Fish Cartoon Drawing in 4 Steps With Photoshop

There is no limit to what you can do with a fish cartoon drawing. From different colors, shapes, length, and size, a cartoon fish can be as bland or unique as the artist wants it to be. Here are a few tips that can help with drawing these amazing and diverse sea animals.

The first tip is to always make sure that there is the right amount of fins. On a fish, regardless of specie, there are always two pectoral fins, two pelvic fins, one anal fin, and a dorsal fins on the back. Sometimes, a secondary dorsal fin may be present just before the tail (caudal fins).

These fins will come in multiple shapes and sizes. For example, if you are drawing the Siamese fighting fish, the fins are very elegant and long looking like silk. They also come in multiple colors as well. I do recommend studying all types of fishes and finding the positions of these fins.

Even for a cartoon, being anatomically correct is always important. This is why the guide will be drawing a standard fish cartoon drawing that focuses on the anatomy with some a bit of exaggerated proportions to keep it cute.

Sketching out the fish cartoon drawing

Perhaps the most common shapes to form a fish cartoon drawing are triangles and diamonds. The first step is to use the diamond as the main body and a large triangle for the tail. Continue using triangles to put in all the fins mentioned above.

Since fishes have streamline bodies, take the triangles and round it out. When done, add in the eyes, mouth and gills. These can be simply added in through curved lines or small circular shapes. It is also a good idea to add in the some fin textures.

fish cartoon drawing step 1 from cgattic.ca

Now that all the parts are in place, thicken up the lines a bit and fill in the eyes. The final drawing will be based on this rough sketch so make sure the proportions are what is intended as it will be harder to change later.

Any excess lines can be erased to make it easier to see the final form of the fish. If the proportions still need to be altered, select an area with the lasso tool, and use the transform tools in Photoshop to warp the sketch lines.

Cleaning up the fish cartoon drawing

When the sketch layer is complete, reduce its transparency. Then, build a new layer on top of it. This new layer will be used to trace over the sketch to create a finished line art. A brush that has a solid edge will be required to get nice clean lines.

While it may be difficult, try to be continuous with each stroke to form all the curves on the main body. Have the brush set to expand or contract its brush size depending on pressure sensitivity. This will give variances in line thickness.

fish cartoon drawing step 2 from cgattic.ca

There are simple details like the 'lips' on the mouth. Combined with a small smile, this is what gives the fish a human quality. In order to make the eyes, use the elliptical marquee to select a round area and fill it with in with black.

The fins are simply lines drawn out in a direction to show the flow of the bones. Aside from all these details, notice that there are no scales. For a cartoon fish, it's not necessary as color will play a better role in filling up that empty space.

Coloring the fish cartoon drawing

What are your favorite colors? Since there are so many different varieties of color found on fishes, there is a lot of freedom to add in colors that you like personally. There is only one rule to be aware of and that is to fill it with a background color first.

In the example, a standard orange or gold is used. However, any color like, green, blue, red, etc are all possible. Just make sure any subsequent colors added in the final steps make sense. One way to avoid that is to limit the colors to two or three different values.

fish cartoon drawing step 3 from cgattic.ca

When filling the background color, a gradient is preferred. This is because the belly and chin region of most fishes are lighter than the rest of the body. After filling it with orange, use the 'gradient overlay' style to quickly make a gradient.

After that, lock the layer down and start painting in random patterns. What makes this part fun is there are no rhyme or reason to the patterns. I would consider this the preliminary pass where the idea is to see randomness creating color harmony.

Use contrast to bring out the fish cartoon drawing

Even though the patterns are random on the body, there is still regions that require a bit more control. Returning to the fins, the idea is to spread colors from a central point to the outside to form streaks of bones or skin.

Normally, the regular brush will work. Nonetheless, the best effective tool for this is actually the smudge tool. By setting the pressure sensitivity to its maximum, this tool, combined with a chalk brush head, can pull colors across the screen indefinitely.

fish cartoon drawing step 4 from cgattic.ca

How it works is quite simple. When the area of the smudge tool should cover multiple pixels, the action of pulling the colors will create a rainbow effect. This means multiple colors are 'painted' in one stroke rather than constantly switching palettes for each additional stroke!

This method works for the main body as well to create more random patterns. It's only when the right patch of color is selected that this tool is most effective. If there is more control required, consider switching back to the airbrush or reducing the size of the smudge brush.

When everything is said and done, the final piece of the puzzle is to use brightness and contrast tools to bring out the colors even more. For a quick global effect, use adjustment layers. For controlled highlighting of small areas, there is the dodge and burn tools.

If there is anything extra to be added, a blue background can help out a bit and is very easy to do. Just create a new layer and fill it in! It really doesn't get any more simpler than this! All that is left is to fine tune the fish cartoon drawing to your liking!