We draw a horse in Photoshop

We learned that light and shadow serve to depict forms, examined the basics of color and its properties, and also learned a lot of chips that are very, very important when adding liveliness to a picture. The time has come to use all our knowledge gained in practice. We’re going to draw a horse based on one of my lessons, so you can easily join without even having any animal painting skills.

Previous lessons:

  1. Learning to see light and shadow
  2. What is color?
  3. What makes drawing realistic?

Also, I will only talk about the use of color, without referring to a specific software (or type of pigment). Therefore, in fact, it does not matter which program you prefer for such experiments, and whether it is free or paid for it – in any case, you can easily follow my instructions.

Before we begin, I should say three important things:

  1. Be sure to read the three previous lessons from the series. Of course, just following the instructions in this lesson will teach you a lot, but in previous lessons I explained how to use these chips in any possible situation.
  2. You do not need and do not even need to follow my instructions carefully and scrupulously. Just look at what I did and repeat, but do not redraw the example. Your interpretation will be more advantageous for you than a drawing – trying to understand why I took one step or another you will understand much more than just redrawing from the sample and waiting for the effect to appear suddenly.
  3. Shading is based solely on your own drawing style. And your style, in turn, should be used in almost every step of the lesson – for example, if I say “lighten slightly”, you can lighten strongly, and see what comes of it. This is your choice, and my choice, in turn, is by no means more true — this is just what I liked the most. It is up to you to interpret this in your own way and make your own choice.

Prepare a sketch

Sketch is not a mandatory part of each drawing, and you, in general, do not have to be an artist to create a good drawing. But, nevertheless, to simplify our task, we will draw a linear blank. It is not necessary to draw in digital format yet, although the ability to remove some lines instantly can make the task much easier.

Step 1

First, for our animal, you must choose a pose. I chose a canter using a drawing from my horse drawing lesson. Three-dimensional poses will be very useful, as we are going to add lighting. If at this stage you have problems – do not panic, this article on drawing poses should help you.

I repeat – choose any pose you like – your horse can jump or sleep, and, in fact, it is not even necessary that it be a horse! Make a simple sketch, do not try to draw perfect straight lines, and he doesn’t have to be overly careful.

Step 2

The next step is the construction of forms, or in other words, the transformation of each part of the skeleton into a simplified body. Imagine that you are trying to place each part of the body in a kind of box with sharp edges. The fewer surfaces you have, the better.

Further can be quite problematic for you if you do not possess at least basic knowledge about the future. I have bad news for you – there are no loopholes, because you can’t correctly calculate the direction of the light, if you don’t build the right forms – you need to know where all sides of the figure are.

Of course, you can just guess, and this is what is called talent, but sooner or later, ignorance of perspective will begin to limit you. I also have good news – the prospect can be understood and learned, talent is not obligatory!

For starters, you can use the lessons of Kalin Theodoresque like these.

  1. Lesson 1
  2. Lesson 2
  3. Lesson 3
  4. Lesson 4

Step 3

It’s time to add muscle. We certainly do not need 100% accuracy, but be careful to place them in the right places (that is, on the sides of our original figure). Do not remove the previous linear sketches, we still need them.

Step 4

Details are usually added at the final stage of work, but now the moment is very suitable to at least find a place for them.

Step 5

We come to the most difficult part of the sketch. We need to create a frame of the whole body.

You need to imagine yourself for a minute 3D printer. The horse must be divided into layers, each slightly different in shape from the previous one. As if you had a solid parallelepiped, and you create a shape from it, making cuts of different depths. The frame lines easily determine such a depth – the farther they are from the walls of the parallelepiped, the deeper they are. In this case, I exaggerated the figure of the horse a little so that the effect was clearly visible.

Basic shading

Step 1

Since we have well established the shape of our horse’s body, we can begin to color it. The first step in digital drawing is to create a base, clipping mask for the remaining layers. It should be clear and dark.

Step 2

The next step is the imposition of flat colors. As we know from previous articles, these are the so-called local colors, untouched by light. This time I make them darker to create the basis for spatial barriers.

Step 3

We can use spatial barriers to create a shape slightly illuminated by ambient light. Our goal is to light every peak of each bulge, and leave the gaps between them dark.

Step 4

The border between peaks and crevices should not be too sharp (after all, we are talking about smooth shapes). Lightly smooth them without losing the shape.

Step 5

As a result of the smoothing of the so-called crevices, some of them may be lost. You can lightly emphasize them using simple lines to separate shapes. The lines should not stand out, and even the opposite, they should practically merge at a distance.

Step 6

Time to arrange direct light. Let’s imagine that our light source is extremely conveniently located right in front of the horse. Our light is bright and warm, respectively, and the planes it touches become warmer and brighter. How to find out which planes the light touches? This is where we made our linear sketches!

Step 7

Where there is light, there is also a shadow. Areas that are not affected by direct light should be darker and colder (since any light on them falling is formed from the cold ambient light that I anticipated).

Step 8

Our horse should not look as “blocky” as the linear sketch we used, so we need to smooth the edges.

Reflected light, specular light and texture

Step 1

As usual, we will use the sky as a source of diffused reflected light. First, let’s make the shaded areas much colder.

Step 2

Weak diffused light can affect any part that is not influenced by direct light.

Step 3

Now our horse looks good enough, but, it is only until we remove our linear sketch. As soon as we remove it, one can immediately notice how “plastic” the horse looks. Unless, of course, the effect we were trying to achieve – well, we can stop at this. But let’s still see what can be done to make our horse look more realistic.

The feeling of plastic arises from the fact that we used an incredibly soft material. Light and shadow are perfectly mixed, without any distortion. Here is what we need to add – some obstacles on the surface that violate mixing.

This, by the way, is a very good time to mark the skin. Small folds or “wrinkles” between the bulges of the muscles will make the surface more realistic and less monotonous. Also, from time to time you can sometimes add a new color, even if it is as extreme as green or red – when mixed with the main color, they will not be visible at all, but instead they will seem like new shades.

This is the last point where you can check the total diffuse reflection, and correct it if necessary.

Step 4

Our horse looks very dull, as if it is running under water. Let’s add some gloss to the mane! The exact location of the mirror image is actually a large and complex topic, so let’s just assume that it is located now. nearly in front of the light source. Remember that you need to place these reflections only on shiny surfaces – a soft face with a mirror reflection on it would look unexpectedly tough.

Since our material is not glossy, but only slightly shiny, do not use powerful stripes of warm white. Make them irregular, as if the scattered reflection is disturbed by the roughness of the shell.

Step 5

The specular reflection on an uneven surface will never look very sharp, and, as a rule, it is scattered very beautifully. Let’s use this effect to create a contrast between light and shadow.

Warning: if in fact the material is wet or oily, there will be no such dispersion.

Step 6

Let’s add stronger reflected light to the shadow areas in order to balance both sides. Remember – the reflected light can not be brighter than the illuminated area and can not even touch it!

Step 7

When you think the shading is over, you can go into details. This lesson is not about drawing hair, but I can give you some tips on shading.

  1. Do not use black as the main color for black hair, otherwise you will not be able to create any shadows on them. Use dark orange (brown) to create a warm shade of black and dark blue / purple for cool black;
  2. As with everything, do not try too much to go into details. The base should only show the right direction, and too many details (individual hairs, for example) will only interfere with the subsequent shading;
  3. The mirror image looks exceptionally good on the hair, but this does not mean that you need to have it everywhere and everywhere. Natural hair is rarely shiny, and the effect will be even better if you make it completely matte;
  4. Do not try to shade every hair! Focus on the whole strand. The level of detail must be uniform throughout the entire drawing, and if you draw each hair on the mane, you will also have to draw them on the skin!

Step 8

Sometimes, after completing the shading and adding all the details, we may notice some errors that we have not noticed before. This happens because now we perceive the entire picture completely, and we no longer have to ignore some of the unfinished parts as before. Therefore, now is the time to make the latest corrections.

It is very important not to spend too much time on it, because the drawing cannot be 100% complete, and sometimes making too many corrections will only spoil it. Take a break, have a cup of coffee and see how the picture looks in the distance.

Make a control check. Check if the reflected light does not block the direct light and that all the shadows are correctly placed. As you can see, the entire horse is properly lit, there is no excessive contrast and no scorched shadows.

As we could see from previous lessons, the background is very important for correct shading. For example, my horse, running through some white space, should have its bright reflection on the lower part of the body. However, for the time being, this is just a presentation and we assume that the horse is cut from some other medium – everything is in order.


Finally, you have the opportunity to use all these chips in practice! As you can see, drawing is a series of deliberate actions, and even if the artist works in a fit of creative insanity, they still plan everything unconsciously. If you spend some time practicing, it will become your second nature, and you don’t have to think “now is the time for specular reflection / lessons. And then you will need to add reflected light / lessons.”. You will just draw!

If it seems to you that my horse looks too shiny, or too muscular, or the colors are too warm, think about what would happen if I changed just one step, for example, if I changed a little brightness at some point. The drawing method, just shown by me, can unconditionally be stylized! Therefore, it does not mean at all that you will have exactly the same thing as me. The purpose of this lesson was to show what exactly to do while drawing. The process itself, the order of steps, hue, brightness, saturation depend only on you – and this is what I love so much in art!

And if you just glanced at this lesson to look at the beautiful pictures, and your only thought was, “I will never succeed so well,” above the nose! You can do it, and you don’t even need a drop of talent. Learn how to draw simple shapes, then work with them in perspective (and if you get a good idea of ​​perspective, you can easily get around a lot of talented artists). Read my lessons from this series and draw shaded blocks, and as soon as you succeed, you can build complex shapes from them. If you need more motivation to get started, be sure to read this article.

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