The Complete Digital Comic, Part 3: Coloring in Photoshop


This is part three in my series of tutorials about creating comic art on the computer. Check out Parts 1 & 2 here:

Part 1: Sketching and Pencilling in Photoshop

Part 2: Inking in Illustrator

This part will be about coloring your line drawing in Photoshop. Enjoy!

Getting Started

  1. Create a new document.

  2. Set the size to the dimensions of your final page.

  3. Make sure the resolution is 300 ppi or higher.

Placing Your Line Drawing

If you created your line art traditionally, you will first need to scan and adjust it. Check out my previous tutorial ( for tips.

If you created your drawing in Illustrator…

  1. Select your entire drawing in Illustrator.

  2. Go to Edit > Copy.

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  4. Go to Photoshop and Edit > Paste it into your document.

  5. Choose “Pixels” in the resulting dialogue. (If this dialogue doesn’t appear, go to Illustrator’s preferences under “File Handling & Clipboard.” Check the box next to “AICB,” then try again.)

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  7. Resize and position your drawing, then push Enter to confirm.

Once you have adjusted and positioned your drawing layer, you are done with it. Don’t color on it unless you have a specific reason to. Color on separate layers placed beneath your line drawing.


Basic Coloring

  1. Choose a hard-edged brush. The default round brush is fine. In the Brush palette, make sure that “Other Dynamics” is turned off. Also make sure the opacity of your brush is set to 100%. In short, you want a brush that paints completely flat and opaque color.

  2. On your color layer, start blocking in your basic colors.

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  4. For a shadow, create a new layer and place it on top of your color. Lower the opacity of the layer to 50% and change the mode to Multiply. Choose a dark color and paint in your shadow shapes.

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Useful Tips

The Magic Wand Tool

Once you have blocked in your basic colors, you can use your magic wand tool to mask out sections as you work. Simply click on an area to select a specific color.


To preserve your different sections, make sure you paint on a separate layer.

Use Layers

Use layers to keep different areas of your painting separate. How you organize them depends on your own preference. For example, you can create a separate layer for different objects, or for background and foreground elements. This makes it easier to paint a specific section without worrying about ruining the other.


Save a Color Palette

This can come in handy is you have multiple panels with recurring characters and settings. You can do this in several ways:

  • Simply create a new Photoshop document with your colors painted on it. Keep it beside your comic on your desktop and use the eyedropper tool to select a color.

  • Use Photoshop’s Color Swatch palette (Window > Swatches). Add or remove colors by clicking the buttons on the bottom of the palette. When you have your colors organized, use the palette’s drop-down menu to save the swatches.


There are many different ways to approach a comic book painting and it all depends on the style of the artist and the mood of the story. Here’s a few basic techniques to get you started.

  • Airbrushing – Traditional comic book look

    This creates a soft, smooth look. Click the airbrush button at the top of your screen next to the Opacity and Flow options. This makes it so that the paint “flows” out of your brush and continues to build, even when you are holding your brush still, like a traditional airbrush. The Flow slider controls this effect.


    Use a round brush with a soft edge. Lower the opacity for more subtle effects.

    Render by gently building up color. Pay special attention to the pressure of your pen, the opacity of your brush, and the flow of your paint.

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  • Transparent Washes – The watercolor look

    For a more painterly look, choose a hard-edged brush and lower the opacity. Also turn on the Opacity control in your Brush palette so that it is affected by your pen pressure.

    Render your painting by lightly laying down “washes” of color. Don’t be afraid of letting your brushstrokes show through.


  • “Solid” Painting – An oil/acrylic look

    Block in your basic colors and light and dark areas.

    To blend, lower the opacity of your brush to 50% or lower. Use the eyedropper tool (Shortcut: the Option key) to choose one of the colors you are blending. Lightly go over your edge. Use the eyedropper tool again to select the blended color and paint over the edge again. Continue to do this until your edge is smooth.



More Resources

Insight from some professional colorists…

Final Painting


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