This tutorial has several lineart tips I’ve learned during my time as a digital artist.
I hope they’re helpful to you =3!

Basic tools needed:

  • scanner
  • inking device and/or graphic tablet
  • Photoshop or a similar image editing software (I haven’t tested this tutorial on anything other than Photoshop, though)

1. Sketch

First we need a sketch to work on.
Mine is this one at the left. It was drawn in Photoshop with a tablet, but you can use a hand-drawn one too.

Whatever your sketch might be, make sure the proportions are right and everything looks ok. Now you can proceed to do your lineart.

2.1 Lineart by Hand

You can do this in many different ways:

  • Eyeballing: looking at your messy sketch, on a separate piece of paper to try to reproduce it with clean lines.
  • Inking and erasing:  grab a fineliner or any other inking device you have (like a pen nib, a thin brush or even a ballpoint pen), draw the final lines over the sketch and then erase the pencils
  • Inking without erasing: this works if your sketch was drawn (or printed) in a color, like blue, red, pink, magenta, etc. You just ink over it like in the previous method and trust Photoshop to get rid of the color sketch later.
  • Tracing: My personal favorite! You grab your sketch and put a clean piece of paper on top of it. Using your window, your computer  or TV screen (CTR only!), your living room’s glass coffee table with a light underneath or an always useful lightbox or light table; you trace over your sketch with clean lines. You can either trace with graphite  or with any other inking device like on the other methods. Thing is, you don’t have to erase a thing (most of the time), and you don’t have to get rid of the original sketch under the lineart. Well, you do waste an extra sheet of paper, though.

2.1.1 Lineart preparation.

Now that you have your hand drawn lineart in your hands, you need to scan it and get it ready to color!

First thing first, scan it at least at 300 DPI. 400-600 or more DPI is best, though.

Secondly, adjust the levels of your scanned image.
In Photoshop, this is done hitting Ctrl+L or going to the menu Image> Adjustments> Levels

This will open a window like this:

Now, do you see the eyedropper tools on the right? The right one and the left one are the useful ones!

They serve the purpose of establishing what’s supposed to be pure white and what’s supposed to be pure black on our picture.

Here’s how it works:

First you click on the one at the right, the one with white “content”, and you click on you picture where it’s supposed to be pure white. This will change how your picture looks like.

Now you click on the one at the left, the one with black “content”, and you click on a black part of your picture (I clicked on Vinca’s eyes here, but you can’t see them on the example >>; )

Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with levels anymore after doing that. Once you’re done, and if you’re not trying to remove the colored sketch from under your lineart, you can desaturate your picture by pressing Ctrl+Shift+U, or going to the menu Image>Adjustments>Desaturate

Now my image looks like this:

Now, if you’re removing the colored sketch from behind the lines, you should go to your Channels window (Window>Channels) and get rid of the green channel.

Now you’ll see the image becomes of two colors: one for the lineart and one for the sketch. You have to get rid of one of the remaining channels in order to preserve the lineart only! If it doesn’t work, try deleting the Red or Blue channel first instead of the green one. Once you’re done, go to Image>Mode>Grayscale and the to Image>Mode>RGB. And you’re done =D

2.2.2 Cleaning the Lineart

Mow comes the boring part. no matter how much you played with levels and channels, you STILL have to do some manual cleaning.
Pick your mouse or Graphic Tablet, a normal round brush with Black and White, and start fixing things Dx;

After cleaning and fixing stuff for a (awfully long Dx) while, I ended up with a clean lineart ready to start the coloring!

(feel free to download it and color it as you please)

This is not my favorite way of doing things, though I used it a lot for a while… I’m too messy when I draw/ink by hand!

2.2 Digital Lineart

Now, for people with a bad inking hand, you can attempt to do the lineart digitally.

Sice I’m using Photoshop, the only method I’ll be covering is the freehand drawing one, but not the pen tool method. You can find it in my gallery of Old DeviantART tutorials.
There are other methods in other programs, though. If you have access to them, Corel Painter, SAI and Open Canvas are better for drawing linearts freehandedly than Photoshop (I’m not sure why), and SAI is great for vector lineart as well (better than Photoshop’s ever-so-abused Pen Tool!).

2.2.1 Preparations

I have my blue sketch opened. Make sure your sketch is of one color and not black or gray! This will help with the lineart process!
If you want to change your sketch’s color, press Ctrl+U or go to Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation.

Check the colorize checkbox and move the handles around until you get a nice, non-invasive color. A light blue works perfect for this =3

Now, make a new layer for the lineart. You can do this by either pressing Ctrl+Shift+N or opening th Layers tab (F7 or Window>Laers) and clicking on the little blank page icon.
Name it something like “Lineart”, so you don’t forget what is it!

Now, there are two ways of doing the lineart on this new layer: Freehand and vector. I’ll over the freehand one :3

2.2.2 Freehand Lineart

(no example images, sorry DX; it was kind of time consuming to do the other one ._. *excusesexcuses*)

You need a graphic tablet to do this one, or a *really* steady hand with a mouse.

First, pick a brush. I personally use a round 3 pixels wide one, switching to a wider one sometimes.

Now just draw! And that’s it! xD
If you’re unsure about screwing certain parts of the lineart when drawing, you can make new layers for each element, and then combine them; for example: one layer for the skin, one for the hair and one for the clothes.

When drawing like this, you’ll often have to redraw each line several times, because it just won’t fall in the right place, so Ctrl+Z (undo) is your friend!

Now, some little tricks I use:

1. Set your lineart layer to Multiply instead of normal. Now, instead to switch to the eraser every time you want to erase something, press X and switch to white, which is transparent when a layer is in Multiply mode. Pressing X again will switch back to black to continue drawing. This is useful for correcting small line mistakes.

2. Add width to your lines by drawing with a big brush first and then erasing parts of it with a smaller brush (or using less pressure when drawing).

3. Mind the pointy-ness! When you’re drawing pointy things, like corners or hair strands, make sure the tips look pointy and don’t form crosses or Xs!

4. Make bolder lines where some things overlap others, so you can tell what is on top of  or over what. For example, the bangs fall over the face, or the shirt is on top of the pants on the waist area, etc. This adds slight depth to your lineart.

5. Detailing is good, but don’t over do it! Adding little extra folds, hair strands or accessories here and there is a nice touch, but don’t overdo it unless you know exactly what you’re doing, otherwise it’d look weird.