In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a decorative hand-lettered card with Adobe Photoshop using vector shapes and texture brushes. We will draw a Valentine’s card with a Mexican flavor, including text reading “Te Quiero Mucho” (“I love you so much”) and a lot of ornaments and decoration. Let’s start!
1. How to Prepare Your Sketch
The Mexican-style lettering is very decorative, so have fun and add lots of details. I drew a sketch of the future postcard using pencil and paper, made the photo with my smartphone, and sent it to myself via email. You can draw the letters by yourself or can download some awesome fonts or text effects. As the main character, I choose a Mexican-style heart with a Mexican skull’s face.
First of all, we need to prepare our workflow. Create a New Document (Command–N) in Adobe Photoshop and set the size to 1800 px x 1500 px and Resolution to 144 px/inch. You can change your artboard’s size by using Image > Canvas Size.
Just move your sketch photo from your folder right into the artboard, and press Enter to place it. To adjust the artwork size, you can use the Transform Tool (Command-T). If you want to change the canvas size, go to Image > Canvas Size or use the Crop Tool (C).
To prepare the sketch for the coloring, I use Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (Command-U) and Levels (Command-L).
If you want to change something in your sketch (for example, I’ve moved the “Mucho” letters a bit), you can use the Lasso Tool (Q) and Transform Tool (T). If you want to add some details, you can draw them right on your sketch with the Brush Tool (B) and erase something with the Erase Tool (E). You can do whatever you want!
Now we can start the coloring process. Set the layer mode of your sketch to Multiply and set the Opacity to 15-20%. After that, add a new layer under the sketch layer. Don’t forget to Lock the layer’s position.
You can skip this step, but I always start my color work by making the color scheme (pro tip: select the main three colors and use them and their tints at the beginning). The Mexican style is very bold and has bright, warm colors. I choose red, a kind of yellow, and turquoise. On a new layer under the sketch layer, I use Brush (B) and try to find the color scheme I’ll like most. I always do several variants. It’s a creative process, so don’t hesitate to paint over and redo something.
In the end, I selected two variants I liked the most. I prefer the second one.
Save your work (I just save the layer and draw my final variant right above it to see the color scheme throughout the process).
2. How to Create Vector Shapes in Photoshop
Let’s start with the heart character. Create a new Layer under the sketch but above the coloring scheme, and draw a heart shape with the Pen Tool (P).
On a new layer above, draw the inner heart shape. To make the coloring process easier, I make a copy of the coloring scheme layer, make it smaller, and move it with the Transform Tool (T) so I can easily take the colors using the Eyedropper Tool (I). Also, I set the Opacity of the main coloring scheme (the big one) to 70-80% and lock the layer’s position.
3. Adding the Texture and Volume
The magic is beginning now. For the textures and values, I use the official Photoshop Kyle T. Webster Brushes, but you can choose any of the other awesome brush sets available. The main detail is that your brush set has to have texture brushes and brushes that imitate charcoal or any other ‘live’ material.
Create a clip layer above the heart red layer:
- Hold down Alt, position the pointer over the line dividing the two layers in the Layers panel (the pointer changes to two overlapping circles), and then click.
- In the Layers panel, select the top layer of a pair of layers you want to group, and choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask.
I use the Oil Lush Brush from the Kyle Brush set. You can choose any other painting brush or even use the standard Photoshop brush (just set the Opacity for your brush to smooth the colors). I use light and dark tints of the red heart shape to create the volume effect.
Pro tip: use Alt while painting to take the surrounding colors for a smooth color transition.
Create a new Clip Layer for the red heart, above the volume layer. Using the texture brush (I use Airbrush – Grainy Opaque), create a shadow with the dark brown color. Set Multiply Mode for this layer.
Use almost the same process for the highlights. Create a new clip layer above the dark layer, draw highlights using the light red color and your texture brush, and set the Screen Mode for it. Change the Opacity to make it look calmer and more natural (I used 50%).
So my usual workflow for this kind of picture is:
- Create the vector shape.
- Create volume with the paint brushes.
- Add dark and light textures with texture brushes and different layer modes.
- Add some other details if necessary.
Use almost the same process as for the yellow outer heart shape—just add some simple ornamentation with the Gouache Round Opaque Brush. You can use any other brushes, and don’t forget that you can change the blend mode and the opacity of your brush in the brush settings near the brush menu (or use F5 to open the advanced Brush Settings).
Pro tip: use [ or ] to increase or decrease your brush size.
Use the same process for the eye and mouth. Don’t forget to add a layer for the shadow (I use the texture brush again for it). Select all the eye’s layers and Group them (Command-G).
Copy (Command-J) and Move (V) the eye group. Now the heart has two eyes.
Continue coloring and adding details. Make the nose shape with the Pen Tool and add some volume with a Clip layer and paint brush. To paint the lips, use the Rotate Tool (R) to help you make nice brush strokes.
Finish the mouth using the familiar technique. Also, I’ve added teeth lines on a new layer. I used Your New Favorite Inker from the Kyle Brush set. Any other ink brush will work nicely too. Don’t forget the shadow under the mouth.
To add some decoration, I use a warm yellow color and inker brush (the same as for the teeth lines). Create a new Clip Layer above the red heart layer and draw some ornaments on it. Also, I drew eyebrows here. The heart’s face is ready!
Select all the heart’s layers and layer groups (including mouth, eyes, and nose) and group them (Command-G). Arrange your layers to make it easy to navigate. If you have grouped the objects incorrectly, you can disassemble the group (Command-Shift-G).
Now it’s time for the heart’s wings. Draw two big wings on the same layer using the Pen Tool (P).
On another layer, draw the inner wing shapes. You can edit your shape with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and edit the anchor points. Be sure that the pointer of the Direct Selection Tool is white. You can change it in the Tools panel.
Create a new texture layer above the red wings layer and draw the shadow from the inner wings with a texture brush and dark red color. Set the layer mode to Multiply and set the Opacity to make it look nice and natural. I use 60% Opacity.
Create a new Clip layer for the red wings layer. With the inker brush and light red color, draw the feather lines. You can draw any kind of lines—the aim is to add some texture and details. I drew simple straight lines. Set the mode to Screen and then set a nice Opacity (I set 80%).
For the shape of the inner wings, I created two dark shadow layers using the same texture brush. The first one is a dark orange layer in Multiply Mode and 70% Opacity. The second is a brown layer, also with Multiply Mode. Several shade layers add some more depth to the picture.
On a new Clip layer, add the highlights with the texture brush and light yellow color. The mode is Screen. Erase the unnecessary brush strokes (if there are any) with the Erase Tool (E).
On another Clip layer, draw the decoration with the inker brush and lock the layer’s Opacity. Using the texture brush, add some value with the darker color closer to the heart’s face. Group all the wing’s layers, and it’s now ready.
I decided to change my plans a bit and to draw a crown on the top of my heart. Using the Pen Tool (P), I drew several crown shapes. I made the color scheme layer invisible to make the shape drawing process clearer and easier. Just click on the eye icon in the Layers panel.
Using the familiar technique, add the values for the crown. Use dark layers in Multiply mode with the texture brush and light layers in Screen Mode. Play with the amount of layers and their opacity.
Arrange the layers, and congratulations! We are finished with the heart and its items.
4. How to Vector and Color the Lettering
Now it’s time for the ribbons and letters. With the Pen Tool (P), draw the ribbon. I use turquoise color. The color scheme is again made invisible.
On a new layer, draw the letters with the Pen Tool (P). To make overlapping shapes (like the inner space in Q), select the two shapes with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select Exclude Overlapping Shapes.
Use the black arrow from the Direct Selection Tool (A) if you need to move some shapes. Edit the anchor points using the white arrow from the same instrument.
As always, add some volume with the paint brush and some texture with the texture brush on different layers, with Multiply for the shades and Screen for the highlights.
Using the Pen Tool (P), add some dashed lines as decoration. I rasterize all the dashed line layers (Right-click Layer > Rasterize) and merge them into one (select all the needed layers and Command-E).
Create a new clip layer for our letters. I color it with the paint brush: light yellow on top, and orange and dark orange on the bottom. It adds some value to our sign.
Again, add texture with the texture brush. Use a dark layer for the shadows and a light layer for the highlights.
Now for the moment of magic. Duplicate the letters layer (Command-J) and put it under the letters layer. Click on the new layer, color it dark turquoise, and move it lower and to the left (V or just use the keyboard arrow buttons). Now we have a shadow under our letters.
Create a new layer under the ribbon and draw the inner ribbon part with the Pen Tool (P). Here, I decided to change the first color scheme and color it dark turquoise. On a new clip layer, add some volume with the paint brush. Select all ribbon and letters layers and group (Command-G) them.
Duplicate (Command-J) the ribbon’s group and merge the inner items (Command-E).
Move this new layer under the top ribbon group and double-click the layer’s miniature (or right-click > Blending Options). Select Color Overlay and set the color to dark brown.
Move this layer (V or keyboard arrows) and set the mode to Multiply. Set the Opacity to 40-50%. We’ve finished the top ribbon. Repeat the steps for the bottom ribbon.
Time for the details. Add new details and draw some edges.
5. How to Add Color to the Background
It’s time for the background. Create a new layer under all the drawn layers, and color it with the Paint Bucket Tool (G). Be sure that you selected the Paint Bucket Tool instead of the Gradient Tool.
Using the Pen Tool (P), create the decoration lines and color them in a darker yellow tint.
To create the frame, draw the frame shape and big rectangle shape (the same size as the full artboard) on the same layer. Select it with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and choose Exclude Overlapping Shapes.
Select any texture brush (for example, from this set) and add some grain on the frame, creating a new clip layer above.
Double-click the frame layer to open the blending options and set the Drop Shadow color as dark brown, 20-35% Opacity, 90 degrees Angle, Distance 15 px, Size 20 px, and Noise as 16%.
Time for the frame decoration. With the Pen Tool (P), draw a small heart and some yellow fire on separate layers.
Duplicate this object and move it to the four corners.
With the Pen Tool (P), draw lines on the sides of our frame. Group (G) all the frame’s layers.
We’ve finished with the main coloring. Here is our intermediate result. Let’s finish it!
Select the ribbons and the heart layer group and increase them a bit. The convenience of computer graphics is that we can freely change and move objects.
6. How to Add Smaller Details
Let’s work with the details. I’ve added some highlights under the heart’s nose. To quickly select the layer you need, use the Move Tool (V) and check Auto-Select > Layer in the top panel.
Also, I’ve added some noise to the background using different noise and texture brushes. Set them to Multiply mode, and set the Opacity to 5-15%.
Double-click the main heart layer group and set the Drop Shadow to a dark brown color, Multiply mode, 90 degrees Angle, 6 px Distance, 13 px Size, and 16% Noise.
I’ve decided to change the ribbon’s shadow to the same as the heart’s. You can keep the old one. Select the old shadow group and make it invisible (or simply Delete it). Hold the Alt key and move the layer effects from the heart’s main layer group to the top ribbon layer group. Do the same with the bottom ribbon.
Now we can decorate it as much as we want! With the inker brush, I’ve added some inner lines for the lettering. You can use the Rotate (R) tool to make drawing more comfortable. Don’t forget that you can press Command-Shift-Z to Undo the action.
Using the Pen Tool (P), draw several stars. On the clip layer, make several strokes with the texture brush.
Apply the shadow to the stars shape layer. Set the dark red color, Multiply mode, 50% Opacity, 6 px Distance, 10 px Size, 16% Noise.
7. How to Use Color Adjustment
Create a new levels adjustment layer above the background.
Move the dark slider a bit to make the background colors bolder.
Add some dark red drops and geometric ornaments under the frame with the Pen Tool (P).
We Are Finished!
This decorative style gives you a lot of freedom, and you can easily play with colors and decorative elements. You can use this workflow as a base and create your own designs. Thank you for creating and experimenting with me. Enjoy the process, and please share your result!
Check out some other awesome tutorials with step-by-step cute lettering designs, as well as great Photoshop drawing tutorials with pro brush tips!