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The World’s longest Photoshop coloring tutorial (day 1 to 5)

23 December 2009

Exercises, Photoshop, Tutorials

The World’s longest Photoshop coloring tutorial (day 1 to 5)
Choose your language / Elige tu idioma:englishespañol

Hello buddies, time for a very special tutorial, I will try to write the more detailed tutorial you have ever seen about how to color in Photoshop, SOSFactory color style. I will post the tutorial by issues, every issue will have his own video on real time from my Youtube channel, voice courtesy of Anita Nagu (since my English is quite poor), when we are finish I will offer a pack:

  • The full tutorial in PDF format.
  • A video compilation in high resolution and comments in English and Spanish.
  • The high res PSD file under creative commons license (for personal and commercial use).
  • The PSD layered for your own research.
  • And the color swatches, some Photoshop action…

I think 5-10US$ for the whole pack would be a fair price… what do you think? think running a blog like this is not for free, and I need to spend lot of time and energie. Would be a nice way of support, so I can continue offering good quality content.


Day 1: Download the lineart and let´s get started

Some of you already did a try on the lineart, I suggest you color it again following this tutorial, would be nice seeing how you improve your coloring skills. If you didn´t try yet, you can download the lineart here:

Practice coloring skills

So we are ready to start! :)
See you in a couple days, stay tunned and don´t forget tweeting the post if you like it.

Day 2: Extracting the lineart

The best method to color a drawing is by extracting the lines, because we will have the possibility of coloring them later very easily. Download the drawing, open it with Photoshop and follow these steps:

  1. Open your image with Photoshop.
  2. Go to the Channels panel and CTRL+click on the blue channel.
  3. Select the Magic Wand (W) and right click, choose Select Inverse.
  4. Go to Edit > Copy (CTRL+C) and then Edit > Paste (CTRL+V). The lines are already separated from the background.
  5. On the "Background" layer, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (CTRL+U) and put the lighting at +100 to obtain a completely white layer.
  6. Rename the new layer to "Lineart" and CTRL+U again, this time put the lighting at -100 to obtain completely black lines.

Extract lineart in Photoshop

As you can see, the drawing is ultra-clean because I drew it digitally. In this tutorial we will only focus on the color, so if you´re interested in obtaining clean lines you can visit this post to learn how to ink a drawing in Photoshop.

Some advices to get clean lines:

  • The best way to ink is digitally, wether it be with a pen tablet or with the vectorial drawing tools.
  • Always work in high resolution, the higher the better. Make sure at least about 2.500 x 2.500 pixels.
  • If you decide to work from a drawing on traditional paper, scan it in grey scale mode or convert it to grey scale in Photoshop before extracting the lines.
  • Have a look to this post about How to ink a drawing in Photoshop.

Resume of the day

We are recording the voice for the videos, will take a while.

See you soon!!

Day 3: Making the flat colors template

Let’s create a new layer between the "Background" layer and the "Lineart" layer, and name it "Flat colors". Through this flat colors layer we can:

  1. Choose our colors template.
  2. Isolate the different areas to make quick selections with the magic wand (W).

The quicker way to paint our flat colors is making a selection of the area, using the Magic Wand (W) in question the "Lineart" layer (this one of the advantages of having such a clean lines). After this, expand the selection so the edges don’t look jagged (Select > Modify > Expand: 3px). Now choose the colour you like and click with the paint bucket (G) on the "Flat colors" layer:

Expand Selection

Some advises to make a good flat colors template:

  • Although you’re always in time to make changes, visualize the finished design and try to define your color sketch.
  • Use medium colors, neither too saturated/desaturated, nor too bright/dark.
  • Rename the layer as "Flat colors".
  • Lock the pixels of the image in the "Flat colors" layer, this way you won’t paint on it by accident.

Resume of the day

Today we made a flat colors template to make quick selections and increase the workflow. And we decided our color sketch too.

Color squeme

This is my flat colors template.

See you in a couple of days!!

Day 4: painting basic areas.

Finally, our design is ready to color :)

Let’s begin with something easy like the eyes to explain the technique, and as we go forward the tutorial will become more complex. Considering that many people don’t own a Wacom tablet, today I’ll use the mouse, the vectorial drawing tools and gradients. You’ll see the result is the same, but we’ll have to invest more time. The rest of the days I’ll use my Wacom to go faster, if you need any help you can check this post about how to draw using vectorial drawing tools in Photoshop.

First of all, let me explain a piece of theory. You’ll find this very useful when it comes to apply a correct lighting:

Pintando ojos estilo cartoon

As you can see in the image, I placed the source of light above and slightly on the left. This means that the illuminated areas will be on top and the shadows below. On the shadows, we’re adding some reflections to give volume. We’re not looking for a realist finish, but it must be coherent.

Step 1: shadows.

Let’s create a new group of layers. Name it "Eyes" and create a new layer inside it, on which we’re painting the shadows. Name it "Shadows" and put it in Multiply blend mode.

Pintamos sombras duras

Now make a selection of the eyes using the Magic Wand (W) on our Flat Colors layer, then let’s go back to the "Shadows" layer and paint an outline with the same blue color of the background (#92b6e6). Looks darker because the layer is in Multiply mode. As we said, the light comes from above, so the shadows will be thicker below.

TIP: the dotted lines of the selections can be bothering sometimes. You can hide them pressing CTRL+H.

Difuminamos las sombras

Now we’re going to soften the outline we created. Let’s use a thick brush with soft edges. The key is to paint from a distance, to make the outline blur but not to dissapear. Once you’re finished, put the layer in Normal mode again.

Eyes are easy to make because their shape is quite simple. Unfortunately, the whole process is not that easy, we must learn how to use the History Brush for more complex shapes (we’ll talk about this next day).

Step 2: light.

Añadimos un gradiente

Let’s create a new layer under the "Shadows" layer, and name it "Lightness". On this layer we’re creating a gradient from white to transparent, from above on the left until below on the right. The key is to make this sofly, not covering in white the whole eye.

Step 3: reflected light.

Pintamos la luz reflejada

Now we’re creating reflections to give volume to the eye. Create a new layer and name it "Reflected light". Make a white outline that doesn’t cover the whole shadow area. Then merge the inner outline, this time using the Eraser (E). Be careful not to erase it completely, we only want to make it a bit transparent.

Step 4: painting pupils.

To paint the character’s pupils we’re creating a new group of layers named "Pupils"above the "Lineart" layer.

We’re painting the pupils through 3 layers as we can see in the image:

Pintando ojos estilo cartoon

  • Image 1: layer we’re naming "Glow", we create a slightly oval circle and apply gradient from white to transparent. Try to leave the oval with some transparency instead of fully white.
  • Image 2: create a new layer and name it "Glow 2", do a circular gradient with blue colour (#10a4fa), and put the layer in Linear Dodge mode.
  • Image 3: create a new layer we’re naming "Pupil", and paint something similar to the image with the same blue.
  • FINAL Image: this is what we get when we activate the 3 layers.

Step 6: coloring the lines.

Finally, we create a layer above the "Lineart" layer, and name it "Color hold", we’ll use this layer to color the lines.

Pintamos las lineas

CTRL+Click on the icon of the "Lineart" layer to make a selection of the lines, and go to the "Color hold" layer. Choose a slightly darker blue color (#223171) than the one we used for the eyeballs, this way we make the line merge with the design, but it’s still recognizable.

Summary of the day

Today we painted a simple shape, like the eyes of our character. Next day we’re painting the teeth, which is more complex, so we’ll have to learn how to use the history brush.

Ojos estilo cartoon

I see you in a couple of days!!!

Day 5: painting complex areas: the history brush.

Hello guys, tomorrow I´m flying to Berlin and I´m going to take several days off but before I leave I would like to post the last video of The World´s most detailed Photoshop coloring tutorial.

For now there is no tutorial just the video where you can see how I color more complex areas thanks to our buddy the History Brush, I put lot of care so hopefully you will understand how the History Brush works by yourself, anyway I will post the tutorial whithin the next days, until then, enjoy the video.

See you soon!!

This post was written by:

- who has written 58 posts on SOSFactory Blog.

My name’s Sergio Ordoñez I´m illustrator, graphic and web designer. A selection of my work is included at SOSFactory. If you want to support this blog, please be an active member: tweet the posts, participate in the discussions and the exercises :)

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  • nofear22

    bueno no queria ofender y si lo hice lo siento, ya tengo experiencia en photoshop pero quisiera saber cuando esta listo el tutorial, por que me intereza saber como pintar todo el cuerpo con luz, sombras y brillos, y otra cosa que me gustaria dominar y saber es si tengo un dibujo con se donde colocar las sombras y brillos en el cuerpo bueno por haora eso es todo espero que el tutorial este listo pronto…

    • Sergio Ordonez

      La verdad que no fue una crítica demasiado constructiva.

      Lo de las sombras y luces es una cuestión de intuición, simplemente practica pintando figuras geométricas sencillas bajo diferentes condiciones de luz, una vez comprendas como funciona te saldrá de forma natural.

      El tutorial por hora está en pausa, pero lo continuaré en cuanto acabe otras cosillas.

  • Diego

    Hola Sergio, te quería hacer una preguntirigilla :D .

    No he entendido muy bien el uso del pincel de historia, cual es el fin de el??En el último video vi que lo usabas en la parte donde dabas reflejos de luz a los dientes. No entendí que hacías. Si logre darle el reflejo, pero sin usar el pincel de historia, lo hice recordando como venia haciendo con los ojos del video anterior. Aun no se me prende la lamparita de saber que ventajas me da ese pincel.
    Gracias por tu atención :) , y que andes bien.

    Antes que me olvide, aun se puede subir las imágenes del bichito en la copa para mostrarlo?? Me gustaría mostrarte como quedo cuando lo termine :) , así me califiques jejeje.

    Diego (Salta, Argentina)

  • Diego

    Ahí vi la foto jejeje me dejaste todo claro, luego mirare el tutorial para asegurar aun mas. Muchas gracias por la explicación. :)

    Diego (Salta,Argentina)

  • Melvin Pereira

     yo quiero ver todo el tutorial mmm XD

  • Anthonie Zapata

    The Extract Line Art action left out the “Right-Click and choose Select Inverse”

    • Sergio Ordonez

      But does it work?

  • Chrisjcrone

    where is the rest of the tutorial Mr. Sergio

    • Sergio Ordonez

      Sorry, too many things… first off I need to update my blog design, and then I will continue with the tutorials.

  • x3mwoman

    Great tut!

  • Berke087

     So many thanks… You are Great Person…

  • Dragon

    I got stuck. Where you used the elipse tool to outline the eye for the shadow by doing mark selection and then subtract from selection… All my options for that are greyed out, and i tried playing around with settings and still couldn’t get it. i’m using Photoshop CS3, does it make a difference?

  • Dragon

    Ok never mind. I figured it out. I didn’t realize you were hiding the Marquee when the eyes were selected.

  • Nisha Gandhi

    awesome tutorial! :)  

  • Jeancaseven

    me sirvió mucho…..ummmm todavía no me amaño con el pincel histórico……..saludos desde Colombia!!!!