Drawing a side view of something seems to be the most intuitive—without "perspective" it's simple and fun. However, because of this simplicity, side-view drawings are also boring, and they make it very hard to present all the features of a character. In this short tutorial I'll show you how to turn them into an interesting, 3D view with a simple Photoshop trick.
1. Prepare a Drawing in Side View
Open Adobe Photoshop. Create a New File (Control-N) and draw the character in a side view on a New Layer (Control-Shift-Alt-N).
Set the Opacity of the layer to 20%. Then create a New Layer.
On this new layer, draw a simplified version of the character. Use shapes that are as simple as possible, forgetting about the details for a while.
2. Build a Bounding Box
Every 3D object, no matter how detailed, can be inscribed into a box. Analogously, a side (2D) view can be inscribed into one side of that box—a rectangle. Let's build it!
Select the Rectangle Tool (U) and change its settings as shown below.
Draw any rectangle. Don't worry about creating a new layer—for Shapes they're being created automatically.
Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to resize the rectangle and fit the character tightly inside. Hide the character (click the "eye" icon next to the layer).
Duplicate (Control-J) the rectangle and hide the original.
Now we're going to need some perspective rules. You can find them all in my live perspective article—they're not as complicated as you may think. Here's a sample!
- If you want to see the front of the character, make the rectangle narrower from the left.
- If you want to see the back of the character, make the rectangle narrower from the right.
- If you want to see the top of the character, make the rectangle lower from the top.
- If you want to see the bottom of the character, make the rectangle lower from the bottom.
The side view must be distorted to fit into 3D view. Show the original rectangle and lower its Opacity. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A), hold Shift and click the points on the side right next to the "gap".
When both points are selected, press Arrow Down to move them to the bottom. Now we have one side of the 3D bounding box!
The side view tells us about the length and height of the character, but 3D is all about three dimensions.
Create a New Layer. Hide the rectangles and show the character. Turn on the rulers (Control-R) and drag them horizontally to the picture to measure the crucial parts of the character. Use these lines to draw a simple top view.
Hint: you can draw only half of the top view, and then duplicate it (Control-J) and Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical.
Create a bounding rectangle for the top view just as before.
Come back to that skewed rectangle. We can create the second side out of it. Drag it while holding Alt to duplicate it. Move it according to perspective rules:
- If you want to see the front, move to the right.
- If you want to see the back, move to the left.
- If you want to see the top, move to the bottom.
- If you want to see the bottom, move to the top.
When it comes to the distance:
- The narrower the length, the bigger the distance horizontally.
- The lower the height, the bigger the distance vertically.
- The distance can't get bigger than the width in top view.
Connect the sides with the Pen Tool (P) (use the same settings as for the rectangle). Our box is done!
3. Adjust Side View to 3D Bounding Box
Now we need to fit the character inside the box. First, use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) while holding Shift to adjust the height to the height of the box.
Hold Control and drag the lower point to the lower corner of the farther side. Do the same with the upper point. Our goal is to "stick" the character to the distorted side.
Alt-drag the character to place the copy on the other side.
The problem is that not every element of the body is equally wide. Let's see it in the example of the snout. Create a New Layer to draw a line between the base of the snout on both sides.
Now draw the same line between both sides in the top view.
As you can see, the snout begins a bit deeper inside, not right by the sides.
Try to emulate the same proportions on this line:
Select the snout of one side with the Lasso Tool (L). Cut and paste it back to get it to a new layer.
Drag the mouth along the line to place it in the right spot.
Do the same with the other side.
Take a look at the top view and decide which parts need to be moved to the inside, too. You can even measure them with your eyes only, if you feel confident.
4. Finish the Drawing
Merge all the parts and lower their Opacity. Then create a New Layer and connect the lines. You'll need a little bit of creativity for that, but it should be much easier than drawing without any guide lines!
Lower the Opacity and create a New Layer. Draw all the details, just as you'd do with a side view.
It may seem a bit complicated at first, but once you understand what it is all about, you'll be able to skip most of these steps and do them all in your mind. Finally, you'll be able to present your characters as they deserve to be shown!