posted by Radu Chelariu on Jun 17, 2010.
In this tutorial, we will look at a simple technique for creating comic-styled illustrations, based on original photographic reference material. The real benefit of this manual technique is the high degree of control that it gives you over the illustration.
Wait. What? Is this really another “turn a photo into a comic” tutorial? Well, yes and no. Yes, I’ll be showing you how to turn a regular photo into comic-style illustration but no, I won’t be using any filters or effects. This one’s all manual, baby!
First, one must ask the obvious question: why? Why spend the time drawing the whole thing when there are super fast filters and plugins, etc. that do just as good a job? The answer is quite obvious, actually: control. By doing everything yourself you have complete control over every aspect of the design, from stroke width to color choices.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.
I chose this picture because of the superhero-like pose of the characters. They kind of look like the Power Rangers, right?
Structurally, this techniques follow a “back-to-front” method, where you start by first creating the background elements and finally the foreground ones. It’s pretty self-explanatory, really.
The “rule” surrounding color choices for an old style comic is (as the illustration above depicts) to not choose colors along the edges of the HSV histogram, regardless of hue. Constraining your color values is also an almost fool-proof way of making sure your designs are chromatically pleasing.
Because the focus is on the characters in the picture, not on the background, it makes sense to spend little to no time thinking about it. A simple, clean background will automatically make any elements in the foreground pop out. That’s a good thing.
I hid the blue background in order to move on to the foreground elements, the four characters in my case. I lowered the opacity of the shape layer and drew in the lines using just the Pen tool, I loosely tracked around the most contrasting elements of my characters. Remember that word: loosely. Don’t strive for perfection. The point of this style of illustration being flexibility and a very organic feel, which translates, design wise, into irregular, flowing shapes and lines.
About 15 minutes later, this is what I’ve got (sky layer turned on, of course). While this qualifies as a comic-style illustration, we’d be pretty lazy to leave it like this. So let’s make their skin.
Using the Pen tool again, I drew the skin layer underneath the stroke layer. You only need to care about not stepping out of the lines described by the stroke layer.
In this step, I made a skin shadow layer. I didn’t use a regular black or gray because I wanted to set a chromatic transition between the orange-ish skin and blue background. Thus, the desaturated purple I decided on works pretty well. I find that choosing secondary colors on the basis of transition is usually a good bet and the results are quite pleasing.
The clothes are simple shapes with colors from the dark-desaturated areas. I stayed clear of warm colors to further emphasize the characters’ faces.
By now you must have realized that while this technique involves little actual execution, it’s mostly based on color relationships and meaning. That’s because as the shapes of the characters become more and more sketchy, with less details than in real life, individual colors begin to have a much greater impact than they do in, say, photography.
The moon-like pale circle behind the characters further emphasizes the whole dramatic atmosphere I’ve been working on and really livens up the whole shot.
I almost always recommend leaving the shadows/highlights to the end of the illustration. This ensures a well designed piece. I drew a black (shadow) and white (highlights) layer above everything and then turned the opacity down to 50%. Simple!
And there you have it, folks, that’s how you manually turn a photo into a comic-style illustration. The overall work time was little over an hour and a half, so it’s not exactly time consuming. To me, the time spent on the illustration work is negligible, considering the upside of having complete control over how everything looks. And that’s something no filter or plugin can offer.Post A Comment
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