10 Minute Video Demo:

Text-only cheat sheet:

draw on paper

While you’re working on your line drawing, make sure you have enough contrast between your drawing surface and your lines. I recommend using either black ink or really soft lead on plain white paper.

Scan into Computer

600 ppi, Save as .TIFF
To read more about how to scan artwork, visit the scanning cheat sheet.

Delete background

Open up Photoshop and create a new document:  Photoshop > File > New. Specify the width and height of your piece. Pay close attention to the color mode and resolution: if you’re developing an illustration for print, your color mode should be CMYK, if it’s for web, select RGB. Your resolution should be set to at least 300 ppi. Click OK.

Place your line drawing into Photoshop:
File > Place Embedded… Once the image is placed into your document, click the check mark in the top tool bar to accept the placement.

Click on the magic wand tool in the side tool bar to select it. In the top menu bar, you should now see four squares next to each other; make sure the Add to selection option is active by clicking on it.

To the right of the squares is a value box for Tolerance. Set the Tolerance to 20.  (The Tolerance setting determines how picky Photoshop is when picking up similar values of the original selection. 20 is a good starting point, but you should increase or decrease based on what kind of a result you’re looking for. Play with different  Tolerance values to find the sweet spot.)

To the right of Tolerance is a check box for Contiguous make sure that’s unchecked.

Next, click on any white background area in your scanned image. Because you’ve unchecked Contiguous, every pixel of similar value of the one you just selected will also be selected. Hit the Delete button on your keyboard. Once you’ve deleted the background, your selection will still be active; in the top menu click on
Select > Deselect.

Add Color

Name your processed scan layer ‘line drawing’ (Naming your layers something descriptive can go a long way towards speeding up your workflow. You can even color code them or organize them into folders.)

Make a new blank layer and move it underneath your line drawing layer. Use the paint bucket tool to fill the whole layer with one color--that’s your background.

Create a new layer and move it between the background layer and the line drawing layer. Select the brush tool and a new color and start coloring inside and slightly behind the lines.

To colorize the lines, make a new layer and move it above the line drawing layer. Right click on the new layer to bring up the drop down menu and click on make clipping mask. Select the brush tool again, pick another color and paint over the lines.


To read more about clipping masks and how to further work on your illustration in Photoshop, read the Cheat Sheet that covers Masking.