Is it Saturday again already?
Last week I posted a blog about how to draw a vector illustration in Adobe Illustrator. This week I will be explaining how to make an illustration in Adobe Photoshop.
Adobe Photoshop uses a different set of rules to Illustrator. It is favoured among Photographers for touching up photographs, but it equally as good for creating illustrations too! Photoshop is a bitmap image manipulation program so it's ideal for creating painterly, realistic or incredibly detailed raster artwork that can resemble hand techniques such as watercolour or oils if you need.
This tutorial will hopefully provide even an Adobe novice with the knowledge of basic functions to create some art. The program provides so many tools that I will only skim the surface, my biggest advice is to practice and discover the seemingly never-ending Photoshop treasures for yourself.
Tools you will need;
Graphics tablet - this isn't essential, but highly recommended
Patience and a decent soundtrack to keep you going...
Before we begin, I would set aside some time to create your art. Depending on your abilities and what you are wanting to achieve, you could be sat behind a computer for hours. If that sounds fun to you... then read on!
It's good to shut down other programs that aren't being used as Photoshop requires a decent amount memory to run smoothly. Open Adobe Photoshop. You should see a screen something like this, varying slightly depending on what computer you are using and what version of Photoshop you are running.
Across the top you should see a bar with things like File / Edit / Image... etc
Here, click on FILE and then NEW to make a new document.
If you read last week's tutorial in Illustrator, you'll recognise some of the steps and menu items.
You will see this window above. Here you can fill in some information such as the name of your new document and the size. Unless you need to specify a certain size file, we can just select International Paper from the drop down menu, and then select A4.
Unlike Illustrator, whatever size you select will be the maximum size your file will go to. So if you need to make a large poster or T-shirt from your work, be sure to select at least the size you will be printing - if you try and scale the image bigger after finishing the quality will suffer greatly. I always draw at around 200% and then scale down, that way I cover myself if I need to make my art slightly larger at a later stage.
Pay close attention to the resolution too. This is the number of pixels per inch in your image. A higher number will be a bigger file that will look better at large sizes but be slower to load. We can keep it at 300 for now. Leave the rest of the boxes at their default setting and click OK to continue.
And here it is, your forest-friendly piece of paper. Ready? Ok!
Drawing the sketch...
To begin with, we need to create a new layer. Right now we only have our paper (the background) and it's good practice to keep this free from modification. To create a new layer locate the Layers panel which is usually positioned at the bottom right of your screen. It looks like this;
If you don't see it, you can navigate and click on Window in your menu bar across the top, scroll down to Layers and click to show. As you can see in the screenshot above, I have a new layer called Layer 1 - which I made by clicking this icon at the bottom of the layers panel;
You can rename the new layer if you want by clicking on the name and typing.
So now we have this new layer, we can start drawing. Whenever you modify a layer in Photoshop, just double check you have that layer selected. (It will be highlighted in the panel as above) If not, you might accidentally draw in another layer and we don't want to get confused!
Locate the Tools panel, which looks like this;
You'll be using this a lot. Right now you'll be on your selection arrow - the black arrow with a little shape next to it. This tool is perhaps the most useful, allowing you to move, modify and select any artwork, layers and more.
To draw though, we want the brush tool. It's my favourite tool, and can do so much. Funnily enough, it looks like a paintbrush!
Click on it once to use it; you may notice your little cursor has turned into a circle - pay attention to this as this represents the tip of your brush. It will change depending on what size you select and can be a good guide when drawing. At this point we just want to sketch, and I suggest using a 5 point brush to do this. However if you find this too small, you can use any size you like.
We set the brush size by looking at the top of our screen, where you should see the brush options.
There is a drop down panel which will show the Size and Hardness when you click on it. Select 5 for your size, and leave the hardness at 100%
Just below these sliders are a multitude of brushes. For now, just leave it on the solid white circle. To exit this option panel just click outside of it.
That's your brush ready, but there's more to sort out before we can draw. Your paint palette will be set to the default black. This is fine, but I find sketching is best done in a medium blue. When we use black outlines later, blue is easier to follow underneath. Any other colours such as yellow or red are too light and disappear in the white paper. So change your paint to blue by finding the colour palette at the bottom of your tools panel.
The top square (black) represents the colour of your brush, the foreground colour. The bottom square (white) represents your background colour, and is best left at white. Double click the black to change it's colour, click on OK when you have selected your new colour.
Setting up your document will eventually become ritualistic, I barely notice what I am doing now when creating a new layer and changing brush size.
Finally we can get down to the art! I can't really help you with this bit. Draw something simple for your first try, and move on from there. Try not to put in too much detail at this point, and I would recommend drawing to fill the paper, not just a little face in the middle.
- Draw something you like, enjoy or have an interest in.
It will make it more fun and help maintain your attention.
- Don't be afraid to use references, but don't copy anyone else's work directly. A quick google image search can bring up loads of pictures of frogs, or bikes, or whatever it is you're drawing.
- It can be difficult to draw with a mouse or trackpad - consider getting a graphics tablet.
Once you have sketched your image, save your work. I can't stress how important saving your work is. I may save every 30 seconds when I'm working fast, it should become a habit that you do without even thinking. You can save by clicking on FILE and then SAVE. When you do this, a window will pop up asking for some obvious information such as where to save on your computer. At this point, your file is in layers and so should be saved as a .psd - don't let Photoshop bully you into removing your layers with it's warning signs - just ignore and save with all layers intact.
Creating the outlines...
So you have a sketch, and you're ready to make the most of Photoshop's fantastic colouring abilities. For the sake of this tutorial, I'll be showing you the tools I used, but of course there are various methods and different styles that can be achieved.
Start by changing the opacity of your sketch. To do this, select the layer and click on the Opacity panel just above it. A slider will appear which allows you to change the opacity. I use around 35%, but you can select whichever is easiest for your eyes. This can be changed at any time.
After changing the opacity, create a new layer in the same way we did before. (Scroll back up if you have forgotten!) Once you have done that, you need to lock the layer that holds your sketch. It's easy - just click on the layer you want to lock, and click on the icon above it that looks like a lock. If you want to unlock it, just repeat the action.
(Our new layer wants to be above your sketch, if they are in the wrong order just click and drag them into the right order.)
This new layer will hold the outline for our illustration. In this particular image I am using a black outline, but feel free to use any colour you like.
We will use the paintbrush tool again to draw the lines. I used varying thickness to draw mine, you will have to decide what would look best with your art and go from there. For smaller details, I used 3pt or 5pt, but the main bulk was in 8pt. Here is what my illustration looks like while I'm outlining;
When outlining, don't strain your eyes, zoom right into your sketch with the zoom tool in the tools panel - it looks like a magnifying glass. Every now and then, zoom out again so you can see the whole illustration and how it works as a full picture.
At this point, don't think you have to religiously stick to your sketch. Use it as a base and build on it, add details or change things if you think it will look better. Your sketch is just a guide and you may find you come up with something better once you start outlining!
When putting in finer details, you may notice you need references to get it perfect. This is where google search comes in handy again. See how I changed the bones of the tail to be more anatomically correct?
At some point you may (no, you WILL!) make a mistake. Don't worry, the beauty of digital painting is that mistakes are no longer a problem. You can undo the last action you performed by clicking on EDIT and UNDO in the top menu bar. For bigger mistakes, or to change your work completely, you can use the eraser tool in the tool panel.
Use it like the paintbrush, and it will erase the lines. you can adjust the eraser size in the same way as you would adjust the paintbrush size too.
Once you're sure you've finished your outline (have you been saving?) you'll be ready to add your colour!
There are many techniques to colouring, try whatever you can and find one that suits you. You will always improve with practice, so don't be disheartened if your first attempt is not perfect.
At this point I turn my sketch layer to 'invisible' by clicking the eye icon next to it in the layers panel. If you find you still want to see your sketch as a guide, that's fine.
Make another new layer, and position it underneath the layer that contains your outlines in the layer panel.
Make another new layer, and position it underneath the layer that contains your outlines in the layer panel.
Colouring in Photoshop (at least the way I'm going to show you in this tutorial...) is quite like colouring in a colouring book when you were a kid. Keep it in the lines!
Yet again, we're using the paintbrush. This time we'll need it a bit bigger, so choose an appropriate size. Now change your colour to whatever you require, remember we do this by double clicking the foreground colour palette square at the bottom of the tool panel.
You should block in the basic colours first; don't get carried away! Keep it simple and give your illustration a base coat. Ignore the details at the moment. We work from the bottom up.
Your illustration is starting to take shape! Once you have the base colours drawn in, we want to make those colours a bit more artistic. Start by finding the Magic Wand tool in the tools panel.
This tool really is magical! Find one colour you want to start with, and click on the colour with the wand. A moving line will hold the area that colour covers.
What this means is that whatever you do now will only effect the area the wand has chosen. This is helpful because we can use big, elaborate strokes without worrying about going over the lines or effecting other colours. Give it a try - try drawing a big black line across the page, it should only appear inside the wand boundaries.
This next part is where you can let your creativity fly. Using a number of colours, you can 'paint' some substance into your area. Try shadows, highlights, hints of greens or swirls of varying colours. It really is trial and error at this stage, what you end up with depends on what you are drawing and your style of colouring.
A handy tip I use, is to adjust the brush's opacity (this is different to changing the layers opacity)
This is the bar across the top of your page, click on the drop down menus to change the opacity, and the flow too.
You may have to adjust this for some time until you get it right, I am continually moving these sliders throughout the colouring process. I find it easier to keep the two at roughly the same number.
The opacity changes how transparent your brush strokes are and the flow changes how much 'ink' or 'colour' will come out when you click. For example, if you hold your stroke in the same place, the colour will build up - just like drawing over the same spot on a piece of paper again and again. People using graphics tablets may notice the amount of colour changes depending on how hard they press down.
This is the most time consuming part of the illustration. It can seem like it is taking forever. I will go over and over a part of my drawing until I am 5, 6 layers of colour deep. Changing colours, the flow of your brush and direction of brush flow will all create different effects. A good tip is to start dark, then gradually build with lighter and lighter shades.
For some illustrations, such as my zombie dog, you may want to create a certain texture to your image. We won't go too deep into texture at this point, but I wanted some brush strokes to look like fur. This is when the huge range of brushes Photoshop offers comes in handy - just select one from the drop down menu, and try it out. If it's not right, try another. Some are patterned and create leaves or grass with a single click - it's not cheating it's time saving, honest!
You will have to change the magic wand selection as you fill in different parts. If you want to select more then one part, hold down shift as you click.
I think it's important to step away from your colouring every so often. Take a 5 minute break and when you come back, you have a fresh view and may notice something you previously missed.
Eventually, after many hours of gruelling work, you will have your beautiful illustration to show the world!
Flattening and saving as a jpeg...
Save your work.
Then in the toolbar across the top of the page, select Layer and Flatten Image. This will compress your image so all your layers disappear and you are left with one single layer on which your finished illustration sits. Whatever you do, DONT SAVE - instead this time, click on Save As... which is located just under save.
Once you have flattened, you cannot undo this, so make sure you really are ready and finished!
Rename the file, and choose to save as jpeg format from the drop down menu. The reason we do this is so you can easily share and upload your finished illustration as a jpeg. A file with layers is not appropriate for sending to print, or uploading to websites etc - but you do want to keep a copy with all your layers just in case you need to make changes later on, or amend your illustration or need the original file.
And that's it!
From start to finish, my zombie dog took about 2 hours.
If you use my tutorial or photoshop to create your art, please do feel free to share it with us!
If you have any comments, complaints or suggestions I'd love to hear them too.
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