When I first started creating coloring pages, I had a lot of questions about how it should be done. Are there any special pens or inks I need to use? What kind of paper works best? Is there one particular digital format that works better than the others? I know that other people have methods that work for them, but this is what works best for me.
I started out using Strathmore Bristol several years ago and quickly discovered that it ‘bled’, meaning that the ink doesn’t stay in a nice neat line. It seeps into the fibers of the paper, which can turn into a total mess when you scan your image. I switched to a brand called Borden and Riley Paris Paper for Pens, which I normally purchase through Amazon. It has a smoother, whiter surface and minimal bleed. It comes in a 9 x 12 pad, which I cut down to 8 1/2 x 11 so that it fits on my scanner.
I use Sakura Pigma Micron pens. This is just a personal preference on my part. I’m sure there are other pens that work just as well, but I’ve been using this brand since disposable pens came on the market. I occasionally use a black Copic marker as well to fill in large areas if needed, but at eight dollars a marker, I use this one sparingly.
Hardware and Software
You’ll need a computer with a good scanner/printer. Make sure your scanner glass stays clean. I have four cats and they’re fascinated with the printer, so this is easier said than done. I use a microfiber cloth and clean off the glass before I scan anything.
As far as software, CorelDraw and Corel Photo-Paint are my programs of choice. I realize that Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop have more technical capabilities, but I don’t usually need them. Corel software has less of a learning curve and is easier to work with. Corel Graphics Suite used to offer a monthly subscription for $26.99 USD and this is what I’ve always used, but I just discovered that Corel has now dropped this option. Unfortunately, you now have the choice of either purchasing the software package for $499 USD or purchasing an annual subscription for $249.
Drawing your Coloring Page
There are several ways to handle this part. One option is to draw your image in pencil and then go over it with ink, and then erase your pencil lines. This works fairly well depending on what type of paper you use. Borden and Riley erases more easily than Strathmore Bristol, for example. Another option is to draw your image in pencil using regular, inexpensive sketch paper and then use a light table to trace it on to your higher quality paper. This has the advantage of eliminating a lot of the eraser dust that sticks to your paper. That eraser dust invariably finds its way on to your scanner to create those irritating little black spots.
Scanning your Image
I scan my image at 300 DPI and save it as a JPG.
Importing the Drawing
I open up Corel, set up a new page, and import the drawing I just created. At this point, I usually click on Edit Bitmap, which takes the drawing into Corel Photo-Paint. I could also just open it in Photo-Paint. Either one works.
Cleaning up your Image
I run my scan through several filters before I even start working on it. First, I go to Effects and click on Noise, then I click on Remove Noise. This softens the lines and helps to remove some of the stray dust points. Mine is set to Auto on the threshold slider, so I don’t worry too much about choosing the perfect setting.
Next, I click on Image, then Correction, and then Dust and Scratch. Stray points are a pet peeve of mine, so I take extra steps to get rid of them! I set this threshold all the way to maximum, with a radius of three.
After that, I click on Adjust and then Auto Adjust. This makes all my lines nice and black.
Last, I go back to Image and click on ‘Convert to Black and White.’ This converts any gray areas into a one bit black and white image.
The rest is just nitpicking. I zoom in on the image and make sure my lines are clean and all of those annoying stray points are gone. I use my eraser tool to get rid of anything I don’t want, and connect any broken lines using my paint tool. The process is fairly simple, but this is the most time-consuming portion. It’s also the most important step to turning out a clean, well-organized piece of artwork.
When I’m finished, I save the piece as a CPT and then close it. I re-import it back into CorelDraw and add my borders, text or whatever else I want to put on there, and then I save it as a PDF, PNG and JPG. Last, I print it out to make sure it looks the way I want it to look before I post it. If you have time, it’s always best to sit down and color it yourself to make sure you didn’t miss anything, because everything looks good after you’ve been staring at it for hours!
Last Steps Before Posting
I strongly, strongly recommend creating a watermark before you post anything online, even if you’re just posting freebies. There are a lot of dishonest people out there who think it’s okay to steal your work and pass it off as their own. I can go into more detail on how to create a watermark in Corel later.
Hopefully this will help some of you who are trying to get started on creating coloring pages. I know it was a challenge for me because it didn’t seem like anyone wanted to share their super-secret methods. With a little time and patience, you will be posting your artwork online in no time!