Digital Illustration: Streamlining with Adobe Tools | Jing Wei | Skillshare

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Digital Illustration: Streamlining with Adobe Tools

teacher avatar Jing Wei, 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.

      Sketch: Getting Started


    • 3.

      Sketch: Thumbnailing


    • 4.

      Sketch: Drawing


    • 5.

      Illustrator: Building Shapes


    • 6.

      Illustrator: Adding Color


    • 7.

      Photoshop: Applying Textures


    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


    • 9.

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About This Class

Want to create clean and colorful illustrations in no time?

Join illustrator Jing Wei in this 30-min class on how to master your digital toolkit and churn out professional and polished illustrations in a snap. From limiting your brushes in the free Adobe Sketch app to efficiently building shapes in Adobe Illustrator, you’ll learn tons of tips and tricks on how to streamline your workflow so you can move quickly and confidently at every step of your process. Key lessons include:

  • Drawing clean and consistent sketches with a single brush in Adobe Sketch
  • Building custom shapes and adding strong colors in Adobe Illustrator
  • Applying analog grain textures and gradients in Adobe Photoshop

This class is ideal for illustrators, designers, visual artists, and everyone who wants to take advantage of digital illustration tools. Learn how to how maximize your toolkit today!

Meet Your Teacher

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Jing Wei



Jing is a Brooklyn-based illustrator known for her surreal style that's influenced by printmaking. She has experience working with clients like Airbnb, MailChimp and New York Times and takes on a range of projects from advertising to editorial to surface and packaging design.

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, everyone. My name is Jing and I am a freelance illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York. I would say my style is usually pretty clean and colorful and definitely conceptual as well, and I usually like to incorporate a lot of soft people and shapes and animals because it makes me happy. From a personal perspective, what separates my work is just the fact that I've been able to apply it to many different kinds of projects. Basically, whatever is going to challenge me. Today, I'll be taking you through my personal process as well as how to code an illustration from beginning to finish. We're going to be starting off in Adobe Sketch, which is an app that I like to use to create my digital sketches, and then we'll move on to Illustrator to finalize the piece and build up shapes, and then we'll put up some finishing touches in Photoshop. So, in order to take this class, you will need a tablet, a stylus, and a laptop. When I was first starting to make editorial illustrations, I was only using a sketchbook and pencil. But then, as soon as I learned these digital tools, it really helped me streamline my workflow and increase efficiency, which for me is really important for my commercial work right now. However, I still really love the feeling of drawing with a pencil on a piece of paper. So, I wouldn't say throw that out at all. I'd love to draw on my sketchbook for fun these days, but sometimes when I'm under a crunch, I just really like to go with whatever is the fastest way. This class is pretty much open to everyone, whether you're just starting to dabble in illustration or you want to create something that is a little bit more commercial, I hope that you guys will all give it a shot. Let's get started. 2. Sketch: Getting Started: So, before we get started, I'm just going to show you guys where you can find the app Adobe Sketch if you don't already have it. So, we're just going to start by searching for Adobe Sketch, there we go, and here it is. I already have it downloaded, so I'm just going to open it, and it'll launch right into my personal account. So, to create a new sketch, we will be clicking this circle button, and then it will give you a variety of formats. I think we should probably start with the square because it is a pretty versatile format, and it also works well with social. So, this is your canvas, this is your working area, and then over here is where you'll be keeping your layers. We will be working on the sketch later because those are the editable layers, and then the background would just be a consistent backdrop for your work. All right? So, let's go through the tool bar up top. This one is basically just to hide everything, so you can just focus on your canvas. This little gear will basically help you rotate your canvas. You can do a snap to grid and you can add a grid, it's basically to help you set up some guidelines. This is the whole export section, you have a lot of options as you can see, and we'll be getting into that a little bit later. This is another hiding tool so that you can hide your layers, although it seems redundant. This is the shape option. I really like using this section actually because it's easy to help you draw a straight edge, or a circle, or semi-circle. I find that it comes in handy a lot. And then lastly over here, we have the undo and redo option, so you can do anything very quickly, or you can bring it back. You can also use our shorthand and swipe left to undo, and then swipe right to redo. So, over here, Adobe has set out some basic brushes that you could start with. The one that I like to use here is their graphite pencil, and then down here we have an ink pen, a marker brush, a thick acrylic brush, and also a watercolor flat brush. So, we're going to get into the graphite pencil brush here, and I'm just going to show you how I like to customize the tool. To adjust any of these settings, all you have to do is just click and drag. And then for something like this, to increase size and opacity, you can just push this up and down. I'll start off with size, I usually like to push it up to a little bit closer to 10 because I like a strong bold line, and I also always increase the opacity to 100. Then if you go down to color, you can change it to whatever color you want, but I like to keep it simple, and stick to black. I think it is really important and helpful to limit your toolkit to just one pencil because it helps you focus on your ideas and the drawing itself, and not become overwhelmed with all of the different options. 3. Sketch: Thumbnailing: Okay, so now we are ready to get started with brainstorming. So, I will write out the prompt which is talking to your future self. Okay. So, the first thing I like to do is to start breaking down the prompt and hopefully that will lead to some visual ideas. So, I'd like to start by thinking small phrases, almost like a word association manner. So, I'm going to start writing down the things that I think of when I read the prompt talking to your future self. So, I've come up with this list. We have change in time, reflection, environment/space, communication, past present future, tension and connection. So I think that all of these words will help me get to the next step which is thumbnailing. So, you can pretty much interpret this however you want. For me, I was breaking down the prompt into two different areas. One being communication and connection with your double selves and then the other one kind of circling around time and how to depict that visually. So, a change in time, how to show that an image that can be done through an environment or space or an action or even clothing. So, I have some of that written down. All right. So, now that I have my list, I have some starting points, so I can start thumbnailing. Okay, so we'll set up the square and these are just going to be very very fast drawings, just to get something down on the page just so I can get a sense of the composition. Going to make this sci-fi bubble because it's time travel. They usually start off pretty simple because I find that one idea can lead to the next. You can build on the previous idea and then make the world slightly more complex with each trying. So, this is a character that I frequently draw or some version of this character. I like this prompt because it is specifically talking about you. So, I think it's really interesting to try and visualize your own likeness. You can do it in a fun way or you can approach in a more serious way. It's really pretty open. All right. So, these are the thumbnails and I have landed on the last idea, but that's definitely not always the case. Sometimes your first idea is your best idea, sometimes your hundredth idea is your best idea. I landed on this idea because I think it satisfies a few different things that goes into the making of a successful illustration. It has two characters that are interacting and I think, thus, some tension is being created. It has an environment, it has some story and I think that it does suit the prompt quite well. All right. So, now that we have our chosen thumbnail, we can get started on making a more detailed drawing. 4. Sketch: Drawing: All right. Now, that we have our chosen thumbnail, I'm going to isolate the image and use it as a reference layer for the final drawing. So, I am going to keep the suite of thumbnails just for preservation purposes, and then I'm going to duplicate this layer. Then, when you double tap, you can hide the previous layer or any layer. So, now I'm working with a duplicate layer and I've saved the previous suite of thumbnails. I'm just going to erase everything but that shows some now. So, now we've isolated that image. I'm just going to tap on the layer which will bring up these options, and I'm going to choose transform. Then with my fingers, I'm just going to expand that image so that it fills the frame. All right. So, now we have a loose markup of what the image and the composition will be. So, that things don't get confusing, I'm going to lower the opacity of this thumbnail, so that I can really just use it almost like a light-box situation. Then we can work on a fresh layer on the. So, I'm using the thumbnail as a guide to block in some of the larger shapes and set up the environment. I know that I'm also going to add some more specific details which will happen after I've laid out the composition. So, I am basically using the graphite pencil tool as my main mark making tool, and then the eraser acts in tandem to help make any corrections along the way. So, I really like toggling back and forth between these two because they serve different purposes, but they work in perfect harmony to try to create a very clean drawing. I like to limit it to two tools because it helps me focus on the drawing, so I don't have to get caught up in all the decision making if I had to choose from, for example, a variety of brushes. I think that would really get on the way. I think, once I've mapped out the basic shapes, it's nice to go in there and try to give the clothing a bit more detail, more personality because similar to the environment, the more specific detail you have, the more interesting the image will be. Anything extra helps the image, and it gives the character a lot more personality, so that you can start to imagine who this person is and what their story might be. So, now we have most of the image laid out. I'm going to look around to see if there are any negative spaces that need filling. At this point, I'd like to turn off the bottom layer, so I can just look at the final drawing as its own layer. I think it's looking all right. I do see some negative space in the middle that I'm going to fill with this arm, and maybe add a few last minute details, like making this person have short sleeves. So, any small lines, I think can make a difference. This clock might work better in the middle because we do have quite a bit of negative space here. It might be better to have not a direct mirroring of this elements, so that throws things off a little bit. All right. I think we're done with our drawing. Okay. So, now we have our final drawing. We are ready to export. So, I'm going to go over here to this little square button with the arrow and press on that, and then it'll give you a drop down menu of all of your different options. You can always send it to your Creative Clouds, and if you don't have a Creative Cloud account, then you can also export the image through your email, or just save it to your iPad, or airdrop it to another device. I'm going to go back and choose Adobe desktop apps because I want to export this to my illustrator accounts. So, I'm going to press the illustrator option, and it should send the file as a layered file to the program. All right. So, now that I have exported my final drawing, I'm going to move on to my laptop and work in Illustrator to start building up the shapes. 5. Illustrator: Building Shapes : So, now I have my drawing exported to illustrator where I can start working on it directly, but you can really transport the file in a number of ways. You can email it yourself, you can airdrop it if that's available to you, or you can always copy and paste it. So, now I'm going to start building the illustration and I'm going to start by using the shape tool to block in some of the larger more symmetrical shapes, and then I'm going to be using the pen to offer some of the finer details. All right. So, as you can see the file has preserved each individual layer but now we don't really need them at this point. So, I'm just going to drag and drop into the trash, and so, we're just left with this transparent drawing layer. So, now I've selected my drawing layer and I'm going to go into properties. I'm going to lower the opacity just like I did on the iPad so that I can use that as a reference layer without it being too disruptive. So I'm going to lock that layer so it's not movable and I'm going to primarily be working on layer two which I will rename as the Shape Layer. I'm going to start by separating the two worlds, and we're going to start out with the light gray. In the beginning I really like to just work in grayscale and choose maybe two to three different values, so that I can focus on the shapes and not have to worry about any color decision making just yet. So I do like to toggle between the A and the V, and the A just allows me to edit the path. In this situation I'm working with this rectangle so I want to select just the top corners to manipulate the shape and I'm going to press shift so that I can select both corners at once, and then I'm just going to pull on these two circles until this closes into a top half half done. I think this could be dragged in a little bit more so, there we go. I like to use the V shortcut key so that I can select the entire path and that will allow me to move it around, make it smaller, make it larger, and I like to just toggle between the two and have my left hand on the keyboard at all times. So, now I'm going to continue to identify all the different areas that can benefit from these basic shape tools. I also like to press down on the shift key to create a perfect circle. Okay. So, we have our clock on, this lamp can probably be composed of a rectangle and a half circle. Rectangles and circles are very basic shapes, but it's amazing what you can do just by manipulating. Okay. So, I think this vase could probably also be a rounded rectangle shape and again for this one I'm just going to grab all of the corners and then that'll pull in. Okay. Now, I'm just going to click and command copy command V to paste and duplicate shapes I think any time you have an opportunity to copy and paste a shape it will definitely make your life easier. I want to select this whole clock as three shapes so I'm going to just lock this back later. I'm going to do that by clicking on the layer and then pressing command two and that will lock whatever path you selected so that I can just select this clock and then I'm going to bring it down here. Then you can press option command two to unlock. One other shortcut key that is very helpful is the key to help me reorder the layers, so that would just be command bracket. So, if I want to send something to the back I would just do shift command bracket, and if I want to bring it up to the front I would just do command right bracket and it'll come right back up. Okay. So, sometimes I like to toggle off the sketch layers so I can see what the composition looks like and what the shape layer is looking like so far, and just to check on the progress and see if there's anything that needs to be moved around. I think I see a couple more areas that can benefit from the circle tool. Okay. So, now I'm going to start using the pen tool for some of these finer curves, and I'm going to start with this leaf. So the other shapes are a bit more symmetrical but I think you can really have some fun with the pen tool and bring it in in areas that could benefit from more freeform drawing. I like to lay out the shape kind of roughly and then go in and use these little arms to readjust and finesse the curves. So, one thing to mention is that you do want to make sure you close your paths right here so that it is one complete standalone shape. Okay. So, now we have the leaf, but it's kind of blending into the space. I'm going introduce another value which will just be black, and I'm going to send this shape back. So, that looks like it's sitting in that vase. Now, I'm going to add a stem and for that I'm going to introduce a stroke. So, I will determine roughly my curve and angle here, toggle back so that it becomes a line, and then I'm going to open up the stroke window and change the thickness which will be around five. Had a few more options and then I like to round off the cap. So, for this one, I'm going to choose the same gray, copy the hex code, and there is our leaf. So, now I'm going to use the pen tool to go in and create the rest of these shapes. So, this is where you can start to see the benefits of simplifying early on because I was able to build the shapes fairly quickly due to the fact that I had a very clean drawing to work for. So, now that all the shapes are built we can start thinking about color. 6. Illustrator: Adding Color: So, I've created a group of color swatches here based on colors that I like to use in my illustrations, and I'm going to use that as the starting points here. So, the thing that's really helpful for me when I'm working in grayscale is that I can really break down the values and make sure that the image has enough contrast so that it's clear and legible, and then I can start thinking about colors. I think that if you preserve that general value system and you apply colors after and preserve that contrast, then the image should work. So, I'm going to start selecting individual shapes and applying color by using the Eyedropper and seeing how that feels. So, I will slowly do that to every shape and then adjust as I go along. So, I'm pretty much just applying color one shape at a time and then seeing how it feels as it all comes together. I like to start with areas where I am a little bit more confident in which color decision I want to be making, and then start to experiment a little bit more from there. This image is largely shape-based, so it's very easy for me to apply color because I can just think of it as blocks up against each other, and it really helps me visualize the image and it comes together very quickly when I'm only working with shapes. Okay. So, we are in a good place with this illustration and I think you could call this done, but you've also had the option of adding a few finishing touches, which is what I'm going to do in Photoshop. 7. Photoshop: Applying Textures: So, for this last step, I'm going to be dragging in the Illustrator file to Photoshop and I'll be working with some textures just to give it a handmade feel. Okay. So, now I'm going to drag in the file. This is a little bit large, so I'm just going to take it down to 15 by 15. So, because my working background in Illustrator was already white, I didn't add a shape to this bottom area, so now it is coming up as a transparent area. So, I'm going to fill it back in by creating a new layer, dragging it underneath and then filling that layer up with white. Okay. So, now I'm going to click on this little square of paper that is folded and create a new layer for my texture. I don't want to apply texture to the entire illustration, I just want to apply it to selective colors. So, I will start with the blue and I'm going to use this magic wand tool to select all of the blue in the image. So, you want to make sure when you select that, the contiguous box is checked off because when you check it on, it will only select one closed shape at a time. So, we want to apply this to all of the blue. So, now all of the blue is selected and I'm going to just push command Copy, click on the layer and then click command Paste. Now, we will have isolated only the dark blue from the image. So, as you can see, that is all the blue that we have. There are a million different options in Photoshop and you can apply textures in a number of ways, but I like to use the noise filter. So, you can go to the Filters section, drop down to Noise and then go to Add Noise, and that will bring up this option window where you can adjust how much noise you want. I think this is probably a little extreme, so we're just going to bring it down to about 20% or so. Now, we have added a texture to all of the blue in the area, so that definitely gives it a little bit more life in it. So, if you zoom in, you can really start to see the difference between the areas that have been overlaid with noise and the areas that have not, so I think the combination of that clean shape versus the shape that has been overlaid creates a nice combination and balance. So, I like that you can mix and match options in filters here. There are a million different layers styles as well. One layer style that I like is the gradient overlay. So, I'm going to apply that to our current textured blue. So, here you have a few different options. We can up the opacity, and then we can apply this gradient and adjust where we want that to set. Okay. I also like to play with the angle of the gradient. So we want the lighter color on top and the darker shadow on the bottom in this situation, but I think the main thing to play with is the opacity and where you want the gradient to set. So, we're just going to up the opacity a little bit more and then see how that feels. So, now you can toggle on and off and see what it look like before and after. Overall, this is pretty subtle, but I don't think that you want the finishing touches to be overwhelming. It just should add a little extra 10% to your image. So, now you can export it out of Photoshop by clicking Save As, and it'll give you a number of options. We can save this to our desktop. If you want to preserve the layers, you can save it as Photoshop or TIFF, but I will save it as a JPEG most of the time for final and for social purposes. I want the maximum quality. So now you can open up your JPEG, and here is your final, complete with all of the finishing touches. Okay. So, now you have your final finished image as a JPEG and you can share it on social, you can post to your website, you can send it to your friends, whatever you want. 8. Final Thoughts: That's it. We've gone from drawing in Adobe Sketch, to building shapes in Illustrator, to finalizing and adding finishing touches in Photoshop. So, I hope you got something out of this process. If there's anything I hope you take away, it is that you can really create beautiful and professional illustrations from a very simple toolkit. Feel free to upload your own illustrations and I would love to see how you've interpreted the prompt. It doesn't have to be finished pieces, it can just be a process work, such as drawings or even just a word list. I'm curious to see how you guys interpret these prompts. I hope you've enjoyed this class and I can't wait to see what you all come up with. Thanks for watching. 9. More Creative Classes on Skillshare: