Love comes in so many beautiful shapes and colors! In this tutorial, we’ll draw and paint a happy, colorful couple in Adobe Photoshop. We’ll also incorporate symbolism that references both the Transgender Pride Flag and the Rainbow Pride Flag.
We’ll be working in Adobe Photoshop from start to finish in this tutorial—from the initial sketch to the finishing touches. You should already have familiarity with Adobe Photoshop. This would include concepts like creating new documents and basic tool functionality.
Let’s get this date started!
1. How to Create the Sketch
First, we’ll need to create a New Document; I did so at 11 inches tall by 14 inches wide with a resolution of 300 dpi. This is a case where we’re going to have a horizontal composition, rather than vertical.
I highly recommend drawing on a New Layer. If you don’t see your Layers panel, you can open it by going to Window > Layers.
By working on a New Layer, we can keep our artwork and background independent. You may find that you prefer working with multiple layers—and that’s fine! Use as many as you like. You can easily Flatten your Layers along the way to combine any that you’d like to see condensed.
Create a New Layer by clicking on the New Layer icon in the Layers panel.
Now, let’s go ahead and start our sketch. I often sketch using a Hard Round Brush. However, I rarely draw without first adjusting the settings in my Brush panel.
I highly recommend making sure the Opacity Jitter and Flow Jitter are set to Pen Pressure.
Opacity refers to the amount of transparency, while Flow could be compared to how much color “comes out” of your brush. You can find this under Transfer in the Brush panel. By setting these options to Pen Pressure, you will notice variable Opacity and Flow based on your Brush Strokes.
Personally, I think it’s a little more difficult to draw two interacting characters, as opposed to one. So I know this is a case where I’m going to want to spend a little more time on my initial sketch. I’d recommend taking extra time to think about how you’d like the two characters to visually relate. Do their proportions seem natural in relation to each other?
My work is typically stylistic rather than realistic—breaking rules is ok (and fun, in my opinion)! However, for example, I know I want the two characters’ heads to look natural next to each other, as if they are beside each other in shared space. I’ll need to consider these visual relationships if I want to visually communicate that successfully.
I often like to use layers to draw on top of my work, while also preserving it. For example, I created a New Layer on top of my initial sketch, so I could use it as a guideline while creating a more refined one.
Note that you can adjust the Opacity on your Layers too—I turned the Opacity on my initial sketch Layer down so it would only be partially visible. This is just a personal preference, but I find it makes it easier for me to use it as a guide.
That brings us to our refined sketch. Again, I largely stuck to my Hard Round Brush. I can either hide my initial sketch Layer by Toggling Visibility Off, or I can dispose of it, using the “trash can” icon in the Layers panel.
2. How to Add Initial Colors
Personally, I like to place color on top of my lines. Creating a New Layer and setting its Blending Mode to Multiply allows me to place the color on top—while also applying a little color and value to the lines, as well.
Sometimes, I’ll start with one base color and then apply colors on top, on New Layers. This way, with my colors in Clipping Masks, I can easily change and adjust colors until I’m happy with my selections.
You’ll notice that layers with the Clipping Mask applied to my original layer (with Multiply applied) still retain that Multiply Blending Mode assigned to that original layer.
Likewise, this technique can be used in more than one place in the composition. For example, in this case, I decided I wanted to initially approach each character separately.
To keep things organized, I often like to rename my layers and utilize folders, especially when I know I’m going to have a lot of layers.
To rename your layers, Double Click on the name—it’s that simple! You can also do so by Right Clicking on the layer and selecting Rename.
You can also find Layer Colors in this menu—they can also help with organization! You’ll notice I turned one character’s layers blue and one purple, in this example.
Folders can be created by clicking the New Folder icon at the bottom of your Layers panel. Simply click and drag layers in and out of your folder.
Once I’m happy with my initial color selections, I personally like to flatten my layers. Before I do so, I usually Save my work, just in case I want to “go back”.
Alternatively, sometimes I create a New Folder and store my initial work in it, so I have a backup version handy.
Remember, you can Duplicate Layers by either Clicking and Dragging the layer (or folder) you want to duplicate to the New Layer icon in the Layers panel.
Alternatively, you can Right Click on the layer you wish to duplicate and select Duplicate Layer from the applicable menu.
That said, the background needs some considerations too! Using the Paint Bucket Tool, I added a light blue color to the Background Layer. I want to create some fluffy clouds here, but we’ll get to that later. For now, I just want to have that initial background color established.
Finally, let’s establish some initial values. I like to use Clipping Masks for this—create a New Layer on top of your artwork and set its Blending Mode to Multiply.
I worked with a light purple color here. Think about where your light source is and how it might affect your subjects.
3. How to Begin Painting
Before we begin, make sure you are familiar with the Opacity and Flow in your Options panel. This is located at the top of the software (near File, Edit, etc.), and you’ll specifically see these options when the Brush Tool is selected.
I often adjust these values, depending on the Brush Stroke I’d like to make. For example, with Opacity and Flow up at 100%, I know I’m going to create a bolder line than if I had them both around 50%.
There are no “perfect values” here, in my opinion—change and adjust them, as needed.
Rendering the face, for both subjects, has a number of similarities. For example, I tend to heavily rely on a Soft Round Brush in the facial area, as it makes for smoother transitions from light to dark.
Note that I am using colors inspired by the initial values we placed in the previous step. You can use the Eyedropper Tool to “pick up” these colors.
Different skin tones can mean different values and local color. I wanted the shadows to have a similar temperature, for unity’s sake, but this also can mean tweaks, based on the subject themselves.
I also removed the kiss mark on the left character’s cheek, only temporarily, while smoothing out the cheek area. Again, I often like to save backup content in a “Back Up” folder—like the initial sketch, for my reference.
Also notice that I am drawing on top of my work, in a New Layer, with the Blending Mode left on the default: Normal.
After pushing the face area further, let’s add some makeup. I’d like both subjects to have colorful, fun eye makeup and some kind of lip color, as well.
For the pink eyeshadow, let’s create a New Layer and set the Blending Mode to Multiply. Then, apply a bright, saturated, pink color.
For the green eyeshadow, create a New Layer and set the Blending Mode to Hue. Apply a green color.
I recommend a Soft Round Brush to keep the color application soft, in both instances.
I re-added the kiss mark with a Hard Round Brush, using my original sketch as a reference.
For the lips, I created a New Layer and left the Blending Mode set to Normal. I painted on top and added subtle details, largely using a Hard Round Brush.
4. How to Render the Hair
Our two characters here have different hair types—one is long, flowing, and straight, while the other is full, curly, and fluffy. So we’re going to approach each a little differently.
Let’s start with the character on the viewer’s left.
In this case, I like to start with long lines, starting from the crown of the head. I think it’s important not to draw these lines haphazardly. That would make the hair look chaotic. Instead, be purposeful with the direction and flow of your lines.
Personally, I like to start with darker values and “work my way light”. When it comes to choosing colors, I use the Eyedropper Tool to select a color based on the initial values that have already been established here.
For highlights, you could potentially choose a lighter value using the Color Picker—however, I like to experiment with Blending Modes.
Create a New Layer and set it to Color Dodge. Use a Soft Round Brush to experiment with adding light values to the hair area. It might look a little too intense—in this case, lower the Opacity of the layer and use a Soft Round Eraser to soften the edges.
I continually use Color Dodge and Multiply to add layers to the hair.
Now, let’s look at the character on the right.
The idea of avoiding haphazard lines here still stands—I still like to paint with purposeful strokes, regardless of hair type. However, in this case, I’m going to stick to soft, rounded strokes, as opposed to long, flowing ones.
The same applies to highlights. In this case, the character has tight curls and the texture is fluffy. While my take on this hair type is stylistic, contradictory Brush Strokes could make this look confusing.
Once I’m happy with the base rendering of the hair, I like to move on to details and stray hairs.
To do so, create a New Layer on top of your artwork. I added these details using a Hard Round Brush.
We’re going to add color variations in various parts of the illustration—but before we do so, let’s refine the cream colored sections. I refined the values and folds using both a Hard Round Brush and a Soft Round Brush.
Now, for the fun part! Let’s add in a whole bunch of color variations.
We’re going to use Blending Modes as an easy way to alter the color in our work.
Let’s use the character on the viewer’s left as a preliminary example. We’re going to add some colors to her hair.
I started by creating a New Layer and then setting it as a Clipping Mask, on top of my artwork. Then, I started by blocking out the area I’d like to color. It doesn’t have to be the final color(s) of my choice at this phase (I chose orange).
Next, let’s change the layer’s Blending Mode to Color. Notice how this then changes the color of the area we’ve filled in.
If we Lock Transparent Pixels in our Layers panel, we can now apply multiple colors in this area, without going out of the boundary of the hair. I did so using a Soft Round Brush to keep the color transitions smooth.
Now, let’s add some color variations in other areas of the composition.
Like in our previous step, start by creating a New Layer. Then, block out the area where we’d like to add color variations, first, in a single color (I chose blue).
This layer’s Blending Mode should be set to Multiply.
Once you’ve finished blocking out the area where we’re going to add color variations, make sure to Lock Transparent Pixels on this layer. This way, we can add all the color variations we’d like, without worrying about going outside of the boundaries of these areas.
Now, it’s time to add colors! I used a Soft Round Brush to add rainbows to the right character’s shirt and headband.
Then, I used a Hard Round Brush to add colors to both characters’ earrings—notice how these lines have a more hard edge.
The left character’s earrings are in reference to the Transgender Pride Flag, while the right character’s earrings are in reference to the Rainbow Pride Flag.
6. How to Add Finishing Touches
First, let’s add some color and polish to the eyes.
Create a New Layer and, using a Hard Round Brush, add some color to the eye area. I added some darker color in the center and some small strips of lighter color towards the base.
Then, create another New Layer and set the Blending Mode to Multiply. I added a little value to the top area of the eyes, in a medium blue.
Finally, create one more New Layer. On this one, we’re going to emphasize the highlight we created in our original sketch. I used a Hard Round Brush to do this.
I thought some additional jewelry here might be fun—so I added some rainbow necklaces! There’s an easy way to do this in just one Brush Stroke: change your Brush Spacing so your Brush Strokes look like a line of dots!
Open your Brush panel (via Window > Brush) and select the Brush Tip Shape. Raise the Spacing—I put mine at 98%. Notice how the Brush no longer looks like a single stroke. Instead, you will see the Brush presented as a row of circles.
Create a New Layer to add in your string of circles.
To color these necklaces, Lock Transparent Pixels on the applicable layer. This way, you can add all the rainbow variations you’d like, without worrying about going outside of the shape we’ve created.
Rather than hand-drawing an outer contour around the necklace, I used a Stroke Layer Effect. Click on Add a Layer Style within the Layers panel and select Stroke.
Finally, I added some value by creating a New Layer, setting it as a Clipping Mask. I used the same light purple from earlier in the tutorial to add these values to the necklace area.
Finally, let’s add some highlights to the necklace’s beads. I recommend doing so on a New Layer, using a Hard Round Brush.
Unlike creating the base of the necklace itself, I drew small, white dots by hand.
To wrap things up, let’s make some simple additions to the background.
First, I adjusted the light blue in the background layer. I darkened this blue slightly.
This was to accommodate the clouds I wanted to add on a New Layer. I drew them using a Hard Round Brush and a Soft Round Brush.
To get a more organic, wispy cloud shape, use the Blur and Smudge tools to adjust the contours of your clouds.
I hope you enjoyed joining me throughout the process of creating this illustration—and that you can use some of these tips and techniques in your own, colorful work!