Making a traditional look illustration





Hello my name is Francisco, also known as Mocaran. I am a digital artist from Spain and in this tutorial I am going to show you my process for creating an image with shapes, color, and abstraction.


I choose brushes that give me texture and variation because it is something I really enjoy and it helps me in the designing process. Here are some of the brushes I use. I got a brush pack from FRENDEN which has a lot of brushes, so I just picked the ones I found more interesting and added them to a new tool panel for easy access and so I can quickly switch between them.

Here is the link for the brush pack:

These are the ones I chose. You can see the aesthetics some of those brushes give.


I would say that the most important feature of these brushes is the texture. For example, brush 1 has a beautiful canvas texture. This gives a traditional aesthetic and also makes the edges of the strokes rougher, looser, and suggestive, helping in the whole imagination process.

Brush tip: I recommend setting a hotkey for changing the brush size. I use the button on my pen so I can easily change the brush size. This is so useful and saves a lot of time.

But I have to say! Don’t worry much about brushes, they aren’t so important. You can do all the work with few brushes. For this painting, I mostly used three of these brushes (1,2,3).



For the erasers, I just use these two default erasers ["soft" and "kneaded eraser"], one to make soft edges and the other to make rougher ones.


When I started working on this painting, I was clear that I wanted to use golden colors.

The other colors I used were mostly red and yellow and also some complementary colors.


Other important thing is the variation of hue, brightness, and saturation.

I tend to make a lot of small variations between these aspects. I tend to use more saturated colors in the more importants parts of the painting, with desaturated ones on the rest.



My usage of layers is really simple. I keep painting and adding layers on top, so later on I have the possibility of turning off layers and to see what I had before.

It’s useful to have a look at the evolution of the piece and then decide if the painting is evolving well or if it’s better to step back to start over.

I also play a lot with layer opacity. Here is an example: I add a layer and start painting on it with some pink and yellows. If at some point I’m not comfortable with the relation of the pinks and the rest of colors in the piece, I lower the opacity so the pink mixes better with the rest. If I feel more happy about how it looks, I keep the change, if not, I just undo.


Getting rid of the blank canvas

Now that we have some hints on brushes, color usage, and how to use layers, let’s begin.

First of all, I start filling the canvas with colors and textures. I don’t have an idea of what im going to make, for me it is a creative process where my brain starts associating the shapes in the canvas and giving meaning to them. It’s like finding forms in clouds, one person can be looking at some clouds and think “look, this cloud looks like a lion” and then the person next to him would say “no way, I see a horse surfing a wave!” It is personal interpretation and I think every artist would end up with diferent results even if they started with the same canvas base.


Firstly I used Brush 1, which has a nice texture base. Over this I started using different brushes with different colors. I throw in strokes and colors for a long time.

For me, it’s important to have variation and hard-edged brushes, like using dry brushes instead of wet ones so the colors won’t blend and make your edges soft.

Those are some process images of my first steps.


At this point, I started having an idea of what I wanted to represent: I had the idea of a woman going through a golden forest. I worked a bit further and ended up with this image.

I like the colors and textures, but there is something that I don’t feel confortable with so I decided to restart working from scratch.

Quick tips

Before continuing with the painting, I want to talk about some techniques I use.

If there is something that differentiates the digital media from the traditional is the capabilty of making changes. you can easily turn off a layer or undo strokes that you didn’t feel happy with. For me, the most important thing is to experiment. You can try all the wild things that come to your mind so quickly and easily, for example, you can use photos, you can paint whatever you want then transform it to put it somewhere else, or you can change the blending mode of the layers.

Now lets continue.



As I wasn’t really happy with the results, I started sketching. It’s so easy and cheap to paint digitally! You dont even need to use paper or paints! So if you are not happy with something, just try again!

I decided to do small sketches to work out composition. I started sketching in black and white then moved to colors. From those nine sketches, I felt most atracted to the last one, so decided to go with it.


I developed it a bit further, changed the composition, and adjusted the position of the horizon and also the position the woman occupies on the canvas, so she’s not in the center.

I kept detailing things and adding more color and texture variations to reach this stage

Experimenting and mixing

I wasn’t still really happy with the results. I liked the colors and textures of one and the composition of the other, so I tried experimenting by mixing both versions using layer modes.

I overlayed one painting over the other with Lighten blending mode as you can see in the following images.


Final adjustments

I really liked the colors, textures, and variation now. I worked a bit further cleaning up things and adding more tonal variations and textures. I also made some adjustments to the woman’s body and head.

The last step was to add a brightness/contrast correction layer, it is a small adjustment but i felt happier with it

Here you can have a look at the layers used.

And the final image.

Final thoughts

Finally, I want to end this tutorial saying that it is not easy to be creative. I edited the work on this painting a lot to be more understandable, but the reality is that for every right choice I have made, I made and tried other 20 different things. It can be really hard and frustrating, and you might get overwhelmed by the feeling of defeat, but all i can say is that you need to keep trying and trying! In the end, if you worked hard enough, you will feel happy about the results!



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