I thought I’d write a post on a quick photoshop flat painting tutorial. Just in the last couple of months upon moving back to California, I’ve been tutoring art and design students on a part time basis and most everyone of them ask about process. I’m sure everyone’s process is different, but for the Photoshop novice, I’ll break it down here in a few simple steps.
Assuming you drew a quick sketch of something you wanted to paint in Photoshop, you’ve hopefully scanned it into the computer and opened it in Photoshop. So once you’ve gotten the image open, I would suggest double clicking the layer and naming it as drawing or whatever name you want to give it, I would leave this layer at the bottom and lock it so that it doesn’t move by accident or worse end up painting on top of it. Then create a layer on top and name this as the “Blacklines” layer, you want to keep this at the very top of the layers. This will be the layer that you will clean up the sketch with.
The next part of this, I used a wacom tablet intuos 5 which is great enough with precision that you can get smooth lines as you trace over your original drawing. You can use the brush tool to paint and increase or decrease the line weights to get a variation throughout the drawing. I used a crisper line for the outer lines and a more looser line for the inner lines. If you make a mistake and don’t like the lines you can always command Z to undo something. Or use the erase tool to erase your mistakes, or quite simply if you have a wacom tablet, flip it over to erase on the opposite end! Once you are done and are satisfied with the lines, I would suggest locking this blacklines layer at the top when you are done doing the outline of the drawing.
You can start painting different parts of the character and separating the layers, such as the hair, skin tones, shirt, legs, boots. And labeling the layers to their respective parts so that we don’t confuse ourselves! We do this for a purpose: In case you don’t end up liking the colors, you can click on the layer and selecting the layer by moving the cursor over the layer, pressing the command button or CTRL on a PC at the same time, than click that layer to select it. The marching ants will start to dance around it as it is selected. Once selected, you can choose a different color and double clicking on the foreground swatch color to bring up the color palette. Then press alt + option on your keyboard to fill in the selected area with the new color that you want. Then you can take the lasso tool and paint in the darker parts such as underneath her leg and side of it. Also the inside part of her hair.
The last part is adding the light source – when you figure out where you want the light source to come from, (which actually should be the next thing before you add your darks!) then you can darken certain areas where you know will be hidden from the light source. In this case my light source is coming from behind her off to her right side. I also created a layer on top of all of the the layers that I painted and switched the layer blend mode to color dodge. Depending on what mood you are trying to create for your light source, you can determine what color the light source will be. In this case I wanted a sunset lighting. And in Photoshop when you paint it over the other colors it will affect it a certain way, for example the light on her blue leggings look different than the light hitting her shoulder or the side of her hair. And if you want to create the shadow underneath her legs, you can create a new layer right at the very bottom and take the lasso tool and just draw around the figure as to where you want it to be. Than you can fill it in by choosing a color and pressing alt+option on your keyboard to fill it in.
Don’t forget to save this working document as a PSD file! To save it for uploading to a blog, portfolio, for print, etc… you can save the image as a Jpeg or PDF by going to File > Save As.
Any questions, comments, let me know! I hope that I explained this clearly! There you have it! Will upload my other processes next time!