How to Create Super-Detailed Wildlife Illustrations

Highly detailed and accurate illustrations of animals and plants have a long and distinguished history, extending back through the western era of exploration. While initially these artworks served mainly to record new species in the absence of portable and effective photography, they were also appreciated for their artistic merit and attracted interest from admirers outside of the scientific community. Indeed, the significant skill required to produce such works coupled with the important role they continue to play in biological science has ensured this art form has endured.

As such, the skills to create these images still have a market, and an artist pursuing this discipline may find clients that include education publishers, magazines and journals, TV networks, and even private collectors and corporations. These skills also transfer to other artistic disciplines; the highly detailed brushwork required elevates the artist’s ability to render even fictional subjects.

In this tutorial, I walk through my general processes for setting up a workspace, using gathered reference materials, and then exploiting Photoshop’s suite of custom brushes and manipulation tools to accurately render the subject. The species chosen is a small but attractive Long Legged Fly in the family Dolichopodidae. Its beautiful colors and complex wing venation will make it not only an invaluable visual reference on the species, but an attractive artwork as well.

Tutorial Assets

You will need the following reference images to recreate this tutorial.

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