From sketch to colorful illustration in Photoshop

In this tutorial, Sandra Dieckmann shows how to combine individual elements created with a pencil, pen and brush into a beautiful illustration work in Photoshop.


This lesson is a step-by-step recording of Sandra Dieckmann’s creative process, revealing step by step the secrets of her work. We will see how she draws various components for a magical illustration. “Lake house”, including this fabulous bear, and then, assembles all the elements in Photoshop. We will learn how to combine the use of pencil and ink, and work with digital media to create a magical world of fairy tales, full of unusual textures and life.

Starting from creating compositions, sketches and drawings on paper and ending with working out the details in Photoshop, Sandra shows us how she created this incredible, beautiful illustration.

Step 1

At the first stage of work, I will sketch my idea in pencil and ink. I chose here a very simple but effective composition, in which the gaze without interference follows the image in the center of the picture.

In this tutorial, I will try to stick to the original image, although sometimes in the process of working I move away from the original version, working in Photoshop on different layers.

Step 2

The first and main element on which I will work is the center of my illustration – the big sleeping bear. Here is a printed and extended version of my sketch, I liked the proportions of this picture, and I start drawing details.

Step 3

I draw with pencils with different thickness of the slate, I draw thin and thick uniform lines and strokes, following the contour of a sleeping bear.

Step 4

Then I work out the details on all the other elements that will appear in my work — on the house, on the trees, on the hill in the foreground, on all the leaves and branches. For drawing, except for pencils, I use black ink, or ink.

Each item is on a separate sheet of paper and will be scanned and imported into Photoshop.

I like to draw by hand, while on the image textures and noise look more natural.

Step 5

In Photoshop, I add each drawing element on a separate layer.

Step 6

I select the white space around my painted elements using the tool. Magic wand (Magic Wand), and delete it. Arrange the layers with the elements in the correct order: foreground, middle, and background.

Step 7

Finally, I change the tone and contrast of the drawings.

Step 8

I like using Kyle T Webster downloadable Photoshop brushes. They imitate chalk, gouache and pencil textures.

Add a separate layer to paint over the image. Apply blend mode Multiplication (Multiply) to the layer to see what is under it. You can change the selected color at any time in the menu. Picture (Image)> Correction (Adjustment)> Hue / saturation (Hue / Saturation).

Translator’s Note: To paint the illustration elements, it is better to create a new layer above each layer with the work elements: Layer (Layer) – New layer (New Layer) (Ctrl + Shift + N), and do not forget to put a tick “Use the previous layer to create a clipping mask.” Blend mode for this layer put Multiplication (Multiply).

Also, to change the color, use adjustment layers for each layer with work items:menu Layer (Layer) – New adjustment layer (New Adjustment Layer) – Hue / saturation (Hue / Saturation), place these adjustment layers above the bleed layer.

Step 9

As soon as I set the base color, I copy this layer and work on these copies to create a texture and volume on the bear’s body, using the color panel to take the color “Samples” (Swatches) and brushes of various size and hardness.

I add light shadows to the bear hair, choosing darker brown shades, for glare I use light tones. I will do the same with other elements of the work.

Translator’s Note: for coloring the layer with the next work item (for example, with a bear), it is better to create several new adjustment layers above each other: a layer with a base color, the layer on which will be darker colors for the shadow, and a layer with light shades for the light areas. Choose tool Pipette different shades of brown to create a shadow and light, adjust the size and transparency of the brush, the blend mode for the base layer with the color, and the layer for the shadow – Multiplication (Multiply), for a layer with light areas – Soft light (Soft Light)

Step 10

I often invert elements of work when night scenes are shown in my illustration. You can see that the dark stalks of grass on white paper are now light. This technique will make small details more stand out against a dark background and glow in the dark with magical light.

Step 11

I chose blue as the main color in my entire image.

From the foreground to the background, the shades of blue are staggered, becoming darker to create the maximum depth of field in the illustration. Foreground colors are warmer. The term for this effect is “Verblauung” (translator’s note: Sineva (German)), since everything that happens at a distance is perceived more and more blue.

Step 12

Once the image is compiled, all the components are in place, I turn to adding small additions that I drew earlier. I cut them out, separated them from the background and pasted them on separate layers.

I place bushes, trees and grass in different places in my work, I look for suitable places for them, and they add interest and depth to the illustration.

Translator’s Note: The author inserts images of plants and trees drawn with black ink on a white background into the work; layer mode is used for these layers Multiplication (Multiply), if the plant should be white, then first the image with the plant should be inverted: Picture (Image) – Correction (Adjustments) – Inversion (Invert), then the background will be black, and the drawing will be white, and the blending mode for this layer will be Lightening (Screen).

Step 13

My next step is to focus on the mini-scene in the middle of the illustration – on the lake house. As before, I add color, working on new layers and painting the house, and create a lake on a new layer with several brush strokes. The rooms at the top of the window are lit to make the house more lively.

Step 14

To reflect the house in the lake water, I will duplicate the same layer and reflect it vertically: Layers (Layer) – Duplicate layer (Duplicate Layer), Editing(Edit) – Transform(Transform) –Flip Vertically (Flip Vertical). Then set the blending mode Soft light (Soft Light) to create a mirror effect in the water, and if necessary, erase the part of the house that should not be reflected in the water.

Translator’s Note: If necessary, set the transparency of the layer with a reflection of about 50%, and if the reflection falls on the land, erase the excess with an eraser.

Step 15

Following my early sketch of the whole composition, I want the small house to be surrounded by small hills, for which I do not have a finished drawing. Therefore, I use the tool Pipette (Eyedropper) to select a blue tint on my image and enhance it to a brighter blue, and using a 25-pixel-wide hard brush, draw blue hills on a new layer.

Translator’s Note: To create hills, create a new layer, and place it under the cottage layer. To draw the tops of the hills, use thin brushes and lighter shades.

Step 16

The idea of ​​my drawing is to create a windy night with a big strong bear as a protector lying next to the house. My foreground was made windy at the drawing stage, but my sky needs more light and movement.

I add diamonds as a graphic element of light, transforming white squares and choosing a blend mode. Overlap (Overlay) in layer properties. I also freely draw wind lines with brushes.

Translator’s Note: create a new layer:Layer (Layer) – New layer (New Layer) using the tool Rectangle selection (Rectangular Marquee), create a square shape, and fill it with white, create several similar squares of different sizes, then, using the Transform tool, change their shape: Editing (Edit) – Transform (Transform) – Turn (Rotate) – turn the squares angled down; again: Editing (Edit) – Transform(Transform) – Scaling (Scale) – slightly stretch the resulting diamonds.

Step 17

The last part of the drawing process is to make all the details more lively and voluminous. I walked through the grass in the foreground, adding light and dark plants to the grass cover. In the center of the image, I added the final touches by placing inverted trees and bushes around the house.

Step 18

Earlier, working on paper, I made a note that it would be nice to add swans to the lake. I think this will give an extra life to the house and the lake. I draw swans with a soft brush on a new layer in white. Orange beaks will add bright strokes in the dark, I also will not forget to add a little shadow from the birds on the water.

Step 19

And so, the final touch – I paint red flowers on the new top layer created. I once again check the shape of the bear and the other elements of the image to make sure that all the details are worked out, and I did not miss anything, that everything is fine with shades and contrast, and the work looks harmonious.

Step 20

Make sure that the elements you draw on paper at an early stage have clear contours. This makes it easy to highlight the white color around the drawings with a magic wand.

Be prepared to light up the image for printing. The printed image will be different from the image that we see on the monitor.

Step 21

I often have ideas that I draw in my album so that I can use them in my works. This time I remembered the house that I saw during one of my walks, standing by the lake and surrounded by hills. And my imagination painted a bear sleeping in the mountains to watch a small house and guard it.

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

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