Textile Design Lab

Developing Coloring Pages









Hi everyone, it’s Chelsea!

Have you taken part in our Friday Coloring Hour? These weekly video calls are a chance to chat about life, art and the Textile Design Lab! You can bring your own project to work on, or print out and use one of our coloring pages. I am the one who creates these coloring pages, and I have a lot of fun making them! We had a request for a tutorial on how I create these pages, so I’m going to be sharing that with you today!

My artistic style usually involves detailed abstracts and geometrics like these. I would love to be the artist with the talent to draw realistic plants and animals like Johanna Basford, whose coloring books are wildly popular, but alas, that’s just not me! I do hope though that no matter what your artistic style, you can pick a few things up from watching my process.

My tools are quite simple. I tend to work on an 8.5×11” page, and don’t laugh…but I like to use Crayola’s fine line markers for my linework! I’ve tried other pens but for some reason I keep coming back to these. I like the line width, it’s comfortable for me to draw with for extended periods of time, and drawing in different colors brings me joy, even though I turn the pages into black and white later on when I’m digitizing the design. You’ll find a pen that feels right for you, too. Try some different ones out and see what you like!

My absolute favorite way to create a coloring page is while having a cup of coffee and zoning out to music or a podcast. I find that the sound keeps my brain working in other ways while allowing me to not think too hard about the design and just let it flow. Not every coloring page is a winner, but often I’ll do two or three back to back, and as time progresses I generally find more of a rhythm.

To start off today, I thought I’d give you an overview of a few things I am thinking about when I create these pages:

  • Even distribution of motifs so the pattern feels balanced
  • Making sure details don’t get so tiny that they will scan poorly or be difficult to color in
  • Trying to keep the line weight fairly consistent throughout the design. It helps that I draw with a hard-tipped pen rather than something more flexible like a brush pen. But if you want a more artistic, less regimented look, feel free to experiment with different drawing tools!
  • Paying attention to the negative space so that it is aesthetic as well, rather than an afterthought
  • Repetition: So in general I find it more satisfying to have many variations on a single motif rather than including lots of different motifs, but that’s just my personal style. You might like to provide more variety, or make more of a composition rather than an all-over pattern.
  • And lastly, I like to break up large areas of background so there isn’t one big chunk to color in. (Again this is just my personal preference—when I’m coloring myself, I tend to get bored with one color quickly and like to switch it up often. So I try to design in with smaller coloring areas. This does make for more quote unquote “difficult” or complex patterns that take longer to color in. So think about your target audience and what they might prefer!)

Let’s take a look at these concepts in practice while I break down a recent coloring page I created:

Step 1: I almost always start with a single motif, in this instance I went with a simple leaf shape. I try to make sure it is relatively evenly spaced but also has a randomness to it as far as the direction the points are facing. I want the layout to be balanced but maybe not too “perfect” or regimented.

Step 2: If I’m not sure where to go next I’ll add a little detail to my motif, in this case a vein for the center of the leaf.

Step 3: Next I’m looking at all of this negative space, and how I might fill that in with a coordinating motif. I decided on these little two-leaf motifs, and again tried to distribute them pretty evenly and make sure they’re facing in different directions.

Step 4: There’s enough room to build on these double leaf motifs so I add an outline, thinking about the amount of space that would be needed for someone to color it in comfortably. If I had to set a measurement to it, I would say that my own personal preference is to try not to have anything smaller than about 1/8th of an inch to color in.

Step 5: Now I’m filling in the negative space with some larger shapes. As I’m adding these, my brain pays attention not just to the shapes I’m drawing, but also to the little channels that are formed among all of the shapes, as I want those to look nice too and be somewhat intentional. But I also try to just go with my instincts with the ultimate goal to keep the pattern balanced, and yet interestingly varied. So I’ll create some larger shapes and some smaller ones to keep the eye traveling through the design.

Step 6: Here’s where I essentially repeat step 2, but with these new geometric motifs, by adding a small detail. This can help break up the log-jam when I’m stuck and serve as a launching point for adding more details later. In this case I just added a line to one side of these geo shapes.

Step 7: Now, I mentioned that my preference is to have smaller areas to color in rather than one large background, so this is where I started really breaking up the background. Adding these little lines connecting my motifs together makes it so that there is no longer one continuous background.

Step 8: I had a hard time deciding how to add to the large geometric shapes, and in this step I tried something out at first that I ended up not liking. So I abandoned that and decided to build off of my lines with these little scalloped edges.

Step 9: I could certainly stop at any of these points, but I like a very detailed coloring page, so I decided to break down these large geos even further with smaller shapes inside them. Again, paying attention to the surrounding space and the channels that were formed. (You can see that I scribbled out the areas that I didn’t like from Step 8 as a reminder to myself to fix them later in Photoshop.)

Step 10: Lastly, to give a bit more interest and texture to the design, I added the finishing touch of these stripes within the smaller geos. And to me this looks complete! Aside from the edits that need to be made digitally, but overall I like the layout, the amount of detail, and the size of each area that will be colored in.

These steps may come in a different order depending on the pattern I’m working on, but they give you a general idea of my process. Here you can see a couple other coloring pages I’ve created. I highlighted the first motifs I drew in each one so you can see how I built the patterns around those.

Now we’re going to bring the sheet into Photoshop to do a bit of cleanup.

Sherry has a few great Tech Talk posts on sketching for scanning that you might find helpful during this process, and I’ll link to those below.

Here is my scanned image.

So the first thing I want to do is index my design down to two colors. To do this I’ll go to Image > Mode > Indexed Color, choose 2 colors, and click OK. Now to change my image to black and white I can go to Image > Mode > Color Table, and click on each color to change it to a true white…and black. Now I have better contrast and can go in with my pencil tool and fix any mistakes or areas that need cleanup.

The first item on the agenda for cleanup is these areas over here that I messed up on, so I want to fill them in to match the rest of the design. I’ll click on my pencil tool, and I like to use the pressure sensitivity setting for my Wacom pen so that it has a more natural line that will match my original artwork.

The next thing I want to do is make sure these black lines are solid black. If I zoom in I see there are lots of little white pixels within my black lines, so the easiest way to fix this is to select the black with my magic wand tool (make sure Contiguous is not checked so it selects all of the black, not just one area.) Now go to Select > Modify > Smooth, and choose 1 pixel, then go to Edit > Fill and choose Black. Next go to Select > Inverse, which will select everything that was not just selected, which in this case is all of the white. Now we repeat the process with Edit > Fill and choose White. Now when I zoom in you can see those little pixels are cleaned up. There still might be a few areas I want to clean up with my pencil tool, like this space where the line does not connect all the way to this shape, but for the most part this looks pretty clean. You could certainly stop here and call this a finished coloring page, but I prefer a smoother look by bringing this cleaned-up page into Illustrator. You could also do all of your clean-up in Illustrator if you like, but this is just my preferred workflow.

So now I’m going to select my whole canvas with Command A, then Command C to copy, and paste onto a new 8.5×11” Illustrator page with Command V.

Now we are going to use the Image Trace command to vectorize the design. I’ve found that the Default tracing setting works pretty well, as you can see here, but you can always click on this icon to open up the Image Trace Panel and fiddle around with the settings until they are just right. I like to lower the number of paths and also slightly lower the number of corners because it gives a smoother appearance, but depending on your drawing style, and the type of pen you use, you may prefer different settings. Play around with it and when you find something you like, you can save the settings by clicking this little dropdown menu and then Save as New Preset. This way the next time you import a coloring page into Illustrator your preferred settings will be saved in the presets (here you can see two of mine down at the bottom,) and your coloring pages will look consistent.

When you have something you like, click the Expand button. If there’s any additional clean up you want to do, you can use the blob brush, by holding down on the Paintbrush tool and opening up this menu. For instance, this shape looks a bit too small to color in for my preference, so I’ll just color over this black line with white to open it up.

The last thing I like to do is to frame the design with a black outline and make sure it will print nicely on an 8.5 x 11” page so someone could print out my coloring page at home. I like to leave a 3/4” border all around the design but you can try different test prints and play around with what looks good to you. In order to scale down my artwork to this size I select all with Command A, then go to the transform tool and type 7 inches for my width, and 9.5 inches for my height, making sure Constrain Proportions is unlocked. I then want to click this little square and position my design at .75” and .75” from the corner which will give that perfect border. I then like to add a nice clean outline to finish with the Rectangle tool, by clicking, typing in the proper dimensions of 7×9.5”, and then relocating the box just like I did with my design, to the

.75” mark on the X and Y axis. I lock that layer and then do a final scan of the edges of my coloring page to see if any additional clean-up is needed. I just see a couple little things that I’d like to remove so I’ll use the blob brush to do that now.

And there you have it! Thanks for watching today and I hope this will inspire you to create some coloring pages of your own. Please share on the forum if you do, I’d love to see what you create!

October 26, 2020

1 Responses on Developing Coloring Pages"

  1. What a nice tutorial @chelsea! Thank you for making this for us. I haven’t participated in the Coloring Hour but creating pages does interest me.

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