Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design

The Painter Wow! Book: Coloring a Woodcut

Using Painter 12, Cher Threinen-Pendarvis shows you how to create black-and-white art, float it and apply the Gel Composite Method, and view the black-and-white art as you add colored brush work and texture to the original canvas layer.
From the book

Here’s a creative way to add color to black-and-white art, a favorite technique of artist Chet Phillips. Yellow Jacket (above), is one of eighty illustrations that Phillips created for The Bug Book, written by entomologist Hugh Danks. The book showcases different nature environments and the insects that inhabit those spaces.

For Yellow Jacket, Phillips used the Gel Composite Method, which makes the white areas of a layer appear transparent. After drawing in black-and-white on the Canvas, he floated the drawing to a layer, and then added color on the canvas using a palette of vibrant greens and golds with accents of orange and brown.

  1. Creating black-and-white art. Phillips is known for his expressive drawing with the Scratchboard Tool, a versatile brush that draws lines of variable thickness, based on the pressure applied to the brush. He created a black-and-white drawing in Painter by first filling the image with black color and then etching into the black fill with white color. To draw as Phillips did, start a new document with a white background. Choose black for the Main color (front color swatch) in the Color panel, and then click on the Additional Color (back color swatch) and choose white. Select the black front color swatch by clicking on it, and then choose Edit, Fill (Ctrl/1-F), Fill with Current Color. Click OK. In the Color panel, click the Color Swap icon (the arrows) to reverse the colors and choose White as the Main Color. Use white and the Scratchboard Tool variant of the Pens to “etch” into the black fill, with the look of a detailed woodcut in mind.
  2. Figure 1a Black is chosen for the Main Color in the Color panel

    Figure 1b The completed black-and-white drawing

  3. Making a layer with transparent white areas. Select All (Ctrl/1-A), choose the Layer Adjuster tool, and click once on the image. The image is now floating over a white background. In the Layers panel, choose Gel from the Composite Method pop-up menu. This method makes the white areas of the layer transparent, which allows any color you add to the background in steps 3 and 4 to completely show through without affecting the black in the layer.
  4. Figure 2a The Layers panel showing the line drawing floated to a layer. The active line drawing layer has the Composite Method set to Gel.

    Figure 2b. The Canvas is selected in the Layers panel.

  5. Making freehand selections and laying in base colors. In preparation for painting the base colors, Phillips used the Lasso tool to draw freehand selections so he could isolate areas of his image, for instance the sky and the insect. With the selection active, he used the Digital Airbrush variant of the Airbrushes to paint within the selection. Then, he made selections for the body of the yellow jacket and laid in base colors of brown and gold. Next, he selected the large leaf and airbrushed shades of green.
  6. To color his illustration, Phillips used a rich color palette. He used the Scratchboard Tool to paint the details on the leaf, beginning with lighter greens and then progressing to darker greens directly behind the grasshopper. The darker greens would help to bring the lighter colored insect forward in the composition. Then, Phillips used the Digital Airbrush to lay in color within selected areas on the insect.

    Before beginning to work on the background Canvas, click the Canvas layer’s name in the Layers panel. Choose a color in the Color panel. Use the Scratchboard Tool for loose, freehand-drawn lines, as in the leaf. You can hide and show Layer 1 as you work by clicking the eye icon in the Layers panel.

    To paint color within a selected, or isolated area, choose the Lasso tool in the Toolbox (it’s nested under the Rectangular Selection Tool), and drag to create an irregular selection boundary on your image. (You will find more detailed information about selections and masks in Chapter 5, “Selections, Shapes and Masks.”) Then, for smooth airbrushed strokes, choose the Digital Airbrush variant of Airbrushes in the Brush Selector.

    Figure 3 After painting the sky with the Digital Airbrush, Phillips painted the leaf with the Digital Airbrush and Scratchboard Tool.

  7. Painting details and textured areas. For a fine-grained airbrush look, switch to the Fine Spray variant. You can see the smooth Digital Airbrush strokes on the leaf under the insect and Fine Spray strokes along the edge of the vignette. For the linear details on the bug, use a small Scratchboard Tool.
  8. Next, using the Artist Pastel Chalk variant of Pastels, take advantage of the brush’s texture-sensitive capability to brush on grainy strokes in a few areas. Choose Basic Paper texture in the Paper Selector in the Toolbox, and the Artist Pastel Chalk variant of Pastels in the Brush Selector. Next, choose a color, and then brush lightly using the Artist Pastel Chalk to reveal texture. 

    Figure 4 The linear details are drawn with a small Scratchboard Tool.

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020