Depending on what I’m doing, sometimes I like to keep my layers separated by color. When working in Corel Painter, I love being able to select just one color and add a highlight or shadow to that part of the picture without having to worry that I’m disturbing the entire image. Below is an example in which the one on the left is not color separated, the one on the right is:
You can see that the darker brown shadow on the left tints the black part with a bit of brown and muddies the red shade. You can also see tiny tan lines in the darker brown because I had another layer with stray marks that I forgot to delete. On the right the colors are more crisp. When adding gentle color transitions it’s much easier to work in a color separated file.
Now, I try really hard when I’m illustrating something to keep my colors on separate layers. All the black on one layer, red on another, tan on a third, etc. This way I can mask the layers and just add color highlights or textures to one part of the image instead of the whole image. I said I TRY to do that, but honestly there are times I’m so focused that I forget and two colors wind up on one layer. That makes selecting just that specifically colored part of the image nearly impossible (and incredibly frustrating). I’m sure there are dozens of ways of untangling that mess, but here’s mine. Keep in mind I generally work in Corel Painter, so if you don’t just skip the first three lines.
I save my imperfect file and then collapse all of my layers onto one layer and do an Iterative Save of the image (that just means it adds an 001 to the end of the title and the original is not disturbed). Then I take the file out of Corel Painter and into Photoshop.
Using the magic eraser, I remove the background. Then I repeat the procedure on all but one color from the image (for instance, remove everything but the black). Then I copy the layer with the singe color and paste it into a new document. Using the handy “undo” button, I go back to the original image and then remove everything but the second color (for instance everything but the red). Select all, copy, paste into new document. That is repeated until I have separate layers for each color in the new document. Then I save the new document, but I don’t save the old file. That process is pretty quick and leaves me with a color separated file that I can take back into Painter and continue adjusting.
The one feature I wish Painter had was a magic eraser tool. While it’s a pain to go back and forth between Painter and Photoshop (Tip: in order to open Painter files in Photoshop you need to save it as a .psd file instead of the traditional .rif file that is Painter’s file extension), there are times when it just has to happen. When I put a red brush stroke on a tan layer – that’s one of those times.
Once I’m done with the entire project, I go back to the imperfect file and delete it from my system. I generally keep working files of my designs, but I don’t keep the original imperfect file because there’s just no point. I have the color separated layers file so I don’t need it.
I hope this helped someone untangle the mess of a single stroke of a different color on an otherwise perfectly color separated file.