Digital illustration and painting are useful techniques for any artist of any medium.  Whether you’re a 3D and visual effects artist, a matte painter, a comic book artist, graphic designer, or photographer, knowing how to digitally paint can help you create entire creations from scratch, or help you refine and add details to works from other media.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create a detailed 2D illustration using standard Photoshop brushes.  You’ll see how to create a concept sketch, a background, and then do gradual refinement on a painting to bring out the details.  You’ll learn how to control and manage layers, as well as use blending modes to make visual details pop.

Let’s get started!

Hello!  My name is Hatice Bayramoglu and I am a CG artist and illustrator from Turkey.  I will do a detailed 2D illustration tutorial for you, and you’ll learn step by step how this painting was created. I suggest that after following this tutorial, you find out what works best for you. In this tutorial I will be using Adobe Photoshop and a Wacom Tablet to create the finished result, though you can use a mouse. I will also be using techniques and methods that I feel most comfortable with when coloring.  I suggest that after following this tutorial, you find out what works best for you.

Tools Used:

  • Photoshop CS2

Final Image Preview:

Step 1: Sketching

I decide to paint a doll for this tutorial . I started with some quick sketches about the main idea. And here is the sketch about my main environment for the character.

Step 2

Well as you see on this sketchwork there is only a little toy character. And she is standing on a little wooden table. This is a room of a little girl and the Doll Hillary is her favourite toy. Little girl has lost her baby and she is looking for her in her room. But she can’t find it. Suddenly she pulled the curtain and there it was! Hillary the Doll is standing alone on a little wooden table. And she is smiling to the little girl.

Step 3: Setting the Canvas

Let’s start with opening a new document of around 997 pixels by 897 pixels with a resolution of 72px/inch. Create a new layer and draw a sketch like I did. Resolution must be 72 for now. Later you need to make it bigger to add painting details. But not now.


Step 4: Choosing a Brush

For my painting I am going to use only standard brushes. Before you begin painting, you’ll need to set your brush settings. Start by selecting the Brush tool then using a standard brush such as the one shown below.

Step 5: Color Palette

The second step is here you to choose the main colors for you scene.

Step: 6 Layers

Now I’m going to show you some important tips about layers. I named my first layer name as ”sketch” And now here as you see I have many layers. You must do the same on your own project. And now the first layer is for my sketchwork. On the next steps I’m going to create some more layers. The reason for painting on such new layers because of you need to make corrections later in the painting. It is much easier to fix errors if the main elements of your painting are separate entities. This step is really really very important.

Step 7: Working On The Background Colour

At this point, we can start colouring the sketchwork. Here is my colour for the background. Select the Gradient Tool and do as you see on the picture.

Step 8:

Now is the time to determine the look of the background that you are going for. After you filled the background, it must be like this.

Step 9:

Before continue the painting process let me show you my layer order again. I just changed the order of the layers because sketch layer must be on the top of all layers and its setting must be arranged to Multiply. At this point, we can start colouring the sketchwork and you can define the main shapes.

Step 10:

Now here as you see I have created a new layer, and named it as ‘flower’. I’ll draw some flowers on this layer. I am colouring the rock and painting the top of the rock with a blue and some dark colours. I’m going to colouring characters at the next step. Here I just made the sketch layer 51% for you to see the both colour and the sketchwork.

Step 11:

And at this step I would like to change the size of my file because I’ll begin to add more details so I’ll need a bigger file size. I do wish my file is to be more bigger size because at this stage I do think I can’t make so much detailed painting. So I open Image/Image Size. And make the settings as you see 2000×1799.

Step 12:

And here I have closed the sketch layer for you to see my colouring.

Step 13:

Now here is a screenshot for the details. I’m adding some more details for character and also for the background. At this step I have opened a new layer with the name of “flowers. On the next step I’m going to show you how I draw those flower shapes.

Step 14:

Here is the flower shape I choose from the Shapes panel.

Step 15:

I’m adding some more colours. Here take a look at the character painting. Her eyes began to look clear at this step.

Step 16:

Now take a look at all details which I just make. I continue to add more details and opening some new layers when I need. Pay attention to my layer order.

Step 17:

Once I’m satisfied with detailing Doll Character I add some details for the table. At this point I realized that my table looking very simple and not so good, so I thought it was time to make some changes about its details . I try some different outlook for it. And I continue to adding more details.

Step 18:

I’ll now begin to small details on the character , adding more yellow and green colours. By the way don’t forget at this step you don’t have to over detail everything. At this point I kept working on main details and lights, until I got a nice and contrast. Sometimes I have to change some colors. I am pretty much finished painting it’s body.

Step 19:

Now we can start out detailing our character and the table and the wall paper. I also used Colour Dodge for the bright areas. This is how it looks once all the adjustments are done with the Colour Dodge and Burn tool.

Step 20:

And also I do want to show you how I added those shiny areas on my character. I used Color Dodge for this effect. I always use this when I want to add some light areas on my illustrations.

Step 21:

And I do add some strokes with the Smudge tool too. I use this because I want to add soft blurry areas on the hair and the face. Here at this step I saw my character’s hair not so detailed so I have created a new hair layer and paint some hair using both Smudge tool and the brush.

Step 22:

At this point I realized that my character needs some details like the stitches. So I make a new layer and paint some dark lines as you see. I continue to adding more details. I also would like to add some more details on the top of the table too. I add some strokes with the Dodge tool I use this because I want to add some slight light areas on the character.

Step 23:

Now pay attention at the details which I just make with the color dodge option on the curtain.

Step 24:

Now that after finished working on the curtain and the background. I can start to add some more details to her hair.

Step 25:

Now at this step I would like to add a little small details on my painting work. The first letter of her name “H”.  As you see the little girl must have cut some papers and pasted it on the little table.


And here’s the final image, I hope you found this tutorial interesting. Thank you for reading.