Flash Pro tutorial: Create monochrome character art

Keep things clear with black and white artwork, with Paul Shih

In this tutorial, character art guru Paul Shih shows how to create a detailed black-and-white artwork – using Flash. Shih says: “I personally find Flash’s drawing system work best for the style we are making. It’s fun and easy.”

You’ll learn handy tips for drawing in Flash, focusing on some essential drawing tools that make creating this artwork quick and simple. Starting with Flash’s unique Line tools, we take this tool a step further by converting lines to create fills for a comic book-style ‘focus lines’ effect. 

You’ll also pick up tricks on maintaining visual clarity in a detailed black-and-white artwork. Feel free to embellish and add your own twists to the artwork as you create. 

Time to complete 

8-10 hours


Adobe Flash, Photoshop

Project Files

Please visit the desktop site to download the project files.


Open a new file in Flash. In the Properties window (Cmd/Ctrl + F3), click the Edit button and set the size to 420 x 594mm. Now import the base tracing file from the project files (ht_trace.jpg) by selecting File > Import > Import to Stage (Cmd/Ctrl + R), and select the imported image. In the Align window (Window > Align > To Stage), select Align Horizontal Center and Align Vertical Center.


For detailed drawings, layering is vital. Flash manages layers in the Timeline window: rename and lock the tracing layer, then create a new layer for each element. Drawing in Flash is easy: using the Line tool (N), click and drag to create a straight line; click on the line and drag it to make a curve. Use the Line tool or Pen tool to trace all the elements apart from the focal lines.

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Now let’s create the focal lines. Use the Line tool to create a short vertical line at the point all the lines point to. Lock this layer and, in a new layer, draw black lines that drag out from the red focal point. Select all the lines, increase their line size to 8pt, and erase parts of the lines to make their length irregular. Select Modify > Shape > Convert Lines to Fills. Drag the edge point of each line to make them narrower at one end. 


Now you’ve traced all the elements, they’re ready to ink up – this is essentially colouring-in. Choose the colour – in this case we’re only using black and white. Use the Paint Bucket tool (B) and click on the closed areas you’ve traced to fill with the paint. 


To make elements stand out more and to separate them from their surroundings, thicken the outline of all elements, select an element, copy (Cmd/Ctrl + C), and create a new layer underneath, Paste the element in place (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + V), increase the line size to your preference – I use 12pt for bear characters, and 15pt for the monster on top.

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The artwork should be all inked up now – but you might feel that the colouring isn’t quite perfect yet. Let’s invert it. Select File > Export > Export to Image, and name it invert.ai. Open this file in Photoshop, and select Image > Adjustments > Invert. This trick is particularly useful for black-and-white images: you may find some parts work better this way than in the original, so adapt your Flash image accordingly.


Look for empty spaces – be creative, add some new elements to balance the positive and negative spaces. To create the metal pipes in middle, use the Line tool (N) to create some random pipe lines and increase the line size to 17pt. Convert the lines to fill, use the Ink Bottle tool (S) and click on the fills: this creates lines around the fill. You may want to import the PANDARA logo to your composition – it’s in the project files (pandara.eps).


Finish up by adding some textures – 8-bit video games are good source of inspiration for this art style. Materials rendering is usually flat and simple, yet it symbolises materials so well. Once this is all done, it’s a good idea to repeat the Photoshop Invert trick, play around, adjust it to your preference – and you’ll have a unique Hollow Threat artwork. 

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