Making a cartoon fish in Photoshop

Final result:

In today’s lesson we will demonstrate how to create an image of a cartoon fish in Photoshop. Let’s start!

Images used in the lesson
The following image was used throughout this lesson:
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Before we begin this lesson, I want to recommend using the tablet, if you have one, because it will be much easier for you to complete the last few steps, especially adding details to our fish. If you do not have a tablet, you can still use a regular computer mouse, but then expect that it will take you about a couple of hours to complete this lesson.

Step 1. Let’s start by creating a new file with the size 1100×768 pixels and with a resolution of 300 pixels per inch. Then using the tool Gradient (Gradient tool) (G key), add a radial gradient with colors, as shown in the picture.

Step 2. Next, open the image of concrete, press Cmd / Ctrl + Shift + U in order to discolor the image. Press Cmd / Ctrl + L, a window opens Levels (Levels). Adjust the sliders as shown in the picture to get the color like in the picture. Change the blending mode to Overlap (Overlay).

Step 3. As you can see, I made a sketch of a small fish, it will act as a guide for the figures we have created.

Step 4. Create a new layer with the name “1”. Using the tool Pen (Pen tool) (P key), create a shape as shown in Figure a. Right click and select Create selection (Make Selection) from the drop down menu (fig. B). Using soft brush , fill the selected area with the color shown in figure c.

Step 5. Create a new layer, move it under the “1” layer. Then, holding down the Cmd / Ctr key, click on the thumbnail of the layer “1” in the list of layers to activate the selection around the shape of the object (Fig. A). Using the tool Fill (Paint Bucket tool) (G key), fill the selected area with # 000000 (Fig. B). Next, go to Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur), use the value as in Figure c.

Step 6. Continue the process that we started in step 5, but try to create different forms. Remember that we start from the tail and go to the fish’s head, it will be easier to place the layers.

Step 7. Once you have filled the connection between the tail and the body, marked with a circle in the picture below, try to create more shapes, but smaller ones.

Continue the process until you fill the mouth of the fish. This process requires a lot of patience, so take your time with creating shapes.

Here you can already see the final effect we were aiming for.

Step 8. Cmd / Ctrl + Click on the thumbnail of the layer with our fish (as we did in step 5) and activate the selection around the shape of the fish.

Step 9. Using Brush (Brush tool) (B key) with the least stiffness, draw a selected area using colors like in the image below to recreate the colors of the rainbow.

Change the blending mode to Overlap (Overlay).

Step 10. For the next step, I recommend that you rotate the picture vertically so that the fish’s head is at the lowest point of the screen. To do this, go to Image> Rotate image> 90 degrees counterclockwise.

Step 11. Now add the details of our fish. I recommend to activate the tablet, if you have one. Activating the tablet will order the program to follow the pen pressure from the tablet, which means that a harder pen pressure creates darker lines and vice versa.

Step 12. As you can see, I continued to create more lines. I used darker lines to stroke the shapes, then added lighter lines for more detail in the internal space.

Step 13. Draw long lines from the upper corners of each figure. Having filled the bottom, slowly move to lighter and smaller shadows as soon as you fill the bottom.

Below you can see the final effect we were aiming for. The process of adding parts for fish actually takes a lot of time, but the effect is worth it.

Step 14. Now add the fins. To do this, use the tool. Pen (Pen tool) (P key). Simply create a shape as shown in Figure a. Once the shape is defined, right-click to create a selection by choosing the command Create selection (Make Selection) from the drop down menu. Using the tool Brush (Brush tool) (key B) with the lowest level of hardness, draw the selected area using the colors shown in Figure b. And, as we did in the previous steps, add the details to the fin using the tool Brush (Brush tool) (B), as shown in figure c.

Step 15. The next step is to select the fish fin layers. Once the layers are selected, right-click and select the command Merge layers (Merge layers) from the dropdown menu. Next, duplicate this layer, press Cmd / Ctrl + T to activate the free transformation, then rotate it as shown below.

Step 16. Now we will draw the eye of the fish. Using the tool Brush (Brush tool) (B), create a small black circle (fig. A), draw a small white circle inside the black (fig. B), add an inverted C-shape (fig. C) using the tool Finger (Smudge tool), soften and mix colors (fig. D).

Step 17. Now we will add the shadow of the fish. To do this, click on the thumbnail of the fish layer, while holding Cmd / Ctrl, in order to activate the selection around the fish body. Create a new layer (a), move it under all the layers from which the fish is made. Fill the selection with black using the tool Fill (Bucket tool) (G). Let’s go in Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur), set the settings as in the picture b. Figure c shows the final effect.

Step 18. Select all the layers that contain the body of the fish in the list of layers, then drag them to the “Create a new layer” icon. It duplicates each selected layer. Then right-click on the still selected layers and select Merge layers (Merge Layers). Once the layers are merged, press Cmd / Ctrl + T to activate free transformation. Right click and select Flip horizontally (Flip Horizontal) from the drop down menu, then change the size as shown below.

Step 19. Here you see how I duplicated the fish, reflected horizontally, resized to make it smaller.

Step 20. Add a new layer, call it “Black”, fill it with color # 000000, using the tool Fill (Paint Bucket tool) (G). Tool Eraser (Eraser too) l (E) with a size of 1557 pixels and with a hardness of 0% erase the area shown in the figure below in red.

Here it is, we did it! Just lower the opacity of the “Black” layer to about 76%.

Author: Patrick Lopez
Translator: Miroshnichenko Valeria
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