As you may or may not know, one of the exclusive goodies I offer my Patreon patrons is 1-3 coloring pages each month (depending on their chosen rewards tier). I love being able to provide interactive artwork to the folks who enable me to continue to afford art-making in the expensive city of Los Angeles.
Coloring pages can be great for some relaxation time, after all— Hence all of the adult coloring books that have been published recently. If you love to play with color but find the thought of drawing to be vaguely mortifying, it’s great to have someone else's clean lines to work with.
I'm guessing if you decided to check out this blog post you're interested in trying to make your own coloring pages. High-five to that! They can make great gifts for coworkers, little cousins-- even yourself (Yeah, you. You deserve fun things!). Here's an idea: Why not try drawing a birthday card that the lucky recipient can color after they've read your sweet birthday wishes?
I’ve included some tips below for making your own coloring pages digitally or by scanning a traditional drawing, so you can give this a whirl.
. . . And don't worry-- If you don't have a fancy tablet, there are some techniques in here just for you.
What makes a good coloring page?
Artists approach drawing for coloring pages in many different ways. Browse some examples to get a feel for the options! There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but I recommend considering these suggestions:
- Create closed, simple shapes – It’s easier for people to understand the forms in your composition if you use closed, simple shapes instead of making marks everywhere. Consider how you can simplify the image into general shapes.
- Use varying line widths – When you have a busy composition, it can be hard to tell one form from another or see which forms are in front of others. Varying your line width can help people distinguish one object from another or create a sense of depth. Try using thicker lines for objects in the front (if applicable) and thinner lines for ones in the background. Another option is to use thick lines for outlines and thin lines for inner/surface details.
- Incorporate shapes of different sizes – Have you ever looked at an adult coloring book and thought “Woah, that’s way too complicated!” because the shapes were really small? Consider keeping things interesting and easygoing by including shapes of many different sizes. This will also help to ensure that whoever will be enjoying your coloring page won’t have to worry about using tools that will be too large (e.g., markers with tips that are too big to stay inside the lines of tiny shapes).
Before you start (Important reminder!)
If you want your coloring page to print well, you need to make sure that the digital file has a resolution of 300dpi. That means you need start with a digital canvas that is 300dpi or higher and/or you need to scan your traditional drawing at 300dpi or higher. If you try to increase the resolution mid-process or after you finish working on it digitally, your line quality will decrease. This will also happen if you try to increase the image size.
If you aren't sure how to check/adjust your resolution, do a quick search online for instructions that pertain to the software you're using. For Photoshop users: You're looking for 'Image Size...' in the 'Image' menu. You can also set the dpi when you create a new image/canvas.
An added note: You can use a traditional drawing if you don't have a scanner. You just need to make sure you're using a quality camera and be mindful of lighting. Try to photograph your drawing in even, natural light. If you hang the drawing or photograph it directly from above, you'll reduce the distortion caused by photographing at an angle.
Creating a digital coloring page
If you have software like Photoshop or an app like Procreate, you can easily create a very clean coloring page for printing or digital coloring! You can make a sketch on one layer and then draw black lines on another layer once you have your composition planned out. The key is to use a hard, opaque brush for your lines, so they will be crisp and clean. I enjoy using a brush that has a little bit of texture along the edges, but a basic round brush works just as well. Try experimenting with different brush options to find what you like best.
Creating a traditional drawing and converting it to a coloring page with digital tools
You can create a clean coloring page from a scanned drawing if you prefer to draw with traditional tools or don’t have a tablet. The key with this method is usually to make a traditional drawing with bold lines (Markers or felt tip pens are best), so the scan will be clear. Of course there are a ton of different methods you can use to work with your drawing once it has been scanned.
Remember to scan at a high resolution if you want a print-quality coloring page (300dpi)!
Consider some of these methods for converting your drawing to a finished coloring page:
- Use a pen tool to trace your drawing – This is one way to create clean lines without a tablet.
- Use the live trace tool in Adobe Illustrator – This tool converts raster images to vectors, which can be sized up without losing quality. You can select the ‘black and white’ setting to get a clean black and white image for coloring. You might lose some detail, and it may not work well if you have a low-quality scan, but it may be worth trying if you have Illustrator.
- Adjust the levels/contrast on your scan to convert it to a clean black and white line drawing – This can be a bit tricky, especially if your scan has leftover pencil marks or you’ve used textured paper. You will probably have to use a brush tool to remove stray markings, but if you make these adjustments you should be able to get a pretty good image.
Please do share your coloring pages with me if you find these tips helpful. I’d love to see what you’ve made.
If you’re interested in snagging some coloring pages I’ve made in the past and receiving new ones each month, check out my Patreon page here.
Best wishes for happy coloring!