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How to Create a Trio of Magical Potions in Paint Tool SAI

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Do you like to play computer games? Have you ever wanted to become a game graphic artist? If you answered ‘yes’, this tutorial is exactly for you! Learn how to make simple yet stylish and colorful game icons, using basic tools in Paint Tool SAI. We’ll start with a blank page and go through the full process of making an icon for a casual game. Let’s get started!

1. Make a Magic Potion Based on a Triangle Shape

Step 1

Make a New Canvas (Control-N) choosing the desired size. I always start with a bigger size of canvas in the beginning, because it will give you an ability to make more detailed artwork. Also since we’re working with raster graphics, we don’t want to lose the quality of our future icons—on the contrary, we use a bigger size now so that when we scale our icons, they will look even better.

Starting screen with chosen size

Step 2

Create a New Layer from the Layer Panel and take the Pen Tool—or any other tool you prefer. At this stage it doesn't matter which tool you use, as long as you can comfortably draw what you want.

Let’s start with guides for our magic potion. Because we are making it based on a triangle shape, remember about it while drawing these guide lines. They will help with overall composition and positioning parts of the potion. 

Basic guidlines for potion

Step 3

Create a new Vector Layer (Line work) and take the Line tool to draw the basic shapes of a triangle for the bottle and a rectangle for the bottle's neck.

Making basic shape with Line tool

Step 4

Create a New Layer and take the Air Brush Tool. Right now let’s start our sketch, so don’t worry about the tidiness and the smoothness of your lines. Just think of what you want to get in the result and lightly paint the overall shape and your general idea. Look at the guide lines and vector forms to keep going in the right direction.

Drawing sketch for triangle potion

Step 5

Set this sketch layer to 30% opacity and create a new Vector Layer (Line work) to draw clean line art for this potion. For curved lines use the Curve Tool from the Line work panel, and for straight lines use Line Tool.  

You can switch from one tool to another while drawing a line, just by changing the tool on the panel. Also for easier work with this program, you can create your own shortcuts for every tool. 

Using vector tools for basic shape

To make both sides of your potion equal, draw half of it, then Copy this part, Paste and Flip horizontally. Place it correctly and don't forget to Merge the layers.

Making other side of the potion

Step 6

After you’re done with the vector layer, create a New Layer and fix all the problems using the Air Brush and Eraser. This is a perfect time to add decorations and details to the potion.

Adding decorations for potion

Step 7

When the line work is ready for coloring and you've cleared all the problem places of your drawing, Merge all layers and set the line art layer mode to Multiply. To see all the lines while coloring, we should put our line work layer on top of color layers, and set its mode to Multiply, so no white spots will appear on our drawing in the process.

Setting layer style to Multiply

Step 8

Under the line work layer, create a New Layer and take the Pen or Air Brush with small size to paint inside the lines of the potion, making sure there are no blank spots. Then take the Bucket and fill in with gray color inside of the shape. This will act like a mask layer, so you won’t get out of the lines in the process. 

Base color layer - solid gray

Step 9

The same way paint the liquid in the bottle—choose a bright color, because usually magic potions are bright and shining. Also paint any decorations you made before, but make sure you’re doing it on different layers. Always use different layers while working! It will save you time and you will know what part of an image you’re working on.

We're finished with the flat base colors! Congratulations!

Base colors for every part of potion

Step 10

It’s time to give volume to the potion...

To make our potion more realistic, we should add shadows and highlights. Decide where will be the light source on your drawing and in which direction it will go, and don’t forget about it while drawing. If you want, draw a small sun in the corner of the canvas. In this case the light will be in the top-right position of the drawing. 

Get back to the first base color layer, which we painted solid gray. Create a New Layer on top of it, and then click on Clipping Group.

Using Clipping Group for shadow and light

Clipping Group is like a mask, and when you paint in it, your lines are always located inside the base layer. Start pointing out the darkest and lightest places on the bottle. Choose different colors to see what works best for you.

Step 11

Repeat the last step on the other layers: create a new layer on top of the base layer, Clipping group it to the base layer, and then paint shadows and lights. 

For one base layer you can use as many Clipping group layers as you need. They will always be inside the base layer, although the highest layer will paint over the lowest. Add decorations or patterns to the cord, to make it more visually interesting. 

Coloring layers Clipping Groups
Adding details to potion using Clipping Group

Step 12

Time to get exciting! To add brightness to the drawing, create a New Layer on top of all coloring layers but under the line work layer—this is important. Then set the layer mode to Overlay and paint any color you want. At this stage you can experiment with the color, density and size of the brush, and the opacity of the layer.

Use soft Orange or Beige to add softness and warmth, Cyan to make the drawing colder, and Magenta to express the magic of the liquid. You are free to choose any color, and make as many Overlay layers as you wish until you’re happy with the result.

Adding more brightness using Overlay layer

Step 13

Now that we have finished with basic shadows and light, we can move on to detailing our picture.

Create a New Layer with Normal Mode on top of the line work layer. Draw on the line-work lines, add details, and repaint imperfections. Use colors that are already on your drawing—to blend them better, use the Color Picker Tool or the Blur Tool. In some versions of the program you can also find an awesome blending tool: the Water Brush.

Detalizing magic potion on new layer

Step 14

Create a New Layer on top of all other layers. Highlight all edges of the bottle by painting white color over them. It will give the bottle a realistic glass look and better volume. 

Highlighting potion and adding volume

Step 15

Create a New Layer and set its mode to Overlay. Use this layer to add interesting color spots. To add glare, create a new layer with Luminosity mode and paint on desirable places with Air Brush in small density.

Adding color variations using Overlay layer

And that’s it! Our magic potion based on a triangle shape is done!

Finished triangle potion

2. Make a Magic Potion Based on a Rectangle Shape

Step 1

Again, start by creating a New Canvas with the desired size.

Starting screen with chosen size

Step 2

Draw guide lines, and then sketch the new bottle. This time a rectangle will be our base shape, so to make it more visually interesting you can play with the shape, decreasing the size of one part and increasing the size of the other. As usual, at this stage don't worry about the smoothness and tidiness of your lines—draw as you like.

Guidelines and rough sketch for rectangle shaped potion

Step 3

For a rectangle-shaped bottle we should make better preparations for our composition. Create a New Vector (Line work) Layer and draw clear guides using the Line Tool. Your sketch will help you to see where to put the lines.

Linework for potion using Line Tool

Create a New Line work Layer and use the Line Tool to draw the shape of the potion. The guide lines and your first rough sketch will help you.

Linework with Vector Line Tool

Step 4

Create a New Layer—remember, always draw on separate layers! Fix all imperfections using Air Brush and Eraser, and add decorations to the bottle, cork and cord. Then set the layer mode to Multiply.

Create a New Layer under the line work, paint the outline of the bottle using a small size of the Pen, and then fill in with solid gray color using the Bucket. For liquid in the bottle and decorations, create new layers and paint each part separately. 

At this stage, the work with flat base colors is over!

From sketch to base colors

Step 5

Now it’s Clipping group time again! Create a New Layer on top of the base color layer, and add shadows and highlights according to the light source. Visually add more volume to the bottle by using complementing colors. If the liquid in the bottle is green, go ahead and use dark blue for shadows and pale yellow, orange even, for light.

Coloring potion using Clipping group

Step 6

After you’ve finished with the coloring under the line work layer, create a New Layer on top of the line work layer and fix all imperfections by using the Air Brush. Add more details and decoration, and improve color variations and light. If you think it's appropriate, add a New Layer on top, setting its mode to Overlay, and make the color more interesting and bright.

Coloring and detalization for potion

Step 7 

Highlight the edges of the bottle by creating a New Layer, and draw those edges with white color.

Highlighting bottle and more detalization

Step 8

The last step is to add brightness to the picture, by creating one more New layer with Overlay mode. And our magic potion based on a rectangle shape is done!

Finished rectangle shaped potion

3. Make a Magic Potion Based on a Sphere Shape

Step 1

Again, start by creating a New Canvas with the desired size.

Starting screen with chosen size

Step 2

Draw guide lines, and then sketch the new bottle. Start with the basic sphere shape, but if you want, you can play with the form of the sphere, making it uneven and fancy. As usual, at this stage don't worry about the smoothness and tidiness of your lines—just draw as you like.

From lines to finished sketch

Step 3

After finishing the rough sketch, create a New Vector Layer (Line work) on top of it and using the Curve and Line Tools, make half of the bottle. You can easily switch between these two instruments just by changing them on the tool panel. 

From rough sketch to linework

Step 4

To make both sides of the bottle equal, Copy that half you've already made, Paste it and Flip horizontally. Then place it correctly and make sure these parts fit together. Merge these two parts of the bottle, Copy the result, Paste it in place and Scale appropriately—it's an easy way to make the thick glass of the bottle. Erase the unnecessary parts.

Simple operations to make the bottle even

Step 5

Now that you have the base shape, create New Layer on top of it to fix all imperfections, and add decorations and details such as cord and cork by using the Air Brush. Then Merge all these layers together and set the mode to Multiply.

For coloring, create a New Layer under the line work, outline the shape of the bottle with solid gray color using the Pen, and then fill in the inside of the bottle using the Bucket tool. Repeat this step with the liquid of the bottle, cord and cork. Don't forget that it should be done on separate layers!

From sketch to base colors

Step 6

Now it’s Clipping group time again! Create a New Layer on top of the base color layer, and add shadows and lights according to the light source. Visually add more volume to the bottle by using complementing colors. If the liquid in the bottle is violet or magenta, use dark blue for shadows and pale pink for light.

To add brightness, create a New Layer, set its mode to Overlay, and paint with any color you want on top.

Brightening potion using Overlay layer

Step 7

Now let's work on the details! Create a New Layer with Normal mode on top of all layers and paint on the line-work lines, adding more shadows and lights to the potion.

Adding details and final touches

Step 8

If you want, create another Overlay layer to add even more brightness. And that’s it! Our magic potion based on a sphere shape is done!

Finished sphere shaped potion

4. Use Our Magic Potions to Create Game Icons

Step 1

Create a New File with canvas size 3200 x 2400 px. Fill it in with dark blue, or any other dark color of your choice. Make sure that you've saved our potions as PNG files, so they will have their transparency. Copy the first potion and Paste it on our new canvas with a dark background. Then, leaving it selected (or hit Control-T), choose Scale from the transform panel, making it smaller. As it reaches the desired size, switch to Rotate and rotate it nearly 30 degrees left. Hit OK.

Placing rectangle shaped potion on new canvas

Step 2

Create a New Layer under the potion layer. Now it's time to make an icon base. Using the Air Brush or Pen with the max of its size, make one dot with dark green color near the potion. Then hit Control-T to open the Transform Panel and Scale this circle so it will look good under the potion. 

Making base for an icon

Step 3

Our next step is to make a New Layer on top of the base layer and Clipping group it to the base. Take Pen or Air Brush and draw an outline inside the base. Then Lock this Clipping group layer and add some decorations to it.

Detailing the base of our icon

Step 4

Create a New Layer under the potion and outline the potion silhouette with bright yellow to push it in and distinguish it from the icon base.

Outline the silhouette of the potion

Step 5

Also we can make more decorations for our icon. For this green potion it will be leaves, as for a Magic Potion of LifeCreate a New Layer on top of the potion. Draw pretty simple leaves on one side of the icon, and then Copy them, Paste and Flip horizontally. Place them in the correct place, opposite the other leaves. Use the Rotate tool to make sure they fit in place.

Decorating icon with leaves
Making leaves on both sides of the icon

Step 6

If you want to add flames around the bottle, create a New Layer with Overlay mode and increase the brightness of the potion.

To make this icon shine on the dark background, create a New Layer on top of the background layer but under all other layers, set its mode to Overlay, and using Air Brush in max size, paint with bright green and yellow. This way you'll make a shining area around the icon.

More detailization and overlay layer

Step 7

Basically, all you need to do now for the other icons is to repeat the steps from the making of the rectangle-shaped icon. But an easier way to make a base for an icon is to copy it from the first icon with some modifications in color and detailing. 

Working on icon with sphere shaped potion

For this purple sphere-shaped icon, draw small pink flowers as decoration, as a Magic Potion of Mana (or magic powers).

Detalization with small flowers

Step 8

The same process for this icon as well: Copy our triangle-shaped potion and Place it on this new canvas, Scale, Rotate and make sure it fits here well.

Placing triangle potion on new canvas

For the base circle of this icon, use warm orange. Copy and Paste the decoration outline for an icon from the first one.

Making base for an icon

Continue working on detailing and volume for this icon. Draw yellow stars with red outline as decoration, so this icon will be a Magic Potion of Super Ability (or any other powers you can think of).

Detalization of the icon

Great Job! Our Magic Potion Icons Are Completed!

Finally we've worked out all the pieces of our artwork and created a set of game icons. I hope you've enjoyed using Paint Tool SAI and discovered some useful tips and tricks for working in this program. Good luck with your artwork!

Final result

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