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Colouring Images : 'Multiply' Mode on Layers

A lot of people balk at producing a coloured comic because colouring takes time.

True enough, but one thing works in favour of colouring: the more you do, the faster you become. I constantly revise my techniques in hope of finding better ways to do colour. This is the one I'm currently using (1st Febuary 2004), which was developed through simple trial and error.

The pros of this technique are:

  • It works with grainy art styles like mine (pencils)
  • It's fairly fast and not too tedious
  • Does not require high precision; It can be done with a mouse... or even the touchpad of a laptop!

Step 1

If you remember, after cleaning and darkening, I have this fairly clean picture of Lysanne.

Step 2

I need to make sure the PSD file is in RGB (Red Green Blue colour) Mode first: I go to Image > Mode > RGB Color | menu.

Step 3

Double click on the Background Layer in the 'Layers' window.

A menu will pop up:

I name my layer 'lines' so as not to be confusing. I then set the Mode to 'Multiply'. I don't want to confuse you with the specifics of 'Multiply', so let's just say here that Multiply makes all light areas in the picture become show-through. The lighter the colour, the more transparent it is. Black will remain black, darker colours will darken the areas they overlap into becoming darker. You'll have to try it out yourself to truly understand how it works.

Step 4

For this style of art, colouring directly on a layer is never a good idea, so I make a new layer underneath 'lines' and call it 'fg' (foreground):

What IS a layer, you ask? They are the most wonderful invention in digital art, that's what I say they are!

But seriously... think of layers as sheets of plastic stacked up together which you can paint on. You can rearrange the them in any order you like, they won't smudge ;), and what you do to a layer will not damage the others. You can also give layers funny properties like the 'Multiply' I mentioned.

Trust me, once you get used to layers, you can't live without them.

While I'm at it (Making Layers), I'm going to make a 'bg' (Background) layer as well:

I then use the paint bucket tool to fill the entire 'bg' layer with magenta. The horrible magenta BG layer will come in handy later, as you'll see...

Step 5

Now's the 'cute' part. I make a copy of the 'lines' layer:

Making sure I have only the 'lines copy' layer selected, I use Levels again to make the lines even darker.

Step 6

Next I use the 'Magic Wand' tool (Hotkey is 'W') and start selecting all flesh areas.

Remember to have the tool setting on 'Anti-aliased' and 'Contiguous'. I also hold down 'Alt' as I click to add to the pre-existing selection.

I've selected all the appropriate areas... but I'm not done yet! I go to the Select > Modify > Expand menu:

This option box will appear:

What I am actually doing is making the selection expand into the grainy areas the magic wand didn't manage to get to. I'll need to configure the number of pixels to expand by, depending on the line thickness; I find 3-5 just about right in this case.

As you can see, the selection expands and covers most of the appropriate areas now.

Step 7

And finally, I get down to the colouring!. I switch layers to the 'fg' layer and click the 'Paint Bucket Tool' (HotKey is 'G')

Fill the selection with the desired 'skin' colour:

That was quick, wasn't it?

Step 8

Repeat Steps 6 and 7 for all other colours.

This is where the magenta background comes in useful. Because it's such an ostentatiously bright colour, it shows through and makes the areas I've missed with the magic wand show up very clearly.

Don't worry. I'll deal with those spots next.

Step 9

Now I switch to the Brush tool (Hotkey is 'B'). I make sure I have the Tool Settings as follows:

(Naturally I change the brush size to suit the dimensions...)

Having the Mode set on 'Behind' is very important. The 'Behind' mode will not allow me to colour over another colour, so I can just sail right in and fill up those annoying magenta spots.

While I'm at it, I add in the whites of the eyes and the tint of the lips.

Step 10

And we're done. I can discard too-dark the 'lines copy' and magenta 'bg' layers if I want now, and find I have a nice image with base-colours on in very little time!

Next Tutorial: Shading Makes the Style: Simple Cell Shading

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