Photoshop: How do I fill unclosed outlines?

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Hi,
I'm working on some cartoon character.
I draw the outlines in black on real paper, then I scan my sheet and next I try to colorize the character with Photoshop.
Photoshop is quite powerfull to work with selections and colors, but the only issue is I can only fill areas which are closed. If ever there is some break in my outlines, the selection (done with the magic wand) overflows and I cannot use it to fill the area I want.
For example, it's not only the hand shape of my character which is selected, but obviously the whole page !
I use several vector softwares (Illustrator, Flash, Toonbom) which are capable of fill non-closed areas. I just need to set it in the paint bucket parameters...
If this feature is possible on vector outlines, it must be possible as well on bitmap outlines ! It should not be more complicated to implement..

Why a profesionnal software like Photoshop is still unable to do so in 2014 ?

Or maybe is it me who did not understand how I had to do it ?
If any, can someone help me find a better ergonomics and increase workflow on colorizing illustrations with Photoshop?
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Paul S

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  • Absolutely frustrated and a bit angry noone has never thinking about this functionality yet so useful

Posted 5 years ago

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Chris Cox

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There are dozens of ways to do that with selections, the bitmap, or paths in Photoshop. You do need to close the selection or path first, though - because Photoshop can't know exactly how you meant the shape to appear. Vector programs have a much simpler job, since they know all the paths and don't have to deal with arbitrary images. Yes, it is much more difficult to do with images than with vectors.

And you might want to look up comic book coloring techniques - they do what you are describing hundreds of times a day.
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Paul S

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Thanks for your help.
I know how to close the gap on my outline before to use the magicwand or the paint bucket. I've done that a thousand times :(
But this job is now boring me. How much time is lost because of the lack of Photoshop in this matter !
I'm dont agree with you when you say "Vector programs have a much simpler job"... When you do a vector outlines with a digital pen tablet -in Flash for example, and when your strokes are not "closed", why it should be easier to the software to calculate how to automaticaly close small, medium or large gap ? We don't speak of basic shape easily understandable but we speak of totaly free brush strokes !
On a bitmap software, the tolerance could be adjusted using the number of pixels of the gaps, but on a vector software, the gaps must be calculate using more complex method because the image is resolution free, so the gaps do not have real size !

And even if it would be more difficult to implement this feature on a bitmap software, Photoshop developers and programmers should be capables to successfuly add it to the tools parameter... Photoshop can do thing absolutely more difficult and complex than closing a gap !!!

As to look up comic book coloring techniques, I've already done it since years.
I've NEVER seen a method which doesn't require the fastidious work of closing each areas before to fill it...

Since the folks at Adobe are not able to fill this gap (pun ;)) I would hope that there is a little dude who has developed a plug in to do the job !
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Chris Cox

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Sorry, but the math needed for this in a vector program is several orders of magnitude simpler than what you need in a bitmap editor.
Vector editors can see your lines (because they all exist as vectors). Bitmap editors have to make guesses at what edge you're trying to follow, on images that don't always have distinct lines and regions.

Again, Photoshop already has more than a few tools for that - but it sounds like you need to spend more time learning the available tools.
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Paul S

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I gladly admit that I do not have the skills to know if technically it is easier or more difficult in vector or bitmap ...
But your explanations seem relevant. So OK, it is certainly more difficult bitmap.
This said Photoshop knows how to do things very complicated with bitmap (displacement tool based on the content, for example, or with some incredible filters...)
I am sure that those who are able to implement these complex functions could implement the function I'm talking about, which would help many illustrators... You know, each of them tinkers in his corner to overcome the lack of Photoshop. They are more silent than me and they take their troubles patiently. But they would all be delighted to make their work more fluid, enjoyable and creative with this feature!
I have several friends (Illustrators and cartonists) and each of them deplores this missing functionality in Photoshop.
If you don't believe me, just take a little poll !

Make no mistake, I'm not a beginner. I know Photoshop for years and if I'm talking about that today only it's not because I have any lack of knowledge of this powerfull software...
So far -and I searched a lot in the software and on the forums- it seems to me there is no tool to avoid spending hours to "close" the outlines areas that we want to fill in landscape or character .. .
I would like to be wrong but I'm afraid of being right.

Photoshop do not permit this great functionality, and believe me it does not make me happy!
If anyone proves that I am wrong, I will kiss his feet, full of devotion ^^
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Paul S

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Why my question is now stated "answered "?

I think there is a misunderstanding.

Maybe the title I use was inapropriate... I said "How to fill unclosed outlines with Photoshop ?" and ok, I admit there is tons of possibilities in Photoshop to fill such outlines if one do manualy the boring job to close every little gap in the outlines, then try to select the area, then realise there is probably another gap which was not "solved", etc.
But obviously, my real question is not how to spent hours to close manualy every gap before to be able to use the magic wand with no bad surprise... My question was
How to automatically fill unclosed areas with Photoshop ? Is there any tool parameter or plugin which could improve the process of colorization of landscapes or characters drawn with clear and sometimes discontinuous line ?
Maybe I should rephrase my request more clearly because I think ultimately it is not clear...
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fluffyazuredreams

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Manga Studio does this a few ways; you're able to set the gap tolerance and how it closes between a pointed, rounded or I don't know what to call it (like an angle with the tip cut off?). It makes flatting so much easier and faster, especially when you have lines with a lot of gesture in them. It takes forever when you have to manually do each gap; much longer than just cleaning up the few pixels you don't like. Photoshop should try to have a feature like this.
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Paul S

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Hi fluffyazuredreams !

Sorry for late reply... And thank you very much for your help.
Reading you, I am sure now that there is a big lack in Photoshop bitmap tool.

According to Chris Cox who first tried to answer me, automatically closing the gaps is much more difficult to do with images than with vectors. He must be right about that. But difficult or not, it is clearly possible to do this, as you testify.
So if a 50 $ software can do it, WHY Photoshop is still not able to make the same thing in 2014 ??
Closing manualy every gap before to be able to use the magic wand represents hours of unnecessary work.

It's really incredible.
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Joel Teply

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Agree with you. It is a shame. Photoshop's algorithms around painting are a little archaic. We write a fair number of these and it's quite surprising how old school photoshop is with things, like its wand tool, which looks like basically the grabcut alg, a shame. Even ours are better than PS and I'm currently needing to write a flood fill algorithm like you describe for our software. A lot of the automation using computer vision is just missing from their product. These aren't problems that are behind the comprehension of someone with good image processing experience. They just take a little time.
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Paul S

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Thanks for your comment !
I feel a bit less alone ^^

But I'm not sure to clearly understand you : when you say " Even ours are better than PS", what is the software you speak about ?
Are you a Manga Studio developper, or do you currently work on a PS plugin which could solves the problem ?
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Mel Pop

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Well I have the same issue since many years and like Paul I don't understand how such a useful fonctionnality doesn't already exist.
I'm a comic book colorist and when you have a lot of pages to color with a lot of unclosed outlines (and oftenly with a 1 or 2 pixels gap), it's just kind of a pain to search where's the gaps are, close them, try to select or fill see if it's ok, see that it's not the case and do again the process until it's all good.
A selection or paint bucket tool which can allow to define a pixel gap tolerance would be a great thing to add (among others functions for brushes managements like one that allow to reorganize the library by folder or just at least with a click and drop but that's an another issue... XD)

I think I'll try mangastudios for doing the flatting even if I'm not fan to use mutiple software to color a page. ^^
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Joshua Oman

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I color professionally for webcomics and print, and I use both Manga Studio and PS to color. Depending on the line art, I have found that often where the Magic Wand fails to close the gap, the Quick Selection tool (subset under Wand - 'W') does a better job.
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Ivan David

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I FOUND A WAY in photoshop cs6.  I hope it works the same for older versions. Better if you know how to record actions in photoshop for you to record this steps and just play it with a function key like F3 in my case.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biqyH-SE0EU .

1: Draw a circle with some brush and let it opened as when you forget to close it.
2: select the "quick selection tool" (if you have the magic selection tool you can switchit with "shift+W") check the "auto enhance" tool option, and check "all the layers" (do not why but only works with something in the background) then make 2-3 clicks inside diferent areas of the inner circle until you see the circle selection area is completed without geting out. you can fill it now but if you want a better filling continue reading.
3: go to "refine edge" option and set contrast to "100" and shift  border to "-40"
4: go to selection >modify > expand , and set 2 pixels
5: Now fill it (alt+ back space)
Now go create an action for this process (just for the steps after you select the area) and be happy. :)
I would appreciate you to see my work at https://www.instagram.com/ivand_saboya/
(Edited)