How to Draw Abstract Ink Illustrations in Photoshop




Introduction: How to Draw Abstract Ink Illustrations in Photoshop

About: I'm a first year product design student at Hampshire College. I know how to make lots of things, and I can usually figure things out when I don't. If it involves machine tools, arc welders, or CAD, I'm your …

I've been working in Photoshop and I've developed a line art style that I use quite often. I've decided to share it with the world in this Instructable.

You can get similar results with a Speedball pen or something similar. I plan to make an instructable about that as well.

This is my first instructable, so please leave comments about how to improve it.

Step 1: Materials

Here is a list of things that you will need:

Adobe Photoshop (I'm using CS3, but this should work with older versions)
Wacom Tablet, you won't be able to use a mouse, because you need pressure sensitivity

You probably could use a tablet PC too, but I'm using the Wacom setup.

Step 2: Brushes

You will need to create a custom brush in Photoshop in order to take advantage of the tablet interface.

Start by opening the Brushes palette. You can find it in the Window menu, or you can press F5.

In the Brushes palette, select the Brush Presets tab and choose a hard round brush in a small size (I'm using a 19 pixel brush and a 9 pixel brush)

Then, select the Shape Dynamics panel, make sure that its box is checked, and set the Size Jitter control to Pen Pressure.

Now that you have created the brush, save the preset by clicking on the icon in the lower right hand corner of the palette.

If you need to change tip sizes, use the Brush Tip Shape panel, not the Brush Preset panel.

Step 3: Create a New File

This is a pretty elementary step, but it is vital to the whole process.

I'm going to use an 800x600 canvas with the presets from the Web menu. I don't plan on printing this, and the size is about right. If you want to print the final picture, choose an item from the Photo menu. The picture will be denser, since there are more pixels, so you may want to use a larger brush tip.

When you're done, Photoshop should have a canvas in the middle of the screen for you to draw on.

Step 4: Make a New Layer

You should create a layer above the default background layer. That way, you can add color behind it. It also makes it easier to correct mistakes.

You will need to show the Layers Palette, either by selecting it from the Window menu, or by pressing F7.

Then, click on the New Layer icon in the bottom right corner. Make sure that the new layer is highlighted before you begin drawing.

Step 5: Start Drawing!

I like to start with some sort of focal point in the composition. In this case, it's a circle. When I draw circles, I usually shade them, using a variety of line widths in order to achieve the desired effect.

I then like to draw lines coming out from the focal point, usually going downwards. I use the pressure modulation to make the lines go from narrow to wide. You can practice this on another layer until you feel comfortable with it.

Add as many lines as you like, and make them branch out from one another. I do plan on doing something else on the top part of the sphere, so I will leave that area clear.

Step 6: Adding a Line Shape

This style and component is one that I've been using a lot lately. It looks a bit like an asteroid impact. Here's how to do it:

Start by drawing thin, somewhat straight lines from the top of the sphere. They should cross over each other, as this will make the end result look better.

Next, begin to draw rounded lines back and forth over the straight lines. Use a slightly larger line width for these. Start at the sphere and move up until you get near the top. I try to make the lines parallel the tips of the straight lines at the top.

The lines should probably get darker near the bottom, and should look as though they are coming out of the sphere.

Step 7: Add More Things Around the Focal Point

You will probably want to have more things in your picture than the design in the center, so here are some things that I've added to the picture:

I've added the bubbles to give the piece a bit more variety.

I used a larger brush tip to add the designs on the edges.

In addition, I added the circle at the bottom to fill in that corner.

These elements are a few that I use regularly. You don't have to use them, but I think that they are a good place to start.

Step 8: A Few Final Touches

The last things that I add are some small designs that fill in some of the remaining white space.

The waveform is a shape that I've been using a lot for this, but there are lots of other possibilities. Play around with the shapes and find one that works for you.

Step 9: Add a Background

I like to finish up by coloring the background of the piece beige. I do this because I don't really like the white background.

To add the color, make a new layer between the background and drawing layers. Then use the Paint Bucket tool to fill in the color for the background.

I don't usually add any other color to the piece, but you could try adding some color behind it.

Step 10: Sign the Piece

You should sign the piece when you finish it. It gives it finality, and it truly makes it yours.

When I sign, I usually make a new layer above the drawing layer, since it often takes me several tries to get my signature the way that I want it. I like to sign in the lower right hand corner.

Step 11: That's It, You're Done!

Below is the finished piece from Photoshop.

I'm interested in seeing what other people have done, so please post your designs in the comments

Also, this is my first Instructable, so I would appreciate constructive criticism about how to make my future ones better.

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    14 years ago on Introduction

    I've got a bamboo fun, and this was a nice instructable to try out!


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, so do I! I just got it yesterday!


    14 years ago on Step 11

    for your signature
    make a series of different ones and save them all
    then just import them into a new layer and change the size colour etc for it to suit
    that way u can have more fancy longer ones for larger spaces, abstract ones for certains types of image, and other such ones


    14 years ago on Introduction

    hey man.. awesome instructable.. btw wot wacom tablet u using.. i have a bamboo.. not the one or the fun but the 1 tht costs 125?? is tht the right 1?? btw its an awesiome instructable! :)


    Reply 14 years ago on Introduction

    I have a 6x8 Intuos3, but the Bamboo should be fine for the Instructable. I'm glad you liked it.


    14 years ago on Introduction

    I've been involved in commercial art and graphics, and used Photoshop, etc. I like how you made a simple, clean Instructable without getting into the mind-numbing features of PS (or The Gimp). I'll be looking forward to more from you as you develop your techniques.


    Reply 14 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I'm glad that you like it.