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Uploaded: July 11, 2014
Artist: Dawn
Difficulty: Novice  Novice Skill Level
Steps: 20
Updated: July 12, 2014
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I know I don't do many lessons on coloring, but I thought it was high time that I started making lessons that can actually be helpful to folks "how to color using Sai". This lesson will show you in depth and detail, "how to color a dragon using Sai", step by step. It's been far too long since I filled the many requests for me to upload a lesson on coloring, I know how important coloring is to those who use Sai and other coloring programs. It's not an easy task to conquer especially if you are new to using Paint Tool Sai. Anyways, I do hope you enjoy this lesson, I would really appreciate some feedback to let me know if this coloring tutorial was helpful, and what other lessons would you like to make your drawing experience better. Thanks guys, and enjoy learning the technique of coloring a dragon using Sai.

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how to color dragons in paint tool sai

How to Color Dragons in Paint Tool Sai

how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 1

STEP 1.

Ok folks, this is my first tutorial ever that will show you step by step on how to color using Paint Tool Sai, a great program for digital painting. I will be guiding you through my every day process on a quick painting of a dragon. You will first need to download the program 'Paint Tool Sai', which is available for 53$ at their website, but they also offer a 30 day trial. Once you've got your program installed and ready, time to open up an already inked project in Sai.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 2

STEP 2.

To start, I have opened a document which is an already inked dragon that I've prepared for the sake of this tutorial. You'll want to have inked something like this in Sai. Whatever dragon line art you have to spare, whip it out in Sai and we'll get ready for the walk through.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 3

STEP 3.

If you've already made two separate layers for your background and line art, make a new one between the two. When you put a layer underneath your line art one, the colors will be underneath the lines instead of being painted on top of it.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 4

STEP 4.

Rename your layer to 'Colors' as we're going to be laying down the flats. Grab the Magic Wand tool and adjust to the settings you see. The 'Color Difference' setting will make the wand select a wider range of pixels on the canvas that is similar to the chosen color. We're going to be using this tool to pick the outside areas of the dragon in order to fill the inside. A neat trick ;)
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 5

STEP 5.

Now, with your wand tool, color pick the areas surrounding the dragon line art. What we're going to do next is fill the the inside of the dragon without missing any pixels or having spilled pixels.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 6

STEP 6.

Go to the top of the program and click on 'Selection'. Go to Invert which will make the outside selections we've made, inverted to select the area around it instead.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 7

STEP 7.

Now, fill the layer, an easy shortcut is combining the keys 'Ctrl + F' in order to fill the whole selection.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 8

STEP 8.

Click on your color layer and check in 'Preserve Opacity'. This will lock the contents drawn/colored on that layer so when you paint over it, you will never go out of the boundaries.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 9

STEP 9.

Make a new layer and place it above the 'Colors' layer.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 10

STEP 10.

Then, with your newly created layer, select the option 'Clipping Group', which will clip it over the colors layer. This way, you'll stay within the boundaries of whatever is drawn on your color layer. Select the airbrush tool and hover over to the brush size which is a softish dome shape. Adjust to the settings shown.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 11

STEP 11.

I always start off with a very dark flat color so that I can etch in highlights more accurately. Keeping in mind your direction of light source, softly brush in the lightest parts of your dragon. the light will be hitting my subject from the top left corner. Keeping in mind your light source is very important to create visually effective images.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 12

STEP 12.

Create a new layer about the 'Soft Highlights' one and clip this to the 'Colors' as well. We will now start to paint in the hard lights of the drawing.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 13

STEP 13.

I start taking a lighter color of red that compliments the purplish red and blotch in my strongest points of highlight, tapering the less brightening highlights from the main sources. Notice how some areas are lighter than others.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 14

STEP 14.

Taking a lighter color than the previous, add lighter highlights where the main light source is hitting the dragon. Other details that may need highlighting would be the mouth and teeth and some 'shimmering' to the scales as well.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 15

STEP 15.

Then, create a new layer above the 'Hard Highlights' layer and call this 'Reflective Light' which is basically lighting that bounces onto the subject from the surrounding landscape (I've decided to aim for a bluish/purplish sky to compliment the strong reds).
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 16

STEP 16.

Start painting your reflective lights at the edges of the darkest parts of the dragon. Do a light coat of it first before you go and intensify the reflective light.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 17

STEP 17.

Make a new layer above the initial 'Reflective Light' layer. Hold onto to 'Ctrl' on your keyboard and then click on the 'Reflective Light' layer.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 18

STEP 18.

Whatever was on that layer should have been selected, which is our highlights we've made previously. On the 'Stronger Highlights' layer, get a super soft brush and start lightly adding in more intense highlights in key source areas.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 19

STEP 19.

Now, select the areas which will need different colors like the teeth, gums, horns, frills) and whip out the 'Hue & Saturation' box (Filter > Hue and Saturation). Slide the sliders up and down to find a color which will suit the dragon. You will have to do this for all your layers like the highlights.
 
how to color dragons in paint tool sai step 20

STEP 20.

Do some tweaks and photo adjustments and you should have something like this. I hope you guys liked this informative lesson on how to color digitally using Paint Tool Sai. Thank you so much for viewing and don't forget to request a digital painting tutorial you want to see!