An Easy Digital Colouring Process

This week I worked on a number of smaller images in my sketchbook and started a bigger project.  The smaller images were in ink and pencil…


[Pencil on paper]



[Ink on paper]


[Ink on paper]

(NB:  The Drawing is my own but the character ‘Strontium Dog’  (aka Johnny Alpha) belongs to 2000AD (Rebellion) and the art style I used was my own version of Carlos Ezquerra’s brilliant work.)

Then I coloured them digitally.  I thought it would be fun to go through the basic colouring process I use with the gecko picture as an example.

(1) I start by scanning in the art work and cleaning any scanning artifacts (I always get one which is irritating).  I also do a general clean up of the image and adjust the curves and levels if it’s needed.  I usually do this bit in photoshop.

(2) Then I save the cleaned image and open it in Manga Studio 5.

(3) My next big job is to put in the ‘flat colour’.  Basically this process involves colouring every pixel of the drawing in flat solid colour with no anti-aliasing, shading or anything else – just flat blobs of colour right up next to each other.  I tend to use colours similar to those I want to use in the final product but you don’t have to.

So here, I’m putting in the flat colour for the first few leaves…

To combine the colour with the line art like this I put the line art in the top layer and set that layer to ‘multiply’.  Then I paint my flat colour in the layer below.

Here’s a bit more flatting done…

(Here you can see I’ve accidentally painted the flower properly with final colours in the flatting layer.  I could have wiped it all out and made it white but I knew there wasn’t much I wanted to do with that part of the picture so I left it.)

Generally I paint the flats using the polygon selector with anti-aliasing off so I get a clear division of one colour or the other with nothing in between.  Once I’ve selected my area I just fill it with solid colour.

Finally when all the flat colour is done it looks like this (without the linework on top of it)…


So with the linework we’ve now got to this…


I really love flatting images, I find it repetative but nice and it makes me feel relaxed.

(4) Next I complete the detailed colour and shading for each flat area.  This is where the real digital painting starts and I find in a lot of ways I can paint in my PC just like I paint on a canvas.  I can’t always get the same effects digitally but I do have the advantage of the back button which will undo my last few changes – I wish I had that on paper sometimes!

Here’s the painting done for the leaves but not yet the gecko…

And here’s the desktop with the gecko painted fully too…


(5) Finally I put on any borders I need and save the fullsize image, then reduce the size for the web and it’s ready to go.

Here are my final coloured pictures…



14 thoughts on “An Easy Digital Colouring Process

  1. Thank you so much Jo. I worked for some years commercially in Fireworks for web graphics, and lately have rarely touched PS – must get back in there and follow your advice – awesome. Also might give Manga Studio a try!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Bart – you’re comments are really encouraging. I know what you mean about finding yourself using the wrong medium for a particular project. I was painting a cartoon-like picture for the kids at school of a Pokemon. I used gouache because the colour is lovely and bright but really I needed to break out my acrylics as the gouache layers don’t ever properly fix like acrylic does. I’m not so good with gouache myself!

    Digital is kind of fun. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to give it a go.
    Thanks again for your kind comments,


  3. Many thanks – you’re so kind and encouraging. I really appreciate it. Before I was a teacher I was a software engineer, so I’m at home with technical stuff. In fact, I find computers easier than people! Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t get rid of the white. I make sure my whites are white and my blacks are black using the curves and levels tools in Photoshop. I can keep the greys. Then I put my drawing in the top layer (of Manga Studio – although it works for PS as well). Then I set the blend mode of that layer to ‘multiply’ which allows all the white to act like it’s transparent and causes all the greys and blacks to ‘add’ their darkness to the layers below. This makes the normal black white and grey drawing act like it’s just the white has been erased without doing it. Hope that helps.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love how you explain things Jo…. you have a real talent doing that …just in case no one has mentioned that before.
    I started doing a acrylic this week of a flower arrangement but realized it should be done in watercolor …I am not that good in acrylics as yet. (Smile) I like the work of Linda Kemp. (semi-abstract both in acrylic and watercolor)

    it is funny that you have done this digital work because I was just thinking this week of doing the same thing. I have just downloaded a program called PD Howler 10 (on special on steam for about $20). Looks amazing for landscapes etc. I do have Paintshop and Corel Painter 9 but it’s been a while since I used them and have most probably forgotten how to now….LOL. I also have a Wacom tablet which I have not used in a while. (I buy a lot of stuff that I don’t use often….)
    I might check out that Manga Studio 5 you used.
    Love your work.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. wow, I especially like the raven!
    your drawing are fab too. this post is so well written and described Jo. I did absorb a couple things! I am the opposite tho, my mind crashes ….. at all the tech and it just boggles; knowing I’d get the thing done a heck of alot quicker painting by hand…. LOL I admire and respect your skills!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jo – after you get the drawing scanned and cleaned up, how do you get rid of the white?, Your shading in the gecko is very fine (as is mine when I draw).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yep, I like Manga Studio a lot. Although I have Photoshop 6.0 (which is old but was still V expensive) I prefer Manga Studio for most things. It doesn’t have the high end photo editing capability of Photoshop but it’s a superb painting and drawing tool. I found it pretty easy to pick up most of the basics. There are still capabilities in the software which I haven’t mastered and some which I’m still discovering. Generally though it’s faster and easier to use than Photoshop and gives me better line quality. I use it with a Wacom drawing tablet. Hope this helps!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very interesting post, Jo. It’s good to see your workflow. Do you enjoy using Manga Studio? I hope you don’t mind me asking but I almost invested in it last week when the cheaper version (Pro) was reduced.

    Liked by 1 person

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