Recolored Lavender Mermaid Tail with White Top

A bluish-lavender mermaid tail with lighter, warmer fins along the top, sides and base of the tail. The tail shimmers in shades of pink, purple, yellow and blue. The top is a one-shoulder Greek inspired white top that shows the midriff and is bordered with gold scroll patterns. At the shoulder is a golden starfish brooch with an opal in the middle, and there are strands of pearls looped over the shoulder and upper arm.You may remember this mermaid tail? I wasn’t satisfied with it at the time, and I wanted to practice a mermaid scale technique I saw used on official Ariel artwork and immediately coveted. So I reused this drawing so I could spend the time experimenting and trying to get the tail looking good. It certainly is an exuberant technique — maybe I went a bit overboard? Well, you know me, I like my glitter.

I’m still working on that mermaid story I mentioned in the previous post. I started actually writing it for NaNoWriMo but 40,000 words in I’m realizing I have to rework the entire second part and most of the first, and am currently having all sorts of fun planning to cut out several thousand of those words.

Next week, I probably will actually finish up that new doll. Until then, you can download combined color and black and white PDFs of all of my 2014 dolls and outfits for free! Also follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest for beautiful saris, sneak previews and paperdoll thoughts. If you enjoy my work, I'd also appreciate your support through Patreon.


Tiny Tutorial #2: Basic Bead Brush in Photoshop

An image reading "Basic Bead Brush! A Tiny Tutorial from Liana's Paper Dolls, http://lianaspaperdolls.com. There is an image of a stylized sun with wavy rays radiating from the center, which looks like it's been done in small golden beads.Today’s Tiny Tutorial is very tiny indeed, but it’s a very useful technique in my bag of paperdolling tricks, and I wanted to put it up so I can refer to it in future tutorials. Now, I hesitate to do Photoshop tutorials because I’m hardly an expert myself, plus I work with Photoshop CS2, which is nearly a decade old, and I can’t promise that what I do is the best way to do things — or even accurate — for newer versions. Still, if someone can make good use of my techniques or the tutorial sparks someone’s imagination and that person improves on my techniques, then I believe it’s worthwhile.

Three examples of this bead technique: a beaded golden necklace, an edging of silver beads and a garland of pearls.One thing you’ll see me do in several of the new series are small lines of pearls or beads. These are done with a special brush and layer styles in Photoshop; once you have those two things created, Photoshop does all the work of making as many garlands of beads or sequins or rhinestones as you need. (A welcome development after drawing thousands of little circles to serve as pearls.)

An example of the circle brush next to a straight black line with curved ends.First, let’s make the brush. Start with an 20 pixel wide circle brush, 100% hardness, opacity and flow. A single brushstroke looks like a circle, and a line from that brush is going to look straight, thick and well-defined. (Holding Shift while drawing makes the line straight.)

The Photoshop CS2 brush settings window, with the spacing field highlighted.In effect, when I draw the line I’m drawing tons of little circles overlapping each other so that it looks like a solid line. What I want is to move those circles apart so that they don’t overlap, which will make it look like beads. So let’s look at the brush settings window. See the “spacing” setting? Right now, it’s at 25%, and that makes them spaced close enough together to look like a solid line. So all we have to do is…


The Brush settings screen with the spacing increased, creating a dotted line.Increase the spacing. At 105%, each individual brushstroke is far enough apart from the next one that there’s a little space between it.


The circle brush, spaced far enough apart to create a dotted line.There we have it, a dotted line. Save your brush if you like, to save yourself the trouble of having to do it again.

Now, let’s take a quick look at layer styles. Layer styles allow you to change how everything in a layer looks without making any permanent changes, so that you can easily change colors, add shadows and do other things to the underlying image. Layer styles are their own delightful world, and I’m just going to show off one small part of what you can do with them in this tutorial, with future Tiny Tutorials dedicated to how I use them to create the illusion of pearls, rhinestones, beads and so on. Double-click on the layer to open up the layer styles window.

A brownish-golden dotted line.First, let’s change the color with color overlay. I’m going to make this row of beads look golden, so I’m going to start with a warm golden brown base (#d28a00).

A dotted line with a Photoshop layer style effect that makes the beads look golden.To give the beads shape, I generally play around with bevel and emboss, inner shadow, inner glow and drop shadow until I come up with an effect I like. For this example, I’ve just used these settings to give it a simple gold bead look.

A nondescript brown line of beads.When using this, you’ll want to keep in mind how big you want the beads to be, because the layer style changes drastically with the size of the brush. Using that same layer style with a 5 pixel wide brush only gives me a muddy brown line.

A line of small golden beads.I have to adjust the layer style to get anything resembling beads when the brush is so small. You’ll also note that the beads in the 5 pixel wide brush line look like they’re closer together than the beads in the 20 pixel wide brush line; if you’re as picky as I am you may want to adjust the spacing every time you have a new shape.

Three strands of small gold beads winding around each other.With your brush created and your layer style made, all you have to do is draw your beads the way you want them. You can draw freehand, and I tend to use paths or shapes for this, to keep the lines nice and smooth or to be able to accurately go over the same area multiple times with different brushes; paths are well beyond the scope of this tutorial, however! (I used one of the default Photoshop shapes, set as a path, to create the sun symbol at the top of this post.)

In future Tiny Tutorials, I’ll build on this technique and show you the exact layer styles I use for sequins, metallic beads, rhinestones and pearls.


Lavender-Tailed Mermaid with White and Gold Top and Starfish Brooch

A bluish-lavender mermaid tail with lighter, warmer fins along the top, sides and base of the tail. The top is a one-shoulder Greek inspired white top that shows the midriff and is bordered with gold scroll patterns. At the shoulder is a golden starfish brooch with an opal in the middle, and there are strands of pearls looped over the shoulder and upper arm.Here’s my first digitally colored mermaid tail! I’m not entirely satisfied with it, because without a little scale pattern I think it looks too flat, but I’m only just getting started with digital coloring so for today it will work.

I’ve had mermaids on the brain, because I read a book called Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee, which was all about how to construct a compelling, well-paced and satisfying story. It’s aimed at screenwriters, but it dealt with universal principles, so I got a lot out of it even though I’m not planning on writing a movie anytime soon. It’s a great book, but also pretty dense and something like 400 pages long, so I’ll also recommend Hilari Bell’s writing tips, which present much of the same information in a way that may be more understandable.

I always enjoyed writing my mini-stories about my mermaid world for this site, and I’ve often thought of making it into an actual story. I have a rather large amount of information already written about aspects of mermaid society, actually. Where I trip up is my lack of understanding about oceanography, general scientific principles and experience underwater, which has a direct bearing on a story set somewhere besides dry land. What does it feel like to hear things underwater, and what sounds are easiest to hear underwater? What might materials mermaids could possibly use to build cities look like after years spent in the sea? How far down can mermaids dive before they start to have problems with the pressure? Can they breathe underwater, like fish, or do they have to come up for air, like dolphins? If I want the geography to look a certain way, how did that come about? If you can’t store paper books underwater or too close to water, is there a good way of distributing and storing reading material?

For many of these questions, I don’t even know where to start looking because I have only a vague recollection of my science classes. I suppose if it’s my fantasy world I can answer all these things however I like, or simply not care, but to me it’s more fun if the world is plausible and the fantastic elements are placed elsewhere. I love worldbuilding, especially stuff like this geological history of A Game of Thrones where the setting is taken quite seriously. Still, it slows me down because I’m imagining a lot of things from scratch and learning a lot of things for the first time. If I actually want to write something, I’d probably do better with a setting that is easier to nail down, but I keep returning to my mermaids. And I do like it when I have the time to learn new things that I can apply to the world – I keep reading books about science or marine animals and coming up with mermaid world applications for little details.

In any case, it looks like an elf dress won my poll, with 51% of the vote, so I will sketch some out and be back next week with a black and white dress and a new contest, plus a 1930s outfit. Until then, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for site updates, previews and mermaid jewelry. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.


Introducing Leyla!

An adult female paper doll in a white and purple gown. She has dark brown skin and black hair arranged in several small box braids that curve gently around her face and fall past her shoulders. Her eyes are brown with tiny gold flecks, and she has sparkly gold eyeshadow. Her lips are full and deep  red, and she is wearing pearl earrings. She is wearing a sleeveless dress with a scoop neck, slightly gathered at the shoulders. The top is white satin, decorated with a pattern of light grey spirals. Around her hips is a belt made of gold, with a sunburst pattern in the middle. Set in the middle of the belt is a brilliant topaz rounded with pearls. The skirt is long and trumpet shaped, flaring out at the calves, and is light magenta at the top and deep purple at the base. It is covered all over with sequins. She also wears a gold circlet decorated with pearls and a second topaz.Please welcome my second paper doll in the new series, Leyla! Her name was chosen from a set of six names I picked out, and as with Mia’s name it was close for a while there but Leyla was the winner. I hope you like her! I’m very happy with her, I had a good time drawing her hair.

With my previous sets of dolls I’ve only made two for each set, but my intention is to keep going and do a new one every month until I have enough dolls to put together a soccer team. Since Leyla has been released on time, I feel very confident that I will be able to pull that off. Their outfits aren’t going to get any more varied, I’m afraid, because the dolls themselves are rather a lot of work. I’m happy with the series dress theme, though. In my imagination, Mia, Leyla and the dolls to come after are the new goddesses of my paperdollverse, and so I thought to myself, what would this little pantheon like to wear? The answer, apparently, is “lots of sparkles.”

Speaking of goddesses, the contest on Twitter is over, and the winner is Karen Martin! (Her favorite Greek goddess, by the way, is Athena.) You will see how she chose to color an ancient Greek outfit next Friday. As I mentioned before, I’m going to start doing the contests on the blog after this, so if you would like to take part next time, just keep reading!

The Oscars are on March 2nd, and that means Oscar dresses! Twice before, I’ve “livedolled” the Oscars – that is, drawn some dresses straight from the red carpet. I did this in 2009, drawing three gowns, and in 2011, drawing an amazing four gowns. I’m ready to do it again this year, but with a twist. I’ll sketch the gowns I like on my iPad and post them here as I draw them. At the end, I’ll put up a poll for which one you all like best, then I’ll make the winner into a proper dress. Also, there’ll be a special Oscars contest! The red carpet starts at 7 PM EST, 4 PM Pacific. Join me and we’ll enjoy all those great gowns together!

As always, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for update notifications, links to things I find interesting and many, many fashion plates. If you enjoy my work, I’d also appreciate your support through Patreon.

In preparation for our Academy Awards party, let’s have a poll…