Feeling intimidated by Photoshop’s massive toolset? Follow this easy step-by-step tutorial to learn how to make a simple 2D portrait.
A minimal portrait like this would make a perfect accent poster for nearly any space. Plus, a stylized artwork doesn’t require otherworldly drawing skills or expert-level knowledge of Adobe Photoshop. Get your canvas ready and follow along!
Step 1: sketching the outline
The choice of the right canvas size depends on your ultimate goal and whether you’re planning to post your artwork online or print it. I recommend you stick to at least 1500 px for each dimension. Anything smaller than that might limit your options after exporting the final work.
Leave the default white shade for canvas and select a simple hard brush in black to create the outline. Use light and loose lines to define the proportions and pose. To make sure the pose looks natural, study reference pictures before making your first sketch. If you like to organize your reference properly, you can use PureRef to have an inspiration board with all the images in one place.
Step 2: adding facial features
Now that you have the outline ready, it’s time to start working on the details.
Though our portrait is stylized, it’s important to keep the basics of human anatomy in mind when drawing the face. The size, placement, and rotation of the eyes, nose, and lips depend on the positioning of the character’s head. In my case, I have a 3/4 head view, meaning that:
- only one ear and one side of the nose have to show,
- the half of the mouth and the eye that are closer to the viewer need to be bigger and more elongated,
- the cheek that is closer to the viewer has to be fuller and wider.
Step 3: adding details to jewelry and hair
For the primary shades of the hair and jewelry, pick the hard brush in the desired color and fill the areas in. Then work on the intricate details of the jewelry. This can include shading, highlights, or any decorative elements you want to incorporate. If you want to create a color fade effect for the jewelry like the one I did, pick a soft brush that creates gentle, blurred-out color transitions. To make the blend even smoother, you can go over those areas with the Blur tool.
If you don’t like to go back and forth with the brushes, another option would be to set up a gradient fill for these elements or add an inner shadow in a slightly darker yellow hue.
In case you want to add more definition to the hair, you can go back to the hard brush and set its size to just about 4 px. Using a shade that is a little lighter than the base color of the hair, add some strokes that follow the direction of the hairdo.
Step 4: adding the details to the saree
Starting with a wide hard brush again, I fill in the outline of the clothing with the primary color. Because I am making the portrait of an Indian woman, my color of choice is a deep burgundy, which you can often see in saree designs.
After that, using a darker shade and a thinner soft brush, I mimic fabric folds. The main points to keep in mind when adding creases to the clothing are armpits, elbows, knees, hips, and waist — every area where the body bends most often.
To make the fabric look even more realistic, you can add a texture and experiment with its opacity settings. On top of that, you can add subtle highlights with either a hard or a soft brush. In my case, I created a few highlights with a soft brush on the left side that is closer to the lighting source.
Step 5: final touches
At this point, it’s time to take a literal step back from your creation and see what else needs a bit of polishing. A simple hack many digital artists use is flipping the canvas horizontally to see if there’s anything that looks unacceptably wrong. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you decide to do this because pretty much any image is going to look slightly cursed when mirrored. The main thing to look out for here is visual imbalance: if there’s something that instantly makes one side look heavier, it wouldn’t hurt to go back and fix it.
Once you’re done with the touch-ups, you can add a background. Make sure it complements the color palette of the drawing and avoid conflicting or overpowering shades. I chose the gorgeous navy blue and added a gradient and a texture to it to make it a little less flat.
One crucial thing to remember before saving your womanportrait_finalfinalFINAL.psd is that you absolutely have to make sure you’ve hidden or removed all the messy layers. If you started by sketching out the primary shapes or made the outline using sloppy chicken scratches, these layers definitely have to go.
Step 6: print and enjoy
Now that the artwork is nice and clean and ready to become a part of your interior design, you can print it. For a neater, less overwhelming look, I ultimately decided to go for a plain dark blue background instead of a textured one.
And there you have it — your very own stylized 2D portrait of a woman. I learned how to create an artwork like this thanks to Tron Education, a digital art school and production studio. Here’s an important message from my Tron Education teachers that I always keep in mind: “Visualize your art before you start. Visualization gives you the clarity needed to create truly outstanding artworks”.
Hope you learned something new from me and Tron with this tutorial!
About the author:
Rahul Bojalwar got a diploma in Interior Design in 2007. He is the founder and chairman of the Tron School Of Animation, Graphics And Artology which specializes in digital production. Tron’s students learn how to create visual content for movies, TV, games, AR/VR, websites, and more.