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Digital Inking and Coloring
by TonchyZ


by Tonci Zonjic
[email protected] tonchyz.ice.org

Brief Contents:
- Introduction
- From a thumbnail to final pencils
- Preparing the pencils (inking)
- Coloring

Hello there. This tutorial basically shows how I work a picture out- from a thumbnail sketch to the final piece. The primary focus of this tutorial is inking and coloring, so conceptually and designwise it's a bit crappy. It'll do though. Time to start:


From thumbnail to final pencils
The first sketch was drawn in bed, few minutes before I fell asleep. It took about 15-20 seconds. That evening we had a paintchat session and did some evil proctologists- that's where the idea for this one came too, heh. The first sketch was about 3x4.5 inches big. It served its purpose - got down the main idea:

thumbnail sketch



Next step is to work it out larger. Sheet of 80g/m2 photocopy A4 (8.5''x11'') paper usually works good for me. For easier upsizing you can draw a grid over the thumbnail sketch (it's not cheating.). As you can see I had put up a vertical line and some horizontal ones to get the proportions rights. Made some changes to the posture and design along.

upsized sketch. a bit smaller than the full paper size


Penciling in progress. Remember to have various line widths to emphasise the volume. This can be added later while inking, but it's good to get a habit of doing that when penciling. Thicker lines in the front, thinner in the back. Atmospheric perspective on work. Also, don't be afraid to make mistakes (but don't go mad and scribble randomly either :). Working clean is very good but if you work without a lightbox, tracing the the new steps on new sheets, or inking manually and erasing the pencil underneath- things can get messy. Photoshop can clean most of the smudges and lighter lines with some fiddling on the Image > Adjustments > Levels ( Ctrl+L ). For other artifacts we use the eraser.

Tip: put a paper or a paper napkin under your hand to prevent smudging

penciling in progress



Finished pencils. Now, we have two options:
1) We can clean and touch up the scanned lines or
2) We can put that in a separate layer and redraw the whole mech
Both have certain advantages and disadvantages. The first one gives you a solid base to work over- sometimes the scan is good enough to require minimum work on it. On the other hand, sometimes it'll take you more time to clean up wobbly and gritty lines than to redraw the whole thing.

finished pencils

The whole process so far took somewhere around an hour. Lots of erasing took its toll :)

Preparing the scanned linework (inking)

This is what the final pencils look fullsized:


Technique 1)
Getting a clean look over a linework like this is not possible. So we start cleaning up. First thing to see is if we can get anywhere fiddling with levels, as I noted before. After that - the eraser tool. When we are finished with erasing and touching up some lines, we start coloring.


Technique 2)
No need to touch up the original scan, just make it a separate layer and drop down the opacity to 40-50%. In a new layer on top of that start drawing with pen tool/shape tool/small brushes. Whatever you like the most.

I decided to go with 1. Here's how that cropped part looked after I was finished with it:

After some two-three hours of inking joys the piece looked like this:

all cleaned up and ready for color



Ok. The drawing should be one layer, set to multiply. Underneath it you can have as many layers as you want. Combined with "preserve transparency" and masks, layers are extremely useful for rendering different sections. I started with a gradient in the background layer, and a big opaque color fill. Did it with big brushes, opacity dynamics turned off. Just plain opaque color. When the color is inside the lines, set the "preserve transparency" checkbox on for that layer. That way you can paint over it without worrying about the edges.

Gradient fill and the big section fill

Next I added a shadow (be sure to make it dark enough where the object touches the ground or it'll look like it's floating) and some light definition on the robot body. Big soft brushes used for both.

Now all that is left is to render the form due to defined lightsource. Not that it's an easy task sometimes. I used hard edged brushes, working in this size what you see as fullsize (accidentally saved the downscaled version over the original- don't let it happen to ya). Lots of colorpicking and warm colors added.

Tip: Keep a finger near the alt key at all times to colorpick

Here's some steps during the rendering process:

Finished image:

Photoshop tweaks and some details added after my friends commented:

The last few steps aren't really informative, I'm aware of that, but some other time I may be competent to explain everything I did. Why did I put the red blobs here, blue ones there? Why do the highlights look the way they look? Playing up the materials, texture. Most of that comes with experience and observation. Paint from life and keep looking at things. See how the light changes. Then you can apply it to your pics just like I did here. Still more to learn, of course. It's a life long pursuit. Anyway, I'm ramblin already :) Hope this 'tutorial' was fun and i'd be really glad if you learned something. Any comments, crits, praise, marriage proposals, reply below.

(c) TonchyZ / Lung_bug 2002


Thanks Tonchyz...I actually learned something there. I like robots, and that is one cool looking dude. Keep it up man.
If i ever get my hand to obey the commands i give it, this will be on my to-do list! thanks! :)
Thanks very much for that tutorial!
I've been looking everywhere for that type of thing and couldn't find.
Thanks! My appreciations.
I didn't see this kind of tutorial before, this is great!
Fucking fantastic!
Omg i am jealous on ur drawing skills :)
nice one dude - thx for the tips ...
Tutorial Thanx
A-fucking-mazing! You rule!
Well ,To HARD!
(technique 1)I can do erasing much faster than using eraser tool, just adjust "it", then you'll get it, HAHAHAHA!
(confused? don't be or must be!(hmm, or maybe you can do dat, but just ain't tell us?)
Pscyhonetic Dead
this image really sucks :-)


just kidding

p.s. samo ti završi za onaj natjeèaj
Love the site. Great tuts. Keep it up! :D
buzz saw
The buzz saw doesn't look anything like metal.
it's ok...
The dull grey works well for shadowing the lighter areas, but leaves the areas with larger shadows, especially in the middle of the peice, looking flat. For heavily shadowed places, I would go very dark, even black, with some small highlights slightly lighter than the grey.
Great job...
Just anything else, if you don't want to kick the "erase phase", there's a technique... when you make your draw, do it with a blue light pen... inking in black, then in photoshop just kick out the cyan layer... only black will rest... it's an easier way....

But one more, great job!
Great job...
Just anything else, if you want to kick the "erase phase", there's a technique... when you make your draw, do it with a blue light pen... inking in black, then in photoshop just kick out the cyan layer... only black will rest... it's an easier way....

But one more, great job!
awesome work, it looks great. Wish I had a couple of those things heh.