask me why that needed to be there :-/ ), all you have to do is to hold down the ALT key, and select the area.

    After finishing outlining the drawing, your selection should be indicated by a flickering black & white line.


Step 4

    Let's save the shape you drew. Click on SELECTION on the menu bar, and select SAVE SELECTION...

    ...then choose 'new channel', and name the outline you drew, so that you can find it at some later time. Saved selections also get saved when writing your images in Photoshop's PSD format. You'll want to use that format for saving your files. Besides. Do backups as often as possible. Data tends to get lost you know.


Step 5

    And now onto the cheating stuff :-) Lets correct the error that so many people commit when drawing with pencils... leaving the paper white. With just a little trick, you can add, or improve the shading of a picture, without altering the original graphite piece. Normally, anyone could do all this on the paper itself, but for those who are not so confidant in what they're after, neither what they're capable of, this Photoshop filter called Gaussian Blur will do the trick.

    Since you still have the part you want to work with selected, you can get right to the point. Choose Gaussian Blur from the Blur menu point under Filters.

    Set the amout of blur you want. The preview won't tell you much of the final version, so i better let you know what to look after. Make sure that no space will be left white, but also, that the original shading won't fall entirely out of place ( won't blur so much that it gets unrecognizable ). The value i used to work with is between 1.5 and 2.0 .

    Now you have a very blurry version of your drawing. Now you'll add this to the original pencil work. Click on Filter again, and choose Fade Gaussian Blur.

    From the modes, select multiply, and set the value as desired. With the preview function set on, you must be able to see the result instantly on your screen in the background. In my case this was around 50%... if i remember clearly :-)

    My example :


Step 6

    And now... Onto the Main Feature! Let's color the drawing! For both better results and protection, use another layer for coloring each part of the picture. Start with the biggest surfaces, in my case that will be the skin of the girl. For starters, you'll need to create a new layer. Choose New layer under the menu point Layer.

    Set the mode of the new layer to Color. This will allow you to add saturation and hue to the image without changing the luminance. Which means in english... You will be able to add color to the graphite drawing , but no matter what color you'll use to paint, you will not change the balance of dark and light parts, therefore the shading will not be damaged. This also means that coloring the picture with the same kind of blue, only a darker one ( closer to black ) will not give you any different results than using the same kind of blue, except lighter.

    Select the new layer.

    Select a tool that you want to work with. I prefer Paintbrush. Since i don't want, neither would be able to add any further shading, it is better. This way no parts of the image will be left more gray than the other. Since any parts that you won't cover with paint will be left as grayscale as they are.

    And now... color the picture. Because you selected the working area, the area you want to color long before, you cannot go overboard the outlines. However, inside the picture nothing is stopping you from running into a different object. Those you simply must watch out for. Using separate layers for every object is a good idea, but will not solve your problem. You will still need to watch where you're going with that brush. Choose different brush sizes to paint small/large parts of the drawing.

    Look how different a drawing looks just by adding only one color. In case you run over some parts you wish not to color, you may use the eraser. It works just the same as the paintbrush, if set so. Be careful with that undo option. For your actions are counted from mouse-click to mouse-click, if you colored an entire image with one stroke, an undo command will negate everything ( but remember there is a redo command as well ).

    By clicking on the eye icon next to the layer you can turn on and off their visibility. This example is when the original drawing itself, the background layer is turned off:

    Using many layers and colors, give life to the drawing. Remember, you can always edit the graphite drawing itself by selecting its layer. This way you can correct things that you did not notice while on paper. But this is not recommended since it is really hard to make the lines and textures that are drawn in Photoshop not to look artificial. Anyways. After a few minutes ( or in my case, hours ) you can have a very decent looking image on your screen. Take your time to color every feature individually. You may try different colors and combination of colors without the need of deleting any, just create another layer, and turn off the one that it replaces.

    Turning off the pencil layer gives you a chance to notice any gaps between the colored areas. You may fill them in this way, and turn the background layer, the graphite drawing back on afterwards.


Step 7

    After you added color to each and every part of your picture you wanted to, you may enhance the colors to a richer, less computer matte, more realistic look. This too can be done without altering any of the layers you already added. All you need to do is to copy the layers that contain the color paint. To duplicate them. You'll have the same color, at the same place. And by setting the mode of this new layer, you can reach a combination that results in a more paintlike, less metallic and vibrant effect. First off, duplicate the layer of the cololred area you want to alter.

    Then set the mode of this layer to something different than color and normal. I used multiply and color burn modes. Adjusting the transparency ( that percentage slidebar, yes ) of the layer might also be a good idea. Especially when using dark colors. Don't let the new layers overwhelm the pervious ones. You may also alter the order of the layers. Making the color mode layer the upmost in the group is good for keeping the hue that you originally set.


Step 8

    Well, since your goal is to make it look real, and beautyful, you mustn't forget of the light. My example features a highlight and a shadow. I can't get into any scientific explanations on what is highlight and where it should be exactly on the picture, due to my lack of knowing the right english words. Let's just say that highlights are where the the light falls on the body the nearest to 90 degrees, so it drops off the most intensivly at that area. If you choose a simple light source, let's say... upper right, you need to draw the highlights around the edges of the upper right part of every shape. Head, hand, chest, sword, whatever. You ought to look after how different materials reflect light. Clothes for example usually won't shine as bright as metal or the skin. Well hopefully they don't. If they do, they need to be washed as soon as possible. You can create a new layer for highlights. I prefer to set its mode to screen, and set its transparency to around 30%.

    Using the airbrush tool add some bright color that can be taken for light. My example here is yellow.

    Adding a shadow is facultative. Since you already added shading to your drawing this feature is more like a reflected light, the reflection of the ground or enviroment on the body. Where the ground, or the objects around the body reflect much light, what i am going to show you isn't applicable. In these cases use another highlight layer for the reflected light. My example however shows the adding of a shadow. For this use another layer. Set its mode to something that keeps you from altering the bright parts. I prefer overlay.

    Using the airbrush tool add some dark color that can be taken as reflected light. My example here features dark bluish violet.


Step 9

    And for the finishing touch, let's use one of the so-called filter plug-ins of photoshop. You are going to add a black background with outlining the figure with white. Of course this too could be done with real ink, on real paper. First off, you'll need to load the selection, the area you marked for the computer in which to work in. Now you'll need to invert this, letting the computer to know that you're not into messing up what you've done already. You just want to add a decent background. Well... allright a decent background color :-) . Select Load Selection under the menu point Select.

    Go for the area you saved earlier. Given a talking name, you just might be able to find it within 0.2 seconds instead of 1.9 .

    Do not forget to select the layer of the original drawing, the pencil work. If you are not sure of yourself, turn everything else off for the duration of this step.

    Invert the selection by selecting the Inverse under the menupoint Select.

    Now you'll need to loosen up the area, so there will be some space left for the white outline. This you can do by selecting Contract under the menupoint Modify in Select. Contract the selection in anz amout you want but be careful. Leaving too much space out will result in seeing too much of the original paper. Which is grayscale and noisy. Not white. I prefer contracting 2 pixels.

    And to make it look smoother, select Feather under the menupoint Select. Make the feather equal to the amount you gave in Contract. In my case this too was 2 pixels.

    After doing so, your selection should wave around the area by a few pixels. Now select the right filter to add a background. In case you're not sure of yourself, you can either copy the original, the Background layer, and use the copy, or simply save the file. For that white outline/black background effect use the Glowing Edges filter in the Stylize group under the menupoint Filter.

    And that's it.


The End

    Finished. A pencil drawing turned into a colorful picture. If you liked the result, try to do it with conventional media. Not out of bigotry, but for the improvement of your more universal skills. Here's the picture i colored myself. I must say i was pleased with how it turned out. Again.. compared to my own skills that is ;-) .


Cirmos girl goes hiking


...and some final words

    In case you found my article helpful, or colored an image with the help of it, please let me know. my e-mail is pkeres@euroweb.hu. Thank you for your time. Take care, and draw lots of beautyful pictures. :-)

Peter Keres

FARP Article Guestbook

15 Sep 201245 YahIKnowRyt
You’re so gooood
19 Oct 201245 Eman
how you do that please send me link
20 Oct 2012:-) Susannah M. Becker
thank you2
22 Oct 201245 Paul
I like how you showcased her thighs in the screenshots 4 great tutorial!
30 Nov 201245 Ana
thank you so much for sharing and all of your hard work.your tutorial was very helpful and i’m working toward making better art.2
10 Apr 201345 Anon.
wow this is verry amazing 2)
17 Jul 201345 Anon.
23 Aug 201345 Anon.
when i add an extra layer and try to colour it (step 6) the colours loose their intensenty and now i cant use any dark colours cause they are just too bright, but on the original layer they work fine,any help?
(sry for bad english)
21 Nov 201345 Anon.
29 Jan 201445 Anon.
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