Digital Illustration: Drawing with Shapes and Layers | Roman Muradov | Skillshare

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Digital Illustration: Drawing with Shapes and Layers

teacher avatar Roman Muradov, 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

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Digital Screenprinting


    • 3.

      Picking Colors


    • 4.

      Drawing with Shapes


    • 5.

      Addition and Subtraction


    • 6.

      Details and Polish


    • 7.



    • 8.

      Explore Design on Skillshare


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About This Class

Learn to create two-color, hand-drawn illustrations in Photoshop with award-winning artist Roman Muradov!

Inspired by traditional screen printing techniques, Roman shares how to use simple tools and just two layers to create detailed designs and complex images. Using a fun, creative exercise, you’ll learn how two colors can evolve into surprising, creative work, simply through the use of overlapping shapes.

Key lessons include:

  • Creating complementary colors
  • Selecting brushes and erasers
  • Using Multiply for screen printing effects
  • Drawing by adding and subtracting shapes

Whether you’re new to Photoshop or a seasoned designer, Roman’s approach to achieving handcrafted effects through digital tools will help you stretch your creativity, use Photoshop in new ways, and create work unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Meet Your Teacher

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Roman Muradov



Illustrator and cartoonist from Moscow, Russia, currently living in San Francisco. Clients include the New Yorker, New York Times, Penguin, Google and many others. Featured in the Society of Illustrators (Gold Medal), ADC Young Guns, American Illustration and numerous other shows.

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello, I'm Roman Muradov. I'm an award-winning Author and Illustrator. My work has appeared in places like New York Times, The New Yorker, Penguin, Google. I've done things in many different styles ranging from completely traditional medium, to digital and to mixtures of both. I've always liked to look into the past and to take some messes that've been used for centuries and try to see if they can be re-evaluated or updated with modern technology. As much as I love traditional screen printing, it's not very practical for modern illustration because it takes up too much time and it's free and messy. But you can take the same techniques and reapply it in software like Photoshop, or Procreate, or any other software that allows you to multiply layers. So, in this class, we'll be creating an illustration using only two colors that multiply and create a third color, and also expose a bit of empty space that we call negative space. So, first of all, I'll show you how to set up the files and get them ready, then I'll show you how to pick colors that combine into something else. Then I'll go over the techniques such as multiplication and subtraction, and using negative space to suggest shapes instead of drawing them. This class can be useful for those who want to expand their techniques and tools, but it can also be really fun exercise to break out of your natural way of drawing. So, if you were used to drawing with lines, this can be an excellent exercise to do something completely different. So, the biggest challenge for many people will be to sink in shapes rather than in lines. The only way to do that is simply to not allow yourself to use lines and see how your brain starts to adapt into this new environment. Thank you so much for joining me, and I can't wait to see what you come up with. 2. Digital Screenprinting: All of the techniques that we will be discussing can be also applied to traditional media and mixed media. So, for instance, for this comic, I created the foreground and the background on two separate layers and pencils, then I scanned them in, I gave different colors to each one, and then multiply them together, and created this dreamy little picture. And for these actual screen prints, I did the sketch and digitize it, and then I printed it out, then I inked every single element on paper was brushed and inked. I scanned them in and gave them the appropriate colors to do the screen print. For this screen print, I went over every letter many times, just trying to get the right one. And when I scanned it in, I also did a fair bit of editing just trying to get the shapes quite right to fit them all together. For the New York Times Holiday Book Reviews, I did the animated series of screen printing illustrations. To do that, I would have four different frames and each one would have a different layer. This way, you have something between animation and the moving screen print. Here is a few more examples of this technique used in other applications, some of them more overt and some of them a little bit more subtle. 3. Picking Colors: Let's create our files. Let's say it's 1, 0, 8, 0, 1, 0,8, 0, square, which would be good if you want to put it on your Instagram or something. I personally prefer seeing like cave because it's easier to transition to RGB, but if you prefer RGB, you can also use that. Click create and there's our file. We have the white background let's not touch it ever. Let's create a new layer, clicking this button and another one. Now we can make each one of these layers multiply simply by selecting the layer going into the drop down menu and clicking multiply. Now we have two color layers. You can assign the color to each one of these layers but it's slightly advancing since I want to keep it accessible for everyone. Let's just figure out how to do it in a simpler way. Let's pick any color you like. Let's take the simple rectangle tool instead of doing the default shape. We should pick pixels. This way it creates a symbol rectangle and pixels and nothing else. So it's not a vector shape or anything like this. On the other layer, we should pick a different color, let's say something like this, and go over it. If you doing everything right you should have a little overlay. Now, if you pick the move tool or V on most keyboards, you can move these things around and see what happens. This is basically the gist of our exercise. Of course, the difficult and interesting things happened when we tried to draw with the oldies. Let's start by picking our colors. One of the things I like about using rectangles is that they don't have any pictorial information as such. If you do a nice drawing then it has certain associations that may be hard to let go off while the rectangle is just a rectangle unless you are very fond of rectangles, of course. Here's one combination of colors. Let's try another one. On the same layer, we can do another little color and maybe one more. And maybe lets pick something dark. The standard Photoshop color picker works like this. You go from light to dark, top to bottom and then from less saturated to more saturated left to right and all that has different effects. As you can see the multiplier works in different ways and one way you can figure out how it's going to work is to use the color picker which is alter option, and then you pick the color and you go into the color picker and then you pick a new color. This way you'll have the previous one right here. It can be useful to see how well they can work together. Often when the colors are very contrasting, you see almost the outline form in between them. When they're fitting quite well together and you don't see that. I may want to pick something radically different from this color, like this and put it around here. Now, of course, the main thing we see is the difference in contrast, and often when we pick different colors it can be hard to judge. However, there is a very simple trick to do so, that's putting the thing into grayscale and now we can very easily see how the different colors combine. For instance, the third color here isn't much closer to the first two as opposed to these two. While the first combinations were made as probably the strongest of all. We can go back and we can delete all that and let's try to pick the colors that I would actually want to work with. For our purposes, I think it's most useful to pick one color that's a little bit on the bright side, somewhere let's say around here and, of course, here I betray my preferences because I don't like bright things, so this is bright by my standards. For the second color we can pick something a little more light or a little more grayish. Something like this. Let's see what happens. The contrast is pretty low. Now, here's a useful thing you can use, you can color lock each of the layers by pressing this little button next to the word lock. This means that everything on this layer will now be only down to the pixels on it. For instance if I pick a brand new color like this and I go put a random rectangle, it will only color the pixels that are already on that layer. I can pick this color again and see if I can perhaps make it a bit darker. Okay, not too bad, but maybe not quite as dark. Another thing you can do is pick a completely different color, let's say this one, and then change the opacity, which you can also do by the keyboard and simply make it lighter or darker like that. Let's try this with the other color. It clearly needs to be a little brighter to multiply it better. I'm going to pick a semi random color around here, pick 40% and see what happens. This is better. Maybe a little more, that's about it. Let's say these are the two colors that I'm going to use for my illustration. When we pick the colors, there's all kinds of rules and regulations. You may find in different books and guides but I think for our exercise it's not really important as long as you achieve what you want to set out with the color combination. In the end you may want to think about the fact that you want to get for instance to colors and can be completely clashing and they can create an uncomfortable effect and that may be what you want. Or alternatively you can just pick random colors that simply seem nice to you and then see where it takes you. In fact, the illustration itself can be suggested by the colors that you pick. 4. Drawing with Shapes: Okay. So, now let's try to actually draw something. First thing we need to do is unlock our layers so we can work with them. The second thing we need to do is to take the color picker once again and pick the first color, and then switch my press and usually X or this one, and then pick the second color. So, now we have both colors and we can switch around them, by pressing X and this way we don't need to go into the color picker all the time. So, now we can select all, usually commander control A, press delete on the first layer and on the second layer. If you like you can double click on the layers and title them. So, this one will be blue, and this one will be red, so you don't mess things up. So, now let's take a brush. Now, the brushes that I have here, some of them I got from friends, some of them I created myself, most of them I got from friends and then modified quite a bit, so I can almost call them my own. I'm going to take a brush that's something like this, that seems quite soft or maybe I can go for something a little bit like that. It has a lot of texture, so I can make it much smaller, but I think it can be quite effective for our little demonstration. Then the important thing is to assign a brush to our eraser that's E or this little button. So, for the eraser, the obvious thing to do would be to create, to assign the same brush, and of course you can change it and you can use different brushes within your picture. But again, for the simplicity I will just use one. So, what I can do here is give my eraser this kind of brush, it's a little sharper, and give my man brush a more fuzzy quality. Let's see what can happen when we combine this. So, I'm going to start with a couple of shapes. For this I'll just look around me and pick something at random. So, before me I see a lamp that I'm going to lose least catch out in its outline, and nothing else. So, of course I'm not trying to draw a lamp. I'm simply taking its shape. Another thing that I see around me is a cup of coffee which is not mine, because I don't drink coffee. Let's say it looks something like this. Should know that it's made out of paper. So, it's not a proper coffee cup. There we go. Now have two shapes. Now we can use the move tool and move them around, and see what happens when they intersect. So, you can keep playing around with them until something is suggested by their intersection, which cannot happen, and then you can just go and change these shapes however you like. But let's see if I can get something simple out of this. So, if I look here, this kind of makes me think of a street corner. Let's see if I can continue this line of thought, by continuing these lines, and then when it comes to the blue, for instance I can extend it a bit here, or I can move it somewhere here. This probably makes more sense. Now, we have something like this. We can extend our little coffee cup. Now we can think of that top rim of that coffee cup and what it can be. So, it looks like an arch. Let's make it an arch then. So, all we need to do is extend the road here, and then maybe we can go up and create a bit of a shadow. We can extend it a bit here and see if we like it or not later. Okay. So, now we already have something beginning to show up out of pretty much nothing. Now, let's see how much we can get out of this without really using any more tools. So, if I delete some of that blue, maybe I can make a window here. I'll make the brush a bit smaller, and I'll go like this, and now we have window. Maybe doesn't work quite as well. So, let's not do that, and let's instead focus on the geometry of our street. So, if this is our arch, it might go like this, and then the road will probably continue here. So, we can move the whole thing a bit now. To do that, you can hold shift and then select both of the layers. Then when we take the move button or instrument, we can move both of them at the same time which can be really useful. Now, we can continue editing them. Let's see if we can get some depth here. So, for instance, what if I delete this? Well, doesn't really help. So, maybe I can delete the blue one, and suddenly we have a whole new dimension opening up. So, this can be where th street bends a little bit. If you choose the wrong color you will immediately notice it because it doesn't really provide the same effect. So, we have a little bend in the street. To amplify that effect, we can now take out a bit of red, or let's draw another kind of lamp shape, and this maybe can be an actual Streetlamp. Why not. So, we have something like this, and now we can draw a streetlamp using blue again. Great. Now, we can take out the blue that's in the lamplight, and this way the light is much stronger. Or we can use the brush ever so slightly to create a bit of texture. For now, let's continue with the blue, add it around here, and have the pavement around here. Again, we can go in and go back and see what happens if we deleted the rim. So, this may make sense, maybe not. Perhaps the pavements should be black. How do we indicate the road? Well, we can make white stripes here, something like this. This should be probably on both of them. So here I'm using the accidental nature of the brush that I'm using. I'm kind of doing it a little unperfectly on purpose. So, this way we can again imitate the screen print the quality of the material. Of course you can make it absolutely perfect by simply creating a new layer making the lines that you want to be in wide, and then selecting these lines and then applying the selection to each one of these layers. The choice is entirely about the aesthetics that you want to pursue. Now, let's see, this is our sidewalk I imagine, and perhaps what we need here is a doorway. So, now we have a bit of a balance going on, because we have a red shape here and it makes sense to put the red shape here. Also it establishes the things on display usually red. So, we'll make a door, and you can make straight lines very easily by simply holding shift. But now I realize that this door that we have the arch is quite bendy, so we should keep up with that aesthetic. Of course you can simply retake the drawing, but let's not do that for now. This door is a little too big. It's almost as big as the arch. So, let's narrow it down a bit. Now, let's create some kind of stairs. So, we'll go back into the blue, and we'll do something like this. We'll simply create three little stairs, and then I'll badly delete them on purpose, so there are more of this. In this way we can kind of cheat around things. You can also pick the lasso tool, select something and press control or command T and move it around if you like. Okay. So now, we have a general scene, and we can add more stuff to it and use advanced techniques in the next video. 5. Addition and Subtraction: Now that we have our scene more or less fleshed out, let's try something a little more elaborate to give it a bit more depth. One thing we can use is negative space to suggest shapes instead of drawing them. It means that we can get some illusion of depth without actually adding more elements. Another thing we can try is instead of doing flat shapes, try a bit of texture to suggest some rotation or even patterning. Okay, so now that we have our stairs, they're missing a plane. Let's see if we can delete bits of red and see if that helps. Now, of course, that doesn't really work, so we can create some kind of perspective that can be either surreal or more or less realistic or somewhere in between. Now, we're using that white space to suggest what's not really there because if we were to use it in a less limited way, we may want to simply take a third color but we're not going to do that. There we go. Now, I can add a little bit of railing perhaps, something like this. Now, we have an entrance of sorts. We can add a little bit of decor, for instance, a line that goes here. Now, we have a combination of different things, but this is beginning to feel a little too linear, so let's not go that way. Maybe what I can do is extend this whole thing, and then use the top as a window that will automatically align, and have a little window here. Now, I can give it a bit more definition like this, and I can give it a little bit of depth by using blue. But now, I don't want it to be too sharp so I will delete quite a bit of it. I can also suggest a shadow of the window pane. To do that, I'm going to put a bunch of blue here and then I'll try to draw a curve here on the pane here, something like that. With a sharp line on top and the lose line on the bottom, it can act as something like a shadow. Perhaps it can be simpler, something like this, and now I can just take it and move it a bit up. There we go. Now, for our main thing, we can have something similar like this. Let's say here, we have our corners so maybe we can make a little shape like this, and then add the red bond next to it. Then if we need them to go into perspective, we can play around with the idea of kind of accidentally multiplying things. We'll add blue here, red there, and let them bleed over a little bit. This way, we create a coarse shadow. Suddenly, it gets little more painterly than we had intended. Now, to mess things up a bit more, I can resize them by using the transform function, but I'll do them separately, and this way the sizes will change a little bit. I'm adding even more accidental variation. Now, I can use their multiplying function to suggest the window, somewhere here. Now, we've completely lost the blue one but we can change that by simply painting the red over here, and then deleting a bit over here. Here's our little window display. We can add a little bit of highlight as well. Just by doing something like this, we can keep it red if we like, or we can do the same treatment as we have on the pavement, or we can do a combination of them. Now, if we'd like to add a little bit of texture, what we can do is take a big brush, put a bit here, and then delete it by using low pressure on our panel. Now, we can add a little bit of detail on the facade. We can draw it something like this, but let's try to suggest that rather than draw it, and then we'll do the opposite side and use the negative space to suggest how the brakes can go. Let's say it just has three protruding frames, so to speak. It will be something like this. Here we can do a lot with just using a single color. Let's say, this is where it ends, so we had a little facade. Then, to make it a little more comfortable, we can make this into a roof. I'd say it's a roof that has an angle like that, which of course doesn't make sense because we have another building here so I'm going to get rid of it. But maybe, this building has its own roof around here, so now the composition is a little more balanced. Now we can go with red and create a little window here. We can delete some of the blue to give that window the other plane. 6. Details and Polish: Now we can break a rule a little bit by not using any lines and use a few lines to give one definition to that little roof. I think all these rules are really good as a starting point, but of course in the end it's your piece and you should do whatever you want to make it look the way you want it to look. You can put a little circle here just to break up the shapes. Now, I guess what it needs is a character. Now that we've put in the roof, before we move to the character, it's also quite obvious that it stops being a vignette and became a full scene. We may need to extend the whole thing. Of course, in the end, I may change my mind as I very often do. You can do something like this, again keeping it very loose and allowing little accidents to happen. Now, we can put a character here. We can also either add more to this side or just move it to the left, which I prefer, because I can't really be bothered. Perhaps here, we can have a little, what should we call it, where you have the number of the building or something like that. Good. Now, he's going to be walking down the road. Perhaps, I'll go back to my lampshade. My lamp post something like this, and let's see if we can get anything else out of that shape. This naturally looks like a body with quite a sizable bottom. Perhaps, I can build something on that. The other thing I had was a coffee cup, and that lands itself naturally to a fulsome head of hair. Probably not here, a little higher like this. Now, we come to the question of the face. Well, we can simply create another little shape here and another little shape here. Now, if we want to have the hair kind of go in around the ears, we can suggest that by deleting some of that blue. Now, we can zoom out and see how it fits in. It looks alright. Nothing here makes any sense in terms of space and perspective, so we might as well get away with it. One thing we can do is extend the red pavement a little bit and then use the white of the page to suggest the legs. For this part, it will be quite easy. For this one, it won't be quite as obvious because we're using quite a lot of negative shade, negative space. Let's just go and see if it works or not. Here, we have our little character and it almost works. I think we can keep it like this and take the man's shape and rotate it. Now, if we bring it a little closer, something like this, then it will be a little easier to process. Now, I'm not rotating the other one, again to create an accident in purpose. Even if you're using digital tools, we can still make a lot of accidents happen simply by not doing what is obvious and what makes sense. Now, I don't like the feet because they are really out of style here as everything is very geometric, and I'll just do something like this, little stumps. Okay, let's round up the bottom, and the front, and a little to the sides. Finally, let's add some little details that can make it a little more complete. For instance, we can give the character a bit of a pattern so that the character stands out because everything else is just flat shapes. We can take one bit of a brush and make some stripes, maybe just a couple of stripes. The shape is still more or less readable but the stripes could be smaller. Let's take a smaller brush and make more stripes. Okay, so this is pretty readable. Finally, I don't really like this window so I'm going to get rid of it, after all the work, and I think instead, we can have something simpler. I also don't like this circle on top. It feels a bit arbitrary but it does feel like the composition needs another circle, so let's put one here. Circle, well, it certainly makes sense for this to be a tree, I think. I'm going to go with the other color and give it a trunk, and a couple of branches. Now, once again, I can go into it, taking a razor and maybe suggest some little shapes, that could be leaves, or things growing in the trees, or whatever you may want to think. To further that idea, I can go into the other side and create a few of those falling down. Okay, and now finally, I really don't care about these bricks, to be honest, so I'm going to get rid of them. Here, we have our little street scene. You can continue playing around with different framing devices. It can be a vignette once again, or we can just leave it the way it is and call it a day. I think it's better if it's complete. All this back and forth may seem like a bit of a waste of time, but I think, what you don't use this time can be reapplied another time, so it's never a waste. Of course, it probably does feel like a waste while you're doing it, which is normal. Finally, of course, I noticed, and after all the changes, our pavement is completely off. I'm going to fix that and while I'm at it, I am also noticing that it doesn't really have that line that you have between the pavement and the sidewalk. Let's add that as well. I'm going right between the lines so it's both a combination and also a white space. Maybe I can make these lines a little zigzaggy, why not? Now, we have a very jazzy feel to it, and since I'm doing this in San Francisco, it feels somewhat appropriate. There we go. Let's call this a day for now. 7. Conclusion: Now that we're done, let's share our pictures and write a few notes on what you discovered while you're doing this. Of course, the aim here is to experiment, to try out some new things rather than to create something particularly beautiful. Although something beautiful comes out, that's the great side effect. Now, that we're done with our pictures, we can either save them for Web or export them for printing. If you want to make an actual screen print with them, you can simply look our layers once again and then make each one of them black. Then, you can print each one and use them for risograph or screen print or whatever you may want to use. If you are saving for Web, all you need to do is go to Export, Export As or Save for Web. Here, you have a few options. This is the size that most people use for Instagram. PNG or JPEG is a good option. Then, you press Export All and Save it to your desktop or wherever you like, and then you can upload it to the project gallery. Thanks so much for watching this video. I hope it was fun, and more importantly, I hope it was fun to experiment with this technique. When I demonstrate techniques like that, people sometimes ask me if I use that in my own work. Of course, if I work with a client, I can't really do something like this because they would expect sketches and they would expect to know what they're paying for. But, same time, you can still improvise and experiment at every stage of the project. You can take large scale technique like that and then break it down and use bits of it in whatever thing that you're doing. What's more, I think you can approach this little technique as a way of experimenting and play around with shapes and you can take that into one of the disciplines and I think it's actually more interesting if you applied that to something that doesn't automatically involves two overlapping shapes. Of course, you can expand it and make it much more elaborate by using tons and tons of layers based on screen tones, textures, real media, anything you want as long as it's your own. Of course, while we focus just in two colors for the purposes of the demo, you can go completely crazy with the amount of tools that you use. You can use real media and combine it with digital tools. You can have many colors. You can use screen tones, textures and other effects to create images as simple or complex as you want. 8. Explore Design on Skillshare: way.