The Freeform Pen tool is a fabulous alternative for artists who are not fond of inking their sketches. Some reasons you might not want to ink the sketch are:

  • not wanting to ruin the sketch if a mistake is made;
  • the pic is on lined or otherwise unsuitable paper for the finished product;
  • you don’t own a light table;
  • you are going to CG the picture instead of coloring it with traditional media.

Using the Freeform Pen tool to outline (digitally ink) the sketch allows you to create lineart that is perfect for CGing on the first try. The lineart will already be on its own layer and it will be 100% clean—no smudges or other souveniers from the sketch will remain to hamper coloring efforts!

The Freeform Pen tool can be a bit intimidating and frustrating if you’ve never used it before, so this tutorial is designed to help you become familiar with it. It does take a bit of practice and patience to get the hang of it, so don’t give up if you don’t get it right away!

This tutorial was created using Photoshop CS2 for PC. Newer versions may need slightly different steps. It also assumes that you are somewhat familiar with the software. :)

Although following the tutorial exactly will help you replicate the same effect that I created, the best way to learn is to experiment and create your own results! There are also many effects you can incorporate to the lineart while you are creating it, such as setting pressure sensitivity if you have a tablet or using different brush types for different styles of lines. For this tutorial I won’t be showing those advanced techniques. Experiment on your own after you’ve learned the basics. :)

Let’s begin!