Famous Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool, had to wait quite a while for his own movie, but his time has come. So, obviously, it's also time for a tutorial with Deadpool as the star!
If you want to express your joy in a creative way, follow me—you don't need to be a Photoshop expert to do this, and you don't need a tablet either. By the way, you'll learn the basics of Shapes and the Pen Tool, which isn't as scary as they say. I promise. Are you ready?
1. Prepare the Sketch
It's very hard to create an illustration without any guide lines. Let's prepare a simple sketch that will be a skeleton for the rest of the picture. Feel free to do it traditionally, with a pencil. You can also use my sketch, if you don't like drawing.
Start by drawing the core of the pose: a "torso" with legs.
Let's rotate the torso to the right by bending the torso line.
Add the collarbones and the arms.
We now have enough guide lines to add more parts of the body. If's too confusing for you, try this beginner-friendly tutorial How to Draw a Stick Figure: a Complex Guide.
Add the hands, heels, and lines for the big and the little toe.
When you're ready, scan or take a picture of your drawing. If your digitizer makes the sketch look bad, try my Quick Tip: Clean Up Your Traditional Drawings in Photoshop.
2. Prepare the File
Before we start creating, we need to create a proper workspace.
Open Photoshop and go to Create > New (or use the shortcut Control-N) to create a new file. Use the dimensions 1000 x 1650 px. The size is not really that important, since we'll be working in vector, so it's more about the comfort of the work.
Drag your sketch into the file. It will create a new layer automatically.
Go to Edit > Free Transform (Control-T) to resize the sketch to your needs. Hold Shift and drag any of the corners to change the size proportionally. This tool also lets you rotate the shape, which we'll use later.
Double click the name of the layer to change it. Name it lines.
Click the number next to Opacity to lower it. Type 20 to change Opacity to 20%.
Now, lock the layer to keep it from editing.
This is how it should look now:
3. Create the Color Scheme
In this section we're going to prepare the colors. It will also be an introduction to vector shapes.
Find the Rectangle Tool (U), click it and hold until the list shows up. Then select the Ellipse Tool.
Make sure the tool is set to Shape, not Path or Pixels.
You can now draw the shape. You don't need to create a new layer for it—it will create itself. Click somewhere and drag to create an oval. Also:
- Hold Shift if you want to make it a circle.
- Hold Alt if you want to start with the cursor as the center.
You can also hold both to combine the effect. Just remember to press the keys after you click.
Double click the thumbnail of the shape to edit its colors.
Pick a nice red shade for the main color of our character.
Press Alt and drag the shape to duplicate it. We'll create another sample for the black parts of the costume.
Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to make the shape smaller, proportionally to its contribution in the colors.
Change its color to very dark blue. It's dark enough to be seen as black, but not enough to blend into a black background.
Use the same method to create samples for the leather parts...
... and the metal parts.
This is how the color scheme may look:
Let's organize the layers. Create a New Group...
... select all the shapes by holding Shift and clicking them...
... and then drag them into the group.
Close the group by clicking the arrow, and name it colors.
4. Build the Body Using Vector Paths
Sounds scary, huh? It's actually a very simple technique, much easier than drawing with a mouse. And it even makes digital painting without a tablet possible, which I proved in my tutorial How to Create Your First Digital Painting Without a Tablet in Adobe Photoshop.
Pick the Pen Tool (P) and make sure it's set to Shape (as we did before with the Ellipse Tool). Then simply click where you want the path to begin.
Click another place to create a line.
Keep selecting the points to create the shape of the torso.
Finally, click the first point to close the path.
After the shape is created, you can still edit the points by using the Direct Selection Tool (A).
Let's keep drawing the body! Draw the legs, starting with two simple, narrow sticks.
Now, add the muscles to them. It doesn't need to be anything complicated—just put a point outside of the sticks to create a "bump", and inside if you want to create a cavity.
Draw the feet simply by connecting the toes...
... and add the visible heel.
Use the same technique to create the arms. Start with the sticks:
Then add the "bumps".
Create simple, blocky fists:
Connect the arms with the fists by adding the forearms.
Let's add the head. It can be created with a rotated oval:
Add the neck by using the Rectangle Tool (U). If you feel confident, you can also try to add the jaws with the Pen Tool.
Finally, add the hips with a small bump in the place of the visible buttock.
5. Add the Colors
Time to make use of that color scheme we prepared so long ago!
Select the uppermost layer, hold Shift and click the one on the bottom to select them all. Then right click and select Merge Shapes. Name this new layer base.
This base will let us limit the shapes we will draw from now on. Just remember to clip every new layer by holding Alt and clicking the line between two layers.
You can hide the sketch layer by clicking the eye icon next to it.
Use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick the black shade from the scheme. Draw a long, tunic-like shirt. Because it's clipped, you can do it with a few straight lines.
Add a red rectangle in the middle to turn that tunic into a vest.
Use a rounded rectangle (you'll find it under the Rectangle Tool) to create a very big "cleavage".
Add two black stripes in the breast area.
Add two rectangles over them.
Add two rectangles on the arms to create pauldrons.
Draw a rounded rectangle on the left shoulder—the torso strap will be pinned here.
Add all the straps using rectangles.
Add the gloves and shoes simply by closing the shapes.
To make the shoes complete, add red stripes to them.
Let's draw the head. First, add an ellipse to start the strap on the neck...
... and another ellipse to close it.
Add one more ellipse to create the face.
The eye "patches" can be created with a simple shape like this:
Then you can duplicate it (Control-J) and go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.
Make the eyes from white ellipses.
Finally, add the brown belt on the waist.
6. Add the Details
Time to add some elements that aren't part of the body, and thus shouldn't be clipped to the base. From now on, don't clip the layers.
Let's create the characteristic buckle. Start with a red circle in the middle of the belt.
Add a smaller black circle inside.
Cross them with a red stripe. If you make the biggest circle a Clipping Mask, you won't need to care about its length.
Add two metal clasps.
Deadpool loves his pouches! Add a lot of them to the belt and one to the thigh strap.
The remaining straps on the legs keep the holsters close. Create them out of two black rectangles.
Let's put the guns into Deadpool's hands to justify this pompous pose.
Finally, let's add the katana swords on the back.
Now you have your own vector Deadpool! You can make this illustration as huge as a poster or as small as a postage stamp without losing any quality. To prove this, I made the source file very small. Download it and see what happens when you make it bigger in Image > Image Size!
If you like this style, check Superhero In Action. Silhouette Different Poses that this tutorial was inspired by. If you want something more complex, check also:
If this tutorial has got you interested in vectors, maybe it's a good opportunity to start your adventure with Illustrator? Make sure to check out The Fundamentals of Adobe Illustrator course!