Could I do coloring similar to this image (especially the background city, water, cars, etc.), with a photoshop filter/action/color modification?

I'm a bit of a Photoshop noob and would love any insights or links to a tutorial (I'm not sure even how to properly describe this type of coloring technique - flat? muted? vintage? not sure... so I haven't had much luck searching). Thanks in advance.

enter image description here

  • Welcome devhead! I really don't want to come across as 'snarky' but have you tried simply searching for tutorials? Comic Book Coloring
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 4:59
  • Yes, i've looked into comic book coloring. I was just hoping there might be a filter I could use that would change the colors like that. Or perhaps adjusting the colors.
    – devhead
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 5:42
  • 4
    There's really no "filter" which will replace artistic talent.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 5:59
  • These are colors that the artist chose. There's no filter for that. Ya gotta go with your instinct and talents.
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 6:11

1 Answer 1


It is still common for comic artists to work as a team:

  • a penciler that sketches the rough outlines and basic contrast,
  • an inker that lays down lines and solid areas in the key color (usually black),
  • and a colorist that adds the remaining colors (including special foils for covers).

While it may be possible to achieve this effect with Photoshop's features, there isn't a catch-all plugin or solution for all photos.

To get the key color (black in your example foreground, a neutral gray in the background), you can try the Threshold adjustment, or desaturating and applying Levels (put the black and white inputs very close together), or perhaps a very steep curve via Curves. You may need another layer to fine-tune the border between black and white by brushing in soft overlay tones.

One problem you'll see is that inking also emphasizes outlines, but the above methods deal only with making shadows black. There are filters that can detect and emphasize edges, but they often finds more edges than your human eyes and experience consider relevant.

The colors will be more difficult. Comic coloring is heavily saturated and full of agreeable colors, while the real world varies greatly. You can try using another copy of the original photo to create regions of similar colors, perhaps by lassoing selections and using a Blur filter. Other ways to go about it are to use the Posterize adjustment or play with the Color Lookup adjustment.

Ultimately, there just isn't an easy substitute for drawing your own inks and painting your own colors.

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