My Absolute Favorite Coloring Trick in Photoshop


In college, one of my illustration professors gave some advice that stuck with me:

“You can do anything with a really good drawing.”

That could not be more true! With an awesome drawing you could make a fantastic painting, a well-designed screen print, thorough plans for an amazing sculpture… and the list goes on and on.  There are even more possibilities to build upon a beautiful drawing after scanning it and making playful adjustments with digital tools.

Coloring with Photoshop “Channels”


I tend to work in black and white first, then scan my drawings and open them in Photoshop to experiment with color. You can use “channels” in Photoshop to fill any scanned black and white drawing with another color of your choice. The repeated self portrait at the top of this article shows what that can look like. Any black areas of a drawing are filled with a new color which you select, and then all the gradients moving closer to white use a lighter version of that same color. Channels are transparent, so you can also digitally color beneath them without covering up your drawing. The above animation shows how I experiment with digital coloring beneath transparent channels. I love that this technique preserves the textures I make on paper. Most of my digitally finished illustrations are made up of many drawing and texture channels with digital painting underneath. For the illustration below, I made and filled about 15 channels with various colors, then colored the layers beneath them.


“Beautiful Worlds” by Adriana Vawdrey (me) — this illustration is for sale in my print shop as a half or full image. 

How To Make Channels

If you would like to learn all the steps for making channels out of your drawing, check out the video below. You can get a very quick demo of how colors are layered by watching from 4:10 – 5:20.


This tool has become so important to my illustration process that I don’t know what I’d do without it. If you are interested in learning more basic tricks on Photoshop, I highly recommend testing it out! You’re likely to get as hooked as I am on these color experiments.

Have fun!




2 thoughts on “My Absolute Favorite Coloring Trick in Photoshop”

    1. Hi Holly! Thanks for your question. There is no reason you’d need to keep the channel unless you plan to experiment with it later within in the same file. Once you’ve put it onto a layer, the layer won’t disappear if you delete the channel. I usually delete unwanted layers and channels once I feel solid about my color choices.

      Have fun!


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