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Coloring Clipart Help

How can I add color to my clipart?

Once you have found a piece of clipart, such as these fish, you may wish to color the image in a graphics program. There are endless possibilities for coloring a piece of clipart, but first you must save the file to your computer and open it in a graphics program such as Photoshop Elements. Most of the clipart on this site has been saved in the GIF format with a color table limited to black, white, and just a few grays. This is done to make the file size small.

Before you can add color to the clipart, you will need to change the image from "indexed color" with only a few grays to "RBG color" with all of the colors. To change the color mode in Photoshop Elements, go to the "Image" menu and scroll down to "Mode." Then select "RGB Color" from the mode dropdown menu.

Can I use the paint bucket to color my clipart?

One obvious way to color clipart is to use the paint bucket tool to pour color into white areas of the clipart. This can be an effective approach if the design is very simple. However, you may find that it takes many clicks of the paint bucket tool to fill in all of the areas as in this example where we tried to color the fish yellow. Even after a dozen or more clicks of the paint bucket tool, there are still some white areas on the fish that remain to be filled in. For very complicated areas, such as the seaweed background, it would be impossible to use the paint bucket tool to fill in each area.

How do I color complicated clipart?

You can color complicated clipart using the brush tool. The trick is to set the "blending mode" correctly. If you try to paint in areas of your clipart using the "normal" blending mode, it will be very difficult to stay in the lines. By selecting the appropriate blending mode, you can make your job much easier. You can change the blending mode from the dropdown menu as shown at left. In this example, we are selecting the "lighten" mode. In Photoshop Elements you have the following choices for blending mode:

The following examples show some of the possibilities of using blending modes.

The Lighten mode changes the dark areas of the clipart to the color on your paintbrush. In the example to the right, we just scribbled over the whole image with a red paintbrush. The black pixels turned red and the gray pixels turned pink.

The Darken mode changes the light areas of the clipart to the color on your paintbrush. In the example to the right, we just scribbled over the whole image with a yellow paintbrush. The light pixels turned yellow and the dark pixels stayed the same.

This example also uses the Darken mode. Instead of scribbling over the entire image, we used different colors for the fish, water, and seaweed. It was easy and fast to brush over each object. The white pixels turned the color of our paintbrush and the black lines remained unchanged. This method will allow you to suitably color just about any piece of clipart.

The lighten and darken modes will meet most of your clipart coloring needs. However, you may want to experiment with other blending modes for special effects.

This example uses the Difference mode. We just scribbled over the whole image with a yellow paintbrush. The black pixels turned yellow and the white pixels turned blue, which is the opposite of yellow.

This example uses the Vivid Light mode. We just scribbled over the whole image with an orange paintbrush. The black pixels turned red and the gray pixels turned yellow. This mode will give very different results depending on the lightness or darkness of the blend color you choose.

What special effects can I do with the clipart?

One quick way to change clipart is to invert it. The black changes to white and the white changes to black. To invert an image, go to the "Image" menu, scroll down to "Adjustments" and select "Invert." You can also use the keyboard shortcut command-i on Macintosh or control-i on Windows. This is one of the few adjustments you can do without changing the color mode from index to RGB.

This example uses a Gradient. Select the gradient tool and then select a gradient style from the dropdown menu. Click and drag the gradient tool across your clipart. When you release the gradient will fill the clipart. This example was done using the "darken" paint mode. If you use the tool in the "normal" paint mode, the gradient will completely paint over your clipart.

This example uses the Neon Glow filter. You can try the filter with different foreground, background, and glow colors. Each combination of colors will produce a unique result.

Most graphics programs have many different filters to experiment with. The best way to learn what each filter does is to select a piece of clipart and try running each filter on it. You can also try combinations of effects. For example, you might colorize an image with a gradient, then run a Lighting Effects filter on it.

How should I save my new clipart?

If you are going to print from your clipart, you should save it as a TIFF file.

If you are going to put your newly colorized clipart on the Web, you have two choices: GIF or JPEG. You should save your image as a GIF file if it has very few colors. For example the clipart that we inverted above still has only a few colors in it, so it should be saved as a GIF file. If your newly colorized clipart has many colors, you should save it as a JPEG file. The gradient colored fish above should be saved as a JPEG since there are many colors it it. If we tried to save the gradient clipart as a GIF, it would have harsh bands of colors in it instead of the smooth gradient we wanted.

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