1. Design & Illustration
  2. Character Design

How to Draw a Kimono Dancer Using Adobe Flash and Corel Painter

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In this tutorial, you will learn how to break away from Adobe Illustrator and use a combination of programs to create a vector image with a soft painted finish. Starting with a digital sketch, we will use Flash to begin drawing our image, bring it over to Painter to color it, then finish off with Photoshop for some final color tweaking. A graphics tablet would help immensely during the painting stage, but it's fine if you don't have one.

Step 1

I like starting off with a rough sketch in Flash. Open a blank document and select the brush tool (B). The brush tools are quite responsive with proper tweaking - if you're working with a tablet, select the pressure and tilt options at the bottom of the toolbar.

Step 2

With the brush tool still selected, look at the properties panel at the bottom of the screen. Turn the smoothing setting up to a level you're comfortable with. The higher the setting, the fewer points on a curve. I prefer to set it to 100 for quick sketches, or 50 - 75 for more accurate brushstrokes.

Step 3

With these options selected, it’s much easier to sketch in Flash. Using the brush tool, I draw a rough outline sketch.

Step 4

After you’re done with the sketch, it’s time to clean it up. Select all the brushstrokes (Control + A) and "break" them (Control + B). Once again, select all and press F8 to convert your sketch to a symbol. Select the symbol you've just created and in the property bar, select 'Brightness' and raise the slider to 80. This makes it easier to view your sketch when you’re tracing over it.

Step 5

Add a new layer by clicking the ‘Insert New Layer’ button. Lock the layer your sketch symbol is on, then start working on the new layer.

Step 6

Here you have several options - You can select the pencil tool (Y) to start tracing immediately. The downside to this, is that more likely than not, you'll have line strokes with more points than you'll need. This is inconvenient to edit when you're aiming for accuracy. I do use this when I'm pressed for time, but I try to ensure that the line drawn is almost exactly as I'd like it so it won't require editing.

Another method would be to use a combination of the Line tool (N) and the Selection tool (V) for tracing. This is preferable for accuracy as it minimizes the number of points in the vector. Try to ensure that there are no gaps in the line render. When you've traced out the sketch, you should have something that looks like the second image below.

Step 7

Select the Paint Bucket tool and fill the line work with the appropriate colors. Note that in the accompanying flash file, I've grouped all the parts with similar color together. This will be necessary later when applying the texture.

Step 8

The Kimono looks rather blank, so we've got to add some texture. You can draw your own textures by hand, or you can line-trace some patterns in Adobe Illustrator to get something you like. In this picture, I've used two patterns available from GoMedia.

Step 9

Duplicate your texture image as many times as is necessary to create a connected pattern. You don't have to be extremely precise, the tile will be fine as long as it looks sufficiently like a connected pattern block.

Step 10

Select the all the pink areas in the main picture, these make up the bulk of the Kimono. Copy it and paste it in place. Press F8 to convert it to a symbol. Name this symbol "Kimono". Select the Kimono symbol and 'enter' the symbol by double clicking on it.

Select all (Control + A), and Copy (Control + C). Create a new layer above the existing one while you're in the symbol. Right-click and choose 'Paste in Place'. This should duplicate the Kimono you've just copied. Select all and fill it with any uniform color. Right click on this new layer in the bar and select 'Mask'. Anything that extrudes from the boundaries of the areas you've just set will be excluded. Next, copy and paste your repeated texture image as many times as is necessary to cover up all the pink areas.

Exit the symbol edit mode by double-clicking anywhere in the grey area around the image. The texture you just created should look like the second image below.

Step 11

Now select all the blue areas that make up the collar and Obi sash, copy them and paste in place. Repeat step 10, but with the new pattern to create a contrasting element.

Step 12

At this point the vector image is complete and all the parts are ready to be exported for painting. I export each group as individual transparent pngs at 300 dpi for good print quality. Note: Any version of Flash above version 8 has a bug which crops any exported image after a certain size. If that happens, just shift your image around and re-export, then "stitch" it back together in Photoshop.

Step 13

Open Photoshop and load all the Pngs you've exported. Copy and paste the pngs into a new 2494 by 3527 px Photoshop document, and arrange them into their original positions. Select the sash texture pattern and set its mode to 'Screen'. Set the kimono texture to 'Multiply'. Having all the parts in different layers makes the painting easier when masking. I've painted in some shadows for the fabric and made some color correction since I prefer using Photoshop's color adjustment tools to Painter's. Save the document and now open it up in Corel Painter.

Step 14

The brushes I use in Painter were made by Robert Chang and are available at his website. The basic flat brush and the round blender are the ones I most frequently use. I can't really go into detail about how to paint (it's mostly trial and error and experimenting with brushes), but I'll list some of the general steps to achieve the look of the final image.

Select the skin layer. Turn on the button to lock the transparency of this layer (so you don't paint outside the lines). Using the basic flat brush with opacity set to 5%, paint some pinkish hues for blush, and use slightly darker, less saturated versions of that pink for the shading of the face. Continue shading her hands and fingers, using greys, maroons and purples.

Use the blender brush to even out the strokes. Continue the shading with the kimono and sash layers (remember to lock the transparency per layer). Finally, paint in a random pattern to function as a background of the image.


I've switched between Painter and Photoshop frequently for color adjustments, tweaking the overall colors until I found a scheme I liked. Here's the final result. The key to this kind of drawing is to continually work with the painting until it starts to look right, take your time and work out which brushes work best for your style of image. Use shade and highlight layers to build the depth of your image, and always save a few different copies as you go. Saving versions mean that you'll always have a version to go back to if you're unhappy with something you've drawn.

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