Develop A Signature Texture Palette With Pedro Correa



Olá. I'm Pedro Correa. I'm a full-time illustrator with a background in graphic design from Florianopolis Brazil. In this tutorial, I'm going to take you through my entire process for creating one of my illustrations. I'll show you everything from rough sketches and inking, right through to building custom color formulas and adding texture with some insights and tips along the way. 

Photoshop Vs Procreate:
I'll be using Photoshop for most of the tutorial but I've added tips and links for performing similar tasks in Procreate where necessary.




True Grit Tools & Apps Used:

✓ Beat Tones Halftone Brushes
✓ Lithotone Pattern Brushes
✓ Distress Press
✓ Procreate 
✓ Photoshop 

Analog Tools Used:

✓ Mechanical pencil
✓ Moleskine Watercolor Book
✓ Uni Pin Fine Liners & Brush Pens
✓ Circle protractor template ✓ White gel pen


Software skill level:

I'll be giving pointers on some of the technical stuff but if you know how to use the basic functions of Photoshop (or even Procreate) you'll be able to follow along.





Step 1:Creating a rough sketch in Procreate

I start by sketching my composition roughly on an iPad Pro using Procreate.

Performing this step digitally allows me to move around different elements in the illustration in order to find the right composition. I can also quickly test a few shading options so I have a picture in my mind where I might add texture and halftones later. 




Step 2:
Transferring my digital sketch into a sketchbook.

I'm going to ink my artwork analog-style in a Moleskine Sketchbook so I need to transfer my digital sketch to my physical sketchbook first.

Wait what?

It might seem weird to start with a digital sketch and then replicate it in a sketchbook but I really enjoy the process of inking my work on paper. So when I have time, I crank some music, pace myself, and enjoy the process. As a bonus, I have a tonne of Moleskine sketchbooks filled with inked drawings to look back on. Old habits die hard.

So how do I do it?

I print out my sketch from Procreate, tape it down on a lightbox, and trace the sketch directly onto my sketchbook. I don't stress too much about the details in these steps. I just want to capture the basic shapes with a pencil. The final details will be made in the next step when we start inking. 


If you don't have a printer or a lightbox, you can use your iPad as a lightbox instead (hint: turn up the brightness).



Sometimes I skip this step and go straight to inking digitally.

If I'm on a tighter deadline or don't feel like drawing with markers, I'll skip this step completely and go straight to inking my work in Procreate (or Photoshop) using The Rusty Nib inking brushes. If you're following along yourself and prefer inking your work digitally, you can skip this step too.



Step 3:
Inking my keyline art.

Now it's time for some ink. In this step, I use disposable Uni Pin brand fine-liners and brush pens. As I mentioned above, I often do this step digitally in Procreate or Photoshop instead. 


First, erase some of the pencil marks.

Before you start inking it is recommended to erase the pencil a little bit. Leave just enough for you to see the composition. If you erase the pencil after inking it will erase some of your ink and you'll make a real mess.  I always lay an extra sheet of paper under my wrist to avoid any smudges made by the wet ink. 

Now Ink it!

Use your pens to ink in the pencil sketch and add in all the missing details. Sounds simple right? Jokes aside, drawing and inking takes time and practice, so keep at it and enjoy the journey.


You can see my process in the video below. 


Add highlights

Finish the illustration using a white gel pen to make highlights and little details like stars.





Step 4:
Scan the inked artwork.

Now I switch back to my digital tools. 



Scan the illustration at 600 dpi in grayscale mode then open it in Photoshop.

This is what the raw scan looks like. As you can see, the blacks are pretty washed out so we'll fix that in the next step.



Adjust levels.

Use Photoshop's Levels settings to adjust the contrast of your linework. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and adjust the shadow, mid-tone, and highlight sliders as shown below. You want the black linework to be dark and consistent, and the whites to be nice and bright.

If you're using Procraete, you can make a similar adjustment using the Curves setting. In Procrate, Go to Adjustments > Curves.



Insight: I like to leave some pencil marks on my scan to retain some of the analog aesthetic, but you can erase these and make any other touchups before adjusting your levels.



Step 5:
Adding depth with the Beat Tones Halftone Brushes.

Once you have finished making corrections it's time to start working with textures to give some form to the main elements of the illustration (in this case, the cat and the skull). This helps create depth and a sense of perspective in the illustration.

I'm using a Beat Tones shader brush (Grainy Dot - 45º / Med). These brushes are great for creating halftone shading as they get darker as you press harder on the screen with your pen.

Here are the brushes in use: 


The finished shading looks like this:



Step 6:

For this illustration, I chose 5 colors and one extra color for the background. The choice for the background color is the key for a good illustration as it gives the tone of the composition. 

Select & fill

Create a new layer then use the lasso  or magic wand tool  to select each area you want to color in. Once you have your selection use the paint bucket tool  to fill it with color.

In Procreate you can do this using the Reference Layer feature and ColorDrop.

Repeat for each color

Repeat this step for every color, making sure each color is on its own layer.

Watch the process in the video below.

 I often find inspiration observing the color palettes used by other artists in different areas such as animation, movies, music videos etc. Once I have a rough color palette blocked in, I'll use the Hue/Saturation settings to tweak the colors until they're perfect. In Photoshop go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation or in Procreate go to Adjustments > Hue, Saturation, Brightness). 

Here's what the finished color-blocking looks like. 


Note: These layers will just be used to make selections in the next stage and will not be visible in the final artwork (except for the background layer).


Step 7:
Building a textured color palette.

Next, I use my Beat Tones and Lithotone brushes to really bring the artwork to life. For maximum texture, I combine 3 different brushes to create each color, kind of like the old printing techniques used in vintage comic books, but in a completely custom way. 


This color chart breaks down the combination of different brushes, colors, and blend modes I used to create my textured color palette. 

If you purchased your Beat Tones or Lithotone brushes before June 2022 the names and textures of brushes will be slightly different that shown below. You can update your brushes to the latest version here




Here's how I do it for each custom color. 

1. Add a background halftone fill 

To start, fill the entire background with a warm yellow color using the Beat Tones (Clean SM/45º/70%) brush and set the layer blend mode to Multiply. This helps to add a warm tone to the entire image.


2. Add the first Beat Tones color layer. 

Use the color block layer (created in Step 6) to make a selection – Cmd+click the layer thumbnail (Mac) or Ctrl+click (Win). 

Then use the eyedropper tool to set your foreground color to match the original color block. (here's how to use the eyedropper in Procreate)

Hide the color block layer, then use the Beat Tones brush (Clean SM / 60º / 90%) to fill the selection on a new layer.


3. Add the second Beat Tones color layer

The second layer of Beat Tones (Clean SM / 45º / 50%) goes over the previous one, but this time we set the layer blend mode to Multiply and change the colors (the background does not receive a second layer of texture this time).

It's important to use a  Beat Tones brush with a different dot angle (45°) so that the halftone patterns don't create ugly moire patterns. 


4. Add the third color layer with the Lithotone Pointillism brush. 

Create a third layer and set the layer blend mode to Multiply also. Then use the Lithotone Pointillism brush (Medium SM) to fill the selection with a different color again. 


Watch the process of building up the first color formula in the video below.



5. Repeat for each color block.

Repeat this process for each color. When you're done, each color formula will be made of 3 different layers. You can see in the gif below how the layers build to create my textured color formulas. There's a lot of layers so I color-code my layers to ensure they are easy to find. 





Step 8:
Adding Highlights

Now we're going to mask out some sections of the textured color layers to add some highlights.


Paint in the highlights

On a new layer, I use a Rusty Nib brush to create white highlights on the outer edges of the main objects.




Mask the highlights

Use the highlights layer you just created to make a selection – Cmd+click (Mac) or Ctrl+click (Win) on the layer – then click the 'Add a mask' button  in the layer palette to add a layer mask to each of the color layers.

Editors note: you could also group all of your color layers into a single layer group, then add the mask to just the layer group folder to save repeating this step for each color layer. Here's how to selectmask and group layers in Procreate. 




Step 8:
Simulate registration errors

This trick softens the black lines so that we can see a little bit of the yellow background, giving the artwork an aged look. It's not technically how a registration error looks but it gives the linework a nice hazy aesthetic which I really like.



Ink layer 1

Duplicate your ink layer. Fill the first one with a dark blue. Set the blend mode to multiply and change the opacity to 80%. 



Ink layer 2

Duplicate your ink layer again then fill the linework with a dark red. Set the blend mode to multiply and change the opacity to 75%. Slightly move this layer out of registration using the move tool  .


If we zoom in you can see it's very subtle but small touches like this make a difference to the finished work. 





Step 9:
Adding texture and grit

Finally, it is time to give to the illustration some age using my Beat Tones and Distress Press brushes.


Add distressed lines using Beat Tones

On a new layer paint in some Beat Tones using the Shader Vertical Line - MED brush. 


Add some subtle texture using Distress Press

On another new layer paint in some Distress Press texture using the Natural #8 MED brush. Then create one more layer and paint in a slightly different texture using the Natural #3 MED brush. 



And that's it! You've got your finished illustration.



Thanks for following along.

Now try using my tips, tricks and techniques as a launchpad to create your own custom color palettes and find your own unique style and aesthetic. The possibilities are endless so your only limit is how afar you want to explore.


More About Pedro Correa

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