How to Color Line Art in Photoshop

Coloring line art in Photoshop is pretty similar to using a color pen or pencil to fill color in lines on paper. The only difference is that you’ll be using a digital brush rather than an actual pen or pencil. 

Well, you do need some extra steps when you color in Photoshop, but the technique is the same – paint color within the lines. 

You can color a line art in six steps with several small details. Don’t worry, it’s pretty easy, and I’ll show you all the steps and what you should look out for in this tutorial with extra learning materials. 

6 Steps to Color Line Art in Photoshop

Note: All screenshots are taken from Adobe Photoshop CC 2021 Mac version. Windows or other versions might look slightly different. 

For example, let’s add some color to this unicorn line art to make it more lively. 

Step 1: Open your image in Photoshop and remove the background. You can use the Magic Wand Tool or other methods to remove the background. The idea is to have only the line drawing on a layer. 

Before moving on to step 2, I’m going to make all lines black because as you can see the stars are in a different color. 

Tips: I do suggest you make the image black and white to keep the lines in the same color and name your layer to avoid missing spots when you color it. 

Step 2: Create a new layer and fill it with white using the Paint Bucket Tool or go to the top menu Edit > Fill

Step 3: Name the new layer. I’ll name it background. Move the new layer (background) underneath the line drawing layer (lines). 

Actually, you can go ahead and lock the lines layer to avoid modifying it by accident. 

Step 4: Create a new layer above the background layer (underneath the lines) and name it the color you are going to paint first. So mine would be yellow, and I’m only adding yellow color to this layer. 

Step 5: Select the brush tool or pencil tool as you prefer, choose a color, and start coloring! 

You can select brush style from the top menu, choose a size and adjust the hardness. Usually, I set mine to 100%. 

Tips: Test the brushes on the canvas and adjust accordingly. When you paint on the edges near the lines, reduce the brush size and zoom in to paint. 

When you color near the lines, use a smaller brush to outline it first. 

If you don’t have a Wacom tablet to draw, it might take you longer to color because drawing with a mouse it’s hard to control the preciseness. 

Probably you’ll brush over the line edge, but you can always use the Eraser Tool (E) to clean it up. 

Step 6: Create a new layer for the next color you’re going to add to the line drawing. Repeat the same step for all colors. 

It’s not a strict rule but I really recommend you to have one color per layer. 

If you want to make a series of different colors of the same drawing, you can simply select the whole layer and add a color overlay. Imagine you don’t have each color on a separate layer and want to change the color, you can’t just add a layer style, and it’ll be much more complicated. 

You can also play with the opacity to add shades to your colors. 

That’s pretty much it. 

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, coloring line art in Photoshop it’s like coloring on paper, basically, it’s filling color within the lines. The preparation (step 1 to step 4) for coloring is important, and another thing to keep in mind is to organize your layers, then you should be good to go. 

About hannah
Hannah works as a website designer for a digital agency based in the UK. She has over 15 years of experience using Photoshop and has been using it daily since 2005.

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  • Nina

    I cant go past step 6, I have no idea what I am doing wrong. I double click on the color palette but when I go on to paint my picture it turns gray. Please help?

  • hannah

    Hi Nina. Check the colour settings of your document. I have had this problem before and found the document colour mode set to grayscale. Change to RGB and it should work.

  • Nina

    Yay! It worked!! Thanks a million Hannah =)

  • Monica

    Thanks for sharing!! I love this effect!!
    xoxo