SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Improving My Illustration Process

Discussion started on

New Poster
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region canadawest


Up to this point when I do my original line work for an illustration I am scanning it, darkening the line work with the contract adjuster, then doing extensive clean up in photoshop. When I say 'clean up' Im' referring to using the paint brush tool in photoshop and painstakingly going through every square inch of the piece and then moving my mouse back and forth to remove smudges and pencil marks. For a drawing that may take about 4 hours to draw I am averaging about 8 hours of photoshop 'cleaning' with the paint brush tool.

The reason I am trying to clean up the areas around my line work is so when I am done I can use the background erase tool to remove the background around my line work.

I am looking to remove the 'clean up step' from my process while still working with my hand drawn illustrations. Here is the idea I have for how to eliminate this step.

My proposed method:

1. Draw my illustration with pencil on physical paper.
2. Use a stylus and my Wacom tablet to trace my hand drawn illustration.  I would be taping the original illustration to my Wacom tablet and tracing it into Photoshop.

Can anyone tell me whether or not they have successfully used this method or is there a better way?

P.S - I need to replace my Wacom tablet and cannot test this theory for myself.


#1 - September 02, 2014, 01:35 PM

Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region canadaeast
I do a pencil drawing, lots of stray marks - then do an ink over final lines (right on top, same paper).  Then I trace onto my watercolour paper in pencil, re-ink, let dry, & then erace the pencil lines as needed before painting. 
I think if I was scanning & colouring digitally I could probably just scan the original inked sketch - or erase the pencil & scan the first ink lines.  Erasing the pencil is slightly messy but very very quick & you could lighten the lines after scanning.
#2 - September 02, 2014, 05:45 PM
PIRATE YEAR ROUND (Acorn Press, 2019)

Instead of cleaning the linework, I would suggest doing a rough sketch and then scan it in.

Make a new layer above that and use a dark color (not black) with a hard brush to redraw/refine the lineart. This new layer will be your clean lines. If you find your hand shakes too much to use the brush tool, set the brush size to about 4-5 pixles, make sure it's a hard brush, and then use the pen tool.

To use the pen tool in Photoshop, you click on one point, click on a second point and then make a third point between them. Holding down control, you can move that middle point as well as the arms connected to it to change the curve of the line.

Once you have the line the way you like, right click the canvas and tell the pen tool to brush over the selection (you'll have to hit the enter key twice to accept it).

This way, you aren't fighting the teeth or grain that's on the paper from your original sketch. Once you finish the clean lines, you can delete the old ones. Place the clean lines as your top layer and then add your colored layers underneath so the outline always shows up.

Remember when I said not to use black as the outline? You can select it and change the color to whatever you like -- a color darker than the interior of your picture, for example.

Sadly, this is also time consuming. This is the best way I know to go about making clean lines though.

Good luck.
#3 - September 02, 2014, 05:46 PM

New Poster
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region canadawest

Thanks to you both. I will try both techniques out.
#4 - September 03, 2014, 09:19 AM


Why are you trying to clean your lines so carefully you can 'remove' the background? Sorry but that seems crazy to me. I work in visual effects where we have to do similar work to moving footage we don't do anything like this.

Just put your inked layer above your color layer and set it to multiply(I think thats what PS calls it, maybe its darken...), if you need to 'strengthen' it just adjust the center key in levels (its a gamma adjust) or layer two on them on there. Then paint away on your color layer and just be neat about keeping the 'border' between colors under the ink lines (or not, depends on how loose you want the art to be).

Check out some of the stuff on my site, in the paint tab. All the watercolor looking stuff uses a similar workflow (but in Artrage instead of PS). Just fire the black and white above the color.

Blog for my book, art is here:
#5 - September 06, 2014, 10:37 AM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but are you looking to keep your pencil linework pencil? If not, then it's best to draw new lineart on a layer over the first, with the first layer on a lowish opacity so you can really see the lines you're making.
If you are hoping to keep the lineart pencil/traditional ink, this is the way I do it (I used to use multiply layers, which worked, but not as cleanly and you have to color all on one layer - this fixes that, so you can paint right underneath the lineart):

1. Scan your lineart and bring it into Photoshop. Make sure the lineart is 300 dpi at least.
2. Use the "Clone" tool to take excess accidental smudges off, so that you still keep the texture of the paper. It's harder to fix later.
3. On the same window as layers, there is a tab called 'Channels'. If you don't already have the layers window open, you can find it under the Photoshop dropdown list 'Windows'.
4. Once you click 'Channels', there will be a list of color "channels. Right click the blue channel and duplicate it. When you click 'duplicate', there will be a text box that will pop up, with the option to check 'Invert'. Check that box and hit okay.
5. Turn all the channel color channel back on if you had to turn them off to duplicate the blue, but don't turn the channel 'Blue Copy' on.
6. Go to the top bar of Photoshop and find the dropdown list "Select". Choose the option "Load Selection".
7. A text box will appear. Set the channel option list on the text box to 'Blue Copy' (If you didn't invert the layer before, you can also do it here). Hit okay.
8. Photoshop will select all of the pencil/pen marks. Create a layer over the first layer, and fill the selection with whatever color you want the lineart to be. The more times you hit fill on it, the darker the lineart will get.
9. End selection and create a layer between the first and second layers. Fill this one with white.
10. Done!! Paint all you want in layers between the white layer and the lineart layer! Add parchment or other textures in a low-opacity multiply layer on top of the color layers if you want to make it look even more like traditional media.

Here's an example of a simpler piece I did using that technique (I do all of my work using this technique):

Some things to keep in mind:
This technique will copy your pencil exactly as you have it on the paper. When you're drawing, make sure that you keep it as clean/smudge-free as possible. Don't add shading in places where you don't want pencil texture (eg. I try not to shade human skin with the pencil - I wait until it's in Photoshop and do that with color because the grit of the pencil makes the skin look dirty and gross, but I shade things like fur and clothing sometimes, if it's the effect I'm going for, especially with darker scenes.)

Hope that helps! It looks like a lot of instructions, but it's really super easy and fast. It would be simpler-seeming if I could show you what I mean instead of needing to describe everything.
#6 - October 13, 2014, 03:11 PM


0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.