Edit Art in Photoshop

Remove a background from a drawing in Photoshop.

In this tutorial I shall share a simple, but effective method on how to remove backgrounds and colour line art, plus I have added a short video clip of my colouring process on how layers build up to the final, finished piece.

Just like any process, there are several ways of doing things, but for me this one has always done the job for simple link art sketches, plus it also allows me to do a couple of things:

1. Remove the background completely, leaving me a blank/ transparent finish which I can either save as a png file or add a new layer of colour.

2. Not only does this process remove the background, but it also gives me the opportunity to change the colour of the line art.

Removing a background and colouring line art in Photoshop

STEP 1: Scan the artwork in greyscale mode at 300dpi then open in Photoshop for editing. The editing part involves removing any specs of dust, shadow etc (you are aiming for a clean and clear image to work with. Anything including specs will show up and could be a problem later on).

STEP 2: I usually adjust the tone, contrast and colour after cleaning and editing, but I find sometimes pencil sketches need a little boost, so I increase the darkness of the lines by using the “levels” (keyboard shortcut: Ctrl +L).

STEP 3: Create a copy or duplicate of the artwork, then go to the “channels” panel. Using your Ctrl key and left mouse button, select the top RGB channel. As shown in the sample image below this will select your artwork (this looks like “dancing ants”).

STEP 4: With the artwork still selected, go back to your “layers” panel and create a new layer above the original and copy layer that you created earlier. With the new layer selected, chose a colour for your line art (I’ve chosen dark green in my sample image, but you can chose any colour). Using the “bucket” tool, fill your line art. Once done, deselect your artwork by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + D.

STEP 5: Once you have deselected the artwork, either delete the other two layers or “toggle off” (toggle is terminology for the eye feature on the layer). This will leave you with the new layer of coloured line art and a transparent background or you can add a coloured background as shown in the sample below.

Colouring process using Photoshop

Once you have the background removed and your artwork edited, it’s ready for colouring. Here’s a little process video of the finished work.

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