photoshop creative

Illustrate with the Pen tool

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
February 22, 2017

Discover incredible Pen tool secrets wile learning how to create a colourful animal illustration

1. Open the sketch

Begin by creating your sketch and scanning it into your computer. Open it in Photoshop. Make a new layer by going to New>Layer or hitting Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N.

2. Draw the outlines

Grab the Pen tool (P) and make sure Paths is selected from the Pen tool menu bar. Draw each outline of the lion separately. Let’s start with the hair. Create your first anchor point over the sketch and make another point while holding down and moving your mouse to make a curve.

3. Create a brush

After making one curve, select the Brush tool (B). Select the Round Point Brush and change the following settings: Size: 9, Bristles: 60%, Length: 140%, Thickness: 10%, Stiffness: 70%, Angle: 1° and Spacing: 2%. The type of brush you use will be important when creating the lion’s outline.

4. Go to Stroke Path

Head over to the Paths panel, make sure Work Path is selected, then choose Stroke Path from the Paths panel drop-down menu. Have Brush selected and Simulate Pressure ticked, then hit OK. Notice how the lines are tapered on the edges; this is the effect you want to aim for.

5. Change the brush size

Play around with the size of the brush to create different sized stroke paths. This will give the outline of the lion a little more depth compared to if you kept the brush the same size. Jump from the Pen tool to make a new path, and then back to the Brush tool to change the size of your brush.

6. Insert a diamond shape

Instead of tracing around the diamond shape of the sketch, use the Diamond Card shape from the Custom Shape tool. Again, make sure Paths is selected from the Custom Shape Tool bar. Repeat step 4 to make a stroke around the diamond path.

7. Reflect the line drawing

Use the Ellipse tool to draw the circular parts of the lion. Finish drawing the right side of the outline; you’ll create the left side by reflecting the right. To do this, duplicate your layer (Cmd/Ctrl+J) and go to Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal. Use the Move tool to move the left side to place.

8. Start colouring in

Merge the left and right outline layers together (Cmd/Ctrl+E) and create a white layer behind the line drawing. Note: the Line Drawing layer needs to stay on the top of your Layers palette. Choose an orange and grab the Pen tool. Select Shape layers and draw around part of the hair.

9. Create highlights

Choose a slightly lighter shade of orange and draw one half of your highlight path, then duplicate that half to create the same curve. To do this, select the Direct Selection tool (A), hold Option/Alt and drag your path. Next use the Pen tool to join the two paths together.

10. Make a shadow

Pick a darker orange and carefully re-draw round the hair strand. This time you don’t need to duplicate the path for the shadow shape, as the shadow will be a bigger shape to the highlight; use your eye to judge how large the shape needs to be.

11. A full set of hair

Complete drawing the rest of the right side of the hair; play with the colours using different shades of orange to an orangey pink, to pink and then a pinky purple. Make a subtle gradient effect, giving your illustration vibrancy. Tip: make sure all of your shapes are in folders.

12. Duplicate shapes

To create the left side of the hair, duplicate the right side Shape layers. Having your shapes in a folder is important at this stage (see the Expert tip). To duplicate a folder, select Duplicate Group from the Layers drop-down menu. Next, just like in step 7, Flip Horizontally and move to place.

13. Finish colouring

Use all of the tips from steps 8 to 10 to finish colouring; select the Ellipse Tool to help colour-in the circular parts, and re-use the Diamond Card shape. Remember to only colour-in the right half and, as you did in step 12, duplicate the folder and flip to mirror the right side to the left.

14. Make a white outline

Next, duplicate the line drawing and move the duplicated layer behind the Shape layers. To invert the black lines to white, hit Cmd/Ctrl+I. Now make the white outline larger. Go to Edit>Transform>Scale and type in 105 next to W. Make sure Maintain Aspect Ratio is locked, then change the Opacity to 50%.

15. Add some noise

Start by making a black background layer and placing it at the bottom of your Layers palette. With the Line Drawing layer selected, merge the layers together by clicking Cmd/Ctrl+Alt/Option+ Shift+E. Finally, go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise and make the amount 12%. This will add a bit of texture to the artwork.