Step by step Photoshop coloring method using halftones.

I am making a step by step process of coloring my line work, starting now, so this may take a while! Hopefully this may help someone.

You need your artwork to be at the printing size you want on the tshirt. My image size here is 12x19 inches at 300 dpi.
As shown, you need to have your line work on a layer by itself. Note that only black is present on the layer, no white or any other color.
If you draw scan your artwork in, you can use the super handy photoshop action here:

Running this action will give you a layer that isolates your art on a separate transparent layer, like in the picture above.

Step 2.

Ok your linework is isolated without any colors.
In your layers palette, click on the new layer button, and make sure you drag it below your layer with your linework.
Now select a neutral gray color in your color picker and press ctrl+backspace (you can also use the paint bucket tool) to fill the entire layer you just created with the gray color.

Step 3.

In this stage I am going to add my highlights to my image. I am not concerned with colors yet, because getting the values right is more important.
First, create a new layer right above the gray layer.
Click on the layer to make it active. Now choose black in your color picker. Next in the brush setting make sure your opacity is set to around 15 percent.

Ok start painting the highlights in.
Even though it looks like i am painting shadows, these will actually be highlights where the light is hitting. For the sake of the tutorial, i'll just do the fox and surrounding area.
With the low brush opacity, you will be able to layer the brush strokes so that you get a pretty smooth tone.

Step 5: halftoning

Ok now I am ready to turn my highlights into halftones.
First hold down ctrl and click on the thumbnail of the layer that you just painted on. You should get the "marching ants" showing that you have made a slection.
With the selection still active, open your channel palette and make a new channel. rename it to "highlights"

Press alt + backspace to fill the slection with white. Now deselect everything by pressing control+d. Go to filter-pixilate-color halftone.

Put in the settings as shown. a bigger max radius makes your halftone dots bigger. I like around 7 or 8 at this size.

Now you should have a set of halftone dots on the "highlights" channel.

Step 6

Click the top channel's eye to make all the rgb or cmyk channels visible. Click the eye of the highlights channel to hide it.
Next go to the layers palette (f7)
Step 7

now make a new empty layer above the layer you painted, and delete the layer you painted.

Step 8

Go to select, load selection, and click on the channel you created in the drop down menu

Step 9
pick a color you want to use for your highlights, and press ctrl+backspace to fill your selection with it.
Step 10

Halftones are now done. The process is the same for the shadows. Underneath the linework, highlight and shadow layers you can paint your other colors.

and thats it, if anyone has questions, feel free to post.

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Wow this is a great blog idea. Do you know if it would be a similar process in photoshop elements?

ndstillie profile pic Alumni

should be quite similar, im not totally sure on that though.


awesome, i'll keep an eye on this blog and try it out. Thanks for doing this.

Steve The Great

wow this is sweet. I should use it one day!


ndstillie profile pic Alumni

all done!

jess4002 profile pic Alumni

neat! very, very helpful blog for photoshop users. great job, nathan! i know that linework blog from stickymike is helpful, but for your artwork, did you draw/ink it with certain pencils/pens?

ndstillie profile pic Alumni

My favorite pencils are the cheapest bic .7 plastic disposable clickers, and i inked with a micron .3 on bristol. (bristol is great because it can handle the erasing power that i need since i don't use tracing paper)
I have to do a lot of photoshop cleanup work after i ink because i don't trace.

ndstillie profile pic Alumni

oh yeah, for some of the inking i used a speedball with an inkwell, it gives great line variation.

alexmdc profile pic Alumni

niiiiiiice a lot different then the way I did mine but same awesome results! thank you for posting!

Krakaboom profile pic Alumni

I think I can actually manage this! Great stuff - will definitely give it a try. Thank you!


I'll just make a comment here because this blog looks very interesting and it'll make it easier to keep track of. Thanks for posting it.


this is great! i'm going to give it a try with my line work and see what happens. thanks!


this is great, really helped me out, thanks alot for posting the tutorial!

TheInfamousBaka profile pic Alumni

This is so amazing. Thanks so much for posting this! I really love this sub of yours too, I $5'd it. :)

Chris Rowson
Chris Rowson profile pic Alumni

Hey thanks for this. Never used this method but will try it out on my subs!

ayearinreview profile pic Alumni

Gee-saws. This is insanely helpful. So much, that I didn't even know that I needed a tutorial on this until I read through it, and suddenly realized I had thus become a better artist because of it.

mtths profile pic Alumni

thanks for posting this...
the hell with doing the dishes, i'm going to try this out right now!

ThePaperCrane profile pic Alumni

I have been wanting to learn more about halftones.

Nathan u r a star!

(P.S. Good luck with this one printing!)


Doesn't really make any sense to all seems quite convaluted. Also a very unnatural way to work: painting in highlights with black I mean.

ndstillie profile pic Alumni

you can paint the highlights in white if you the same, i just find it easier to judge the variation using black.


can you do something like this in the GIMP?


this is the greatest tutorial ever, and just what i was looking for!

wytrab8 profile pic Alumni

FYI: I love the illustration here... if it's yours, would love to see it subbed ;)

B 7
B 7 profile pic Alumni

it was subbed i think, i love it too. this is such a helpful blog


helpful blog bump


I'm trying this method.... And I'm liking it. Thank you so much!


Sweet, bookmarking this!

celandinestern profile pic Alumni

this is completely awesome :) I'll totally try it this way!!!! thanks so much!




Totally legit yo. Thanks a bunch because I am a total noob.

ndstillie profile pic Alumni

glad to help!


This was extremely helpful!! I was wondering how to do halftones. Thank you!!


What does the control and click do on the layer? I'm on a mac and I think it's a different hot key.


It selects the content of the layer.


On the Mac it's command/apple click the layer

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