Monday, April 29, 2013

From Sketchbook to Screen: Color

In my last post, I detailed how to get your scanned sketch to a workable level in Photoshop. This will be sort of a continuation of that, but in color

I recorded a demo of myself painting the sketch below and, though it was intended to be only 10 minutes long, I ended up going on and on for about a half hour! I don't expect that everyone would want to watch that, so I sped it up to 3 minutes and added a Huey Lewis tune! WIN.

In the long version of the demo, I show how to use levels, multiply layers, and use brushes to get a softer look. In this shorter version, you really just see some color decisions fly by!

Sketchbook Painting Demo (3min) from Renee Kurilla on Vimeo.

Here are some of the brushes I use:

Useful tips mentioned in the long version:

  • To quickly change the line color of your sketch, select the line and hit CMD+U (Hue/Saturation), check the "colorize box"
  • If you paint with the pencil tool instead of the brush tool, the autofill is MUCH better.
  • Layer Lock: Lock Transparent Pixels is AWESOME. 
  • You can also use Blending Modes on a layer above your sketch to colorize your line, but it effects all colors underneath the layer as well. 

Learning Curve:
Even though the long version is 30 minutes, if I were painting this for a paying job I'd definitely spend another few hours finessing details. I think spending those few minutes ahead of time colorizing your lines is worthwhile.
If I had known I'd end up colorizing this sketch, I might reconsider how much pencil shading I add. I found as I was coloring that it was very difficult to select sections to "colorize" because of the thick shadows. The shading also makes some parts of the piece very dark (her shirt, hair, the little bear nook).

Noteworthy: Someone who really has this technique down is UK based illustrator, Alex T. Smith. His work is phenomenal and lively, so talented! His latest blog post actually shows a before and after pencil sketch turned color.

You know what the real secret ingredient to all of this is... (drumroll please)



*If you'd like to watch the long version of my demo in which I say "Umm." 2,000,345 times and immediately go back on my promise to label all my layers, I've made it available on my Vimeo page, here. :)

Thanks for reading, and as always feel free to comment below and ask questions!



  1. Thank you! I am trying to enhance my pencil sketches in Photoshop, and this post is very helpful.

    1. It's a never ending process for me! Still working on it too, glad it's helpful to you!

  2. That was pretty cool! Nice work!

  3. I watched the long version of the video, and you did great. Some newer users of Photoshop will learn a lot of small, neat tricks from this.

    I really love your style, and even though you work tightly, you still end up with a lovely loose feel in the finished artwork. I work kind of the same way that you do, but I'm still working on my issues with removing the digital look. Not having much luck with that, I must admit. I think you gain a lot from your pencillines alone. They give it a more analogue look.

    Anyway - what I wanted to say (other than praise of this lovely tutorial), was 2 things:

    1. When you get in the habit of working with presets, you'll love it. Took me a fairly long time to see the light in that, but since I found out how great it was, and how much easier than just brushes - I have never looked back. I have the same brush with different presets (opacity, color and so on), and it saves a lot of time. So even if you're not working on a series of drawings where you'd like to use the same colors and brushes, it's still useful. I don't know how I got anything done before. It's just a huge time saver :)

    2. For filling in an area without the white line, you can make an action to expand by 2-4 pixels (depending on your settings, size etc. Try out what works for you, and then make an action). It's just a few clicks to get rid of that white line after that.

    Keep making these tutorials. It's great! :D

    PS: Thanks for making it possible to comment with e-mail adress :D

    1. Thanks so much Anita! Now I understand why you wanted to comment. This is so helpful to me as well, I love learning new tricks. Photoshop has endless possibilities.

      Not only are your points useful to me, but I hope someone else finds them useful as well. We're all in this together!

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  5. Hi Renee,
    This illustration is adorable! I Just watched the long version also. LOVE the "locked layer" trick. There is a much longer way to get that same effect, so this was great to learn this & save some time!! I'm in the process of finishing up a new project this week, and the Chalk brush will really come in handy, thanks for sharing!


    P.S. Just thought of a quick question I forgot to ask before... What key command do you use the make your brush options pop up over your image, so you switch back & forth quickly?

    1. Thanks Kelli! :D So glad to introduce you to a new brush! Good luck on finishing up your project this week.

      The shortcut for the brush pop up is: Make sure you have your brush tool selected, then Control+Click on the drawing area.

  6. Great demo! Thanks for sharing it!

  7. This was ridiculously helpful for a first time photoshop newbie like me! more please!

    1. Thank you! I'm do glad it was useful! I'm working on some more demos....coming soon. :D