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Create a Fantasy Storybook Illustration

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Good storybook illustrators know how to tap into a child's imagination. In this tutorial, we will show you how to create a fantasy storybook illustration that depicts a child riding a pet spider. This tutorial includes both written and video content. Let's get started!


Speed Painting Video

The real-time video can be downloaded at the end of this tutorial.

1. Configure Brushes

Step 1

For this tutorial we will use the basic round brush in combination with a graphics tablet. Open the Brush Panel. In Brush Tip Shape you can choose between the brushes you have loaded, change the size, hardness or spacing (this last one will leave it to 0). 2-In Shape Dynamics, select Control: Pen Pressure to activate the pen pressure. 3-In transfer, select Control: Pen Pressure to control the flow of paint from the pen pressure. 4-You can combine all of these features along with Opacity to get the stroke you want.



2. Document Set Up

Step 1

Create a New File by going to File > New (Command/Ctrl/Ctrl + N). In Preset select International Paper and in Size, A4.


Step 2

With Paint Bucket (G) and a medium gray, fill the Background Layer.



3. Create the Sketch

Step 1

Add a new layer (Shift + Command/Ctrl + N) and start sketching. Use as many layers as you feel necessary. You can start by drawing basic shapes, such as circles or guides and gradually begin to define the drawing. Use loose lines and don’t worry about the details, we'll see that later. The most important thing to worry about is the composition and overall design.



4. Refine the Sketch

Step 1

Lower a bit the opacity of the sketch and add a layer underneath. Select Gradient Tool (G) and make a linear gradient from darker gray to lighter, from the bottom up.


Step 2

In this way, we define the global light that will come from behind and above.


Step 3

Put a new layer below the sketch and using different grays starts roughly define the volumes.


Step 4

Pick a dark and light gray. Use opacity with transfer mode enabled to make sure your tones don’t change.


Step 5

You can flip the image, to detect faults in the shapes.


Step 6

Once corrected, reduce a little the opacity of the sketch and flip the image again.


Step 7

Begin to define the drawing, start to add some details, albeit roughly. Use as many layers as you need.


Step 8

To maintain a bit the order of the layers, we will group each picture element in groups.
Select all the layers you have at the moment and place them in a folder. This will be the folder "sketch".


Step 9

Create a new group for the child above and lower the opacity of the layer with the sketch line.



5. Paint Basic Shapes

Step 1

Begin to block the child shapes and to define the volume with gradients.


Step 2

Add shadows to separate the elements and define a little more detail.


Step 3

Now add a bit of light.


Step 4

Using a soft brush with low opacity, smooth gradients and a small brush to define the drawing.


Step 5

Create a new group for the spider.
Perform the same procedure as with the child.


Step 6

To make the iris, use a hard brush with no pressure on a new layer.


Step 7

Add a Clipping mask to the iris layer. To do this, just add a new layer on top and Alt + click between both layers. Paint the shadows and light with a soft, low opacity brush.


Step 8

In a new layer add some highlights.



6. Detail the Spider

Step 1

To start painting the spider hair, use the hair brush I explained in this tutorial "Create an Adorable Children's Illustration"
Make the lines following the shape of the body.


Step 2

On a new layer, use Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) to select the area of the eye. Press Shift while creating the selection, so that the circle is perfect.


Step 3

Fill in empty areas, to complete the circle and put a little shadow around the edges to create volume effect.


Step 4

Press Shift+Command/Ctrl+I to invert the selection. In a Multiply layer, use dark gray to darken the shadow areas.


Step 5

Press Command/Ctrl + D to deselect. Click on the eye layer and use the Blur Tool to blur the edges slightly.


Step 6

Start to define the legs. Use a thin brush to make the hairs.


Step 7

Darken front legs slightly.


Step 8

Use a semi hard brush with low opacity with transfer mode enabled and pen pressure to define the hair strands.


Step 9

Use a darker gray for the shadows. You can erase in the darker parts.



7. Painting the Plants

Step 1

To make the leaves of the plants, create a new group and make a leaf. Paint the volume roughly as shown in the picture.


Step 2

Duplicate the leaf layer. This can be done with ALT and dragging the layer. Press Command/Ctrl + T to move it, rotate and resize.


Step 3

Once you are happy with the leaf position, use a hard small brush to paint the details in each layer. Do not forget to paint the shadow projected on the other leafs.


Step 4

Select them all by Shift + Command/Ctrl + Click on each layer.


Step 5

Create a layer on top and obscures the bottom.


Step 6

Create a layer in screen mode with low opacity and uses a medium gray to light the top.


Step 7

Create a new group for the plants in the back. Duplicate one of the leaves and use Levels (Command/Ctrl + L) to make them lighter, as seen in the image.


Step 8

Continue adding leaves, remember you can flip, rotate, change size, distort them, etc, (just press Command/Ctrl+T and right click to choose the mode)... Until you're satisfied with how they look.



8. Painting the Background

Step 1

Add a new group for the background. Use a soft and big brush to paint the ground with a medium gray and a lighter gray for the sky.


Step 2

Now paint shadows on the ground for the spider and plants.


Step 3

On a new layer, use a hard brush with transfer Mode for the trees. Paint the front trees darker and lighter those behind. Make them darker in the middle, and that, being cylindrical, light falls from the sides.


Step 4

Now add to it the branches, also darkening the middle.


Step 5

Put a layer on top of all the other groups and use a hard brush without pressure to make the lianas.


Step 6

Repeat the process for the lianas in the background, but with a lighter gray and a layer under the trees.


Step 7

You can adjust the lianas using Hue/Saturation (Command/Ctrl + U) and increasing the Lightness.



9. Levels Corrections and Adjustments

Step 1

We'll make some adjustments. Above all layers, create a Layer Adjustment "Brightness/Contrast" and increase contrast as seen in the picture.


Step 2

Add another Adjustment Layer, this time level. Set as seen in the picture.


Step 3

Let's go back to the child. On a new layer, paint a very light gray border around the child because the light comes from behind. In this case light has also been added to the hat skull and some highlights to the hair.



10. Painting the Stick

Step 1

In a new layer below the child, paint the stick, remember to darken up the middle and illuminate the edges.


Step 2

Add attachments and embellishments.


Step 3

On a new layer, use Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) to make a small circle. Fill it with color.


Step 4

As we have done before, paint the volume of the ball and add some embellishments on a new layer. To paint the ball more easily, keep the selection active, but invisible, this is done by pressing Command + H (This command also hides the Guides).


Step 5

On a new layer, make the rope from which hangs the ball. To make a straight line easily, choose a hard brush of the desired thickness and click on the starting point, then pressing Shift, click on the end point.


Step 6

Select the layer of the ball and the ornaments and merge them by pressing Command/Ctrl + E. Use Levels (Command/Ctrl + L) to give contrast, as shown in the picture.


Step 7

Duplicate the ball and rope, place them below and press Command/Ctrl + T to place them in position.


Step 8

Use Hue / Saturation (Command/Ctrl + U) to make them lighter



11. Brightness Correction

Step 1

Add a layer on top of everything in Overlay mode at 55% Opacity and Gradient Tool (G) set to Radial Gradient, Foreground to transparent, with very light gray foreground color, make a gradient from the center and top.


Step 2

Duplicate the gradient layer, press Command/Ctrl + I to invert the color.
Flip it down (Command/Ctrl + T, right click and Flip Vertical) and stretch upward.


Step 3

Finally, turn down the opacity to 17%.



12. Final Detailing

Step 1

Let's go back to the child. Add some details to the face like a nose and eyebrows and fix little things to finish tuning.


Step 2

Let's give some detail to the eye of the spider. Draw small scratches around the pupil, and a small wavy line to the bottom of the iris.


Step 3

Finally, as a last adjustment, put light lines around the lianas, leaves, spider legs and in general of all the elements that are missing.



13. Start with the Color

Step 1

Let's start with the color! Add a layer to Color and the Paint Bucket Tool (G) Put any color and turn down the opacity a bit.


Step 2

Open panel Hue / Saturation (Command/Ctrl + U) and change the values​​ to a sepia tone.


Step 3

Add another layer of color and start painting the characters.
In this case as the background will be green, use red, brown and yellow to create contrast in the visual focus.
A tip when painting is to not use a single color for each part. For example, in the face, I have used pink for the skin but also orange and red on the nose, cheeks and around the eyes, his pants are brown, yellow and red. Use low opacity brushes for mixing.


Step 4

Add green above for the bottom and a yellow-green for the sky in a layer below.



14. Refine the Color

Step 1

Paint a white halo below the child group. Reduce the layer opacity.


Step 2

Use layers in multiply mode to enhance dark areas. In this case I used blue and brown to very low opacity. Use layers in overlay mode or Soft Light to add highlights with white in this case. In the picture you can see what colors were used in each area. Remember to use soft brushes at very low opacity.


Step 3

Add a layer with Overlay mode, use a small brush and yellowish green to paint around the elements.


Step 4

Add more gloss to the eye of the spider.


Step 5

Add a Levels adjustment layer as seen in the picture to give a little more contrast.



15. Fireflies

Step 1

Create a layer and set to Overlay. Make small dots with white brush. Vary their size.


Step 2

Double click the layer to open Layer Style. Use Outer Glow as shown in the picture.



16. Painting the Flowers

Step 1

This image needs some more red. So I decided to paint in some flowers. On a new layer, make a sketch with low opacity.


Step 2

In a layer below the sketch, put the base color of the flower. In this case is too strong, so I take away saturation with Hue / Saturation (Command/Ctrl + U).


Step 3

In another layer paint the stem and leaves, using two different greens for volume with a yellow component to separate green background.


Step 4

Add a Clipping Mask (Alt + click between the layers) in the layer where the flowers are. It uses the same red but lighter to paint the lights.


Step 5

Add another Clipping Mask and start painting shadows smoothly.


Step 6

Use a small brush to define the shapes a bit more and add some dark red spots and some yellow.


Step 7

Add another Clipping Mask in multiply mode to enhance the shadow areas.


Step 8

Darken the inner parts of the flower, as seen in the picture.


Step 9

Add a Clipping Mask in Multiply mode to the layer of stems and use a soft brush with reddish gray to darken the shadow areas.


Step 10

Finally, add a layer set to Overlay to paint the rim of yellow-green light. And so we can give by completed the illustration.



Conclusion

In this tutorial we have shown you how to create a beautiful storybook illustration from start to finish. We began by showing you how to create your sketch, add lighting, and finally how to add color and final details. We also included several videos to show you how this artwork was created. We hope that this tutorial has shown you what you need to know in order to create your own fantasy storybook illustrations. Good luck!



Real-Time Video

The real-time video of this tutorial can be found below.


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