Thanks go out to Emilio J Lopez for this tutorial. See more of his work at http://e-mann.deviantart.com/
Step 1 – Map your ideas
The first thing you want to do is design your comic character – in this case a comic heroine. One rule to remember is that audiences should be able to recognise the character even if they are in silhouette. If the character has any logos or symbols, you should include them in your design.
Step 2 – Make thumbnails
Make multiple drawings before settling on any one composition. Use the default round brush with Shape Dynamics and Transfer turned on. Set the control options to Pen Pressure. This will enable you to create thick, thin, light and opaque lines, which is great for sketching.
Step 3 – Finish the sketch
Once you’ve settled on a thumbnail concept you like, you can start to refine your sketch. Use multiple layers to separate drawn elements, for example in the foreground, midground, background and other elements such as the visor of your heroine’s helmet. This will help you organise your applications at a later stage.
Step 4 – Magic wand colour fill
Make sure to lock the opacity of each of your drawn layers. Each drawn layer should have its own colour layer underneath. Now select the Magic Wand tool and turn off Anti-Aliasing. Set this tool to Contiguous and Sample All Layers. Select the empty area around your line art and hit Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+I, inverting your selection. Next choose Select>Modify>Constrict, repeating application until the selection inside of the edges of your line art. Hit Opt/Alt+Delete to fill the image.
Step 5 – Make more fills
Now the image is filled, lock the opacity of its colour layer. Use the Magic Wand tool to select inside of the line art. Once selected, go to Select>Modify>Expand. Sometimes because of unclosed or incomplete line art, the Magic Wand will bleed out into areas you don’t want to colour. You can clean up your flat colour areas by using the Lasso tool. It can also be used to apply flat colours and detail areas. You can use this tool to target the areas you want to select. When using the Lasso tool, deactivate anti-aliasing.
Step 6 – Select with the Lasso
There are two types of Lasso tool controls: freehand and Polygonal. Use the Polygonal lasso to apply straight edges, to areas such as the flame jets coming from her feet and her trail, which signify momentum. Use the freehand Lasso to make selections of oval or rounded shapes like the lips or eyes. You can toggle between them while applying live by holding the Opt/Alt key. Release the mouse button or lift your stylus pen off the tablet surface.
Step 7 – Colour holding
Using the techniques we have just explained, continue to apply selections and flat colour throughout the image (see the supplied example). Once flat colours are applied duplicate these and the line art. Once we have done this we’ll make sure that our line art’s transparency is locked and proceed with colouring in the lines of the line art. This is referred to as a colour hold or self line. When our colour holds are complete, merge your copied line art with these new coloured layers, with the exception of the visor.
Step 8 – Background painting
At this point it’s time to hide all your foreground layers expect your background layer. Painting the background before any other special or rendering effects helps, as this is the focal point for lighting in your character. Paint to the background using your preset Photoshop brushes. First, select the Round Fan Stiff Thin Bristles brush. In the brush options, activate Shape Dynamics, Transfer and Wet Edges. Set the Control Options to Pen Pressure. This gives you a more natural painted look.
Step 9 – Review your progress
Start by selecting your flattened character colour layer. Use chalk brushes to lay down the first indication of light and shadow in the contours of your character. Try to work with the whole figure at once, to get a full sense of the lighting in your piece.