Cleaning up Line Art using Photoshop and Illustrator

cleaning up line art in photoshop illustrator
cleaning up line art in photoshop illustrator

Hello friends! Today I would like to share with you my design process, specifically how I clean up my line art drawings using Photoshop and Illustrator.

Smoothing out your line art is especially important if you are selling artwork through Print on Demand stores like Redbubble, Zazzle, Society6, etc.

This is just one of many ways I create designs, and a technique you can use to turn black and white drawings into digital line art — which you can then use any way you choose.

How to Clean up Line Art using Photoshop and Illustrator

  •  Start out with some ideas in your sketchbook, and make a short list of designs to try drawing.  I often look online for inspiration and have a few things in mind before I get started.
sketchbook
  • Once you have a design you like, re-draw it lightly on a clean page in pencil.
  • Go over the pencil drawing with a black Sharpie or another fine black ink pen, to get something like this:
sketches black and white
  • Make sure you erase all pencil lines.
  • Scan each design separately into Photoshop.
line drawing in photoshop
  • Clean up the image as much as possible using tools such as desaturate, Brightness/Contrast, Curves, and erase to clean up any little black dots or dust bits that are showing.  
  • You can also use the colour selection tool to select the black line only, then create a new layer and fill it in with black. Once I am finished with this step, I save the file as a .PSD.
  • Next open the .PSD file in Illustrator, and use the Live Trace or Image Trace tool to turn your design into a nice smooth vector image. This is a great tutorial on using Live Trace in Illustrator that I often follow.
live trace in illustrator
  • The result of this process is that you get much smoother lines. This is important if you are having the designs printed, especially in large sizes.
  • Save the image as a .AI file.
  • Open up the file in Photoshop and set the pixel size to something large, like 10,000 x 10,000 pixels.
  • Fill or colour your line drawing however you like.  I like to use layers, fill with gradients and use layer settings (ex. Screen) or just paint on another layer using a drawing tablet.  There is basically an endless variety of ways you can use your line art.
  • Save your finished design as the correct file type and size(s) for the POD site you are creating for.  I always save a .PSD file as well (with all my layers in tact) so I can open it again later and use the same design multiple times.

Here are some examples of work that I have used this technique for:

tangled black and white yin yang mandala live trace illustrator
pot head teapot live trace illustrator tutorial

And there you have it!  Hopefully you now have a little bit of insight into how I create my designs for sale, and maybe even learned a new technique to try out for yourself.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments about this process in the comments section below.

Have a great week everyone!

Cheers,

Julie