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Quick Painting Tips in Photoshop

If you're finding yourself coloring a lot of artwork in Photoshop, there are a handful of tricks that'll help speed up the process. I've been coloring my own scanned artwork in Photoshop for years, and have found a few handy ways to speed things up.

Let's take a look:

Tip 1 - Image Clean Up

The first thing I do as soon as I get a scanned piece of artwork into Photoshop is to clean it up. For me, this includes using the Eraser tool to get rid of any left over pencil lines, debris, or elements of the artwork that I feel aren't really working. Another procedure that I run through is using Photoshop's Curves command (Image > Adjustments > Curves), with the intention of getting dark, solid blacks and clean bright whites as best I can. There's really no craftsmanship or technique here; instead I simply fiddle around until I achieve what I'm after.

Tip 2 - Set-Up the Layers Panel

Once things are cleaned up and looking good, the next step is to set up the Layers panel for painting. I've tried tons of different ways to go about painting artwork in Photoshop, and the best technique that I've found is to isolate the black lines of your artwork on one layer, and set up a second layer for your color. To get yourself set up like this, double click on the Background layer and rename it "Artwork" or "Lineart." Next, create a new Layer for your color, and move it beneath your artwork layer. Finally, set the blending mode of your artwork layer to Multiply and lock it down.


With the blending mode set to Multiply, the solid blacks and whites of your artwork will be maintained, yet the paint that we'll throw down in the Color layer will show through only in the white areas. Make sure to select the Color layer, and now you're ready to paint.

Tip 3 - Know your Shortcuts

Painting artwork in Photoshop is a lot of fun, and it's even more fun when you can speed things up and do it quickly. Here's a handful of techniques to help you along. First, grab your Brush tool from the toolbox by hitting the "B" key on your keyboard. Next, grab a color either from the Swatches panel, or by clicking on the Foreground or Background color swatches at the bottom of the Toolbox to use Photoshop's Color Picker to set a color.


Next, start painting! And as you're painting, remember these shortcuts: To increase or decrease the size of your brush, use the open and close square bracket keys -- [ ] -- on your keyboard (just to the right of the "P" key). To increase or decrease the softness of your brush, hold down Shift and tap your open and close square bracket keys. Also, you can paint a little faster by loading in two colors into the Foreground or Background color swatches at the bottom of the Toolbox and then switching between them by tapping your "X" key.

Painting in Photoshop is a lot of fun, and I hope these techniques will help you work much faster the next time you find yourself coloring your artwork!

Handy tip? Got something to add or ask? Leave us a comment below!

Geoff Blake

Geoff Blake | Articles by this author

Geoff Blake is a book author, video presenter, designer, and visual artist. As an in demand live-on-stage software educator since 1997, Geoff has taught desktop publishing, web design and graphics courses all over North America and is regarded as an expert in Adobe's Creative Suite applications, as well as in HTML, CSS, WordPress, and related technologies. With his humorous, non-jargonny approach, Geoff produces highly regarded articles, video training and DVDs, and regularly contributes to top industry magazines and websites.

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