photoshop creative

Draw a child’s book character

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
June 7, 2017

Create a character with beautiful texture using only a few brushes, a raster texture template and a noise effect

1. Create a rough sketch

Go to File>New (Cmd/Ctrl+N), name it Whale. Set Width to 230mm, Height to 310mm and Resolution to 300ppi. Click OK. Create a new layer (Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+N) and name it Sketch 1, grab the Brush tool (B), choose a pencil brush and draw a fast, rough sketch of the whale.

2. Refine it

Set the Opacity of Sketch 1 to 50%. Create a new layer, name it Sketch 2, and using the same brush draw a more refined sketch. Use the Eraser (E) to clean the lines. Delete the Sketch 1 layer. Now set the Opacity of Sketch 2 to 30%, change the blend mode to Multiply and lock the layer.

3. Set the background

Double-click the Background layer and press OK in the dialog. Double- click this layer to open the Layer Style window and choose Color Overlay. Now change the colour to a deep sea green. Press OK. Rasterize the layer style (Layer>Rasterize>Layer Style).

4. Create basic colour

Create a new layer and name it Body. Draw the main shapes with the same brush tool. Set brush size to 75px for a visible rough edge to the shape. On a new layer press Opt/Alt+Cmd/Ctrl+G to make a clipping mask. Draw the tummy on this layer. Draw a back fin and an eye on the separate layers. Use a darker tone for distant objects and a lighter one for closer objects.

5. Make colour adjustments

Now adjust the colours of the image to better suit the colour palette you’ve chosen. Select the Body layer and correct its colour using Hue/Saturation (Cmd/ Ctrl+U or Image>Adjustments>Hue/ Saturation). Repeat this procedure for the rest of the layers.

6. Add details

To make the image playful and more attractive, draw extra details, like a dotted pattern on the head and fins, and lines on the tummy and bottom eyelid. Create a new clipping layer over the Body layer and draw details. Do the same to the back fin. Turn off the visibility of the layer Sketch 2.

7. Introduce highlights

Create a new layer as a clipping mask over the Body layer, grab the Brush tool and choose Soft Round Pressure Opacity brush. Set its Size to 500px, draw the soft highlights and change the blending mode of the layer to Overlay with 35% Opacity. Use the same brush as before to create more local highlights on a separate layer, and apply the same blending mode and opacity setting to the layer.

8. Bring in more shadows

Use the same kind of brushes to create soft and local shadows. Set the blend mode of the layers to Multiply (Layer>Layer Style>Blending Options). Create each shadow on a separate layer to be able to adjust its colour later if needed. To get a more realistic effect, select warmer colours for the highlights and colder colours for shadows.

9. Make water reflections

Choose a Soft Round Pressure Opacity brush again to create soft reflections (each on a separate layer). Set the brush size to 500px and select a purple colour. Draw the reflections on the bottom of the whale and change the blending mode to Color Dodge at 25% Opacity. Repeat to create a warm-yellow reflection on the top of the whale, and set the blend mode to Overlay.

10. Create a background gradient

Choose the Background layer and go to Layer>Layer Style>Gradient Overlay. Create a soft gradient to show the depth of the background. Use navy for the bottom and a light sea green for the top part of the water. Set the gradient angle to 70.

11. Add light rays

Turn on Sketch 2. Select the Rotate View tool (R) and rotate the image to -40 degrees. Draw rays of light with a brush, press E and use the Soft Round Pressure Opacity brush to remove the ends of the rays. Now go to Filter>Blur> Gaussian Blur and set Radius to 50 pixels. Set the Opacity of this layer to 30%.

12. Make colour corrections

Use Hue/Saturation (Cmd/Ctrl+U or Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation) to edit and finalise the colours. Choose the layer with the tummy, select the Eraser tool (E) and make the back part of the tummy less visible.

13. Add background texture

Choose the Background and background highlights layers and merge them (Cmd/Ctrl+E or Layer>Merge Layers). Add a noise texture with the Noise filter (Filter>Noise>Add Noise). Set the Amount of noise to 10.

14. Work on the small details

Use the Brush tool to create extra details and make the image more interesting. Use the Lasso tool (L) and hold Alt/Opt to copy and paste details, such as bubbles or dots, on the whale. Select all layers with different parts of the whale and merge them (Cmd/Ctrl+E). Choose File>Place Embedded and choose a custom texture. Apply it as a clipping mask to the whale. Set the blending mode of the layer to Overlay with 20% Opacity.

15. Make a final highlight

Select the layer with the whale and holding Alt/Opt, copy it to the bottom. Apply Color Overlay with a white colour (Layer>Layer Styles>Color Overlay) and rasterize the layer style (Layer>Rasterize>Layer Style). Move this layer slightly to the top and right to get the effect of a highlight, and erase undesirable parts of it with the Eraser tool (E).