Digital Illustration Basics: How to Color a Drawing in Photoshop | Adams Eberwein | Skillshare

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Digital Illustration Basics: How to Color a Drawing in Photoshop

teacher avatar Adams Eberwein, Illustrator, Musician, New Dad, Pineapple Lover

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (20m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Choose Your Palette

    • 3. Create a "Safe Base" Layer

    • 4. Paint Your Foundation Colors

    • 5. Add Shadows

    • 6. Add Highlights

    • 7. Add a Background Wash

    • 8. Graduation

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About This Class

Work side-by-side with illustrator Adams Eberwein as you learn a simple, flexible, and effective process for adding color to your favorite linework.

To begin, all you need is a basic black and white doodle, a digital paint program, and a drawing tablet. By the time you graduate from this brief class, you'll have a fully-colored illustration with a palette of your own design. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Adams Eberwein

Illustrator, Musician, New Dad, Pineapple Lover


I'm always chipping away at some creative endeavor, whether it's playing music with my band, doing a photo shoot for a friend, editing a video for work, or drawing for myself.

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1. Introduction: how many Miss Adams, Everyone and I'm an illustrator based in the Philadelphia area. Today we're gonna be talking about how to color an illustration using a digital paint program like Adobe Photo Shop and a drawing tablet like a whack come into us for. That's the gear that I'm using. But you can feel free to use whatever makes you happy if you want to use an open source program like gimp or for that's totally fine. And if you want to use a different tablet like a Microsoft Surface Pro or an IPAD pro, maybe a bamboo, any of that stuff should work just fine. You don't have to have any kind of fancy or complicated brushes and Photoshopped. In fact, we're going to use the basic hard, round and soft round brushes that kind of come in the standard library that comes with Creative Cloud. This course is about the basic concepts behind coloring drawing. So it assumes that you already have drawing in place something just with a really simple black outline, and we're just gonna add color to it. I'm not gonna be talking about how to draw. I'm not talking about color theory or any of those broader concepts. This is just about a simple and effective repeatable process to add color to your drawings that you can use your skills, bro. We're ready to get started. So make sure to ask me any questions that you might have as we go along and also make sure to upload your progress to the class so that everybody else can see what you're working on and how it's coming along. 2. Choose Your Palette: what we're gonna be doing today is just adding color to a pre existing drawing. What you'll need to get started is a black outline on one layer. It doesn't matter what it is. I'm drawing on office bear kind of a schlep in a shirt and tie, but you can draw whatever you want. It could be a really simple doodle. It could be really complex. My preference would be to go a little simpler just for the ease of understanding my process today. And then you can have the background on a separate layer for my background. What I chose to do was fill a layer with 50% Great. So if you don't know how to do that, what will do is create any layer, then select 50% gray from the swatches panel, then go over the paint bucket. Dump that over the new layer. But I have on my other layer is my outline. It's just one drawing all in one place. High contrast black lines separate from the background layer. Our first step is to create a color palette. First thing we're gonna do is add a new layer that we're gonna put our palette on. And for the purposes of today, we're going to use a limited palate. Just going to use a two or three really simple colors to use throughout our drawing and limiting ourselves is gonna make it easier to make choices later on. Because if you look at the entire color picker or all of the swatches available in your paint program, it can get overwhelming. It's almost like there's too many things screaming back at me here, So we're just gonna pick three simple colors. In my case, what I'm gonna do is kind of go with this pale brown Here, go to the brush tool. Just paying a little swap to that right there on that layer. Then I'm gonna use a light blue for that will end up being his shirt. I'm gonna throw that on here as well, then. Lastly, I'm probably gonna go with this kind of darker brown that will be for his pants. Now that I've got those three main colors, what I'm gonna do is use dark gray and white to create other versions of those colors. Let's go with something. Maybe 65% grace. It will be separate from our background layer, and they were gonna set the opacity and flow on our brush to 50%. You could do that by hitting the five on your keyboard and then shift five and then we're gonna paint that right over top of Armenian color there. They want to do the same thing for a blue and the same thing for a dark room. Then we're gonna go up and pick something a little off from pure. Wait, So what would this be? 15% Great. This will end up being our highlights. So over here we have our highlights. And then over here, we have what will essentially be our shadows. Now, first, that doesn't really look like much, But if you hold down the all key and pick that middle color, that kind of paint that in there may be willing to add a little bit more color than a little bit more of the gray. Eventually, we'll get to something that's kind of a nice little in between color that will be used for the shadows, going to the same thing for the blue, just kind of mixing on the canvas today, as it were. They're gonna do the same thing for the Brown, and then we'll do the same thing for the highlights. Okay, Now we have all that in place. We have our pilot ready to go, and we're ready to move on to the next step. 3. Create a "Safe Base" Layer: we've created our color palette, and now we want to do is create a kind of safe base layer that we will tell photo shop exactly where we want to add color to, and it won't allow us to add color outside of that area. So that might not make sense when I'm explaining it now in the abstract. But it'll make more sense is to go along. Let's create a new layer, and for the moment we can hide our color palette. We're gonna pick a darker gray, maybe like 80 85% gray. Then go over to your pen tool. And actually, we'll zoom in real quick. You can get Z key and then click with your pen. Anywhere we're going to do is just go through and make a new outline with the pen cool. What we're doing is telling phone shop exactly where we want to add color later. We can kind of be a little bit more loose with where we're brushing it. We won't have to worry about keeping our edges clean. I think a lot of people, when they first get into Photoshopped, they discover the magic wand tool and they're like Oh, I'll just use the magic wand tool for this kind of step. But the Magic one tool isn't always terribly precise, so you'll get a lot of bleed or you'll get a lot of jagged E edges that don't really look great in a finished drawing. So something that will separate your work from those who were just kind of starting out is having nice, clean edges on your layers. You know, you can get really sophisticated with the pencil. We're not doing that today. All we're doing is just adding points along the way. That exactly match where the outside outline of our drawing is. I would highly recommend that if you, um control all seated back out there because I kind of messed up anything that you learned about the pen tool is a worthwhile investment your time because I found that I use it in pretty much everything that I do in photo shop, whether I'm working on a photograph or working on a drawing, the pencil has been super handy when you reach the last point that you connect to your first point. When you hover over the first point, you turn to a circle and then you're outline all kind of light up. So we've got the dark grey selected in our color picker. And now we're gonna make sure the pen tool is selected and then fill this path on a new layer with our foreground color, which is the dark gray hit. Enter to kind of clear out the outline and that's it. If you missed any spots here, what you can do is zoom in on any of the spots where you might have missed. Make sure that your brushes set 200% capacity and just kind of fill those spots in. Now we've got a nice, safe foundation layer that we can build our colors off now. We used the pen tal in order to create this safe base layer. But what you could do is also use the lasso tool. If you're more comfortable with that, you would just go, you know, draw along the outline and let's just say we were doing the head. I'm gonna do we lose just kind of an idea. We've got that layer selected, but let's say I want to make sure I added in this, uh, this little area of the jowl here. I would just hold down the shift button, draw around that, and now that's gonna be added to the layer as well. So once that's all highlighted. The way that I wanted it to be, grabbed the paint bucket, select my appropriate dark grey, filled it in and boom, you're good to go So it doesn't really matter where they used a pentacle or the last. So it's whatever your preference is. My preferences depend because it's more precise and you don't have to kind of go through the whole thing all at once. It's much easier to go step by step that way. 4. Paint Your Foundation Colors: Now that we've got our Sief base layer, what we're gonna do is create a new layer to add our colors to some goto turn my pilot layer back on that I'm gonna create a new layer and I'm gonna go to layer and then create clipping mask. You'll notice over here that there's a little down arrow on this layer pointing down towards our safe bees. And what that means is that any color that we add on to this layer is going to stay within that outline that created. That's what I mean by creating a safe basis that I can color anywhere I want outside its outline. And it's not gonna show up unless we were to take off that clipping mask. So as long as the clipping mask is in place, I could do whatever I want with this area, and it's gonna keep my nice, strong outline that I created by using that safe base even though I just went through and completely indiscriminately sprayed color a little place. I'm gonna use that because the clipping mask really makes that easier. Now we've got our kind of foundation color for hiss head. We use the same thing for his arm. Now, I'm doing this quick and dirty today for the purposes of this demonstration. But if you want it to be more precise, what you could do is use the lasso tool or the pen tool and say, like, we just wanted to call her this section of the arm. Anything I color within that area will stay within that area and it won't go into the shirt . So, for the shirt, I'm gonna add that light blue. I forgot to add color to his belly. Sorry, Mr Bear. So I'm gonna use cold down the key to select the for color. Then I'm going to select the brush again, make my brush a little smaller so that I can get into this area a little bit more precisely . And this is where pressure sensitivity really comes in handy. What you want to do is make sure that your brushes hard, round pressure size and that means that if you push harder, your brush will get bigger. The later you push the smaller Thursday for his eyes, I'm gonna add not gonna add 100% white. I'm just gonna do like a 10% great do the same thing for his nose. Obviously, if humans were kind of drawn towards the face and the eyes specifically, so we want to make sure that those stand out more than anything else in the drawing. I mean, again, that's quick and dirty. But that's our base color. That's what we're gonna be working off of when we add highlights and shadows. And it's a much simpler way than what I've done in the past. There's 100 different methods. You could be used to add color to your drawing. This is the one that I found to be the simplest and the way to kind of get the most consistent color. Start your drawing and to make sure that all your outlined stay clean. 5. Add Shadows: So now that we've got our foundation color layer, we want to go in ad shadows. So in order to do that, we're going to create a new layer. We're gonna turn that into a clipping mask by going toe layer, create clipping mask. They were gonna choose the brush tool, and we're gonna pick thesis oft round pressure size brush. We're gonna pick our shadow colors now, you could do this one of two ways. You can kind of use the palate, hold down the all key and click in your shadow area and then use that color in your shadows . But what I'm noticing here is that my pilot wasn't really perfect. I didn't go dark enough on the shadow tune. My value isn't great there. What I'm gonna do is pick 90% gray and see if that that's too much. So now I'm gonna back off of that, go around in the 70% area, see if that something I can work with and I think that is I've also got my capacity set to 50% in my flow set to 50% to kind of allow the base area to show for if you want to update your palate. What you could do is kind of go in and remix that in order to make that look right. But you can also kind of just use the gray and use this as a visual reference. You don't have to be beholden to the palate. Received it as a guide, but now we've got that in place that looks a lot better. We'll do the same thing, will go back to the that darker grey and add that remix the other colors as well. I have a feeling that we're gonna need to go even darker for the pants, because the pants are so much of a darker value that the great that we chose wasn't dark enough to match that. So now hopefully we've got that sorted out a little better. Let's see if that works for the paint's Still not dark enough. It's important to be able to forgive yourself When you, uh, guess your values incorrectly. That's a little better. All right, so let's see. We got it right for the shirt. I think that's about right for the shirt. So all I'm doing is just grabbing my shadow colors, adding them where I think it's appropriate, kind of creating a three dimensional form here, doing the same thing for each of the main colors. OK, so that's our shadow her. 6. Add Highlights: we got our shadows layer and police. Now we want to do is kind of mere that exacting process for our highlights. Later, we'll go down, create a new layer, turned that into a clipping mask by going toe layer, create clipping mask. Then we use the same brush, which is the soft round pressure size. And then I'm just gonna pick up my later tone and add that to that layer, just adding highlights wherever I think they would go in order to create a three dimensional shape here. Now this is working. I think it's not perfect. It's not my favorite outcome for the tones here or the values, but it's good enough. It's just not great. I mean, we made our plan by creating a pilot early on, and that's great. But now that I'm kind of in the middle of the work, I'm deciding that I wanted to change it up a little bit, maybe make it a little warmer, make the light feel a little more natural rather than just a lighter version of the original tune. So what I'm gonna do is go back down to the palate. I'm gonna pick a pale yellow from the palate. That's what I feel like. The light would be a little bit more natural feeling. We'll see how that turns out. That feels a lot better. To me, that feels more natural, like something you'd see in a realistic setting rather than just a lighter version of the original color. That's part of this whole process is you know, you plan, but then you can change things up is you go along. Its one of the things I like about this workflow is that you're not tied down to anything. We could just scrap this layer start over again if we wanted to. We weren't happy with house came out. What was under this point is created a diffuse kind of lading set up. What I like to do a lot of times is add a little bit of a harder edge to the peace in order to create more separation for the background and just to kind of represent what kind of surface this might be. So for clothing, some clothing is gonna have that harder age late on it. But, you know, rim later, hair like, so I'll just grab. I'll grab that pale yellow and kind of go little warrior on it. And I'll just run that along the edge of the peace in order to give it that nice separation . Just to show you that Hey, these air, the outside edges of my object that I'm representing in two D space. The tendency for a lot of people who are starting out with digital illustration or painting in general really is to over blend. I'm guilty of that myself, absolutely. But in real life, lights is kind of harsh sometimes. So we are going to create some nice hard lights here to create some points of interest in contrast, and also just to kind of reflect the surfaces that we're dealing with. So I always add a couple of flecks of stuff here and there, you know, kind of gives the impression of dust or imperfection, which is nice. If you're doing a cartoon, things could be perfect. But in the world that I live in, which is kind of a hybrid of cartoon and realism, I like to have this representation of light that is somewhat realistic. Right now we've got a room light. We've got some more diffuse lighting to go underneath that, and I think we've got a nice three D object here to play with. Make sure to upload your piece so far to the class so everybody else can see what you're working with them. We can see how it's coming along. 7. Add a Background Wash: Now that we've got all the pieces in place, we've got our base colors. We've got our shadows or highlights. What we want to do is create a background wash to kind of separate it from the boring flat gray that we've got going on there, in the background layer we're gonna do is add something a little more interest, but not anything too specific to distract from the main subject. So I'm gonna choose Flat Fan hi bristle Count Brush gonna set my opacity and flow to around 30%. And since we're working with something that's in the blue brown kind of world, we will go with yellow. That kind of matches the highlights in the rim like that came up were just gonna throw wash on there. It's not anything too crazy. It's just enough to kind of give it a little bit of interest, but again not to distract what kind of work that I do. I don't want anything that's too involved in most of my drawings in the background because it's gonna be a distraction to people they want. They're looking for the main character. So unless the background is a set piece, that's contributing towards the character. I'm gonna leave it out, and I'm just going to kind of make something a little bit more indistinct. Now, that's a little bright to start with. So I'm just gonna lower the capacity on that layer to 65%. And that's pretty okay for what I'm trying to do here. You could use really any brush for this kind of situation. You know, let's say we wanted to start over. We could use the soft, round brush creating new layer. Just keep the capacity down. You know, that will work just fine. It doesn't matter what the brush using. In fact, I might even like a little bit more. It doesn't really matter what brush your using. It just matters that the background is a little more abstract and create some separation from your character, but isn't just the boring old gray 8. Graduation: all right. That's everything I've got for the class. I hope that you got something out of it that you learn something useful that you can apply to your skill set today. Make sure to upload your final project so everybody else can see what you're working on. The other thing I say to you before you go is just to go back and try using a completely different palette on your drawing and see what you come up with. The key here is experimentation. Try and fail. Try and succeed. See what comes out of it. And maybe you can come up with a completely different color than you originally thought was possible. It might make your drawing that much more interesting. Thanks again, and I hope to see in the future.