Coloring Tutorial in Photoshop
by - Cactus Auri

I did my best to write this tutorial in a not-so-bad English but please keep in mind that it's not my native language.

This is personnal way of coloring. I don't pretend to be a Photoshop grand master, and I don't say that this is the best way of coloring using Photoshop but it's MY way. You can always adapt what you read here if it suits you better. In this tutorial, I assume that you already have some basic knowledge of Photoshop (Including layers, tools and color modes)

Now, before you start coloring, I suggest that you read through the entire tutorial first.

1) First, open your line art and give a significant name to the layer. I use "Line Art". Then, set this layer to "Multiply". I suggest you work on a high resolution if your computer can support it. For this particular picture, I worked at 300 DPI. The picture size was 10,13 x 18 in (3039 x 5400 pixels). The higher is the better!

Your line Art might be in grayscale. If so, you should set it in RGB or CMYK. I won't explain the difference between these two as it's quite complex but if your picture is only for the computer screen, use RGB.

2) Now, this is where we start to color! Create a new layer and place it under your line Art. Give it a significant name ( mine are named in French ) and start coloring an element. Don't start shading yet!

Repeat it for all the elements of your pictures. If your computer don't support a lot of layers, you can put serveral colors on your layer but try to choose isolated colors. It will make things easier when you'll start the shading.

If you get too many layers, you can organise them with folders.

Now you have a good idea of what your picture will look like. You can change the color of the elements if you feel it's not right anymore. I changed the color of the sky and grass a few times during the coloring of this picture so don't be surprised! This is why I don't start the shading before I see the entire color palette. Speaking of palette, don't be afraid to use it to store your colors!

3) One last thing to do before you start shading: determine where the light comes from. Mine is from the front , on the left.

Let's the fun begin! Using the magic wand ( or clicking on the layer while holding ctrl or command on Macs), select the color you want to shade. I'll begin with the skin.

4) Choose a soft brush and set it to 50%. Then choose a darker color. I can't help you to choose this color. Only practice and experience will make you better. You can also use the Dodge and Burn tools but it shouldn't be the only thing used.I try to avoid it as much as possible. Add a little bit of color over the dark area. Then repeat it until you have all the shades you want. It's like using watercolor: the more you add, the darker it will be. This should help you make more soft and realistic shadows. Do the same thing for the light area. And don't be afraid to work at 200%-500%!
5) You might find this shading a little but artificial, don't you? That's why we will use the Smudge tool to make it more realistic. Use the "finger" to manipulate the shadows and highlights. Once again, I can't help you much with this. Use your instinct.
5) You can add a complementary color to make the shading more realistic. And once again it's a question of experience and practice.
5) Continue like that for the rest of your picture. You can stop here and your picture would look perfectly fine. But you can also add some highlights to the shiniest areas.

To do so, you'll have to create a new layer Over your line art. Give a name to this layer and set it to screen.

5) Using a soft brush, go and add some light color (brown for the hair, etc...( spots where you want the highlights to be. That's all! I hope this tutorials have helped you!

And by the way, don't forget to save your work often!

Now if you want to have a closer look at the most difficult part of the image, keep reading!

A Closer look on...
Creating nice texture effect in Photoshop is not that hard. Let's take a closer look on some of the more complicated part of the image.

The grass
As you can see on this close up, I only added some yellow stroke over my green background. Using a 50% opacity soft brush, I added large strokes firts and then smaller ones. I used the same technique for the darker areas.
The sky and clouds
First, the sky: I started with a plain gradient of a darker and lighter blue. To give it a less artificial look, I used a 30% opacity soft brush to add strokes of lighter and darker blue on it. It's hard to explain it here.

For the cloud, I used 3 different layers: one with the basic color (use a soft brush: 30% opacity), one with the highlights (same color as the base, same brush) over the base layer, and one for the shadow (soft brush : 30% opacity, darker color) over the base color layer. This is a more complicated technique that deserve it's own tutorial.

Metal effects
To create a somewhat realistic metal effects, all you'll need are a few gray shades! Depending on the surrounding colors, you can use warm or cold greys. For this picture, I used warm greys.

Try to find a metallic object and look at it. Try to see how light reflect on it. Use the shade of greys to make it 3 dimensionnal but remember that what you are coloring is NOT a dull grey object. It reflect it's enviroment. The amulet reflected the skin of the character but also the sky. That's why I have warmer color at the bottom and colder on the top!

Painting metallic objects is quite hard and the best way to improve is by observing real life object.

PS: Tutorial written with the permission of the Author!
Cactus Auri