DISCLAIMER: There are five trillion ways to color stuff in Photoshop. This is just my way of doing it. If you don't like my ways, then perhaps we should rumble! @.@

Step 1: Draw a picture and scan it in!

Scan your drawing into Photoshop as a black & white (grayscale) image. I recommend scanning it at 300 or 350dpi, that way it's nice and big. You'd rather have an image that's too big than not big enough, because you can always shrink it down. Once it's scanned, then save it as a Photoshop (.psd) document.

At this point it's a good idea to save a separate Photoshop document to work in, so that you can keep a copy of the original scan just in case you mess up bigtime and need to start over from scratch. I always call my original file "originalscan.psd" and the working file "working_drawingname.psd."

It's always a good idea to save after every step or two. You never know when Photoshop's gonna freeze up or unexpectedly close and send you into a berserker rage.


Step 2: Make adjustments

Open your working document (the one you're going to color in) and go to the "Image" menu, to "Adjustments," and then "Brightness & Contrast." Adjust the contrast to something like 40 -- whatever looks good and solid to you. The object is to make the blacks solid and the whites white. You can see from my original drawing (above in Step 1) that the background white isn't quite an exact white. After making this adjustment, go to the "Image" menu to "Mode" to "RGB," and make sure you don't flatten your image. This will change the document to RGB color format instead of black & white. If you need to switch your drawing to CMYK format later on for printing purposes, you can do that very easily -- but if you're planning on posting anything online, you'll want to use RGB.

Now go over to your layers window and where that little arrow is go to "Duplicate Layer." This will let you create a new layer above your original layer (go ahead name the layer coloring layer if you want to). Now, with your new layer selected in the Layers window, you should see a little scroll-down bar that's probably on "Normal" -- you want to move that to "Multiply." This will make it so that you can color on this layer, but the black from the original lower layer will still show through.


Step 3: Lay down your base colors

Photoshop Tip: If you want to select multiple areas at one time while using the magic wand tool, hold down the SHIFT key. You don't have to keep holding SHIFT down - just hold it down when selecting a new area to add to the others.

Use the new "Multiply" layer to fill in your basic areas of color. I would recommend the Select, Fill & Fix method. On the original lower layer, select an area of your drawing with the magic wand tool, then (keeping the area selected) click on your new layer, ie. the coloring layer. You can now click on "Edit" and then "Fill" and the selected area will fill with whatever color you currently have selected. Then you can zoom in and use the brush tool to fix the details, or to get areas that the magic wand missed.

You can also just use the brush tool and paint it in that way. Make sure you're coloring on the correct layer; don't color on your original bottom layer.


Step 4: The Shadow Layer!

Sounds pretty menacing, huh? So now open a new layer (go to the Layers window and click on the arrow to get a new layer - This will be a "Normal" layer, so you don't need to choose "Multiply"). I call this one "the shadow layer."

After creating this new shadow layer, go click on the original bottom layer of your drawing, and use the magic wand tool to select the things you don't want shadowed. For example, in my Grievous drawing, I selected his eyes and the white background. Then click on your new shadow layer (which should be above the color layer) and in the menu go to "Select" to "Inverse." Now make sure you have black (or a dark color of your choosing) in your top color box and go "Edit" to "Fill" and that should give you a nice layer of black, like the example shown above.


Step 5: Adjust the opacity

You want to be able to see what you're doing, so adjust the opacity of your shadow layer -- Try moving it to 70% or somewhere in that neighborhood. You should see a sliding scale in the Layers window that allows you to do this.


Step 6: Show us the light!

Now, using the lasso tool or the eraser tool -- whichever you're comfortable with -- delete the areas of your shadow layer that represent light. Think of where your light source is, and imagine where light would be hitting your character(s). In my Grievous example, I placed the light source below and in front of him, as if he were standing over a lightsaber or a glowing ship console.

I like the sharp, animation-cell style of coloring, with dramatic differences between light and shadow. It's fun for me, plus I kind of like the cartooniness of it. Play around and see what style fits you -- You may want to try softer brushes to get a more gradual change. There are no rules. Just mess around and have fun with it. The beauty of Photoshop is you can make no mistakes; if you don't like something, just click on "Edit" and go to "Step Backwards."


Step 7: Adjust the opacity again, if ya want

Once you're done erasing the light spots, you may want to adjust the opacity again. For the Grievous example above, I dropped my shadow layer to Opacity 40%. This part's totally up to you though - play around and see what looks good. Your opacity levels will determine the over all mood of the picture.


Step 8: Additional Shadow Layers

Now you have three layers: the original drawing on the bottom, the color layer in the middle, and the shadow layer on the top. You'll probably want to go in and add some additional shadow layers. For example, you may want to create a new layer for additional shadows on a character's face, or maybe to show some extra darkness in their clothing.

To do this, create a new layer (at the top of your Layers window) and use the same method as described in Steps 4 through 7. The only difference is you may want to use your magic wand tool to directly select the individual areas instead of using that "Inverse" method I talked about in Step 4.

As you can see from the example above, I added in some additional shadow layers to give Grievous' armor and cloak a little more depth. Again, you want to keep in mind where your light source is, and delete shadows from the areas you imagine the light would be hitting.


Step 9: Final touches

At this point, see if there's anything else you want to add, and if so, create a new layer (or two, or three) and add 'em in. With this Grievous image I decided to add some details to his eyes and the skin around them. It's something you might not even consciously notice, but it's the little stuff that counts, right? I just used the paintbrush tool and played with the opacity levels.

Finally, when you decide your picture is done, click on "Save."

If you want to post your image online, you'll probably want to shrink it down a bit before saving it as a JPEG. Go to "Layer" in the menu and scroll down to "Flatten Image." Then go to "Image" in the menu and scroll to "Image Size," and this is where you can adjust the resolution (dpi) and height & width (you probably don't want to post something that's more than 600 pixels wide -- I usually post my stuff at 400 pixels wide, and I usually lower the resolution to 150 to keep the file size down). At this point you can do a "Save As" and save it as a JPEG or whatever file type you want. Just make sure you don't click "Save" (different from "Save As") after you've flattened your file, because then all of your layers will be gone and you'll be stuck with what you have.


Step 10: Rejoice!!!

You now have an awesome picture that everyone will love and worship. Print up a copy for all your friends and family members! Send it in an email to everyone you know!! Rest easy, knowing that you have contributed to artistic culture.