Illustrate a Custom Mandala Design in Adobe Photoshop with Your Graphics Tablet

Pale Horse, Digital Illustration Wizard

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13 Lessons (1h 42m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Welcome to the Class!

    • 3. Setting Up Your Template File

    • 4. Sketching Your Mandala Concept Part 1

    • 5. Sketching Your Mandala Concept: Part 2

    • 6. Sketching Your Mandala Concept: Part 2

    • 7. Outline Your Sketch: Part 1

    • 8. Outline Your Sketch: Part 2

    • 9. Duplicate & Rotate

    • 10. Filling In Base Color

    • 11. Add Shading, Color Gradients & Highlights: Part 1

    • 12. Add Shading, Color Gradients & Highlights: Part 2

    • 13. Add Shading, Color Gradients & Highlights: Part 3


Project Description

Design your own mandala

Welcome to the Class!

  1. Create A New Photoshop File
    • Create a new Photosho document that is 18X18in. with a 150dpi resolution.
    • 'Select all' and hit (Command or Ctrl T) to get a center point and snap vetical and horizontal guides to intersect perfectly in the center of your artboard.
    • Hit escape to get out of 'Free Transform' mode.
  2. Create Circle Guides
    • Create a new 'Circles' layer

    • With the 'Eliptical Marquee Tool' Hold down 'Option' & 'Shift' and click exactly in the center of your newly created guides to pull a large circle selection.
    • 'Stroke' the selection with an 8px 'Outside' line.

    • Use the 'Transform Selection' drop down to make your selection smaller and continue creating 8px stroked circle lines on the same layer.

    • Reduce the 'Circles' layer opacity to 10% and it should now look like the preview image below.

  3. Add Guide Lines
    • Create a new layer called "Lines" 

    • Use the 'Single Column Marquee Tool' and click on your center guide to create a 1 pixel selection.
    • Fill the selection with black.
    • Hit the left arrow key to nunge the selection over 1 pixel and fill the selection so that you have a 2 pixel black line perfectly in the center of your artboard.
    • Hold down 'Option' and 'Transform' your line equally from the top and bottom.
    • Duplicate the 'Lines' layer and rotate at 22.5 degrees.
    • Repeat this process until your file looks like the preview below.

Sketching Unit

  1. Start Sketching!
    • Set up your soft, sketching brush to match the brush settings image below. Set the 'Hardness' to 0%. Use this brush for your eraser as well.
    • Also set your brush opacity to around 30% and turn on the 'Pen Pressure Controls Opacity' toggle button. (See below for reference)
    • Create a new 'Layer' and call it 'Sketch'.
    • From the center of your template, start sketching a series of the first shapes that come to mind.

  2. Focus In On Areas To Be Copied & Rotated

    Once you get your inner shapes sketched in, focus your attention onto a single section of the artwork that can be duplicated and rotated around the center point.

    • 'Select' then 'Copy and 'Paste in Place' a section of your sketch. Then rotate it around the center point. Repeat until complete.
    • Merge the pasted 'Sketch' layers to clean things up and start sketching on another section to be copied and rotated.
    • Repeat this process of sketching, copying, pasting and rotating as many times as you like to complete your concept.
    • When finished, if you want to keep refining your sketch, at this point you could add a 'Hue/Saturation' adjustment layer on top of your sketch, (Just like we did in the Line Art Unit) create a new layer to trace, refine and modify your sketch until it's awesome! Or move on to the next unit if you are happy with your concept.

    Note: The simpler you make your sketch, the easier it will be to outline color and shade in the upcoming units.

  3. Share Your Sketch!

    Feel free to share your sketch and make some new friends by leaving feedback and comments to help others!

    Here's a creative concept sketch from classmate
    Gilbert Guerra. If you look close you can see a repeating Balinese mask in the design. Nice one!

Line Art Unit

  1. Set Up Your File To Trace Your Sketch
    • Create a 'Hue/Saturation' adjustment layer. Click 'Colorize' - Set 'Lightness' to 90% - Set 'Saturation to 100%. (I like to use a light blue color when tracing my sketches)
    • Create a new layer and move it to the top.
    • Go to 'Image' > 'Size' and set the resolution to 600 dpi. (if you have an older computer or not alot of RAM. Try 400dpi instead)
    • Use the 'Eliptical Marquee Tool' to select and stroke any circles in your file. (Erase any uneeded areas)
    • Create a 16px 'Outline' brush based on the brush settings image below.
    • Select a section to start outlining, keeping in mind that you will be duplicating and rotating what you draw.

  2. Start Outlining Your Sketch
    • Create a layer for your black lines
    • Select a section of your sketch to outline and carefully draw in all of your black lines.
    • Note: Wait for the next step to create any black fills or patterns. (Anything that is not a line will go on a separate layer)
    • See below for my completed outlined section:

  3. Add in Black Fills & Patterns
    • Note: If you have an curved lines in your design (like mine), first 'Duplicate' and 'Flip Horizontal' your lines to complete your linework section. (See below for refference)
    • Clean up any stray lines.
    • Create a new 'Layer' and name it 'Patterns'
    • Use the 'Magic Wand' tool to select inside your 'Lines' layer and draw or fill in any black fills or patterns on the 'Pattern' layer. 

    My lineart after 'Flip Horizontal' was used

    My completed lineart and pattern section:

  4. Duplicate & Rotate Your Outlines and Patterns
    • Holding 'Shift', select both your 'Lines' & 'Patterns' layers, 'Duplicate' those layers & 'Rotate' them around the exact center point.
    • Repeat the steps above until your mandala patterns and outlines are complete.
    • Merge the like layers together to clean up your file, but keep your 'Lines' & 'Pattern' layers separate for the next unit.

    My Completed lineart and patters artwork on separate layers:

  5. Share Your Lineart!

    Feel free to share your lineart and make some new friends by leaving feedback and comments to help others!

Color Unit

  1. Select Your Palette & Fill Colors
    • I've used Cyan, Magenta & Yellow as my base color pallete, but you can use any colors you like.
    • Use the 'Magic Wand Tool' to select the white area around your lineart. Expand 9px and 'Inverse' the selection so that you have a nice selection of your drawing.
    • Note: I've made a Photoshop 'Action' to 'Expand' my selections 3px to save time,
    • Fill the selection with a color on a new layer below your black layers to create your main color base.
    • Continue selecting areas with the 'Magic Wand Tool', expanding the selection 3px and filling in colors on separeate layers so that you can make updates easily whenever you like. 
  2. Duplicate & Rotate
    • Hold down 'Shift' to click and select all of your newly added color layers.
    • Duplicate the layers, then rotate your colors around the center point.
    • Clean up your file by merging the copied layers, but be sure to keep all of your base colors on separate layers so that you can make updates easily whenever you like. 
  3. Share Your Colors

    Share your mandala, showing the base colors you've selected to use with the class.

Shading Unit

  1. Create a Selection Layer To Make Shading Easier
    • Create a new layer and fill a 6px, black line exactly in the center of your guides. (similar to how we created the 2px line in the 'Template' Unit.) 
    • 'Duplicate' and 'Rotate' this lines layer for the sections that you'll be shading.
    • Turn on your 'Lines' and 'Background' layers ONLY and click: 'Edit' - 'Copy Merged' and 'Paste' a new layer at the top of your layers pallete and name it 'Transparent Selection'.
    • Turn all of your layers back on and set the opacity on the new 'Transparent Selection' layer to 0%.
  2. Use the New 'Transparent Selection' Layer to Select & Shade
    • With the 'Magic Wand' Tool 'Select' and 'Expand' the selection 3px. (Create an action for this to save time)
    • Using the soft, pressure sensitive brush that we created in the sketching unit, set it's opacity to around 25% and draw in color gradients, shading and highlights on separate layers.
    • Note: Try changing your layer 'Blending Mode' to 'Multiply' to change how the color shades look on top of your base colors.
    • Note: Make sure that your 'Highlights' layer is above the 'Patterns' layer to add shine and volume to your patterns.
  3. Duplicate & Rotate
    • Hold down 'Shift' and click to select all of your new shading and highlight layers.
    • Duplicate these layers, then 'Rotate' them around the exact center of your guides.
    • Repeat the last step until all of your shading is filled in. Nudge the layers as needed, so that there are no color gaps in your artwork.
    • Clean up your file by 'Merging' all similar, copied layers, but keep all color, shades and highlights on their own layers.
  4. Share Your Finished Mandala with the World!
    • Share your fresh, new mandala artwork in the project section to get feedback from other students.

    • Browse the Student Gallery and provide feedback on other projects.

    • Practice these steps over and over like your name is Danielson and pretend that a creepy, little Mr. Miyagi is watching you "shade the mandala" over and over until you've got it down perfect.


    Thanks so much for spending your hard-earned money on my class! If you enjoyed it, please leave some good feedback and share it with your friends. If enough people like this one, I'd love to create more of these in the future to share other techniques and styles!

    PS. Find me on Instagram @palehorsedesign to follow along with my current artwork and client projects!

Additional Resources

Student Projects

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