I want to color sketches in Photoshop, but when I prepared the sketch (using Levels, Hue, and other modifications) to turn it into workable line art, some details were missing. I think it depends on how you draw your sketch.

What are important steps for drawing a sketch (with pen or pencil) that is to be colored in Photoshop? A step-by-step instruction would be appreciated.

For instance, here it is the sketch

This is after my preparations in Photoshop enter image description here

  • Typically you drop the opacity of your sketch layer and draw clean lines on top of it in a new layer. Although, if you are planning to paint it, it might be useless to draw the clean lines. Because depending on the style, you might be painting over the lines anyways.
    – Joonas
    Nov 9, 2014 at 11:38
  • 1
    Traditionally, you'd place a piece of vellum over the sketch and refine it with pen and ink/marker before scanning it.
    – Scott
    Nov 9, 2014 at 13:22
  • actually I want clean lines , but not by drawing lines again Nov 10, 2014 at 5:27
  • 2
    Whether or not you should go with a line drawing depends on what you are going for. There are so many styles you could go for... Still, I felt that I should try to explain why I personally would not even bother with it. So here's a time-lapse video of me painting that pier looking thing ( That's how I saw it anyways... ). Since I paint so heavily on top of the sketch, the line drawing would just be extra work that isn't needed. I didn't finish it cause I got a huge headache while painting that, so I figured that would be enough.
    – Joonas
    Nov 10, 2014 at 20:01
  • 1
    There aren't many options if you want the line art, but you don't actually want to draw it. A popular method for coloring large areas when painting with similar style to what I was using in the video, is to use Polygonal lasso tool. Make a selection with polygonal lasso tool, fill it with color, continue painting and refining it. In this drawing I would perhaps only use that for the background, if I were to paint the whole bg as well. The pier itself is too detailed for lasso tool in my opinion. It's faster to just brush over the lines like I'm 3 years old again.
    – Joonas
    Nov 12, 2014 at 16:21

3 Answers 3


Are you scanning your sketches? Your scanner may be able to reduce some of the extraneous noise and provide you with clean line art. Failing that, I'd recommend using a Levels adjustment layer. I was able to do this in a few minutes with levels and a quick mask with the magnetic lasso:

enter image description here

  • It is still a sketch.
    – Joonas
    Nov 12, 2014 at 14:52

If you're looking at the left side wood grains and how those disappear, your best bet is retracing those on the sketch itself. If the sketch is not available, or you just really refuse to do it, back off the contrast and zoom in and use your favorite tools to cut out or trace them by hand in-program.


If your photo or scan of a sketch with clear lines is unevenly lighted, just applying Levels will never get you the desired result. It'll always be a compromise between noise, leftover shading and losing lines.

First, pick a color channel with the least noise. Blue usually has the lowest quality. Green is often the best. Copy the color channel into a new document.

Then follow these steps (numbers are provided for your image, adjust as needed):

  1. Duplicate layer — "paper" layer
  2. Median (2 pixels) — to remove small noise, depends on image resolution and noise
  3. Maximum (10 pixels) — to remove lines, adjust until you see almost all lines disappear
  4. If there're some shaded areas, use Spot Healing Brush to clean up
  5. Gaussian Blue (15 pixels) — to clean up circles/squares, range bigger than used in Maximum
  6. Invert colors, then set layer blending mode to Liner Dodge (Add) — to subtract the paper from the source
  7. Levels (65 to 235) — to remove noise and increase contrast


Notice that there's no paper texture left, unlike in your result, and no lines became too light, unlike in KJP's result.

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