photoshop creative
Jul
19

Draw an isometric cube with the Pen tool

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
July 19, 2017

You won’t be able to solve this digital Rubik’s Cube but it will certainly unlock the key to fantastic isometric images!

1. Set up the grid

Open a new canvas and make it 50 pixels wide by 50 pixels high. Select the Pencil tool (B) and set the Radius to 5px. Starting from the top-left corner of the canvas, draw an ‘L’ shape in black. Select Edit>Define Pattern and save the pattern.

2. Create a square grid

Open a new canvas and make it 1000 x 1000px. Create a new layer and use the Paint Bucket (G) to fill it in white. Double-click on the layer in the Layers panel and select Pattern Overlay. Use the pattern created in step 1 and click Snap To Origin.

3. Enlarge the grid

Move the pattern across slightly and duplicate the layer. Tile the layers together to create a larger area of pattern. Tile it as many times as you want but make sure the pattern always remains as a square. Select all the pattern layers, Ctrl/right-click and select Merge Layers.

4. Create an isometric grid

Open up a new canvas (this will be your working canvas) and drag in the pattern. Rotate the pattern 45° (Edit> Transform>Rotate) and apply the transformation. Select Scale (Edit> Transform>Scale) and in the Height box, type in 58% (keep the Width at 100%) to create an isometric grid.

5. Choose a colour palette

In keeping with a traditional Rubik’s Cube, we are using blacks, whites, reds, blues, oranges, greens and yellows. However, keep all your shades muted – this will help the overall image to appear harmonious, even when there are colours that would traditionally clash with each other.

6. Make the cube

Fill in the background with the Bucket tool (G). Using the grid as a basis, draw your cube with the Pen tool (P). Follow the lines of the grid to create the sides in the correct perspective. For the twisted layer, unless you’re great at maths, you can approximate it.

7. Work on the squares

Draw the squares with the Pen tool (P). To create curves, Alt/left-click. Once you’ve drawn one square, you can make copies of it to complete the rest of the cube (apart from the twisted layer – you’ll need to draw those separately).

8. Start easy

Select the layers with squares in the Layers panel, Ctrl/ right-click and select Rasterize Layers. Select one of the squares with the Magic Wand (M) and fill it with the Gradient tool (G). Draw a simple shape with the Polygonal Lasso (L) and fill it in with the Paint Bucket (G).

9. Add tropical leaves

Fill in a square with the Paint Bucket (G). Create leaves with the Pen tool (rasterise and merge the shape layers once you have a complete leaf). Place the leaves on top of the square and use the Polygonal Lasso (L) to trim the bottom of the leaves.

10. Build a skyscraper

Fill a square with the Gradient tool (G). Using the grid as a guide, use the Pen (P) to draw the skyscraper – stick to three shades: the lightest for the side that faces the light source, the darkest for the shaded side. Create the landscape with the Pen.

11. Introduce butterflies

Fill a square with the Gradient tool (G). Split the square in half with the Polygonal Lasso (L) and on a new layer, fill in a darker shade (making sure that All Layers is ticked). Lower the opacity of the layer. Draw some butterflies with the Pen tool (P).

12. Place the fox

Create an opening effect in a similar way as step 11. Use the Pen tool to create a fox, using a gradient for the fill. Rasterise, merge the fox layers and place over the square. Use the Polygonal Lasso (L) to trim the bottom of the fox.

13. Create sliding doors

Fill a square in a dark colour and duplicate the layer. Double-click on the new layer in the Layers panel, select Stroke and choose an appropriate size. Lower the Fill setting to 0%. Create the sliding doors with the Polygonal Lasso (L) and Gradient Fill (G).

14. Add text and smoke

Type in a number using the Type tool (T) and rasterise the layer. Distort the text (Edit>Transform>Distort) to manipulate the perspective of the text. For the smoke, use the Elliptical Marquee (M) and Paint Bucket (G) to create white circles on a new layer. Lower the opacity.

15. Produce a rocket

Use the Pen tool (P) to create the body and pattern of the rocket. You may need to rasterise the layer and clean up the edges with the Polygonal Lasso. On a new layer, use the Pen tool to create smoke trails. Rasterise this layer and lower the opacity.

16. Create some rooms

Use the same technique as step 11 to create walls and floors, bearing in mind your light source at all times. Create objects, such as the bed and mirrors on the wall, with the Polygonal Lasso (L) and Paint Bucket (G), using the grid for reference.

17. Make money

Create the coins using the Elliptical Marquee (M) and Paint Bucket (G) (or Gradient Fill). Add the dollar sign to the coins as per step 14. Create three coins in different perspectives and layer them up until they fill up the square. Trim the coins with the Polygonal Lasso (L).

18. Add a tablet and a retro television

Use the Pen tool (P) to create a tablet and the retro TV. For the ‘apps’, you can copy the squares of the cube, scale them down (Edit> Transform>Scale) and fill them with a different colour. Add shapes and letters to the apps as before.

19. Create a whale and a glacier

Fill a top and side square with the Gradient tool (G). Use the Pen tool (P) to create a whale. Rasterise it and select the tail with the Polygonal Lasso (L). Cut and paste onto a new layer, and lower the opacity. Create the glacier with the Polygonal Lasso and Paint Bucket.

20. Build a climbing wall

Use the Polygonal Lasso and Gradient Fill (G) to create the facets of the climbing wall – really try to visualise how the facets would connect together so that the wall looks convincing. Use the Polygonal Lasso and Paint Bucket (G) to create the hand holds.

21. Construct an aeroplane

Fill in the square with the Gradient tool (G). Create the clouds with the Elliptical Marquee (M) and Paint Bucket (G). Draw the main parts of the aeroplane with the Pen tool (P). For the details, use the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) and Elliptical Marquee (M).

22. Make building façades

It’s easiest to draw elements of the façade with the Polygonal Lasso (L) and Paint Bucket (G). For a reflective window, fill the pane of glass with a Gradient Fill (G). On a new layer, create diagonal white stripes with the Polygonal Lasso and Paint Bucket, and lower the opacity.

23. Place an onsen bath house

Create a room as per step 16. Following the lines of the room, create the panels on the wall and the planks on the floor with the Polygonal Lasso (L) and Paint Bucket (G). For the bath itself, use the Elliptical and Rectangular Marquee (M) and the Gradient Fill.

24. Create a letterbox

Fill in the square with the Gradient tool (G). Create the letterbox opening and the letter itself using the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) and the Paint Bucket (G). Add some shading to the edge of the letter to give the impression it is within the letterbox opening.

25. Introduce a fish tank

Fill in the square with the Gradient tool (G). Create a fish using the Pen tool (P). Rasterise and merge the layers and copy and paste until you form a school of fish. Vary the sizes and rotation of the fish (Edit> Transform) as well as the opacity.

26. Construct a swimming pool

Follow step 16 to form a room. Using the grid for guidance, create the pool with the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) and Paint Bucket (G). For the tiles, draw them as though you were viewing them from the front, then distort them (Edit>Transform> Distort) to fit the perspective.

27. Re-create the Underground

Create the room as per step 26. Using the grid for guidance, create the steps of the escalator with the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) and Paint Bucket (G). The handrails are created using the Pen tool (P). Use the Elliptical Marquee (M), Polygonal Lasso and Paint Bucket for the sign.

28. Add some tentacles

Use the Pen tool (P) and Gradient tool (G) to draw the tentacles. Give the tentacles dimensionality by shading the underside using a darker colour. For the spots, create them using the Pen tool, then change the blend mode for this layer to Soft Light and lower the opacity.

29. Rotate the cube

Select all the layers in the Layers panel, apart from the background layer, and select Rotate (Edit>Transform>Rotate). Rotate the cube until it appears asymmetric but still balanced. The cube will no longer be orthogonal so any further changes may be slightly harder to make after this step – be careful!