Learn how to create a beautiful Koi Fish and flower design with Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. This tutorial will show you the basics of creating shapes and how to shade using tools and gradients.
Preview of Final Results
Download the PSD
Koi Fish Photoshop Tutorial
Step 1 Create a New Document
In Photoshop create a New Document (File>New) My canvas is 500px x 500px but you can make it any size to suit your needs.
Step 2 Flower
First we will create one of the flowers. Start by adding a Gradient Overlay to the first layer (name it ‘Background’)
Step 3 Petal Shapes
Create a New layer and name it ‘Petal 1’ make an outline of a petal like the image below using your Pen Tool.
Step 4 Fill the Petal
Right click the outline of your petal and then>Make Selection or on your Paths tab right click then>Make Selection. Fill this petal with a purple color.
Step 5 Add Contrast
On this same layer grab your burn tool (61 px soft brush, shadows, 100%) make your petal look like the image below. I used a combination of Ranges: Shadows, Highlights and Midtones to achieve this look.
Step 6 Petal Highlight
Create a New layer above this one and name it ‘Petal 1 Highlight’. Grab a 42px soft brush #E5BA2A, with a Flow: 73%. Erase any areas that goes outside of the petal.
The third thing that we will add to this petal is a darker shadow. First make a new layer above your ‘Petal 1 highlight’ then make a selection of your ‘Petal 1’ layer. Once you have done this contract it. Select>Modify>Contract by 5px like the image below.
Paint in this area with a soft brush using #2c0024 Note: Name this layer ‘Petal 1 shadow’
Step 8 Repeat Petals
Repeat these steps to create the rest of your petals. I have provided images of how the process looks.
Step 9 So Far
In all I have 15 petals.
For the middle grab your paint brush tool #fed51c, and make it look like the image below. I also used the burn tool to darken the bottom a bit (shadow, 100%).
Step 11 Flower Highlights
Above all of your flower layers. Create a New layer and name it ‘Flower Highlight’. Grab your paint brush tool (24px soft brush #ffffff) and place the brush in the light petal areas.
Change the opactiy to 53%
Create a new layer and basically repeat those previous steps but instead of #ffffff use #c419b6
Change this layer to ‘Screen’
Step 13 Outline
Before we make the outline. Merge all of the petal layers together including the ‘Petal highlight and shadows’ (don’t include the ‘Flower Highlights 1 & 2). Create a New layer and name it ‘Outline’. Next create a selection from the layers you just merged.
Step 14 Stroke
Next go to Edit>Stroke and apply these settings
Move the outline a couple of pixels to the right. Change this layer to Overlay with an Opacity of 77%
For an added element I grabbed my Paint brush tool and used a soft px brush #e6d9b0 and painted in some more highlights. For this layer I changed it to luminosity.
Step 17 Part 2 – Second Flower
Now we are done with the first flower now it’s time to start the second one. Create a new document (same size canvas). Apply the same gardient for the background as previous stated with the first flower. This is what we will be making.
Create a New group by cliking the folder icon above you layers and name this group ‘Purple Flower’. Inside of this new group create a new layer and name it ‘Petals’ Grab paint brush tool and select the flower brush that you downloaded prior to starting the tutorial. #af37a5
Step 19 Burn and Dodge Tool
Grab your burn and dodge tool (soft brush) and fill in the areas like I did in the image below. Continue this around the entire flower.
Make a selection from your ‘Petals’ layer and contract it. Select>Modify>Contract by 19px. Make a new layer and grab a soft brush from your paint brush tool and fill in the areas like I did below. #FFFFFF
Change this layer to Soft Light.
Create a New layer and on this layer make a Selection from your ‘Petals’ layer and contract it again by 34 px.
Again grab your paint brush tool and paint in the areas like the image below color #e9d44b
Change this layer to Screen
Create a new layer and place a circle in the middle of the flower using a soft round brush (71px, #e9d54b)
Create a New layer and with a soft round brush add white to the tips, erase the areas that go beyond the petals.
Change this layer to Overlay.
Step 25 –
Repeat this step with a soft brush #FFFFFF but change this layer to Soft Light.
Now duplicate this group 4 times and resize the groups so that it looks like the image below.
Now we will add a drop shadow to the ‘Petals’ layer of each group except the last group. Apply these settings
This is how it should look
Step 29 Part 3 – Koi Fish
Create a new document. My canvas is 1000px x 1000px.
Step 30 – Add a gradient to this background layer
Type your instructions here.
Next we will create the body of the fish. I used Adobe Illustrator to create my fish since for me it’s easier to control the pen tool. Fire up Illustrator with the same size canvas 1000px x 1000px
Start creating the different parts of the fish like I did in the following images.
Now ‘drag and drop’ the fish parts you made and arrange them like so in photoshop. Note: I have outlined the parts to show where I have placed them (no need for you to do this.)
Step 34 Back Fin
Now that all of your layers are in Photoshop makes sure to name the layers acording to the parts of a fish (i.e. head, body, back fin, etc). First we will start off with the ‘Back Fin’. Also whatever layers I’m not working on I make them invisivle by clicking the ‘eye’ icon. On your ‘Back Fin’ layer grab your burn tool (61px soft round brush, Range: Highlights Exposure: 73&) and burn the area like in the image below
Make a New layer and grab paint brush tool and make some wavy lines on the fin. I used a 5px hard round brush #d43911.
Now we will smudge these wavy lines. Grab your smudge tool (22px, strength: 36%) and smooth out the lines
Change the layer to Linear Burn
Create a New Layer and grab your paint brush tool (59px soft round brush #9b733f) Paint in the area at the place where the fin connects to the body.
Change this layer to Color Burn with an Opacity of 68%
Step 38 Fin Highlights
Now we will add some highlights to the fin. Create a New layer and name it ‘Highlight 1’. With your paint brush tool (#FFFFFF, 46px soft round brush) create some highlights at the tip of the fin. Change this layer to Overlay and an Opacity of 63%
Repeat that last step but keep the layer at Normal with an Opacity of 100%. Take all of the layers pertainning to the ‘Back Fin’ and place it in a group (the folder icon below the layers).
Repeat these same steps you used to make the ‘Back fin’ onto all the other fins.
Step 41 Scales
Now we will create the scales for the body of the fish. Make a new layer and fill it with any color then add this pattern overlay. Once you have applied this pattern overlay ‘convert it to s Smart Object‘ then rasterize.
In this step we will change around the colors. First color is #cd200a, #ffd03f, #FFFFFF
Warp this scale layer to one side of the fish. Erase any parts that go outside of the body.
On the second scale layer do this exact same thing for the other side. Erase any parts that go outside of the body.
Merge both of the scale layers.
Add shadow to the body by grabbing a soft round brush #a16e28 and paint along the body
Change this layer to Multiply
Create a New layer and with a soft brush #734e18 paint along the bottom of the fin like the image below.
Change this layer to Color Burn with an Opacity of 73%
Create a New Layer and grab your soft round paint brush #edc480 again and paint along the back of the fish
Change this layer to Color Dodge with an Opacity of 69%
Create a New layer and place dots onto the red scales by using a soft round brush (14px #734e18)
Change this layer to Color Burn then Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur
Do this same thing for the yellow scales(7px soft round brush #edc480)
Change this layer to Soft Light
This is how it should look so far.
Change the color of the Head to the settings below then convert it to a smart object then rasterize it.
Next use a variety of brush sizes to achieve this effect for the head of the fish. Note: You may have to use multiple layers with different Opacity Levels
Step 59 Eye
Now we will make the eye. Create a New Layer and grab your Elliptical tool and make a oval like the one in the image below, fill it with any color.
Step 60 Layer Settings
Add these setting to your outer eye
Create a New Layer and make another shape like the one below and fill it with #950903
Add this layer style to that layer
Grab a soft brush and paint along the top of the eye(#b81512) on a new layer
Change this layer to an Opacity of 65%
Create a New layer and add a white dot on top of the eye. (soft round brush)
Now we will add the whiskers. Grab your pen tool and make a line like the image below. Once I did this I right clicked my whiskers and then Stroke Path. Note: Make sure your paint brush is set to 4px hard round brush.
Apply these settings to each of the whiskers.
Now we will add in our flowers that we made in the beginning of this tutorial. Just drag and drop it over. Note: It is a good idea to place the whole flower in a group so that it easy to transport over.
Place the second flower underneath the fish and change the Group layer to Screen with an Opacity of 71%
Lastly, grab a swirl brush and place it underneath the fish #FFFFFF with the layer Opacity of 53%