Draw a swan shape in Photoshop

In this tutorial, I will show you how to efficiently use textures and shading, how to create a sense of depth and complexity in a relatively simple form, using methods that can be applied to any illustration. Work requires patience and skills in the Pen tool.

In this work, Andrew Lyons uses the swan as an illustration; he created one of these birds to design a project for his client.

Andrew tries to use elegant style in his work, he uses photographs as a starting point and believes that accurate knowledge of the subject of performance is important for creating illustrations. He illustrates figures and animals, tries to simplify and abstract, to create something that pleases the eye and brings beauty from the inner nature of the subject.

Final image:

Step 1

Create a pencil sketch of a bird, scan it, or take a picture of it and open it in Photoshop.

Step 2

Create a new A3 work document with a size of 300 ppi in the program Photoshop. Rotate 90 degrees: Image menu (Image)> Rotate canvas (Image Rotation 90? CW).

Although the final result of my work was printed in small size, I believe that it is better to create a work of large sizes, in good quality, for later possible printing of a larger format.

Drag the bird image onto your work document, resize it, and position it across the full width of our canvas: Editing (Edit) – Transform (Transform) – Scaling (Scale). Set the layer blending mode to Multiplication (multiply) with 25% opacity.

Translator’s Note: This layer will always be the topmost one, exactly according to the picture, we will draw the body and lay the feathers. At the end of the work, this layer can be turned off.

Step 3

Under the Swan layer, create a new layer – Layer (Layer) – New layer (New Layer) (Ctrl + Shift + N) call it “Case”. On this layer we will create the body of our bird. Choose a tool Pen (Pen Tool), set the foreground color #e0e4d3, circle the body of the swan, using a tool if necessary Angle (Convert Point tool) for smoothing sharp corners. Right-click on the figure, select Run Fillcontour (Fill Path), right click again on the canvas Delete contour (Delete Path).

Step 4

Above the Swan layer, create a new layer – Layer ( Layer) – New layer (New Layer) (Ctrl + Shift + N) call it “Beak.” On this layer we will create a swan’s beak. Using the tool Pen (Pen Tool), set the foreground color burgundy, circle the bird’s beak, select Run Fillcontour (Fill Path), right click on the canvas again – Delete contour (Delete Path). Blend mode – Soft light (Soft Light) 38% opacity.

Translator’s Note: Author uses layer blending mode Soft light (Soft Light), but Normal mode seems to me, and the opacity is about 70%, it will look better here.

Step 5

Now, Need to draw a shadow on the body of a swan. Standing on the “Body” layer, hold down the Ctrl key and click on the layer thumbnail, we have a selected area that follows the contours of the bird’s body, and all the actions with creating a shadow will touch only the areas inside the selection. Create a new layer – Layer (Layer) – New layer (New Layer) (Ctrl + Shift + N) name it “Shadow”. Layer Mode – Darkening basics (Linear Burn), and 10% opacity. Using tool Pen (Pen Tool), select the shadow areas and execute Fillcontour: right click – Run Fillcontour (Fill Path), right click on the canvas again – Delete contour (Delete Path). Thus, it is necessary to create shadows on the chest, head and back.

When all the shadows have been created, click on the “Add vector mask” icon in the layers panel, the selection will disappear, but the vector mask will appear. Apply to this layer mask Radial gradient, to soften the sharp edges, and duplicate this layer 2 times, placing the layers on top of each other to enhance or weaken the shadow effect.

Translator’s Note: To fill the outline, use a darker color (for example #676d6c), to smooth the sharp edges of the shadow, on the layer mask, instead of Gradient, You can use a soft black brush. On the shadow layer, draw the shadows on the swan’s beak.

Group all the layers together in a group, and name it “Body”.

Translator’s Note: To place the layers in a group, click the sign at the bottom in the layer panel “Create a new group”, drag the desired layers into the group that appears.

Step 6

Now, it’s time to create a wing. Let’s start with the top of it. Above the “Body” group, create a new layer. Layer (Layer) – New layer (New Layer) (Ctrl + Shift + N) call it “Basic Wing.” Using the tool Pen (Pen Tool), set the foreground color to # e0e4d3, create a bend in the upper part of the wing, using the tool if necessary Angle (Convert Point tool) for smoothing sharp corners. Right-click on the figure, select Run Fillcontour (Fill Path), right click on the canvas again – Delete contour (Delete Path).

Step 7

It’s time to create feathers. I do not care much about the anatomy of a swan, much more I care about the good, smooth forms of the wing. At any time, if desired, you can change the position of the feathers, and if you listen to my advice, you will not lose the overall shape and direction of the wing.

Further work on creating feathers will require patience from you. The feathers will be created one by one, and arranged in a certain sequence, from top to bottom.

Step 8

The feathers will gradually darken closer to the body, and to simplify working with color, create a rectangle on the new layer with a two-color gradient at the top of the screen to serve as a palette, then the color of each pen will be slightly darker than the one above it.

Translator’s Note: create a new layer – Layer (Layer) – New layer (New Layer) (Ctrl + Shift + N) name it “Palette”. Choose a tool Rectangular region discharge ( Rectangular Marquee), select a narrow strip, and fill it with a gradient fill. “Linear Gradient” using colors # f9f9f7 and #aeightaea2

Step 9

Now we need to draw the top pen, duplicating it, and changing the shape, we will create the rest of the feathers. So, create a new layer: a new layer – Layer (Layer) – New layer (New Layer) (Ctrl + Shift + N) name it “Pen”. Using the tool Pen (Pen Tool), set the foreground color from the light part of our palette, create the top pen, using the tool if necessary Angle (Convert Point tool) for smoothing sharp corners. Right-click on the figure, select Run Fillcontour (Fill Path), right click on the canvas again – Delete contour (Delete Path).

Step 10

The first pen is ready, now you need to duplicate the layer with the pen, choosing a slightly darker color, and place the duplicate under the first layer with the pen. Thus, by copying and placing below the original, we will create the rest of the feathers, choosing the color all the darker, and changing the shape if necessary.

Translator’s Note: Create a duplicate of the layer with the first pen, position below the layer with the original, using the Transformation turn slightly: Editing (Edit) –Transform (Transform) – Turn (Rotate). Pinch Ctrl and click on the layer thumbnail, the pen outline is highlighted, select a slightly darker color, and fill. The second pen is created, without removing the selection, create a duplicate of the second layer with the pen. Repeat all steps: we place on the layers panel below the original, using Transformations slightly rotate and fill the color slightly darker than the original. At the author, the feathers gradually change, for this we use the free transformation: Editing (Edit) –Transform (Transform) – Free transformation (Free Transform) and change the shape of the pen at will.

Step 11

The feathers we created do not have enough volume, we need to add shadows. Create a new layer under the very first pen: Layer (Layer) – New layer (New Layer) (Ctrl + Shift + N) name it “Shadow1”. Hold Ctrl and click on the thumbnail of the upper layer (the first layer with the pen), we got a selection, standing on the “Shadow1” layer, we fill the selection with black color. Remove the selection, and perform the blur: Filter (Filter) – Blur (Blur) – Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur), Radius 20 pixels, layer blending mode Soft light (Soft Light). Thus, under each pen, create a layer with a shadow. Create a new group of layers “Wing1” and move all the layers with feathers and shadow into it.

Translator’s Note: a mask layer is applied to the group, and a black brush, paint on the mask the protruding edges of the feathers.

Step 12

Now, create a second row of feathers, which will be slightly smaller. Create a duplicate of the group “Wing 1”, and call it “Wing 2”, located above the first group. Apply the Transform to this group, and reduce its size: Editing (Edit) –Transform (Transform) – Scaling (Scale). We need to lighten this row of feathers a little. Apply the following actions to the “Wing2” layer group: change the group’s overlay mode to Skip on Normal and in this group add a correction layer above all layers, which will act only on the layers in this group: menu Layer (Layer) – New adjustment layer (New Adjustment Layer) – Hue / saturation (Hue / Saturation), and raise the Brightness (Lightness) to +28.

Step 13

Repeat the process to create another group of Wing3 layers, and position above the first two.

Translator’s Note: If an extra feather shadow appears from the groups, go to the group, find the layer that knocks out this shadow, and use the tool Eraser (Eraser) remove the blackness.

Step 14

Let’s go back to the layer above the feathers – the color of the layer “Basic wing” differs from the feathers of the upper layer, this should be corrected. Create a duplicate of this layer, hold down the Ctrl key and click on the layer thumbnail, the pen outline will be highlighted, use the Eyedropper tool to select a color from the top row of feathers, and fill. Now we need to create a smooth color transition. Create a mask for this layer, and apply to the mask Linear gradient (Linear gradient), so that the bottom of the mask is hidden.

Translator’s Note: If you are unable to apply the gradient nicely, just paint over the upper part of the base wing with a black brush on the layer mask.

Step 15

Well, here’s the hard part. Create the second wing. Copy all three Wing groups and Basic Wing layers, without removing the selection from them (in blue on the layers panel), reflect them horizontally: Editing (Edit) – Transform (Transform) – Flip horizontally (Flip Horizontal), moving all these layers at once, place the wing on the right place. And transfer all these layers and groups under the “Body” group.

Translator’s Note: for more real volume, you need to draw a shadow from the head on the wing. Create a new layer below the “Body” layer, but above the layers with the second wing: Layer (Layer) – New layer (New Layer) (Ctrl + Shift + N) name it “Shadow2”. Set the layer blending mode to Multiplication (multiply), a large soft brush with an opacity of about 25%, draw a shadow on the wing under the head, and at the point of attachment of the second wing to the body.

Step 16

Well, almost finished, it remains to give the illusion that the bird is paper. Open the paper texture, dragging our work on top of all layers. Let’s try blending mode Overlap (Overlay) or Soft light (Soft Light), adjust the opacity. Apply adjustment layer Hue / saturation (Hue / Saturation) to your taste.

Well, here we are finished! I wish you all success!

  • Tip 1. You can play with the styles of the layer, they will help you discover many possibilities in your work. It is worth spending a bit of your time to see what effect can be achieved.

  • Tip 2. Adding textures can significantly change the contrast and color of my drawings, and I often leave the choice of color to the very end of the work. And now, we can return to the created adjustment layers, for example, Hue / Saturation, and play with the settings.

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