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Tutorial – How to prepare Comic Book Line Art for Coloring in Photoshop

Categories Software, Tutorials

Why do you Need to Prepare Artwork for Coloring?

Preparing the image allows you to apply colors behind the line art, and have the option to color the line art using color holds.

In this article are two methods of preparing artwork for coloring. Essentially if you want to use color holds, implement Method 2, if you do not want to use color holds, implement method 1.

Method 1 is a quick and basic approach suitable for instances where you will not be coloring the lines using color holds.

Method 2 is a more complex approach that results in artwork with a transparent background and the line art has been prepared for color holds. This method requires the use of a photoshop action that is available for free when you sign up for my mailing list here:

Sign Up to the Mailing List and Get a Free Photoshop action that prepares comic book artwork for coloring!

Which Method do I use?I always use Method 2 because it allows for the possibility of coloring the lines with color holds.

Even if I don’t intend to color the lines, I like to have the option available if a situation arises where applying color holds is the best solution.

Continue reading for the step by step tutorial instructions included in Method 1 and Method 2.

Tutorial for Method 1

Time required: 5 minutes • Number of Steps: 7

Step 1
  • Duplicate your image and open it in Photoshop
    • Make a copy of your artwork file, add “colors” to the end of the filename, then open the “colors” image file in Photoshop.
Step 2
  • Flatten the image. Flatten the image.
    • A. Click the three lines on the top right of the layers pallette.
    • B. In the resulting menu, select the item that says “Flatten Image”.
Step 3
  • Set the image to the desired “color mode”.
    • Color management could be a whole tutorial on it’s own, so I will cover only what I use for both webcomics and printed comics.
    • A. set the color Mode to RGB. In the menu bar, select: Image > Mode > RGB Color
Step 4
  • Convert the color profile to “Adobe RGB (1998)”
    • In the Menu bar, select: Edit > Convert to Profile and in the resulting window, select: the Profile dropdown menu) > Adobe RGB (1998)
    • Note: If I am going to be printing my artwork, I save a copy of the colored artwork and convert the color mode to CMYK, and set the color profile to “U.S. Web Coated (SWOP v2)”
Step 5
  • Make the white areas of the artwork transparent.
    • A: Double click the “Background” layer and in the resulting menu, rename it to “Inks”, then In the Layers window, change the layer mode dropdown from “Normal” to “Multiply”. Nothing will appear to have changed. that’s ok.
Step 6
  • Create a layer organization for colors.
    • A: Create a new folder and name it “Colors”.
    • B: Create a new layer and name it “Flats”. Drag the “Flats” layer into the “Colors” folder.
    • C: Drag the “Colors” folder under the “Inks” layer.
    • D: Using the paint bucket tool, fill the “Flats” layer with any color. The color doesn’t matter at this stage since this is the “Flats” Layer. Any color that is not too dark or not too light should work well.
Step 7
  • Done! your image should be ready to start the coloring process by working on the Color Flats next.
    • Note: If you find that you need to apply color holds to your artwork, save the line art to a separate file and follow the steps in Method 2.

Tutorial for Method 2

Time required: 8 minutes for initial setup, and 1 minute after that* • Number of Steps: 6


  • * Once the photoshop action mentioned in Method 2 is downloaded and installed, the time required to prepare your image for comic book coloring is less than 1 minute.
  • WARNING! The Photoshop action mentioned in Method 2 will flatten your artwork, and convert any color information to grayscale. Be sure to apply the action on a COPY of your image, and NOT the original file.
Step 1
  • Download the Free Photoshop action by signing up for the Neil Collyer Illustration Mailing List.
    • The signup form is near the top of this page, under the introduction.
Step 2
Step 2
  • Duplicate your image and open it in Photoshop
    • Make a copy of your artwork file, add “colors” to the end of the filename, then open the “colors” image file in Photoshop.
Step 3
Step 4
  • Once you have applied the action, your image will be prepared for color holds.
    • To apply a color hold to your line art, pick any color and paint on the “Color Holds” layer.
    • One or many colors can be used.
    • If you prefer one color to be used for all of the line art, you can select any color and use the paint bucket tool to fill the “Color Holds” layer.
    • The animated gif below shows the following:
      • “Inks” layer with a white background
      • “Inks” layer with color flats in background
      • “Inks” layer with a blue color hold and a white background
      • “Inks” layer with a blue color hold and color flats in background
Step 6
  • Done! 

How do you prepare comic book artwork for coloring? I’m always up to learn new techniques.

Let me know in the comments below.

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