View Full Version : Coloring Tutorials

Jasen Smith
07-27-2013, 03:36 AM
eagle's guide

which version of photoshop are you using?

What kind of file are you starting with, before you do absolutely anything to it? Is it a tif, psd, jpg, what?

If it's a layered file, is the lineart on a layer other than background?

In your colour picker, is black on the foreground or the background?

This is what it looks like with the black on the foreground:


if it's not like that, you can click the tiny icon directly above and to the left.

Note that the colour math in the layers work space is actually in colour, while the colour math in the channels workspace is entirely grayscale. That's why the colour picker will change when you switch between the two spaces, like so:


i don't know if the article explained the reason for putting the lineart in a channel. If it did, it's probably outdated information about cmyk crap anyway. The reason nowadays is so it's out of the way while flatting [if you try to grab colours with the eyedropper--or by holding alt--while there's a lineart layer, you may just grab black, which is annoying], and so you can make a proper lineart layer that doesn't have to be in multiply mode. Once you're ready to do the actual colouring, you ctrl-left-click on the lineart channel thumbnail in the channels palette to make a selection of just the lines. Create a new layer in the layers palette and fill with black [set your foreground color to 100% black and hit alt-backspace]. Then lock the transparency by clicking this little checkered icon on the layers palette, so the little padlock icon appears on the layer:


using a layer with both the black and white on it, set to multiply, makes holds a huge pain in the ass and inflates the file size without making your workflow any easier.

Make an action to automate the creation of the lineart channel.

The first time you create a channel out of lineart, there's a very strong possibility that it does so invertedly: You're probably getting white where the lineart is supposed to be, and black where the white is supposed to be.

If your colour picker has black as the background colour when you clear the lineart layer [the end of step 2 in the article], the layer will be filled with black.

If your lineart channel is also inverted, all you're going to see is black and the thumbnail in the channels palette may look totally black.

Try this:

With your lineart channel selected in the channels palette, click this in the menus:


if your lineart is pencil, you may also want to double-click on the lineart channel thumbnail in the channels palette and set it to "spot color": This deepens the darkness of the channel, making it look more like the lineart layer you had before, and ensuring it will stay visible more persistently than regular channels do. I do this even with bitmapped ["bitmapped", in this context, means every pixel is either 100% black or 100% white; there are no gray antialiased pixels between] lineart just so it'll show automatically the next time i open the file.

After you've inverted the lineart channel, select the "rgb" channel so all of the other channels are active [now you're working in layers, not in channels, technically]. Make sure it's white.

You should see the lineart as black now.

Once you're done flatting, you do what i mentioned earlier: ctrl-left-click the lineart channel's thumbnail in the channels palette, create a new layer in the layers palette, and fill with black, then lock the transparency.

It's probably a good idea to delete your lineart channel [drag it to the little trash can icon at the bottom of the channels palette] at this point. If you're trying to do holds, you won't see the lineart layer through the channel if it still exists.

As i mentioned briefly, the first time you make a new channel out of one in the layers space [in grayscale mode, that's the "grayscale" channel on the channels palette; in rgb mode, that's the "rgb" channel], photoshop will probably invert it.

If you immediately image->adjustments->invert it back to the way you want it, save the file, close photoshop, reopen it, and make a lineart channel in another file, it should do it correctly this time and every time thereafter.


Fuck if i know.

It's been doing this to me for years, every time i install or reinstall photoshop.

Also, just because i happen to be typing at the moment anyway, do this now:

edit->color settings->more options->uncheck "use dither"

and look in there at least once every couple weeks to see if it's turned itself back on, because it will turn itself back on. And at some point after it does, this option will fuck you. And it will do that when you least expect it.

Here's what it does:

If you've got a file all flatted and ready to be coloured. The file's in rgb. For some reason, you convert the file to cmyk mode. Or it's in cmyk and you want to work in rgb mode. Bam! Suddenly your file's 200 megs big and photoshop's chugging like it runs on steam. That's because the "use dither" option took your nice, uniform flats layer and dithered the shit out of it. You won't be able to see it with your naked eye, but every single pixel will be less than 1% different than every pixel around it. If you take your magic wand, set it to 0 tolerance, and click on your flats, you'll only pick some of the pixels in those nice, big, flat-looking areas. You won't realize this happened right away, of course. You'll end up pulling your hair out and screaming in frustration, begging for help somewhere online.

It'll even do this occasionally if you don't switch between cmyk and rgb modes. i don't know why. I have no idea how or why i've triggered this nightmare besides switching modes, but i do know it's happened.

That's the default advice i tack onto any other advice i ever happen to give anyone relating to photoshop, just because of how nightmarishly shocking it's been to me every time it's popped up.

Here's some more advice, since you're talking about colouring:

It's 2013. for the love of all that's good in the world, don't bother working in cmyk. Cmyk has severely bastardized, frustratingly demented colour and layer math. Work only in rgb. Then, if it's absolutely required, when you're completely done colouring the file and are ready to send it off to be printed, save a separate copy of the file so you always have the layers intact, flatten all the layers into one, convert to cmyk and send the flattened copy. Since photoshop saves psd files a lot faster than tif files [this is important because it's necessary to save frequently just in case, although cs6 now has background saving that lets you keep working while it writes the file; it'll still jangle your system a little while it's saving, though, so brush strokes may not be as smooth as you want], you can have your layered file as a psd and your flattened file as a tif for easy organization.

You can pretty much just send in rgb files these days anyway. It doesn't matter. Printers still work.

Don't worry about trapping. It's not an issue anymore. Except for really shitty printers that no publisher should be working with anyway.

There's no reason to send files in with multiple layers [traps, colours, lines, effects, whatever the old standard setup checklist was]. Just send in flattened files. They're a hell of a lot smaller and you don't have to worry about layers fucking up in cmyk.

If you end up with an editor that screams and cries about trapping and cmyk, get out. They're still living in the nineties and nobody should work with people who care more about some checklist they read about a decade ago than the quality of your actual art. Technology's advanced since that checklist was written: Editors should too.

While you're working in rgb, view->proof colors and view->gamut warning can tell you all you need to know about what your file will look like in cmyk without having to switch to cmyk and potentially fucking up your file. Except proof colours doesn't display your colours in the demented, broken way that actually being in cmyk mode does.

edit->preferences->transparency & gamut->set the "gamut warning" to something a hell of a lot more obvious than a mid-range gray. I use the most saturated hot pink because i'm not likely to use hot pink in my colours [it's an unprintable colour anyway], so it stands out really clearly. For example:


gamut warning will, unfortunately, force you into using really shitty, dull, unsaturated colours a lot of the time. You will very quickly become frustrated with how restricted you feel. Fortunately, it's not 100% accurate. You can ignore it to some degree. It's still a great indication of areas that may or may not look a little wonky in print. It depends on the printer. Different publishers will give you different results.

calibrate your monitor. Your monitor is not displaying colours honestly. I use a spyder2pro because manual methods are tedious.

John rauch's line hold method is beautiful, easy and can work in a lot of cases, but not all. It depends entirely on the drawing and what you feel works best for it. How can you tell if it's the best option? Experience. Period.

Practice your ass off. You will not be any good. It may take a few years before anyone else feels as satisfied with your work as you do.

If you're fiddling with a channel you've created in an rgb file [a lineart channel, for example], don't just switch to the layers palette and think you're working in the layers work space. You have to first select rgb in the channels palette: Now you're working in the layers work space.