Recently I have been asked how I transform a hand drawn sketch in to a digital piece of artwork. So here I will show you my method of how I remove the background, choosing the colour palette, re-colour the line work, add the block colours and shading, plus finalising the illustration.
I always start of with the traditional method of old school pencil and paper. I usually work on A3 paper as most of my work has a lot of detail which would be difficult to capture if I was working on anything smaller, plus the work looks much better when reduced and resized. I’ve found working with graphite pencils to be more effective compared to ink when it comes to shading and I usually only use the HB to B6 pencil grades as I found any lighter than a HB will not be picked up by my scanner even when I increase the contrast and lightness, other scanners might work better so I guess this part is trail and error.
Once I’ve scanned the artwork and saved as a PDF, I take the artwork into Photoshop where I make any alterations such as: removing marks and specks, edit and/ or add and remove parts. Then I create a copy of the work and use the channels to select and convert my artwork to a one colour image inclusive of lines and shading with the background (white paper) removed. I’ve found a great YouTube tutorial that covers this process:
PENCIL SKETCH TO COLOURED LINE ART
I know, they both look quite rough at the moment, but bear with me! The first one is the original pencil sketch and the second is the Photoshop version where I have used the process in the YouTube link above. This process leaves the artwork with a transparent background, I have added a white background layer here which can be removed or coloured, and the line art is a shade of blue/ grey being as this illustration will be depicting a winters night, but you can have any colour you like. I will be using a cool colour palette to reflect and reinforce this winter’s night scene. I downloaded the colours from this site, it’s great for reference images and there is a lot of colour swatches on there too.
COLOURING THE ARTWORK
Now that I’ve got the sketch converted to a line art image with a transparent background, I can save it as a PDF which will then be ready to place into my book template. The template is another PSD file (Photoshop) that is the same size as the children’s book that I’m working on but in a double page spread layout with a 3mm bleed area. This helps me to make sure that once the artwork is complete, it will be the right size, resolution, colour space, and the important parts of the illustration will be within the safe area, plus allowing room for the body of text that will accompany it. Now it’s time for the colouring part, this is were I use those colour swatches that I mentioned earlier!
Both of these palettes are relatively the same. The second lot of swatches are variant colours but slightly darker or lighter than the first lot. I tend to stick with the same hues to keep continuity and harmony through out the same children’s book illustrations – it’s kind of like their brand colours, I tend to adjust the shades and opacity to suit depending on what looks right once the colouring part is complete.
My first step in colouring this image, is to add the pattern for the wall paper and a background colour. Being as this is a winter’s night scene, I will use a blue tone background layer, so basically everything including the white parts will have a blue tone to them – just like night time.
Adding the coffee paper usually alters the tonal values of the colours. I have set my layer to “Overlay” in the blending mode and the opacity to 32% which brings out more of the texture and colour of the coffee paper, but “Soft Light” tends to tones things down plus you can alter the opacity, so you get a more of subtle effect. It’s not necessary to add it, but I like the effect. I downloaded mine from
Anyway, I hope you’ve found my process and links useful!