Digital Illustration: Learn to Draw An Adorable Unicorn with Photoshop | Jeca Martinez | Skillshare

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Digital Illustration: Learn to Draw An Adorable Unicorn with Photoshop

teacher avatar Jeca Martinez, Animator & Illustrator

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

9 Lessons (33m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Sketch the Base of Your Unicorn

    • 3. Build Up Your Unicorn

    • 4. Add Personality with Features & Accessories

    • 5. Create a Color Composition

    • 6. Color Your Unicorn

    • 7. Add Texture

    • 8. Add Details and Finishing Touches

    • 9. More Examples & Final Thoughts

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About This Class

In this fun 33-minute class I will teach you the basics of digital illustration, and my tips and techniques that I use in real-world freelance projects, all while showing you how to draw your own super adorable unicorn in Photoshop!

This class is designed for beginner digital illustration artists who have some basic understanding of the layout and tools in Photoshop. 

You will learn how to:

  • Construct and design a simple unicorn
  • Create a color composition
  • Color your character
  • and basic digital illustration tips, tricks, and techniques!

By the end of the class, you’ll learn not only how to draw your own unicorn character, but also my tips and tricks that you can apply to your future digital illustration projects.

Meet Your Teacher

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Jeca Martinez

Animator & Illustrator


Hello! My name is Jeca Martinez, and I’m an animator and illustrator helping creative companies add some unicorn rainbow happiness to their projects!

Some of the work I've done include children’s books, animated stickers, eCards, GIFs for online articles, animated app filters, mobile game animation, and more.

I also run a YouTube channel called The Artventures of Jeca Martinez where I share behind-the-scenes of my work, my life as an artist, and discuss topics on creative entrepreneurship.

Through my joyful, colorful work, I hope to inspire others to pursue their creative dreams and create their own artventu... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hey everyone, my name is Jeca Martinez and I'm an animator illustrator and you-tuber. In this class, I'm going to teach you how to draw your own super adorable unicorn in Photoshop. This class is designed for a beginner digital illustration artists who have a basic understanding of the tools and layout of Photoshop. You will be learning how to construct and design a simple unicorn. How to create a color composition and how to color your unicorn character. The tools you need are a computer with Photoshop CC installed, a drawing tablet because you're going to be doing a lot of free hand drawing and your imagination. All resources are also linked to the class notes. By the end of the class, you'll learn not only how to draw your own unicorn character, but also my tips and tricks that you can apply for your future digital illustration projects. See you in class. 2. Sketch the Base of Your Unicorn: Let's start by making a new canvas in Photoshop. We will do a five inches by five inches at 300 DPI. I personally like to work in high resolution so that I have the option to print out my drawing later on and therefore the brush. Let's go with a hard ground pressure size and the color black. Down here in the layers panel, let's click this create new layer button and then we will start growing here. It's always good to start any drawing with a super basic shapes that make up the subject. This is just going to make things a lot easier to draw. Let's start off by drawing this circle for the head and then the smaller circle for the snout. Let's draw this bean shape for the body. I want my unicorn to be super fat because it's cute. Next, select the Lasso tool and let's adjust the placement of the shapes. Let's move the snot a little closer here, make it the bit rounder. Then let's move this bean shaped body over here, let's make it a little bit taller so that's fatter and now we have our basic shapes. Lets connect them with some curved lines. Let's the snout like so and then let's make a neck by connecting the head shaped to the bean body shape. Don't worry about making things perfect. This is just a sketch so you can always change it later on. I wanted to make this head face upwards a little bit bright now it's facing downwards. Select the head shape. Using the the free transform tool, which is Command T. Move this rotation access right here, right about here where the neck is. let's rotate the head a little bit upward like so and make the head little bit bigger just for extra cuteness. For the legs, I'm just going to draw some super-simple V shapes that just some rounded v's. There we go, we now have super basic shape for the unicorn. Now it's your turn. Play around the different shapes did assign your own unicorn. In my example, I use a lot of circles and all those for a very rounded, Fluffy the sign. But you can also try, using squares and rectangles triangles or whatever shapes you want. For more creative posing, you can use reference images of horses on Google. This is honestly a super ECM, super fun exercise. Don't forget to share your unicorn sheet the same in your class project. 3. Build Up Your Unicorn: The next thing we're going to do is go down to our Layers panel right here. Then this sketch there that's lower the opacity down to about 20 to 30 percent, just enough for us to be able to see our sketch. Let's make a new layer on top of that. Then on this new layer, we're going to draw over our original sketch and clean it up as we go along. Essentially, I'm just going to be tracing the outline of the shape that I drew earlier, and of course you don't have to strictly follow the outline. You still have the freedom to change out any shapes if you want. The sketch we did earlier just serves as a guide for the proportions and for the posting and everything. I made the cheek area a lot rounded , and I also drew the chest area out a bit because I want this unique one to be super chubby and super rounded and cute. Also the legs I made them rounded and more uniform in shape. Then this is the great big belly, and then another pair of legs for the back. Another tip, if you click Command R, you're going to bring out these rulers right here, and if you drag from the ruler down their canvas, you're going to have these guidelines like this. You can see here that our front leg isn't aligned with their back legs, so let's change that. Also when you're using these guidelines, be sure that your snap is unchecked or else when you draw something near the line, it's always going to snap like this to the line. Let's uncheck the snap option, and go back to fixing our leg. For the back or the spine of the unicorn, I wanted to slightly bend downward because of the stomach is protruding down here, so I want the back of the unicorn to bend down as well. Then let's give this unicorn this great, big around butt. I'm just going to hide this first layer by clicking this eye icon so that we can clearly see our second sketch. Another tip that I have when you're drawing is to flip the canvas and it's a good way to see if your drawing is to balance. To do that, let's go to Image Rotation, Flip Canvas Horizontally. Here we can see that the unicorn is almost leaning that way to the front and the head almost feels too heavy for the body.So that's just move the head a little bit backwards. Let's adjusts the neck, I think that's okay. Let's flip it back to its original orientation. Once you're happy with the basic shape of your unicorn, we can now add some more shapes around that to build up our character and give it some personality. But first things, I'd like to make my layer panel really neat and clean. Let's rename Layer 1 to Sketch 1 and Layer 2 to Sketch 2. That way we know which is which, especially when you have a lot of layers right here. 4. Add Personality with Features & Accessories: The next thing we're going to do is to duplicate the "Sketch 2" Layer. Right click on it, click "Duplicate Layer", hit "Okay", and I proceed just like to do this as a safety net because just in case, we mess up our "Sketch 2 Copy" layer, then we can always go back to our original drawing. Let's undo that and hide our "Sketch 2" layer, then let's make a new layer on top of everything, and we're going to draw all our other unicorn details in this new layer. I'm going to zoom in and get started with drawing the ear. Now for the ear, let's draw this oblong, egg shape; and then for the horn, let's draw like a rounded triangle like the leg earlier. Then for the bangs of the unicorn, let's draw this S-shape, so it's got this great big loop up here and the smaller loop down here, and then this will be the top of the bangs, and then for the bottom of the bangs, just draw this curve shape that connects the tip to the ear, like so. Then for the face, I like to draw my unicorns with closed eyes, and to do that, draw this curved line and then another curve line down here, so this is the eyelid and then this is like the eyelash line. Speaking of eyelash, let's give our unicorn three eyelashes, or four, or five, however many you want, and then a little circle right here for the nose and maybe a tiny little smile because this unicorn is happy. Then for the mane it is similar to the bangs. Let's draw this inverted S-shape and again another curved line connecting the tip of the mane to the ear. Then again for the tail, we're just going to do the same thing, so an inverted "S" with a bigger loop on top and a smaller loop in the bottom, and then another inverted "S" to form the unicorn tail. Again, that's quickly check if our shape is in balance, so click "Image", "Image Rotation", "Flip Canvas Horizontally." Another tip that I have and I like to do is to zoom out your drawing every once in a while so that you can see what it looks like in this really small thumbnail view. I actually read somewhere that when your drawing is readable in this small view, and by readable I mean that the shapes are good and the silhouette is clear and everything, and then that means that the drawing will also work when it's much bigger, so here I'm seeing that the tail is a bit too close to the body of the unicorn, so let's adjust that by zooming in, and selecting the tail. Let's move that back a bit and a little bit lower, and actually, I'm going ahead and redraw the tail so that it's a lot poofier on top before it tapers down to the bottom. Let's zoom that out again. Hold on. I think the head still feels a bit too heavy, so let's select the "Sketch 2 Copy" layer which has the head area. Let's move the snout back, and then let's adjust the nose and the mouth as well. Then I'm going to clean up the lines a bit. I think it works much better now, so let's flip it back to its original position. I'm going to adjust the mane a bit so let's select that shape, and then Command T to free transform and rotate the mane. I'm going to go back in and adjusts the shape of the mane, make it a lot poofier like the tail, because it was feeling a bit sad earlier. Let's give it a little curl at the end, and yes, I'm really happy with this, let's just fix up our Layers panel a bit, so let's select all of these layers right here, including these ones that are hidden, and then right click, select "Group from Layers. " This is going to paste all the layers inside the folder called "Group 1." Then let's maximize the space of our canvas, so select Command T to bring up the Free Transform Tool, and then hold down Shift while dragging the corners upward, and then this is going to resize our drawing and make it much bigger while keeping it in proportion, then hit "Enter." We also don't really need these guidelines anymore, so just hit Command + Semicolon to hide them. Let's set our "Group 1's" opacity down to about 20 percent. Lastly, let's rename our "Group 1" layer by double-clicking that, let's name it to "Line Art" so we know what's inside that group. Of course, don't forget to save your file every once in awhile. Now, it's your turn, give your unicorns some personality by being creative with features and accessories. Some things you can consider are facial expressions, markings on their skins, crazy hairstyles, and accessories. Be creative, have fun, and I can't wait to see your ideas and your class project. 5. Create a Color Composition: Let's make a new layer in between line art and background. Let's also make a group for this. Right-click "Group From Layers" and this time let's name the group color, hit "Okay". Before I start coloring my drawing, what I like to do is to make a color composition. Essentially a color comp is a way for you to play around with colors and experiment with colors and see which ones work best with each other before you commit to a certain color. For this, i'm just going to be using this hard round pressure size brush. Then let's go with the pink color for the body of the unicorn. We'll even have to be neat about that. Just really quickly coloring the unicorn with the pink brush, like so. Then for the hair let's try this golden yellow, let's see if that works. Aqua marine for the horn. Then let's hide the line art layer, just to see these colors work. I'm not really sure about this. I feel I want the body to be much lighter. Let's duplicate the color comp so that we can always go back to the original just in case. Then let's hide the original color comp. Then using the Magic Wand Tool, select the pink color, and then an image adjustment, hue and saturation. Let's try making the body color a lot lighter to see if it works. Then let's play around with the hue. Let's try to find the color of this unicorn. Let's first try this peach color and see if it works. Let's select all the hair and then let's just do the same thing again. Image adjustment, hue and saturation, play around with the hues and see what works best. Then also, I do this a lot, but I also like to squint my eyes sometimes when i'm drawing just to get a good idea if it looks nice or not, not. We now have our base colors, but I also like to work with a secondary color just to give it something extra in the final coloring. Let's make a new layer on top of that. Then let's select the color of the body by going to the brush tool and holding down "Alt" to bring up the eyedropper tool and lets click "on the body" to select the color. Then let's double-click this color panel. When I choose secondary colors, I either go lighter or darker than the original color, or maybe a different color that would work well with the original color. We have peach, and let's try going with a light orange color. Let's see if it works. Well actually, I wonder if this works well for the mane. I like this yellow color. Now i'm thinking that I want to go with this blonde hair color, but more saturated. Then maybe this hot pink can be the secondary color for the body of the unicorn. I'm just going to quickly try that out. Really all i'm doing here is just playing around with colors and experimenting with colors and just seeing whatever I feel would look good together. Now we have our base colors and secondary colors. We also need some line colors and these will be used for details like the eyes, the nose, the mouth and so on. I'm picking up the body color and I'll find a darker color that will stand out against it. Then for the eyes, i'm going to go much darker so that they stand out more. Then for the hair, maybe that can be really yellow, it's almost white. Yeah, I think that works. But sometimes I also like to see what other options I can have. I go down here to the Layers panel and then click this "Adjustment Layer Tool" and then hit "Hue and Saturation". Then this will bring up a hue and saturation layer. It will affect all the layers underneath it. Let's play around with the hue and saturation and see if we can find a much better color combination. I think i'm going to settle with this yellow and pink color combination. Let's put all of these color comp layers into one group. Again, select all of them, right-click, group from layers and let's name it color comp. We can always have something to refer to while we are coloring. Now we can proceed to the actual coloring of a unicorn. Now it's your turn. Experiment with colors for your unicorn. If you're stuck on where to start, you can google color palettes or visit design dash for inspiration on color combinations. As always, don't forget to keep sharing your progress in your class project. 6. Color Your Unicorn: Now we have our super adorable unicorns sketchy, ready for color. We're just going to go ahead and color it and further brushes, I love to use Kyle Webster's brushes and I've actually been using his brushes even before Photoshop acquired his work. Before you used to have to pay to get this brushes, even back then, they were actually really affordable, but right now with Adobe CC, you can get his Photoshop brushes for free from the Adobe website. I've actually downloaded all of Kyle Webster's brushes from the Adobe website. To do that, all you need to do is click this little button right here so that get more brushes, and that will lead you to the Adobe website. Here I have white media brushes, special effects, Mega parsec impressionist all of his brushes. I've actually made a new brush group called the Jeca's Fave Brushes and I've compiled all my most often use brushes, and that way I don't have to go with scrolling through the entire brush library just to find the salon specific brush. To do that just really quickly, all I need to do is click this button right here. Create a new brush group and you can rename the group however you want. Hit okay. Then from there it's just a matter of dragging and dropping brushes in to this folder. Let's start with the body first and let's select this light pink body color. Again to do that, select your brush tool, pull down author option, and click on that color selective in your color palette. Then let's make a new layer for the body and hide the color. Now for the body, I'm going to go with wash layer 70 brush so that, select that and zoom in. Lets make our brush a bit bigger and start coloring. With illustrations I really like adding texture to my work. I feel like it gives that organic hand-drawn look. Like real wash paintings. They also really love it when the edges aren't clean such us you would see with this, look if you zoom in on the edges, you can see that it's rough around the edges. I feel like it adds character to a drawing when it's not super perfect. Now for the legs, I'm just coloring the front legs first because I want the back legs to be a darker pink color, so that it's a lot easier to distinguish them. Then just to keep things clean again, let's rename layer nine to body and lets make a new layer for the back leg. I'm just going to move this new layer below the body layer, and then let's make the pink color a bit darker. Yeah, that works. Oh, and the little trick that I like to do with the brush tool, if you select the clear mode, this makes their brush into an eraser, and it's a good way to keep the texture of their brush when you're trying to erase something. To go back, just select the normal mode or whichever mode your brush was originally. By the way, now that we have a new color with the legs, something that I like to do is if I have added a new color to my composition, I go back to my color comp layer, and I just quickly swatch that color in and that way I can always go back to it. Now we're done coloring the body, we're now going to move on to coloring the hair. Now I just noticed that there might be a problem here with this ear area so let's just quickly separate this ear. I'm just going to hit command X to cut it and then Command Shift V to paste in place. I'm just going to redo these edges from separating the ear. Then now I can insert two layers in between the ear layer and the body layer for the banks and the main. Let's just make a new layer rename it as Bangs and let's color her Bangs. Then let's make another layer called the mane for her mane. The next thing is the tail, so let's put a new layer in between the body layer and this back legs layer and let's name this layer, as tail. Lastly we're going to do the horn. Let's insert a new layer between the body layer and the banks layer and call that layer Horn. I'm just going to pick up the horn color from our color constant we did earlier and start coloring. I'm thinking maybe I can blend the horn color a bit with the body color and let's hide the banks they are so that we can see the horn better. Let's blend that a little bit so that it really looks like the horn is growing from the middle of her head. Lets lower the opacity to help with blending. Let's bring back the banks layer. You can see that the banks layers see-through so we can just quickly fix that by adding some more color on top of it to hide the part where you can see the horn through. Now we have our base colors for our unicorn. 7. Add Texture: Now, I mentioned earlier when we were doing our color comp how we needed some secondary colors and that's the next step of the process. Let's start off with the body first. This is the secondary color of the body and let's pick that color up using the eye dropper tool. Then in our brushes palette, we are going to be using pastel palooza. Here's a super quick trick if you're trying to color within a shape of a layer. So select the layer that you want to color and then up here beside lock, select lock transparent pixels. What that does is it masks your strokes so that all your colors and strokes will only appear within the shape and not outside the field. Another way to do this is to make a new layer above the layer that you want to color and then hit Command Alt G or right-click ''Create clipping mask.'' You'll notice that this layer becomes indented and there's an arrow pointing down to the body layer. It actually does the exact same thing where all your colors, all your strokes will only appear within the mask layer. Let's just quickly undo this and get started with adding secondary colors to our unicorn. I'm just really, really lightly stroking on the body and I just want to add some light and subtle texture to it. I'm concentrating the texture around the cheek area to give her some rosy cheeks as well as in shadowy area second back of her legs. Let's add a lot of texture on the tip of her feet to look like hooves. Then let's add texture to the ear as well by adding a new layer on top of it and then hitting Command Alt G. Then I'm just going back to the body layer and adding some more texture on the neck. Now, for the back legs, let's also add another layer on it for the texture and then let's pick the color of the back legs and then choose a dark color for the texture. Yeah, I think that will work. Again, I'm adding some hooves and a little a shadow here. Let's do the same thing for the mane. Again, new layer Command Alt G and let's select this orange color that we chose earlier and add some shading and texture to the mane, bangs and the tail. For this, I'm concentrating the orange texture around the roots of the hair, so that's behind the ear and around the butt area and also on the very tips of the mane and tail. Lastly, we're going to add texture to the horn. It's looking so cute already and I'm really happy with how it's turning out. Like already it's giving me this super retro vintage vibes, I really love those old gouache paintings like with Mary Blair and cartoon modern drawings. I think it looks good. So we have the base of a unicorn and the texture and the next thing we're going to do is add all the details. 8. Add Details and Finishing Touches: Now to add details to our unicorn we're just going to make a new layer above all these other layers that we've already colored and let's rename this new layer as details. For the brush, I like to use this dry brush line work tool, but the funny thing about this brush is I mentioned earlier, that I bought Kyle Webster's brushes before they were acquired by Photoshop and back then they had this exact brush. When I downloaded this brush library directly from the Adobe website, I noticed that this exact brush was missing like this, a brush with this name dry brush line work two, but it's a different brush. I had to actually look through my own library of Photoshop brushes that I've saved from however many years ago just to find this exact brush. I don't know, maybe Photoshop renamed these brushes or they updated these brushes or something but I don't know where this exact brush is now. I guess a good alternative for this if you don't have this particular brush is the deliciously dry brush which also gives off this really nice dry brush stroke or you can also go through Kyle Webster's dry media brush library to find a brush that you like. For now we're just going to go with the dry brush line work two and let's pick the color that we chose for the eye and what I like to do is I first press firmly on my tablet and then just lighten the pressure as I go and flick it. It gives off this really nice tapered texture at the end of the brush and we're just going to apply the same look to the eyes. See here these ends, they look really nice and natural like real brushes and that's what I love about Kyle's brushes. They make it really look so genuine. Now we've got our eyes, so let's do all the other details. I also added some line details around the legs of the unicorn just to separate the front legs from the back legs. Then for the hair let's also add some hair lines on it. Here I just made the three loose S shapes following the shape of the mane and let's just do the same thing to the banks with some wavy lines. I made one line down here and starting from this step, let's make another wavy line going back. Then let's go to the tail and add some wavy S shapes. When you're drawing these lines, I suggest you try to be as loose as you can because I feel like it gives some more life when things are imperfect. You don't have to strictly follow the shape of the hair. You can just be free. It makes things more natural and full of personality when something is imperfect. Then lastly, let's add some details to the horn. For this, I'm going to go down to the horn layer and then let's make a new layer above the horn texture. If you remember this inverted layer past the texture of the horn tips, make another layer on top of that and name it horn detail and that way our details slow go underneath the bends. Let's just make some curved lines going down for the horn and we now have a unicorn. It's so cute. Now it's your turn. You've just learned how to take your drawing from sketch to color. How did your unicorn turnout? I would love to see it. Be sure to share your magical unicorn creation with the rest of the class in your class project. 9. More Examples & Final Thoughts: That's it for this class.I hope you guys enjoyed it and that you learned some new tips and tricks that you can apply for your other digital illustration projects. Am super happy with my unicorn illustration. I hope you are also loving how your unicorn turned out this well. The most important thing is to play around and have fun when you are drawing your own unicorn. Experiment with different colors. Try adding accessories or just go crazy. Here are just a few more unicorn examples to get those screed than juices flowing. You could also try these same techniques to other animal illustrations as well. Here I have got the whale, a flamingo, a sheep, Llama, and a tiger. If you enjoyed this class, I really appreciate it if you could leave me a review. I will be posting lots more classes all about illustration and animation. Follow me on Skillshare so that you will be the first to be notified when my new classes comes out. I would really love to see your work, so be sure to keep sharing your work in progress and your final unicorn, with the class and the project gallery. Thank you so much for taking my class. Remember to create your own adventures. I will see you in the next one.