Designing Minimal Landscape Illustrations | Stephen Carballo | Skillshare

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Designing Minimal Landscape Illustrations

teacher avatar Stephen Carballo

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Project

    • 3. Tools

    • 4. Inspiration

    • 5. Shape

    • 6. Sketching

    • 7. Pen and Ink

    • 8. Importing for Digitizing

    • 9. Color and Texture

    • 10. Saving and Exporting

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About This Class

In this class we will go start to finish in designing a minimal landscape illustration. These style designs are great for print, apparel, social media, logos and pretty much anything under the sun. In this class we will cover:

  • Tools of the trade
  • Research and inspiration
  • Sketching and thumb nailing
  • Pen and ink
  • Importing and exporting
  • Color and texture
  • And maximizing for instagram and other platforms!

Meet Your Teacher

Artist & Creative based out of downtown Los Angeles. Owner of The L.A. River Tattoo Co. & co-owner of RVCC Intersect. 

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1. Intro: So guys, my name is Steven Karbala. I'm an artist designer and tattooer. Right now we're in my studio in downtown Los Angeles. If you guys don't already know my work, I do a lot of super minimal illustrations. I design for a lot of lifestyle brands like Hurley, then Swatch, just to name a few. Now in this class I'm going to show you guys how to design your own illustrations that can be super fresh from merch, web design, social media posts, or anything else you can really think of. This lesson is excellent for both beginner designers to seasoned vets trying to add another skill to their tool belt. Today, I just wanted to go over with you guys how to design a minimal landscape nature drawing. 2. Project: Guys, here we go. For today's project, we're going to do one of these little minimal nature landscape drawings. When we start, we're going to go in pencil on paper. From there, we're going to go into Micron pens. Then once we do that and have this little drawing right here, I'm going to show you guys how I transfer it from paper into the computer and digitize it. Then from there, we're going to mess around with a couple of different textures, colors, and just mess around with it until we get it the way we like it. By the end of today's class, you're going to have something looking just like this. 3. Tools: Now, we're going into supplies. As far as supplies digitally, you're just going to need Adobe Photoshop. As far as electronics, I use iPhone and MacBook Pro. I just like the Apple products because they communicate to each other easy. You can send files super easy to AirDrop. As far as hard goods, I like to use loose leaf paper. It's a lot easier for me. No pressure. If I don't want my drawing I can just toss it out, take notes on it. To me, I prefer that over notebook. As far as drawing supplies, I like these Pentel pencils. They're fairly inexpensive. You can just add more lead when you run out. The erasers are replaceable as well. For pens, I use Micron brand. These are super smooth, fairly inexpensive as well, and they come in a variety of sizes. I go 005 for my small lines, 03 for my next step up. The most common one I use is the 05 and then for bigger lines, I like the 08. Next, you're going to need a couple of straight edges. I just have a basic small little ruler that fits in my pencil box, a little right angle. Then, for doing circles and curves, I got a little compass right here. I also use this circle template. Don't forget the eraser when you make some mistakes. That's it. 4. Inspiration: Inspiration. First, before we get started, I'd like to start a little deck of inspiration or reference photos that I can refer to while I'm doing my sketch. I usually just go for Google Images or Pinterest. For this drawing, I want to do Joshua Tree or some little desert theme. I'll type in things like Joshua Tree illustration, Joshua Tree drawing, Joshua Tree postcard. Just think of different things that might have cool imagery. You can type in Joshua Tree poster and then you might see cool little posters that had been made in the past. There's no need to go from square one to reinvent the wheel. There's been cool illustrations of Joshua Tree in the past, so you can just dig them up and find them. When I'm actually drawing, I don't like to directly stare at another drawing because then your stuff's are going to look exactly like somebody else's, but it's good to have these references handy. As far as the drawing goes, you're going to want to decide what elements you want to put into your drawing today. For me, I think I'm going to obviously have a Joshua tree in there. We'll do some rock or mountain background. I want to do two kinds of cactuses. I'm going to do a prickly pear and then a regular cactus. Then also you want to decide if you want to make it a daytime scene or a nighttime scene. If we're going to do daytime scene, then we're going to do sunset or sunrise, maybe some birds in the air. If we're going to do nighttime scene, I'm going to throw in like a little Saturn, some planets, some stars and maybe a full moon and stuff like that. Just make a little list, quick bullet points, jot down which elements exactly you're going to include, and save all these little references aside, so when you're drawing, you can quickly just flip back. 5. Shape: The next step we're going to talk about is shape. All of these designs and most of the time I like to put them in some frame. Either we're going to do a little circle and then we'll do a little thumbnailing here. Then I'll put a little cactuses inside of the circle. Thumbnailing is a good way to do this, so that way you can just get an idea what you draw before you commit to trying the big one. I'll do a little circle. Sometimes I'll do a little bottle, you'll see we do a lot of these bottle shapes, a little beer bottle or whiskey bottle type things. I'm just quickly sketching. Here I'll do a little beach one. I'll do a little beach instead of a bottle like that. Some said. Another thing to frame inside I'll do a lot of polaroid thing is super hip right now or draw a little polaroid square-like who was little picture that you're used. Then take a polaroid, thumbnail it out right there to palm trees or we could frame it inside of a diamond. Since we're doing desert, I'll little desert here, if horizon line put little cactus. With this thumbnailing, you're really giving yourself the opportunity to try different things. Like I said, not commit to one thing and waste too much time. Little moon, some stars. I would just typically thumbnail several different things and then see what I like most and then commit to one and go for the real drawing. For this case, let's select this circle one. We're going to go for this circle drawing. Then I'm going to do the little cactus tree inside of the circle. Let's move on. 6. Sketching: Now that we've got our thumbnails, I'm going to go into sketching our final products. I'm going to pull out another clean sheet of 8.5 by 11. Like we talked about before, we're going to go for a circle. You could either use a little pamphlet, so I just use this little circle pamphlet to give us our little frame of a circle. When I start, I always like to go in my horizon line first. You can place your horizon line scoring and middle, I like to go for 25-75 ratio. I'll put mine a little bit higher. I'm going with that horizon line. Once you have your horizon line, I like to think of my backdrop. Since we're doing Joshua tree, you can either do regular triangular mountains or we can do these little Southwest style mesa mountains. Like I said, you already jotted down your elements in the previous step. Now you can go ahead and start to insert these elements, but you want to think about it from background to foreground. First, I do the horizon line, then I put in my mountains. Once I got my mountains, we can go ahead and start putting in the foreground. I want to go ahead and do a little road. I'm going to use that straight edge that I showed you guys before, the 90 degree, and just start dropping in a little road. First, I'll do a little dotted lines, little road, then going to get the perspective on. We're going to give it some exaggerated perspective just for the sake of making it dramatic. It's an illustration, none of this is supposed to be perfect. If comes out a little wonky, that's a good thing. This is a fun project, don't try to make it to perfect, don't be too uptight with it, be loose with it, let expression come out in it. We've got a little road right there with dotted lines going into the distance, to the mountains, giving you that adventure theme, that adventure vibe. What other elements did you want to throw into yours? I'm going to do a Joshua tree in mine. I'm just going to put this big heavy Joshua tree on the left side. Remember if you screw up, we have our eraser, you can just mess around. Like I said, don't be uptight, don't be afraid to try different things. If you don't like it, you can just delete it, I mean, erase it or whatever, and start again. We're going to add a Joshua Tree. Look how loose I'm just drawing it, supper loose, just scribbles, it looks like nothing. I'm not too committed to anything, I draw loose. That's the most important thing. I came from a tattoo background. I was tattooing. Before I was really drawing seriously. I came from a really uptight background of being super-tight from the tattoos. Then when I went to design school, I learned that had to be more loose and I had to not commit to things early. Because if you commit to something early, you never know what the other possibilities were. Now I try to loosen myself up and try to draw a little quicker. We've got a little Joshua tree right there, that'll do for me. Let's do a little prickly pear, right here in the foreground. Don't be mad at me if all these cactuses iron actually in that environment. I know cactus really has prickly pears, I think so. Dropping prickly pear of these little dots in it for the little pokeys. There you go. What else we need? I want to put it in one of those classic cactuses just like the OG cactus that you think of. Because at the same time, what's more important than accuracy to me as far as the landscape, is communication. I'm trying to communicate desert here. What says desert more than just a classic cactus? I'm going to draw that in. For me, I've drawn these things so many times, so I don't have to look at any references right now. I'm really able to draw cactus, or tree, or whatever. But for you, if you don't have these at the top your head, remember you pulled up all those references. Just look at what other people have done. All you want to do a cactus, lookup cactus illustration, cactus drawn. See how other people have drawn them and then draw them similar, no need to reinvent the wheel. We got a little cactus is right there. This is our foreground with our tree, we've got our prickly pear cactuses. We got mountains in the background. Let's add some little teeny cactuses in the eastern. Now I have like some open space. What I want to do is fill those open spaces with little things just for the sake of composition. Let do another little, more minimal line drying cactus for the back, I'll do another little one over here. Maybe one more teeny tiny one in the distance. Then do little bits of little bushes up here in the front. Just have fun with it and just add whatever elements you feel like. Bushes right here. Then I'm going to add a little texture to the mountains. If you did the traditional triangular mountains, like more Sierra style mountains, you can add snow to the top. Just look at what other people have done, look at your references, be loose, have fun with it, and mess around. We got those mesas. Now I'm going to go for the sky. For the sky, I always like to do these little Saturns, they're just super playful, people love them. We'll start with a little circle, then I'll go and get the Saturn's ring in there. Then skew a little crescent moon, super wonky, it doesn't matter, it's just funny. A little moon like that. Let's do a little meteor like it's about to crash into the earth and kill all the dinosaurs. What else? Let's do a little star over here, to fill in extra spots. Star over here. Then one more teeny tiny star there. Then I'm looking at that, that looks pretty good to me. You can fill in little spots, like here I see little open spot, I'm just going to add a couple little dots, like some twinkling stars in the distance, a couple more over here. Yeah, I liked my composition right here. From here, we're going to stop and then go ahead into the next step. 7. Pen and Ink: Guys, now that we have our sketch here, I like what we've got going, and so I'm just going to finalize it by going over it with the micron. We have a little bit of detail in here, so I'm going to go with the 05 micron rather than 08, because for 08 it will be hard to get into a little moons and stuff. I'm going to use this circle template again and just trace out that circle. If you want to give it a little more of a hand-drawn loci can just free hand the circle, but I want to keep it tight. For the lines, now I'm going to just free hand the lines instead of using a straight edge so that way we get more of a hand-drawn anesthetic rather than these rigid lines. Clearly into the lines, it gives us these the dotted road lines, and now that we're going in Penn don't feel obligated to go over exactly what you drew. You can take any liberties to change things as we go. You don't like something, if you want the cactus is to be shorter or taller or whatever, you should go ahead and take liberty and do those things. Now that you drop in the pen. The little fairy bushes, prickly pear cactuses is what they call it, I'm not sure. The same thing as I said when we were doing the sketching. Loose. Don't beat yourself up about it. It's an illustration. It's playful, it's fun. Which must go fast, express it with your lines. There are some dots in here. We've got these dudes, little cacti over here, add these bushes in then the most important parts is the Joshua tree, so right here this looks loose and wonky, but here we're going to make them a little better. Joshua trees are a crazy looking glance. As you see, it's starting to look pretty good chip and pretty finalized. Once you go into micron, microns are amazing. They just look super smooth. You can do so much with them. Now I'm going to add a little thickness, just double up a stroke on this tree. Taper them so the branches go from thick to thin. There's the Joshua tree, let's add in this last cactus and we'll move on to the background of these mesas. Look, I'm just going fast. You see, I'm not taking too much time. Then we'll add the details. Still texture the things make it look more like mountains. If I was doing Sierra style mountains I would add little snow to the top or add a little cracked stone going through them. Now let's go to the sky. Put the dots in, stars, crescent moon, stars. You see this whole process takes me a couple minutes really. You can just knock these out and try different ones. Try beach theme, try desert theme, try city, to ones that are just all space. Just get creative with them, put them inside of bottles, put them inside of whatever. There's the pen. Now you can see that you have the pen and it looks really good, but you still have that pencil sketch in the background. I'm going to go ahead and take this Pentel eraser and then just erase it. You want to give it a good second to dry, that's why I'm erasing from the side that had already dried. Now we can see some dots in those cactuses over there, I'll go ahead and add those after. Erase it. Sometimes the ink can smear, don't worry, you can always get rid of that imposed. Let's add a couple dots to these cactuses. Then a couple dots over here, and that looks pretty good to me. Now I would say we have a final pen and paper drawing of this design. 8. Importing for Digitizing: So now that we got our pen and paper drawing finalized, my next step is I like to just photo it to bring it into the computer. If you don't have a phone or whatever, you can just scan it in. Whatever is easiest for you. When you take a picture, just make sure you're coming straight onto it so that this circle doesn't get skewed and make sure you have really good lighting. I like to put my flash on just to be safe. Take a look at that picture. That works. We got good contrasts. You can clearly see the black and the white. The circle is not skewed into an oval or anything like that. So then we'll go ahead and we'll just Air drop it to my computer. You could email it, you could do whatever works for you if you don't have Apple. So it pops up on the Mac, you just open that up. Here we go on the computer and we have the design now in the computer. 9. Color and Texture: I Airdropped it from my phone, the picture into my Mac. Now it's my downloads, I'm just going to drag it into Photoshop. Here you go. Here is the photo of my drawing. It's wonky, but what we're going to do now is we're going to adjust the levels and just pull it into two parts, which is white and black. I'm going to blast the white super bright, I'm going to pull the black up. There's several ways to do this, but this is just the way that I like to do it. Now you can see it's got a nice clean white background and the lines are solid black. Then, press "Okay". From there, we're going to go to filter gallery. Again, this is just how I do it, there's a million ways to do this. I go to filter gallery, I'm going to zoom out so we can see our artwork here, then I use the stamp tool. I'm going to filter gallery, stamp, and that just as it says, turns this into a little stamp right here. Now, it's literally just two colors, white and what's supposed to be black, it's just shade of brown for some reason, I don't know why. Oh, it's because I had brown on my palette. But anyways here we have the background, which is white, and then we have the color of our drawing. Once we do that, we're going to want to isolate the drawing, and get rid of the background. The way I would do this is, I will just magic wand, select the background. There's a magic wand over here, select the white. Then I'll click "Select", "Similar". Essentially what I'm doing is, I selected one piece of white, then I selected "Similar". Now I selected all the white. Then what I'm going to do, is I'm going to go now to select and click "Inverse". What that's doing is, first I selected all the white, then I selected "Inverse", now I have only the drawing selected. Right here, we have a digital version of the drawing with the elements I isolated. My next move, would be to create a new drawing and then drop in this isolated digital version of my file. For this next step, I'm going to open up a new document, create a new document. Before we do that, let's talk a little bit about Instagram. If I was going to post this on Instagram, you would want to make sure that you get maximum size on the iPhone screen. If you go in a bit of a landscape mode, then this image is going to take up less space on the screen, which is going to give you less views, or less likes, because less people are going to see it, they're going to see the small image and scroll through. For an image like this, because it's a circle, you could go square, which would be 1,080 by 1,080. If I had a different shape, let's say a diamond or a bottle, I would want to go portrait mode, and then that would be 1,080 by 1,350, that's actually the maximum and the best size we want to go for Instagram. Because 1,080 by 1,350 instead of just giving you that square, it gives you a rectangle which takes up most of the phone screen. Even if our drawing isn't the whole screen, but the image and background takes a full screen. When people are looking at the picture, when you see it, it makes the most impact because it's taking up the majority of the phone screen, which gives you more engagement, more likes. I do that with video, I do that with photos, I do that with illustration. You just want to be mindful of the fact that the image that you're creating, how it's going to look in a digital and mobile format, which is something that you want to think about when you're doing it. Now that we've talked about that, let's create that new file. I'm going to go "File", "New". Then, like I said, I'm going to do 1,080, and let's do the 1,350. Even though it's a circle, which might look nice inside of a square frame, let's do the 1,080, 1,350, just so it takes up the whole phone screen. Then I'm going to paste that image in. I pasted it in, and you don't see anything. The reason for that is the image is so big that it's outside of the screen. I'm going to press Command T, which is the transfer, or transform, I should say, then now you can see all the toggles on there. We're going to shrink it down and drag it into the center of the screen. There you go. Now, we have the image in the center on our Instagram sized document. We can move around where we want it, you could pull out grids if you want to make sure it's perfectly centered., I just wing it myself, I don't take too much time on those things. Some people might give anxiety if it wasn't perfectly centered. I'm pretty loose with my stuff as you probably already have seen. Now that that's done, we have a digitized file where the layers are separated. If I wanted to take this to screen printer, he would be able to do it because the lines are separated from the background. If I wanted to take it into Illustrator, because it's so bold, I could vectorize this pretty easily and still keep all the details. Now the next thing we're going to talk about is colors and textures. Let's hop into color and texture. If you've got a pretty good eye for color, and you're not too uptight and you don't know, you don't have any specific colors that you want to go for, you can just hop in here and just select whatever color and throw it in there. What I'm going to do is I'm going to go for the color for the actual drawing, and a color for the background. You don't have to use color, it could be black and white, but I'm going to go through the steps that I would do just so you guys have the option to do it. Like I said, you could just choose whatever color you want in the world and just do it. But what I want to do is, I want to do some homework. We're going to go into Google. Back to Google to do some research. We're doing the desert design. Why don't we type in desert color swatches? Like I say, you don't need to reinvent the wheel, someone's already done it. A million designers have already done this. Why not see what other references people have looked at? Just through Google, we can see all these red swatches. You see actual photo of desert with different colors of desert swatches that people have used. You can make your own swatches, you can take a photo that you took, or find a photo of a desert that you like, and then pull out the colors from those swatches. I really like this one right here. This is from I'm going to go ahead and steal this. I'm just going to drag it straight into Photoshop. Now we have this lighter cream color from this desert background, I'm going to go into my color dropper. Let's just select this cream color. Then we're going to pop back to my design. I'm going to create a new layer. Make sure these layer is behind your drawing layer. Then I'm going to drop in this cream backgrounds. That already looks cool you see. We had that brown illustration already with the cream background. But for the sake of learning, let's figure out, let me show you how you change the color of the actual illustrations. Let's go forward, back to our color palette. This time, let's select this darker, you want to go with this darker brown color, or this green color. Let's do the brown color, I like this brown. For this brown color, oh, it's already brown, let's do green actually. Let's take this nice cactus green color. I selected it with the eyedropper tool remember that. Now, it's already in my colors down here, it's saved. Now that we got that color, there's two ways to do this. I could either just paint bucket it in, but all these elements aren't all touching each other. Paint bucket would be a pain, I'd have to just drop it in. There's another shortcut we can do. We can go to layers right here. We have this layer isolated, you see for that drawing. We're going to go to layer effects, then you click this button right here. It's called "Color Overlay". It lets you overlay whatever color you want onto that layer. It already had red automatically selected, then obviously it just turned red. We're going to click that and then we can select "New Color". I'm going to go down, select that olive green from the swatch, press "Okay", press "Okay", and there you go. Now, we have that nice cream color with the olive on top of it. Now, almost done here. I mean, you could be done. But I don't like this flat background, I think that it's just a little too boring. It depends on what you're trying to do, but I like to have some sort of texture. You can go on Google, and you can download texture packs. Photographers use them for their photos like dust overlay, static overlay, I have a lot of those saved. I will just go in and snag an overlay. Here's a dust overlay. Just type in texture, dust overlay, or dirt grunge texture, there's so many of these packs where you'll get like 20 of them for free. I'm going to select this texture overlay and I'm going to press Command A, that selects the whole thing, then I'm going to copy it. Go back to our image. I'm going to go ahead and paste it right on top, there. Now, the whole design is done because I just pasted that on top. I'm going to zoom out again, and then just drag this to the size of the image. You don't have to worry about proportions because it's just dust in static, you're not going to notice anything. The image is gone, you can't see anything. But what I'm going to do is, I'm going to go to this layer in this button right here and go from normal to multiply. Now that looks really cool. Now, we're having what looks like a finished product. I'm going to press "Enter" to apply the changes that you made. Now we have what looks like a finished product, I want to move over this layer. Let's still like not quite center this select the image and use the arrow to maneuver over over it. Now, I'm going to zoom in so you can take a good look. Now this looks like something that you'd use for packaging, this looks like something that you can put on a poster, this looks like something for some inspirational quote, illustration, you can write something under, like adventure awaits, or go outside, or into the wild. You could go ahead and add some hip cool, single letter script, or a single line script, or something like that. We'll go over something like that in a future tutorial how to integrate the text. Just look at this, it looks like a finished product. It doesn't look like this rough hand and printer paper drawing anymore. We took something super rough, we went loose the whole time, we were never uptight. We went fast, and we get this really cool finished product. If you take a peak right here, you can see where the circle is imperfect because I double lined it with marker. But I love that detail, it's hand-drawn. You can see where the ink bleeds out a little bit here because I didn't use pen and ink paper, I used 8.5 by 11 paper, but that's what's giving it the character, the roughness is giving it the character. I didn't use a ruler when I did these lines, they're crooked, and that's what makes it look good. Look at this horizon line, it's not perfectly straight like someone did it in Illustrator, it's a little rough, that's what just gives it that detail. I had a really good time doing this. Well first actually, let me show you guys how to export it to make sure that you get it to your phone properly. 10. Saving and Exporting: Let's go file, you got to go save as and save it as a JPEG I usually just do JPEG. Or you could go file. Actually no, you're not going to export this you're just going to go save as. I'll just file and save as and save it as a JPEG or a PNG. Make sure that you save it first as a photoshop file, so in case you want to make some changes, you can do that. If I save it as a photoshop file, I can open up that file and change the color of the background if I want to. If I save it just as a JPEG and don't save the photoshop file if I want to make minor changes, it's going to be more of a hustle. Make sure you save it as a PSD file first. Once you save that, then go file save as, and then go ahead and save it as a JPEG. Once you have saved as a JPEG, you can just airdrop it back to your phone and you're ready for Instagram. Cool guys. I had a really fun time designing this with you, I'm super happy with the end result. Looks super clean. I like the colors, I like the texture. I liked the composition with the road and the cactuses, and the space pattern. If you guys have any questions at all, feel free to shoot me a direct message. My Instagram is the "Los Angeles River." Shoot me a DM, shoot me a comment, whatever. Any questions at all doesn't even have to be super related to this. Any questions in regards to design or whatever. Feel free to reach out and I hope you guys had fun and I hope your end product ended up as neat as mine and please share your work with us. I would love to see what you guys did. I'm sure because these are hand-drawn I do these all day, but everyone comes out different because I do them fast I do them loose and I hand draw them. No two are going to look the same and no two people are exactly the same. I'm excited to see what you guys came up with in this class. Make sure to post that on the page so we can all be inspired with each-others work, cool. Thanks for tuning in guys, and I'll see you at the next one.