Photoshop Sumi-e Tutorial Video [Koi Pond]

Koi Pond Card Back

UPDATE: Koi Pond: A Coy Card Game is now available on DriveThruCards!

Last weekend I put together some prototype art for the Koi Pond Card Game (née Coy Pond) that's been getting a lot of positive response from people. I thought I'd share with you a bit of my process. Clearly I'm not a sumi-e painter, but over the years I've learned a few tricks in Photoshop that might be useful for you. Follow along in the video below!


0:00 I start drawing the vector strokes by themselves. I have a peculiar process for doing this because I prefer to work in an increasingly obsolete program called Freehand. I'm old and stubborn.

1:15 I open a neutral watercolor background in Photoshop. Then I paste the stroke vector into photoshop as a smart object.  I select it as an outline and paste in a mottled gray texture so the strokes get an organic fill. This layer is multiplied so the background texture also seeps through the fill.

1:35 In quickmask, I use a very large, soft brush in dissolve mode and skirt the edges of the strokes. The dissolved edge adds a roughness for the next step.

1:45 With the selections made, I use gaussian blur to soften the edges of the mask. (Note: I'm not blurring the layer, just the edges of the layer mask.) I repeat the selection-blur steps several times in different areas to different degrees so it all feels a as organic as it can.

2:40 I paste in another watercolor stroke for the fill color inside the fish and use Transform > Warp to curve the stroke according to the fish's body. In particular I want to get the tail as wide and rough as possible to emphasize the roughness of that paintstroke.

3:20 To polish off the fish's silhouette, I import white-on-black watercolor strokes. These layers are screened so that they block out any color I don't want. I use transform > Warp again for final details.

4:40 For a bit of depth, I dropped in another blue watercolor texture to take up the bottom two-thirds and screened a bit at the top edge. This lets the red fish really pop out.

And that's it!

MUSIC
Song: Joma de mi vida-U joma'il in kuxtal
Album: Suut u suutuk
Artist: BALAM
License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) You can copy, distribute, advertise and play this music as long as you give credit to the artist.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.