We draw a fabulous illustration in Photoshop

AT the first part In this lesson, my coauthor showed you how to create line art for this wonderful illustration. In today’s tutorial, I will show you how to color it using Adobe Photoshop and a graphics tablet. Let’s start!

Lesson materials

The following materials were used to create this lesson:

  • line art by Rowena Aitken (PSD)
  • source images on Pinterest

Game Plan: colors, history and sources

It all started with the words “winter solstice.”

According to Wikipedia, the winter solstice is an “astronomical phenomenon that occurs on the shortest day and the longest night of the year.” And, frankly, this definition does not awaken any visual images in me. However, after careful searches in Google Images, my co-author and I were able, at a minimum, to present one very unusual color scheme.

That’s what we found …

Color scheme

In most of the pictures that we saw, warm tones prevailed in contrast to the cold sky. In general, the winter sunset! Although we liked the idea of ​​warm in contrast to the cold, we decided to change the source of light in order to better convey the story.


I love stories. And one of the big advantages of the development of the story behind your picture is that you force your brain to visualize the scene and all its details more clearly. Therefore, before starting your next project, ask yourself this question:

What story am I telling?

In the depths of the forest, three close friends, a deer, an owl and a rabbit gathered together, in an indescribably joyful mood. With a small team effort and a lot of cones lying around, they decorate the forest, preparing for the winter festival. Wonderful, right? And we decided so!

Back to color

And now there are two excellent ways in which you can go about color theory when drawing on a tablet. You can start with a predefined color palette, where all your primary colors are already selected. Or you can start with shades of gray to help you figure out the lighting, and then gradually apply color. Usually I choose the second way, because I often happen to be too pedantic and indecisive in the matter of color at the beginning of work.

It takes a lot to remember, so I am very careful when creating an imaginary list of things that need to be remembered while drawing.

Things to remember

  1. There is one warm light source (lantern) in the middle of a cold background (night sky).
  2. The deer is fully illuminated, the owl is partially illuminated, and the hare looks like a silhouette.
  3. Illumination on the tree should dissolve upwards.
  4. Fur and texture will be affected by light and shade.
  5. Not everything is fully highlighted, so you can experiment.


On Pinterest we have prepared a list of sources for this work. It has everything you need to understand the animal anatomy, the winter colors, and the basic mood of this illustration. The examples below are two sources that we used that helped us learn more about hares and owls. I recommend this way of organizing your sources, so you can keep them in one place.

1. Prepare a line drawing (sketch)

Step 1

Now that we know we are drawing, it’s time to take another look at the line drawing. Here is a reminder of the document settings:

  • Width (Width) is set to 3508 pixels, Height (Height) – 4961 pixels.
  • Resolution (Resolution) – 300 dpi
  • Color mode (Color Mode) is set to CMYK (for print).

It is important to note that due to the fact that color mode installed on CMYK, colors as opposed to mode RGB will be limited. This means that you will not only have fewer colors to paint, but it will also affect some adjustment layers. However, do not worry, we still have a bunch of flowers to work with. Let’s take a look at the line drawing!

Step 2

What is great about the file my coauthor has prepared is that each of its components is on a separate layer. So I can adjust or even remove some details. The first thing I do is delete layer with laccording to the horizon (Horizon). I don’t really need it, since I will still choose the natural level of the earth.

Name of layers in the screenshot from top to bottom: cones on the tree, thread, acorns, deer, far horn, snow on the tree and trunk, tree line, trees on the background, horizon (remove if not needed)

Step 3

I also noticed a few things that I would like to quickly change. Depth can be a deceptive thing. In “real life” we know that rabbits are smaller than deer, but in this scene the rabbit is located closer to the observer. Selecting a layer with a rabbit, I increase it (Ctrl / Cmd-T, holding Shift) so that it closes the deer, and more clearly indicates the location of the foreground.

I do the same actions with an owl, only this time I reduce the size so that the owl seems to be farther from the observer.

Step 4

The last change I make in a linear pattern is very simple. I do not want to make a mistake, and too much detail the trees in the background. And in order to remind myself of this, and also to deceive my eyes, forcing them to see these trees in the distance, I lower opacity before thirty %. And so, the edited picture.

2. Original gray tones

Step 1

Drawing in shades of gray allows the artist to properly arrange the lighting without being distracted by color. On a new layer (Ctrl / Cmd-N), blending mode Multiply (Multiplication), use Brush (Brush) (B) to draw gray a deer and a tree, an owl and trees on a lighter background, and a rabbit darker. These different shades of gray indicate the distance from the character to the observer. In other words, the closer the character, the darker the shade.

You can use the tool Eraser (Eraser) (E), to clear the edges and then set the layer to Lock Transparent Pixels (Preserves pixel transparency).

Step 2

Duplicate this layer. Because the blend mode of the original layer Multiply (Multiplication), you will notice that the tones have become darker — we don’t want this, so erase the extra tones, making sure that background color selected white.

3. Ambient occlusion

Step 1

In this step I will use the technique. ambient occlusion. In this picture there are so many details that need shading, so for speed I use the tool Lasso (Lasso) (L) to highlight areas around each character and fill in these areas using soft round brush .

  • brush color black
  • brush opacity 20%

The key point here is to create shadows where one object covers another. In this case, the branches close the trunk, and the trunk will be in the shade. I quickly apply this technique to other areas of the drawing.

Step 2

You will also notice that on the same layer I began to easily trace the original line drawing, especially areas with snow and wood. I take this step as a reminder of all the small details, since in the end I will need to remove the line drawing.

Step 3

Duplicate this layer and erase superfluous, as before. Using the tool Gradient (Gradient) (G) and foreground color, installed on transparent (50% opacity) I am going to create more shadows. This time, when I highlight areas with the tool Lasso (Lasso) (L), i switch to the tool Gradient and draw a marker in the direction in which, in fact, I want to see a gradient. Repeat this process for each character, as well as for the background.

4. Apply color for the first time.

Step 1

If you turn off the visibility of the line with the line pattern, you will see that the illustration is really starting to come to life. Now that I have a base, I can move to color. Also, as before, I’m going to duplicate the previous layer and wipe off too much. On a new layer with blending mode Multiply (Multiplication), I draw a brown rabbit, a tree branch and an owl.

Step 2

This coloring process will involve multiple layers for corrections, as well as experiments with blending modes. If the file size becomes too large, merge the layers when possible, or even save to an additional file. The following three layers include: layer filled blue, blending mode Screen (Screen), layer, filled purple, blending mode Color burn (Blackout basics), and adjustment layerColor balance (Color Balance), which will help to further highlight the blue tones.

Step 3

Create another layer overlay mode Color dodge (Lightening the base), fill it with white and lower it opacity before 40%.

5. Add snow texture

Step 1

To create a light hint of texture that is great for snow and sky, create new layer (Ctrl / Cmd-N). Install foreground color on the black, and color background on white. Then click Filter> Redner> Clouds (Filter> Rendering> Clouds) to create the texture we need.

Step 2

Set the blending mode of this layer to Difference (Difference), lower opacity up to 15%, and use the tool Eraser (Eraser) (E), to erase the texture that overlaps the main illustration centers.

6. Adjust color with adjustment layers.

Step 1

Now the colors are too saturated and bright. To fix this, I will use three different adjustment layers. To create the first one, click Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Hue / Saturation (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Hue / Saturation). Lower Saturation (Saturation) to -100, to make the whole picture black and white. Then click Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Color Balance (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Color Balance). Adjust Midtones (Medium tones) so that there are more colors in the pattern Cyan and Blue (Blue and Blue).

Step 2

Add one more toCurves Correction Layer. Remember, before I said that some settings depend on the blend mode? So, for example in RGB mode, to darken something, you need to pull the curve down. In this case, it is necessary to do the opposite.

Adjust curves on the canals CMYK Blue (Blue), Cyan (Blue), Yellow (Yellow) and Black (The black). I need the effect of color depth in the figure, with a slight shade of yellow.

7. Putting the picture in order

Even with all the adjustment layers and different blending modes, I still consider this stage as the basis for further work. My goal at this stage is to draw as many details as possible so that you can later remove the line drawing. So before going further, it is important to put everything in order. Using hard round brush with opacity from 50 to 100%, I remove too much, as if cutting out the details, returning to the original line drawing.

Always keep a copy of the line art on hand. I will need to look at it sometimes up to the last stages so that everything will be honest with respect to my coauthor.

8. Step back to look around.

At this stage, I realized that I was paying too much attention to details that would not be embodied in the final version of the illustration. I mean, if you bring the drawing 100% closer, you will see all the incredible details that my coauthor created. However, if you still make the scale more suitable for the screen, all these interesting details are lost or merged.

During traditional drawing lessons, teachers often tell students to go back a couple of steps. Sometimes we are so obsessed with the details that we need to go back a step and make sure that the work is still harmonious and complete. Remember the imaginary list from the beginning of the lesson? This should be another of his points in the drawing process.

9. Draw light

On New layer (Ctrl / Cmd-Shift-N), blending mode Overlay (Overlap), I paint light areas on snow, wood and animals. I want the snow to look fluffy and natural, so I use chalk brush for snow texture and standard soft brush for the rest of the bright areas.

10. Add color to animals and trees.

Step 1

It’s time to add colors. As well as the previous steps, I will use a variety of adjustment layers and different blending modes to color the illustration. To begin, I add color to the tree, the owl, and the rabbit using the blend mode Color burn (Blackout basics). Then I paint acorns, bumps and deer horns on a layer with a blending mode Darken (Blackout).

Step 2

A little tidying up the picture, I add new corrective layer Color balance (Color balance) to add a nice blue tint to the pattern again.

Step 3

And now I have a lot of blue, but do not forget about the warm light source! On layer, with blending mode Vivid light (Bright Light) I use chalk brush , to add orange to the picture. The parts most illuminated by the light source are the bottom of the tree, the lamp, the snow on the ground, and the deer. Although the owl is farthest from the source of the light, I must be sure that the light falls on it.

11. Ornaments on the tree

Step 1

To color the bumps I want to first look at several sources on the Internet. The higher the bump is on the tree, the less light touches them. I will illustrate this by paying attention to how the light falls on the bumps.

Step 2

I repeat the same process for a thread of acorns. The only difference is that since some acorns are in the sky, I also add blue to them to show that they are affected by their environment.

12. Texture of fur and feathers.

Step 1

To create a fur, let’s make our own brush! Open up new document (Ctrl / Cmd-N) with the following settings:

  • Width (Width) 100 pixels
  • Height (Height) 100 pixels

Take standard hard round brushand create two black dots diagonally. Click Edit> Define Brush Preset (Edit> Define Brush), enter a name and click OK. You can leave all the settings as they are, just add the following:

Custom brush settings for fur

  • Brush tip (Brush print form) 15% Spacing (Spacing)

Form Dynamics

  • Control (Management) installed on Pen pressure (Pen pressure)

Step 2

Take advantage of brush for wool , to add rabbit fur. Start with a slightly darker color than himself, and then add a few bright hairs as highlights.

Step 3

To show different textures of fur, I will not use the same brush for a deer. Instead, I’ll take standard round brush and make some thick strokes to depict the fur of a deer.

Step 4

I repeat the same process for owl feathers and its main features. Using the same brush, I add lit feathers, not forgetting how the light falls on the owl.

13. Color correction

Step 1

Every time I add new ones adjustment layers to the image, they glut colors. Since the sky in the background is now very blue, I add a layer of white with blending mode Hue (Color tone) to slightly fix it. Downgrading layer opacity up to 40%, I wash all areas that cover a warm light source.

Step 2

Then I add a layer that is filled with purple by setting the blending mode to Soft light (Soft light). I repeat the process from the previous step and erase all areas that cover the warm light source.

Step 3

Adding a yellow tint will add a cool vintage effect to the pattern. To do this, I create a new layer, filled with yellow, and set blending mode on Darken (Blackout), with 45% opacity.

14. Editing the details

Step 1

In general, the resulting color scheme is what I wanted to get in the end. Hooray! Now I can take on the details. For snow on the ground I use chalk brush, to draw random points of light, thus conveying a beautiful shiny texture. Whenever you use a brush with a texture, just let it do its thing. Simply erase everything superfluous that will be out of place.

Step 2

Adding glare to the snow on the branches will also create a greater sense of realism. Using hard round brush I paint in light strokes to convey flare and texture. As always, remove all hard edges with the tool. Eraser (Eraser) (E)

Step 3

I continue to work on the illustration, adjusting all the details. stiff round brush and finding a balance between approach and distance in the process of drawing. You will notice that some additional details even include bright green highlights where light falls on a tree. And, of course, I could not resist a slight change in color using the purple layer with the blend mode Color burn (Blackout basics).

15. Contour for edges

The lighting was wonderful. However, I can not help but notice that some of the details were lost in the shadows. To fix this, I draw bright outlines around certain parts, making them stand out more.

16. Last details: stars

What is the night sky without stars? Using hard round brush I draw lots of white and yellow dots to draw stars in the sky. Duplicate this layer and erase some stars. Now click Filter> Blur> Motion Blur (Filter> Blur> Motion Blur) and set the parameter Angle (Angle) on 30 degrees, but Distance (Distance) on 290. Real star mania!

All is ready! Let’s celebrate!

Working with other artists is great, but unfamiliar territory can be scary! In this lesson, we learned to listen to the process and trust what we know.

You do not always have to answer. Always be open to new experiences, experiment a lot and you will definitely succeed. Good luck!

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