Fishy Daily Doodle Demo

Fishy Daily Doodle Demo

Here’s how I painted this fishy daily demo doodle. I originally posted this here to help a member of the daily doodlers on deviantART. I’m reposting here for my archives – and expanding it with explanations of what’s going on in the progression graphic.

Free Photoshop Brushes Download

I included the scaly brush I created as a freebie download here! Please note, the brush is meant for use with a tablet in Photoshop. Contact me for any questions.
Download Brush Here

Fishy Daily Doodle Demo Progression

Check out the stock photo reference here if you want to try this yourself!

Follow along in these nine steps – and be sure to look with your eyes and not your brain!


Step One: Background Basics

Blocking in the basic background shapes. I use the basic “chalk brush” that comes shipped with photoshop – with some adjustments. I change the stroke size to pen pressure variable in the brushes panel. I also tend to set opacity to pen pressure as well.

Step Two: Fishy Basics

Established the basic color palette and general shapes at this stage; nothing is very detailed as I keep my brush as large as I can tolerate. I like detail right away – but I’ve trained myself over the years to block in the big shapes first so I don’t detail a painting that’s the wrong basic shape. It’s done wonders for my accuracy in drawing and painting.

Step Three: Refining Colors and Shapes

Being more choosy with the color wheel, I’m going in with smaller brushes (and being reductive with the eraser tool in some cases). I’m able to establish a more refined basic shape and interior color profile this way, while still keeping rough. I rely on squinting or taking off my glasses to see the big to medium shapes in the photo.

Step Four: Scaly Brush

So here, I took a look at the direction and shape of the scales in the photo and painted and created a Photoshop brush. I used the brush in a subtle neutral as a foundation.

Step Five: Details Already!

In speedpaints, I don’t muck about. I reduce the chalk brush size to a medium/small brush – still fairly opaque (100% base opacity, with lighter variation achieved with pen pressure). This helps me establish detail quickly – in one stroke. The scale brush I created is already abandoned in favor of hand-painted variation and details. Not a a lot of shortcuts in painting! I’m directly observing and painting what I see here.

Step Six: Fins, Eyes and Scales

In my usual fashion, I add half-transparent color washes over the edges of the fins to create a semi-transparent fin. I use fully opaque small brushes on the eyes, scales, and gills to further define and add more color to the overall fish. I tend to work all over at once to keep the detail level the same for much of the painting.

Step Seven: Background Treatment

I almost forgot the background entirely… but once the fish started looking decent, the background stuck out as needing work. Here I smooth out the edges, blend, and begin with some bubbles. Here I also can’t resist adding some sparkly highlights to the fish’s face and scales.

Step Eight: Background Details

More bubbles, more details. I refine the edges of the doodle even more – so it might blend in to any background color nicely. I also do that to make sure that the whole painting feels “finished”. Adding shine to bubbles is as quick as a few strokes of cyan and white. I also added more orange to the fins and belly scales, and added a whole new fin!

Step Nine: Details and Contrast

Adding more darks and lights throughout to create contrast – I stick with super saturated colors for the shadows to bring out the golds and oranges in the fish. Some areas around the face get teal and purple shadows for that reason. When my time comes up, I sign it and call it done! Another daily doodle.


Here’s the favorite colors I used throughout this painting. I tend to keep another canvas open with my favorite colors so I can pick them up again if needed. I guess I like to do this because I’m used to pre-mixing my palette in traditional painting. I like to do the same digitally.


The two black brush marks here are standard photoshop brushes – the chalk brush with the settings of opacity and size set to pen pressure (for a wacom tablet). The small round brush I use for final details also has those same settings adjusted. The scale brush I created is available for download; you can use it to observe how I created it and make your own if desired.

Thanks for reading – I hope this was helpful!