Emulate Commercial Illustration with Photoshop

To get a commercial illustration, you need not draw it from scratch. Photoshop can help you trace an existing photograph and come out with a sketched image.

Step 1: Tracing the Outlines

Immediately create two new layers. The first should be an adjustment layer, so click on the ying-yang looking icon at the bottom of your layers window. Select solid color then fill it with white. Then, create a new blank layer by going to "Layer", "New" and "Layer". Deselect both of these layers by clicking on the eyes that correspond with each. Now, grab your pen tool and select the free form option. Start tracing key outlines on the image. They do not need to all connect, so trace as though you were sketching. To pick up your pen, hold down Ctrl as you move it away then click somewhere off the path. For now, you do not need to draw all the details, only the thickest borders.

Step 2: Enriching the Outlines

Reselect all your layers, then go to the "Paths" tab in the layer window. Drag the path down to the icon that will "Create new path" and drop it there to save it. Now, click on your paintbrush tool. In the options bar, click on the "Brushes" tab. Choose the solid 13px brush.  Click on the line that says "Brush Tip Shape" and reduce the roundness to about 10%, and change the angle to 45 degrees. Then, click on the line that says "Shape Dynamics" and play with the settings until you see a convincing pen stroke in the preview window. Check that your foreground color is set to black. Right click on the path that you created before and select "Stroke path". When the window comes up, check the "Simulate Pressure" box and choose "Brush" as the source. You may need to adjust the brush settings and redo it if you are not happy with the results.

Step 3: Finishing the Outlines

Create a new blank layer and repeat the pen and brush steps to outline more detailed parts of the image. Adjust your brush settings so that the new outlines are less bold than ones on the previous layer. Keep creating more layers and paths until you have all the outlines that you want.

Step 4: Adding Color

We are going to steal color from the original image. So, create a copy of the background by right clicking on it and selecting "Duplicate Layer".  Drag the new layer to the top of the list and in the "Blend Mode" drop down select "Color".  Now create a new layer and place it above the white layer. Select the brush tool again and choose a bigger brush with an opacity of 10%. In the "Brushes" tab, turn off the "Shape Dynamics".  Stroke over the areas where you want color. Unclick and reclick your mouse to get more vibrance in certain areas.  The colors will not be what you expect, so create a "Hue/Saturation" adjustment layer at the top of all the other layers and play with the sliders to find the tones that you like.

You can go through this with as many layers as you want to get as much diversity within the image as possible. In the end, you will have a unique commercial style sketch.


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