Coloring Bishies The Lazy Way

OR . . .

Burn and Dodge: A Tutorial

D, aka The Fablespinner, has asked me to relate to any who might be interested, how it is that I put color to b&w bishies. And who am I to say no? :)

Please keep in mind that I'm trying to be fairly comprehensive, not only about my technique but some basic PS tips. If you're very familiar with the program you're probably going to hate me. ^ ^;;


Intro: Have You Hugged Your Program Today?

As a design student, it has been my experience in assisting my fellow students, that the biggest hindrance to anything you are trying to accomplish is a lack of sufficient knowedge of the given program. Therefore, this is just my advice to anyone reading, (and I know some wil think me stating the obvious for this), that you do all that you can to become more and more familiar with every aspect of your program. PLAY WITH IT! It won't bite you. And don't just go for the effects and filters and all that jazz. A successful photoshop (since this is the program we will be discussing) artist knows their tools inside and out! It's amazing the effects you can get out of that simple pallette of tools. Do not neglect them. Find a book, learn as much as you can, but above all, be hands on, and don't be afraid to fuck everything up a few times.


On with the show . . .


 1:Size Does Matter

When working with images, whether taken from the web or scanned, there is no bigger mistake than a poorly chosen size. Please, PLEASE do not work with anything below 300 dpi. I know you're waching that filesize because you're going to upload it to the web, but work on it large and then resize. It will make a difference, I swear. (It's probably also a good idea to work in TIFF or PSD format instead of JPG).

Now, that said, meet our victim-err volunteer for the tutorial: a nice lineart Zechsy, not drawn by me but taken from some Artbook or another. (While the image you see at right will be at a low resolution, I am working with one at 300 dpi. The Reverand doth practice what she preach).

 2:Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

Ok, no example for this because Zechsy is a very hygeinic boy. But, if you're working on something with a lot of pencil smudges or you DL'ed it from the web and it has those irksome tell-tale signs (squares or garbledy) of having been a nasty little JPG, do yourself a favor and take the time to clean it. With the burn/dodge method especially, even barely visable smdges will become quite evident. But, above all, it's just good image hygeine.


  3:Please Make Your Selection Now

Ok, now we're down to the meat of it. The way I work, is in sections, or perhaps more correctly, selections.

Over in your tool box, you have several selection tools (please note that if you have a newer version of PS than me then the location of these may vary). One is the magic wand, which selects based on similar colors. I use this sparingly because, even though you can change the tolerance, it's often never quite right. But, with a very clean image and good strong lines, it can be your best friend.

*cough* Getting back on track . . . I typically use the polygnal lasso (the one with the angled-not rounded-edges). This is because you can make a selection based on a series of clicks and not one continuous line. (As a side note here, you can choose to feather your selection, but personally, it looks sloppy).

To select a good area, (we're going to start with the face), you'll want to zoom in. Get good and close (not so close that you can't tell where you're going) so that you're less likely to miss big splotches of the image.

When navigating your selection, always remember that you can used the BACKSPACE key if you click somewhere unwanted. Also, you can add to an existing selection by holding down SHIFT during the first click, or subtract from a selection by holding down ALT.

Again, no example because this is not something that can be show without screen-caps . . . and I'm lazy.


  3:Put Some Color in His Cheeks (and Layers)

Before we get to color, a word about layers. I actually do not use layers as much as I should, at least not when coloring. The reason for this is (besides that I'm lazy) that you have to have a white base to get the correct shading, or else all of the shading has this awful purplish tint (why purple? I have no clue). So you can work directly on the original image like I do, but, if you are very astute about layering, and I *do* reccomend this for beginners, follow these steps:

1. Make your selection as outlined in step 2

2. Copy the selection (edit>copy), Paste the selection--this will cause you to lose your Polygonal selection.

3. Being certain that you are working with the newly pasted layer, use the Magic wand tool to select the OPPOSITE of the pasted image (the outside of his face) and anything else that was NOT in the original selection. Invert the selection (Select>Inverse). Now you've got back you're original selection and you're working on a new layer. You're ready to color.


Because we're using the burn/dodge method, it's important that you choose a good color. Think the middle-ground color you would want to use. For example, for flesh, imagine the straight color, with no highlights or shadows. Now, using the Color Picker (double click on those two squares of color at the bottom of the tools pallette--this is much easier to work with than the color pallette), choose a color just a wee darker than you want (this is because you're going to lower the opacity).

Once you've selected your color, choose the paintbrush from the Tools palette and look at your paintbrush options. Lower the opacity to somewhere around 35-40 % or whatever you think looks best.

Color your selection in one sweep. If you color an area twice it will be uneven so be sure to get it all in one go. Now use your better judgement. Is it too pink? Too orange? Too yellow? Too dark? Too light?

It's also a good tip to do all of the skin tones (or any like areas) at once to ensure uniformity of color.

 4:Burn, Baby, Burn

Now that you have a good base color, we'll start adding shadows.

DO NOT DESELECT! You want to do everything that you can possibly do to that area while you have it selected.

Choose the Burn tool from the Tools Menu (looks like a 3/4 view of a hand). Again, you're going to adjust the settings. In the Toning Tools Options Pallette, adjust the expoure. For now, we'll lower to 30% (I often work anywhere from 10-35%).

Choose a brush size. I always use a bigger brush than the area calls for, but make sure that it is a soft (fuzzy) brush, that way you get a nice even gradient (if you double click on a brush in the brush pallette, you can change the size, hardness and shape).

This is where things get difficult to explain. The success of the Burn/Dodge method rests on your use of the right brush sizes and opacities and expoures, the rest is just having a good eye for shading.

Add shadows where you think they belong. If the colors are being burned too dark, UNDO what you've done, LOWER THE EXPOSURE and TRY AGAIN. It's really just a lot of trial and error.

Keep in mind that the more you go over and area, the darker it gets. Be gentle.

And something else of note, sometimes skin tone is easier to work with AFTER the hair and clothes have been colored. It's all in the eye.

 5:Dodge (sorry, no corny title ^ ^)

Dodge works the same way. Lighten it up where you feel it belongs and don't be shy with those bright higlights.

ALWAYS REMEMBER DETAILS! They make a difference. Even if it's just buttons on a shirt, every pixel counts. Can you see the shadows in Zechs's ears?

 6:And then . . .

When he's satisfactorally dark and light, you'll notice that he seems kind of monotone. To fix this, choose some secondary colore (YOU SHOULD STILL HAVE THAT AREA SELECTED!) and choose your paintbrush. Lower the Opacity like before, only make it even lower, 2-10%. Choose an ample size and softness, then you can very gently paint a little variation into him--pink for his lips, a little on his cheek, and a very light (2%) wash of yellow . . . just because I thought he needed it.

 7:And Then . . .

Once you're happy with that selection area, you can deselect it.

Start all over with some other section (don't forget to copy and paste if you're woking in layers), and go through the motions all over again.

 8:The Big Finale

So he's colored and layered and beautiful. Add any text or effects. merge the layers ( I strongly suggest that you save as a PSD first, though, just in case you want to come back to it).

Now, with it all being one image, is the best time to do touchups (and never underestimate the power of the clone tool!).

Resize at your discretion, save as a JPG.