Basic color for your drawings

This is the easiest method to add color to any image! It is also one of the most basic techniques and building blocks in photo retouching, photo manipulation and illustration. The key is the layer blending mode “Multiply” and a kick-ass imagination.

But, before we begin coloring, I have a couple of commonsense tips for scanning an image. Sure, anything can be fixed with image editing software, but why go through the trouble when they can be easily avoided?

  1. Clean the scanner! You don’t want dust and other crap to scan on your beautiful drawing.
  2. Make sure the paper is straight.
  3. Don’t bump or move the table as it may cause your image to look blurry. No wrestling!
  4. If you will be scanning prints, dust or wipe those too.
  5. And, if you want your image to scan twice its original size you enter 600 in the Output settings. Or multiply the enlargement by 300. [2 x 300=600]

Ready? Let’s do this!

Step One. OUTLINE. Open your drawing or photo and if the layer is locked, double-click to unlock it. Rename it “Outline” and set the layer’s blend mode to Multiply. You must keep this layer above any other layer you create after this step.

Step Two. COLOR. Create a new layer below the outline. It’s always better to start with the base color or the background color. In my case, it was the face/skin color. So with a soft round brush paint in the layer adjusting brush opacity and hardness. You don’t have to worry so much about going over the line at this point since you’ll be covering that up with other details.


That is basically all! Just build your illustration layer after layer keeping the outline at the top, your first color at the bottom and everything else in between. Make sure you keep each color/section separate in it’s own layer, in case you want to change the color later on.


Step Three. COLOR CHANGES. Did you change your mind already? Well, at least it’s Photoshop! Color changes are actually pretty easy and there are many ways to change a color, but my favorites are the adjustment layers Solid Color and Hue/Saturation. Select the layer you wish to change the color for, click the Alt key and while holding it click on the Adjustment Layer menu at the bottom of the layers palette and select Solid Color. Check the box that says “Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask” and click OK. This means any changes from the layer “Solid Color” will apply only to the layer you had selected. Select the color you want and you will notice instant results!


Step Four. EXTRAS. To darken your outline, duplicate your Outline layer and set the blend mode to Color Burn. Add a mask to the layer to hide or lighten any lines. You can also use Adjustments like Levels to lighten (remove details) or darken the Outline. Use the gradient tool to add some cool highlights and shadows to your image.


I hope I didn’t miss anything. If you have any questions, ask away and have fun!