How to Draw One Massive Illustration | Combine Artworks Into One

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Feature_image clip studio paint symmetrical ruler

Written by Juha

This artwork took a long time in the making but here we are, piece completed and all happy. This artwork is part new and part draw again kind of type. I created the fishes a long time ago but something was missing and I wasn’t completely happy with it. It was good but it could have been better.

So I decided to revisit the piece and create it again. However, the approach was different this time. My goal was to create individual pieces and at the end bring them all together. The benefit of doing it this way is that you focus more on one individual fish/object and so the details are more refined. That’s what I think at least.




When you start a new artwork, think if you can, later on, combine it with some other artwork for example. Or like in this case, I decided to draw fishes but at the end combined them all into one cool illustration. This can be an exhausting process as it seems you will never get the piece completed.

What I suggest here is that you create something else between the fishes and every now and then draw some more to the actual artwork you are trying to complete. That’s what I did, I drew different illustrations and little by little completed all of the fishes. Yes, it was a pain in the ass. Job did anyway.

Cel shading as a style gives you this freedom. You can easily repeat the same style for every piece so it seems you would have done it in one take. If you are using some other style it could be that you would have improved your skills between the first and the last piece and so you should refine the ones between so all the pieces would look as nice as the latest one.

I slightly had to do that also as I had improved my style a bit and wanted to incorporate that into every piece. Luckily it was easy to do that.



Pick the inspirational stuff

I didn’t have any specific artbook which I used creating this image. Inspiration was gathered from unusual places, this time from color palettes. Katamari Damacy and Tales of Symphonia gave me the colors and ideas. Below is also a color palette I used as a base (self-created from reference).

I think Katamari Damacy and ToS has extremely nice color choices. I suggest you try to find different color palettes from multiple sources. Color palettes can be found from artbooks but often they can be found from games also. Oh, and yes, Tales of Symphonia is one of my favorite games. I think the storytelling and adventure they set off is very nice. Colors, bosses, and enemies are well made and it is a joy to play through. Back to the drawing part…








Go through the files

As I had already drawn the fishes once in 2014, all I had to do was visit the folder I had the fishes on and select the sketch image. From there I only drew again the fishes one by one. However, as I had slightly improved my skills over the years I decided to alter some of the fishes (especially the fins) and make them more interesting.

This stage was quite easy and fun as you have a nice base where to draw from. So if you have a similar situation and have a bunch of illustrations drawn in the past don’t wait but start to draw them again and see where you have improved and what skills you still need to hone more. For the sketch phase, I used the standard Rough Pencil. The pencil can be found from the Pencil (P) “folder/tab”.




Line art

As for the line art phase, I used my favorite #0e0e0e color for the lines and 8px in size. I used the G-pen Okuha Line art brush for the line art. However be aware that the brushes pixel size should always be in line with the resolution of the image you are working on. If you use 8px size in 4000 x 4000px size document, the line looks rather thick however if you up the resolution to 10 000 x 10 000px the look and feel is very different.


There are many ways to do the line art but for this drawing, I only used 8px size and didn’t vary the line width at all. I wanted the artwork to represent more anime feel and I think I achieved that by doing it this way.



Coloring and Shadows

There were few routes to take here. The fishes could have been the same color in the belly or bottom area or then they could have varied colors. I chose between them as I wanted to create a very colorful piece but also retain some unity between the fishes. For the coloring, I used my trusty G-pen Okuha Coloring brush.

When creating single pieces/objects or fishes, in this case, you can choose whatever colors and go with it. When you are doing a collective piece, do take into account the light source as it has to be the same with all of the objects.

Easiest is to make the light come from the top. There are many schools on how to shade and some say don’t do that instead do this. My suggestion is that shade as you want, just make sure that the shapes are interesting. Add as many shadow colors you want and lights and so on.

This time I used 3 shadows as can be seen above but experiment and see what pleases your eyes. You can use multiply layer mode as I have used but you can also use normal layer mode and clip it to the base color layer if you are looking for some specific color for the shadows and don’t have the patience to search the color through multiply layer mode.


Fishing Tip!

As in real life, fishes have myriad of colors and color variations in them. Taking that perspective into account it is possible to color the fishes to whatever color and still make them believable. That is because in real life you can see that happening and so it makes sense.



Combine them

This can be done in various ways. I chose to copy the folder which had the fish and paste it into a new document. As you have done the single objects/fishes in another document and hopefully you have made them large enough. When you combine them into a single document you can actually create one very large artwork.

However, I suggest that you rasterize the folders in the new document. Otherwise, the size of the document grows very large and it will hog your computer’s memory.

My artwork used around 29Gb of RAM memory. However, when I rasterized the layers it was only using around 12Gb or something. Check this, if the program starts to go slow.

You can also combine all of the layers into a single image just before copying and pasting it into the new document. If you want to change the shadow colors in the new document then I suggest you use the previously mentioned method of pasting the whole folder.



Tip! for the future

By decreasing the layers you have, you also decrease memory consumption and make the drawing program more responsive. Layer modes and effects also hammer your RAM memory. I suggest you either add those in the end or rasterize the effects if the program/computer feels slow.

Make them swim

Last part is easy as all you do is place the single objects in places you see fit in the canvas. Try different structures and compositions as it might not work if you just place the objects here and there. My goal was to get all of the fishes represented and as much visible as possible.

However, if you fill all of the space with the objects it could become messy and the shapes might not be readable. I left white space intentionally and I feel it gave it the air it needed. Do final adjustments to the final image if needed. Sometimes I copy the whole drawing on top and put it to soft light layer mode, decrease the layer opacity a bit and that’s it.

For this particular piece, I didn’t do any post adjustments.






Feeling like you would like to see more or even better, would like to draw like this?

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