In today’s tutorial we will demonstrate how to create a cartoon-like fish illustration in Photoshop. Let's get started!
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.
Before We Begin
Before we start this tutorial I recommend you to use a tablet, if you have one, because it'll be much easier for you to do the last few steps, especially adding the details for the fish. If you don't have one, you can still use a regular mouse but expect to add a couple of hours in the estimated completion time.
Let's start by creating a new file with a size of 1100x768px with a resolution of 300 ppi. Then using the Gradient tool (G) add a radial gradient using the color numbers indicated below.
Next, open the Concrete stock image then press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + U to desaturate the image. Next, press Cmd/Ctrl + L to show the Levels window then adjust the handles corresponding to the values indicated below. Finally change the blend mode to Overlay.
As you can see, I sketched a figure of a fish that we'll be going to use as a guide for the shapes.
Next, add a new layer then name it as "1". Using the Pen tool (P), make a shape like as shown in Fig. a. Next press right-click then select Make Selection from the dropdown menu as shown in Fig. b. Lastly, using a soft brush, paint the selected area using the color numbers indicated in Fig. c
Next add a new layer then place it below the layer "1." Then, while holding the Cmd/Ctrl, click the thumbnail image of layer "1" in the layers tab to activate the selection marquee around the object like as shown in Fig, a. Next, using the Paint Bucket tool (G), fill the entire selection with color #000000 like as shown in Fig. b. Next go to Filter> Blur > Gaussian Blur then use the values indicated in Fig. c.
Continue the process we began in Step 5 but try to make different shapes. Remember to start from the tail going to the head of the fish so that it'll be much easier for layer placing.
Once you reached the joint between the main body and the tail, indicated by the circle below, try to use more and smaller shapes.
Continue this process until you reach the mouth of the fish. This process requires a lot of patience so don't rush in making the shapes.
And here you can see the final effect we want to achieve.
Like what we did in Step 5, Cmd/Ctrl + Click the thumbnails of the layers composing the fish to activate the selection marquee around the entire shape of the fish.
Next, using the Brush tool (B) set to a low level of hardness; paint the entire selection using the color numbers indicated below making a rainbow-like color pattern.
Next change the Blend mode to Overlay.
For the next step, I recommend you rotate the canvas in a vertical manner so that the head of the fish is located on the lower portion of the screen. To do this, go to Image> Image Rotation> 90 degrees Counter Clockwise.
Next, add the details for the fish. I recommend that you to activate the Tablet Pressure, if you have a tablet, so to override the brush settings. Activating the Tablet Pressure will command the program to follow the pen pressure being inputted from the tablet, meaning exerting harder pressure from the tablet makes darker lines and vice-versa.
As you can see I continued to add more lines. I used darker shades of lines for each outline of the shapes then adding lighter and finer strokes to add more details in the inner areas.
Use longer lines from the upper edge of every shape then slowly going to lighter and smaller shades once you reached the bottom.
Below you can see the final effect we want to achieve. The process of adding the line details for the fish is truly time consuming but the effect is worth it.
Next is to add the fins. To do this, use the Pen tool (P) to create a shape just like as shown in Fig. a. Once the shape has been defined, right-click and select make Selection from the dropdown menu. Next, using the Brush tool (B), set to a low level of hardness, paint the selected area using the color numbers indicated in Fig. b. Lastly, like what we did in the previous steps, add some line details using the Brush tool (B) like as shown in Fig. c.
Next step is to select the layers that constitute the fish's fin. Once selected, right-click and select Merge layers from the dropdown menu. Next, duplicate this layer then press Cmd/Ctrl + T to activate the resizing handles then rotate it as shown below.
Next is to add the eye of the fish. Using the Brush tool (B) make a small black circle like as shown in Fig. a. Next, paint a small white circular shape like as shown in Fig. b. Next, add an inverted C-like shape just like as shown in Fig. c. Finally, use the smudge tool to soften and mix the colors like as shown in Fig. d.
Now we'll add the shadow of the fish. To do this, Cmd/Ctrl + Click the thumbnail that comprises the fish's body to activate the selection marquee around the entire fish. Next, add a new layer like as shown in Fig. a then place it below the layers that made-up the fish. Next fill the entire selection with color #000000 using the paint Bucket tool (G). Go to Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur and apply the value indicated in Fig. b. The final effect is shown in Fig. c
Select all layers that constitutes the entire fish's body in the layers tab then drag it to the "Create a new layer" bottom. This will duplicate every layers selected. Next, press right-click while the duplicated layers are still highlighted in the Layers tab then select Merge Layers. Once the layers have been merged, press Cmd/Ctrl + T to activate the resizing handles. Press right-click and select Flip Horizontal from the dropdown menu then resize it just like as shown below.
Here you can see I duplicated the fish, inverted it horizontally, then resized it to make it smaller.
Next, add a new layer and name it "Black" then fill it with color #000000 using the Paint Bucket tool (G). Using the Eraser tool (E), set to a size of 1557 px and a hardness of 0%, erase the area indicated in red below.
That's it, we're done! Just decrease the "black" layer's opacity level to about 76%.