Saturday, October 22, 2011

Harry Potter is Made of Lines

Graphite - Click to Enlarge
While I love to use many media (brush in ink, watercolor, Photoshop), what I find myself drawn to (PUN!) is simple pencil on paper.  There is something about the feel of the graphite breaking down on the fiber of the paper that is absolutely comforting.  It probably comes down to the fact that pencil is the medium I have used more than any other for my entire life.  While I have certainly come to love the spontaneity of watercolors, the boldness of ink, and the seemingly limitless potential of Photoshop, putting pencil to paper is like coming home.  It is comfortable, and I can apply the lead without fear of losing control or making an irreparable mistake.

Fearless, I can dig in with my million little lines.  I used to try to smudge my lines away to create sleek tones, somehow thinking that belief in a 2-D reality had a direct correlation to drawing realistically.  Now, I am making a concerted effort to let the lines shine.  The tiny hatches and visible paper fibers can do just as much to create a reality as the most
labored/photo-realistic drawing.

Graphite with Photoshop - Click to Enlarge
So what next?

I've been playing with the next step off and on for years (the first time being for a close-call picture book submission - post to come).  How do I add color to my drawing?

In Photoshop, there are many different ways to go about this.  You could paint right over your drawing, using it like an under-painting.  You can set your drawing layer to multiply and color it like you would a coloring book.  This is a great technique for comic book style illustrations.  There are countless other ways, I'm sure (feel free to add them to our comments section).  The problem I have found is that my darling little pencil lines end up washed out or completely obscured.  And I love my pencil lines.  They are my home.

What I have been playing with recently is using the selection and colorize tools as my primary coloring device.  I used the lasso to select specific areas of the sketch (hair, hood, shoes, etc.) copy/pasted them to new layers, and colorized them.  This way, instead of color on top of or behind my pencil sketch, I am actually changing the color of my original grey work - preserving what I loved about the drawing while adding color.

I did have to monitor the contrast of the drawing as I worked.  The art became washed out at points, but the fixes were easy.  I could either adjust my levels to bring the punch back to the piece, or I just hit small areas with the dodge/burn tool.  I did feel that the highlights of the original piece got lost in the digital color.  You can see that I added new highlights to the piece, being sure that my marks fit in with the style of the original sketch.

Ultimately, this is the best technique I have been able to find to preserve the feel of my line drawings while bringing them into a colorized world.  I am using it for a picture book project that I am putting together (sketches to come).  Give it a shot.


  1. Looks great Kev. I've been coloring a lot of my inks lately in photoshop, you get a real nice effect.

  2. Thanks brother. Can't wait to see your new work. Bon chance on your travels.