Updated: working process – bluelines


I wanted to post an update to my earlier “how to guide” for using bluelines. I’ve been inking on top of bluelines for most of the past year and it’s ended up working really pretty well. But my process for cleaning up an inked page has evolved and I thought it worthwhile to take you guys through that process if only to write it down for me (and hopefully it’s helpful to anyone out there who might be interested).

Overall, I would say that the biggest change that I’ve made is that I’ve looked for ways to make things faster and more efficient. When you’ve got a few pages to clean up all at once and only a little bit of time to do it in, it helps to have a system that works, works well and doesn’t take forever to do. So this process – to remove the bluelines from the inked artwork and clean up the pages – takes about as much time as it does to scan the inked artwork and piece the pages together in Photoshop. If I bought a larger scanner that could scan 11×17 pages all at once it would really speed up the whole thing!

Now I’ve been mainly working in CMYK lately when I clean these pages up and this has to do with the layer effects that I’ve been using to switch the pencil lines to blueline. So everything that follows is in CMYK but works the exact same way in RGB (you may just have to switch what you select in the Channels palette). So here’s what I do to the inked artwork once I’ve got it all in one piece and in the proper art file:

  1. Adjust the levels. I usually adjust the white slider the left to adjust the “paper in the background” to be more white and the midtone slider a little to the right to add more contrast.
  2. Switch over the the Channels palette and select the blue channel, press Control + A to select all and Control + C to copy the full layer. Select the full CMYK channel and press Control + Alt + V to paste the selection in place.
  3. Switch back to the Layers palette and go to the new layer that you’ve just pasted in place. Adjust the levels on this new artwork. Usually I adjust the black slider to the right to make sure I’ve got a pure black and all the linework is dark, I’ll adjust the white slider slightly to the left to add contrast and then depending on the linework used in the actual artwork, I’ll slide the midtone slider to the right to increase the contrast and make the subtler linework pop a bit more.
  4. Up to now, this is pretty much following what I previously posted. Here’s the new stuff. Go to Select > Color Range which will open a new window and select the black ink line (I normally set the selection to about 135, though it saves this setting so you don’t always need to set it if you’re doing page after page). Press OK, and you will have selected the ink lines.
  5. I invert the selection and press delete and the white “background” – plus whatever other lines, smudges and marks (leftover bluelines), etc. – is deleted. (I should also mention that I set a layer filled with full white so that I make sure I have a pure white background… so that’s already in place and is what’s showing once I delete everything but the inked lines)
  6. Next I Control + click on the icon in the Layer palette to select all the inked lines again and then both fill it with black (using the paint bucket tool) and with a brush I carefully go around and paint over the selection to make sure that everything is 100% filled in and black.
  7. Next choose the eraser tool and clean up any little flecks or linework that I want removed.
  8. The final step is to go through and fill in anything that’s not just as I want it.

All told, this whole process usually takes me less than 10 minutes per page.

About jason

Illustrator and graphic designer. When not working full time as a Senior Graphic Designer, I am usually working on the graphic novel On the Verge: the Arrow of Time. Artist on Andrew Jackson in Space and The Sisters.

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