Use Photoshop tools to build vibrant images, using stock and shapes
Linking colour combinations
We can use certain birds to help link the different pairs of complementary colours together. The owl, for example, is going to be patterned using blue and green. This links the green from the green and red pairing to the blue of the orange and blue pairing. Blue and green also work well together as they sit next to each other on the spectrum.
Another method of harmonising the illustration is to pick some neutral shades which link the birds together. In this illustration we can use some tawny off-white shades as the ‘canvas’ on the birds which works as a foil to the bright colours.
Once you have dropped all your swatches in, it’s time to choose a background colour. Because there are already lots of different colours being used in this illustration, we are going to use a neutral but dramatic black. This will help emphasise both the simple shapes and bright colours.
Patterns – triangles
One way of creating simple effective patterns is to line up rows of triangles of a few different colours – some different shades of red for example – against a neutral off-white background. You can then build up ‘stripes’ of different triangles – this is how the pattern on the long bird’s neck was created.
Patterns – circles
On the owl I wanted to create some circular patterns on the eyes to emphasise their round shape. So I simply created lots of different circles and semi-circles in blue and green and played about with them until I found a pattern that I was happy with.
Repeat your patterns
Because there are already quite a lot of different things going on in this illustration, we don’t need to create too many different patterns. The patterns on the wings of the birds, for example, are repeats, just in different colours. This again helps to unify the illustration.
Once the birds have been coloured, you can add a bit more character with eyes and other small details. Sometimes it can be good to introduce a contrasting or new colour into the eye so they really stand out.
To give the illustration a sense of depth I added some shadows between layers. On the owl, for example, I added some circular shadows to emphasise the eyes and I also added a shadow under the front wing to make it stand out against the owl’s body.
As the illustration was capturing some birds in flight, I used the Blur tool in selected areas so that the edges were not too defined and sharp. You don’t want to overdo the Blur as it might become distracting.
Take a step back and look at your finished illustration – does it feel ‘right’? Sometimes it is good to leave the work alone for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes.