Cupcakes are an easy exercise for any beginning digital artist. The range of colour schemes and ease of scaling realism to your own level of experience make it a fitting project for repetition/series or progress chart assignments. Because nearly any genre or subculture can be used as a decoration theme for cupcakes, it also lets you focus on practicing precision and detail work. One can shade individual sprinkles, draw giant skull-shaped toppers or create countless other details suited to individual abilities and tastes.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Digital media editing software such as Photoshop
- Digital drawing tablet such as Wacom
Decide on the basic setting and background for the cupcake. Determine whether it will be free-floating in negative space, the centre of attention as a character off to one side reaches for it, resting on a platter or something else. Roughly sketch out the background or import an existing image to work with.
Decide on the colour scheme and overall proportions of the cupcake. For a realistic cupcake, the icing should be approximately one-third the height of the base. For a more graphic or exaggerated look, the icing can be two or three times the height of the base, excluding toppers and decorations.
Make a new layer in Photoshop (for most versions, the command is "CTRL+L"), and drag its icon above your background layer in the layers sidebar. Draw a flattened U-shape with slightly angled legs on your new layer. It should look something like this: __/. Don't worry if it isn't perfect; this is just a rough guide that will be covered over later.
Draw a conical spiral to rough out your icing. Select the area around the cupcake with the rectangular marquee tool, right-click and select "Free Transform" (in some versions, you may have to move the selection to a new layer). Adjust the cupcake's general shape and proportions with the free transform tools until it looks proportional in the background.
Use the paint bucket tool (found in the toolbar) to block in the major colour bases. Add structural details such as the ridges in the cupcake's liner, striations in the icing and the general shapes of any decorations for the cupcake.
Clean up your lines with the paintbrush or pencil tools. Shade and highlight the remaining details.
Tips and warnings
- No object appears perfectly straight on its bottom. For a more realistic cupcake, use a gentle curve instead of a straight line on the bottom.
- Always work on a new layer. If you make a mistake while working only with the background image, it is much harder to fix.
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