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Creating an Anime-Styled Angel Vector Illustration in Adobe Photoshop

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This tutorial will guide you through the process of creating an angel vector illustration in Adobe Photoshop. It could also easily be done in Adobe Illustrator if you're familiar with the tools. This tutorial assumes drawing ability and Photoshop knowledge, and teaches only the stages used to create the artwork, not the associated technical skills.


1. Creating Your Sketch to Work From

Step 1

First, create a new document (CTRL + N) to begin sketching. I prefer to do my initial sketches on a canvas 900 pixels tall by 675 pixels wide and enlarge the sketch later. You can start at whatever size feels most comfortable for you. Use the Rectangle Tool set to Shape Layers first to create a white background. Next, make a new layer (CTRL + SHIFT + N) and sketch out a general idea of what you're going for. For posing, I use stick figures and block in important shapes. If you're a traditional sketcher, you can do your sketch on paper as normal, scan it in, and meet us at step 10. Drawing the wings is covered in steps 7 - 9.


Step 2

Next, lower the opacity of your pose sketches and create a new layer above (CTRL + SHIFT + N) to begin your second sketches, where you can add detail and form, creating a figure you're able to work with.


Step 3

On the same layer, I have drawn a dove flying from her hand. On a new separate layer, I have roughly sketched out the environment - clouds, moon, and stars.


Step 4

On another new layer, sketch out her hair. Give it lots of volume, and twist it round her body in a few places. We won't be adding clothing, so use the hair to cover her instead. I like to do my sketches in pink so its easier to see which body lines to erase afterwards. Once I'm done with the hair sketches, I make the sketch black.


Step 5

Sketch in her facial features and, when you're happy with the way the second sketches look, you can merge your sketch layers (keep the background sketches separate).


Step 6

Now, resize your image (CTRL + ALT + I) so the longer side is 3000 pixels long. Lower the opacity of your second sketch layer(s) and, on a separate layer for each area of your drawing, do one more sketch. The body and face (blue) are done on one layer, the hair (pink) on another, and the dove (purple) on a third. These final sketches should be neat enough for you to work from when creating your line art.


Step 7

On a fourth layer, you can draw out your wings. Start with the outside, as shown below.


Step 8

Next, add the inside row of feathers, including some small 'fluffy' feathers before the larger feathering begins, and a few above.


Step 9

In between your inner and outer rows of feathers, add one more full row, and then fill in the gaps with a fourth row, so you have something similar to the example shown below. Once you've done the first wing, do the same for the other.


Step 10

You can now hide your secondary sketch layers, and make your new sketches black. Now, we're ready to begin creating the vector. Add your sketch layers into a group folder, and set said folder to around 30% Opacity. You can hide the background sketch layer for now.



2. Base Colors

Step 1

Unlike my other tutorials, we'll be starting with the base colors rather than with the line art. This is because we're using colored line art. rather than black, so it makes sense to choose your base colors first and then choose suitable colors to add your line art. afterwards. Alternatively, you could choose all your colors before starting, but I personally prefer to lay them out on the actual image and see how they look as part of the artwork rather than using swatches. Start with the hair, using the Pen Tool (P) to draw around the outside edges of the hair, using the Subtract from Shape Layer selection to create the gaps. Keep the sketch layers above the vector so you can see what you're doing.


Step 2

Once you've done the hair - I chose pale blue for mine - add the skin base layer(s) above. You can then add the chosen colors for the wings, and the off-white color for the dove. I have chosen to do my wings the same color as the dove, using an almost-white color with subtle golden hues. You can place your base colors into their own group folders for each area (ie, one folder for the hair, one for the skin, etc) or into a group folder titled "colors," whichever you prefer, if any.


Step 3

On your original white background Shape Layer, add a Gradient Overlay for your background colors. You will find this option in the FX menu at the bottom of the Layers tab, while you have your white background layer highlighted. I have chosen pale blue and purple tones, as I have sky as part of my background environment.



3. Line Art

Step 1

With your main base colors and environment in place, we can now begin the line art. stages. I have started with the skin, using a brown color. Add your line art. Shape Layers in a group folder named "lines," above the color group folder(s), or you can create a group folder for each area again, as described previously.


Step 2

The completed skin line art. Continue working on your line art., and don't be afraid to stray from your sketch if you decide to change something or need to amend an area you feel doesn't look as you were hoping.


Step 3

Using a golden tone, I've added the line art. for the wings. I've used dark purple for the eyes and eyelashes, and a darker version of the hair base color for the eyebrows. (Sketch layers hidden.)


Step 4

Using a color a few tones darker than your base color, begin adding line art. for the hair. Follow your sketch lines, and make any edits you need to along the way.


Step 5

When all the line art. is finished, you can delete your character sketch layers as we won't be using them again. Keep the background sketch layer though, you still need that.



4. Eyes and Mouth

Step 1

Create Shape Layers behind the line art. layers, and above the base color layers for your eye white. I always use an off-white rather than actual white, as I find pure white can sometimes appear too bright.


Step 2

Use a dark color to add a shadow to the eye whites. This shadow is created by the eyelid, so it should follow the curve of the top of the eye shape. I prefer to use purple, blue or green tones for this usually as these are the tones most often found if you were to color-pick a photograph of an eye.


Step 3

Choose a base color for the iris, and create the shapes to fill the irises. I chose a turquoise color for mine.


Step 4

Add a circle to each eye for the pupils. This should be a deeper version of the base color, or in a similar tonal range. Choose a color that is still of a fairly high saturation, otherwise you risk the eyes appearing dull.


Step 5

Use the same color to add a shadow around the outside edges of the irises, leaving the bottom unshaded.


Step 6

A deeper tone again is used to add shading around the top of the eye, again acting as the shadow created by the eyelid. A small crescent shape is added to the bottom of the pupil.


Step 7

Using the original base color for the irises, add two circles for highlights, one larger circle toward the top, at one end of the crescent, and one smaller circle toward the bottom, at the other end of the crescent. Do this to both eyes.


Step 8

Add a smaller white circle inside each of the top highlights. You can use pure white for this, or you can use the original base color you chose for your eye whites.


Step 9

Use an off-white to color the teeth, adding a slim gray line of shading under the top lip. Alternatively, use pale red tones if you're showing the mouth as open.



5. Shading the Skin

Step 1

Before shading, you will first need to consider your light source. My overall image is fairly well lit, but using the moon in the background as the primary source for considering the areas to shade. Starting with the skin, begin adding your shading to the darkest areas only. Around the hair, under the jawline, lips, under her nose, and around the eyes are some areas to consider. Use Clipping Masks to stay within the boundaries of the original skin base Shape Layer. To add a Clipping Mask, first make sure your shading Shape Layer is directly above the base color Shape Layer, and then Right-click the shading Shape Layer and select the option Create Clipping Mask. Add any further shading layers below this layer and the Clipping Mask will be created automatically.


Step 2

Next, create a new Shape Layer below your shading layers, in the color of your original skin base color. Use a Gradient Overlay from the Layer FX menu, fading from the original base color into your shading color, to add a gentle gradient to the face. I've also cut out two small subtle highlights below the eye, to suggest a cheek bone.


Step 3

Continue shading the skin with this method, adding shade layers to the darkest areas and using gradients to fill in the rest, until you have finished and are happy with the result.


6. Shading the Wings

Step 1

Next, work on the wings. Again, only shade the darkest parts where the light is least likely to reach well, such as anywhere covered by hair or by other feathers. Use a color which gives a fairly high contrast between it and the original base color. Use thin strands of shade up the middle of each feather along with the other shading. This is a simple way to add detail to feathers.


Step 2

Your fully shaded wing should look similar to the one shown below.


Step 3

Using the Gradient Overlay method as before, add a gradient to the wing. Have the darkest end of the gradient nearer the bottom-left, where it is most shaded by her hair and body. I've also lowered the opacity of this gradient to 70% so it's more subtle, and so all the original shading still stands out well.


Step 4

For the other wing, as it is the 'inside', shade it completely except for the edges, to give a back lit effect.


Step 5

Shade the dove in the same way as the wings, but without the gradients, as smaller areas like this work best with higher contrast.


7. Shading the Hair

Step 1

Next, you can begin working on the hair. We'll be doing two layers of shading for this rather than one layer of shading and gradients. Only shade the absolute darkest darks for the hair, as the secondary shading will be used to add the extra depth. Use long thin blocks of shading here and there, to give the appearance of strands, to keep it looking more hair-like. As with the skin, use Clipping Masks to shade the hair.


Step 2

When the first layer of hair shading is completed, you need to check over it to make sure that your hair flows well, and that the direction of each block makes sense. When adding your shading, you need to ensure that you're following the flow of the hair in this way, otherwise it may look out of place. Once you're happy with this primary shading, move on to the secondary shading.


Step 3

Underneath your darker shading, you can begin adding the secondary shading. Use plenty of the strand-like blocks of shading in the secondary shading as this will add detail wonderfully, but again make sure you are keeping with the directional flow of the hair when adding these strands. For this shading, you should be using a tone more saturated than your base color, but not too much darker. Make sure there's still plenty of contrast between the secondary shading and the original shading you added.


Step 4

Once you've finished the secondary shading, the hair is completed and will no doubt be looking fabulous! We're now finished with the character part of the illustration, so if you want to make any changes to her, do so now before moving on to the next stage.


8. Background and Environment

Step 1

Use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick a color from your background, and then make it much lighter, so it is more of an off-white. This will be the base color for your clouds. Make your rough background sketch visible, and use it as a guide. Using the Pen Tool (P), make your clouds - use large rounded edges and deep curves to create a soft look to them.


Step 2

Next, I've used a pale violet tone to add a layer of shading to the clouds. Add bumps to this shading rather than following the smoother original form of the clouds, otherwise they will look flat instead of rounded and fluffy.


Step 3

For the second layer of shading, I've color-picked from the background again and made it slightly lighter. Again, try not to follow the original shapes too much, or those of your first shading layer. This more simplistic look to the environment will ensure your character stands out, but still feels like she is part of the overall image.


Step 4

Do similar layers of shading to the clouds on the other side. Hide the sketch occasionally to check how it looks.


Step 5

Continue adding shade to all the clouds, always making sure you're using the moon as a light source guide (ie, the same light source you used as the primary light source for the character.)


Step 6

Next, the moon - use an almost-white color for this, lighter than the clouds. I wanted a more stylized look to mine so drew it freehand, but if you'd like a more perfectly round moon, you can use the Ellipse Tool while holding down SHIFT to draw a perfect circle, and then, using the same method to make a circle, use the Subtract From Shape Area selection to cut out one side of the circle, creating a crescent shape.


Step 7

Using a blue-gray color, add a block of shading toward the inner edge of your moon shape to give it a bit of dimension, but don't go right to the edges. Don't worry about making it too dark, after we've added some extra lighting in the next stage, this shading will be less visible than it is here. You can always come back to change it later, too.


Step 8

Underneath the original moon shape, add two low-opacity shapes around it to act as the moonshine. Do these in the same color as the original moon base color. Mine are both at 20% opacity.


Step 9

As a final touch to the background, add some stars. I've used a Custom Shape Tool to add my stars in a star-shape, though using the Ellipse Tool and adding them as circles instead would also work. My stars are done in the same color as the moon base color, and are at 90% opacity.



9. Lighting

Step 1

Create a new group folder above all your other Shape Layers and any groups you've used, and name it "dodge." Using only pure white Shape Layers within this group, you can add highlights to your artwork. Set the group folder to Color Dodge using the menu at the top of the Layers tab. Your white shapes should be between 5% and 20% opacity to create the highlights - use whatever opacity looks right to you. Keep the group folder opacity at 100% - only change the opacity of the Shape Layers themselves. The arrows on the image below show the rough direction of the lighting, and where I've added some highlights to the hair.


Step 2

With all the hair highlights added, I've also added some to a few of the edges of the clouds closest to the moon. Add these highlights wherever you feel is appropriate for your illustration. You could also add some more stars to the sky using this method - experiment and see what works for your illustration.


Step 3

For the overall lighting, and to give the piece added contrast, still within your "dodge" group folder, use the Rectangle Tool to add a white shape over the whole image. Mine is set to 5% opacity. You'll notice this makes the whole image lighter and have added shine to it. You could leave it like this, but I personally feel it looks a little washed-out, so, one last thing to do, and then we're done!


Step 4

Lastly, to bring the contrast back up, use the Rectangle Tool again to make a pure black layer over the whole image, above the rest of your layers, and above the "dodge" group. Set this black layer to 20% opacity and, using the menu at the top of the Layers tab, set it to Overlay. You can change the opacities of this layer, and the previous white layer in the dodge folder, until you are happy with the look of your illustration.



You're Finished!

You will now have something similar to the image above - a completed anime-style angel illustration. Notable effects used in this tutorial include gradient layer styles, and creating lighting effects using black and white layers and the Overlay and Color Dodge modes. Thanks for joining me for this tutorial, I hope you enjoyed it. I would love to see any artwork inspired by, or created using this.

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