In this tutorial, young artist Mart Biemans reveals how to create an eye-catching illustration with just a few simple techniques and tricks involving the Ellipse tool. Follow his instructions and you will produce a detailed illustration that appears built up from circles or sequins. We will start off by building up the image using basic blob-like shading, before adding effects in shades of gold and brown.
Time to complete
Adobe Photoshop CS or higher
Create a portrait A3 document in Photoshop, and place 26251860.jpg from the download link into it. This stock photo is part of the collection of images provided for Digital Arts readers by
Photos To Go.
You won’t need to cut out the model because we’re going to apply effects on top, but ensure your document colour matches the background of the stock image.
Create a new layer above the model and select the Ellipse tool (
U), which is what we will be using most of the time. Set your foreground colour to black and background colour to white. You’ll be working initially in monochrome. Change the opacity to 10% and start shading over the model in the new layer, making fairly big circles. The image above has the stock photo hidden so you can see how the circles should be positioned.
Create another new layer at the top of the stack. Change the opacity of the Ellipse tool to 20% and do some more shading, using smaller circles to make it a little bit more detailed. Our model is now starting to take shape.
For best results, repeat this step a few times, making the shading progressively more detailed each time.
Make a new layer and repeat step 3, paying even more attention to detail, using smaller circles. It doesn’t matter if you forget bits; you can always redo them. In the end you just have to make sure everything is equally shaded. Don’t overdo things though, because we will be doing more in subsequent steps.
Here I noticed that my background colour didn’t really fit, so I decided to change it to something lighter and more colourful.
Pick a light colour for the highlights and a dark colour for the shadows. Until now we’ve worked in black-and-white; I picked a light yellow and a dark blue respectively. Create a succession of small circles to create the detail. Change this layer’s blending mode to Overlay and the opacity to 90%.
Now it’s time to draw some really delicate lines to delineate every part of the body more clearly. For this we’re going back to black-and-white, but this time we will use brushes instead of the Ellipse tool. Select a 9px brush and use the settings shown above.
Create a new layer and start brushing with white on every highlight you find important. That done, do the same with black on shadow areas. Create these brushstrokes with an opacity of 100% to get the placement right, then change the opacity to 30% when you’re done. After that, change the layer’s blending mode to Overlay.
Select all the layers containing ellipses and brushstrokes. Copy a merged version by hitting
Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + C and paste it into a new layer on top of the layer stack. Now duplicate the layer with your stock artwork and put it at the top of the stack. Select this layer and create a clipping mask ( Cmd/Ctrl + Alt + G). Change this top layer’s blending mode to Overlay, and its opacity to 50%.
There are a few important areas that really need to have a much higher level of detail, so add small white ellipses as highlights to the face, hands and shoes. If necessary, add more shadows.
Duplicate your stock layer again and move it to the top. Apply a Black & White adjustment layer (
Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + Alt + B). Using the Eraser tool ( E), roughly remove the background and areas of detail such as the face and hands. Set the layer’s blending mode to Soft Light and its opacity to 25%.
The flat blue background was just to make it easy to build up the shapes with the right mix of highlight and shadow. Now we want to make the artwork look more dynamic. Replace the background layer with a light-to-dark brown radial gradient, giving the shapes you’ve created a gold tinge.
Now it’s time to spice up the composition by adding orb-like effects, and we’re going to make it look as if they are bursting out of her chest. You can go completely wild with this. Create a series of circles and apply a variety of gradients (as shown above), from white to the browns you used for the radial gradients, through to black. Apply Blur filters of various strengths to make them appear to be at various distances from the viewer.
Also add a dark blurred circle under the figure as her shadow.
Create a new layer filled with black. Go to
Filter > Render > Lens Flare, select a Lens Type of 105mm Prime, and place it exactly in the middle. Ensure the brightness doesn’t overwhelm your canvas.
Put a brown layer on top of it and set its blending mode to Color. Your lens flare is now brown and gold. Merge the two layers, select a blending mode of Screen, make the result smaller and place it there where it looks best. You can copy and paste this layer to create more effects.
Create a new layer and place a large circle on it using the Ellipse tool.
Erase the middle and top left part of this circle, and set the layer’s blending mode to Soft Light.
Duplicate it a few times, moving the results around and scaling them to add variety. You can also modify the opacity to get a nice-looking effect.
Take a stock image of something with ripples – I used a desert, but clouds or waves would have worked just as well – and place it on top of everything. Apply a strong Gaussian Blur, set its blending mode to Soft Light, and drop its opacity to between 10% and 20%.
Add a few small effects simply by brushing small circles and applying a mixture of Overlay and Soft Light blending modes. Make final adjustments to the overall contrast to finalise your artwork.