Take a photo and turn it into this amazing retro-style artwork using Photoshop and Illustrator. You’ll learn how to create this using very few stock photos and with creative techniques that can also be used in your other designs. To follow this tutorial, you’ll need to have some basic experience with Adobe Illustrator.
Preview of Final Results
First is first. We need an empty canvas to begin working. Here is my canvas size of the finished design. So you can use it simply.
Photoshop just presented us with a blank, white canvas. We are going to set a more neutral colored backdrop for our design. So I created a new layer above the background layer and filled it with #e0ddd8.
Here we have the single most important stock image for our design. I liked the look of her, she is a bit worried, uncertain and concerned, you know I thought this is a good one for our purpose. It has nice and soft tones, no strong shadows and a bit mild, it looks we can play a bit.
First of all we need to isolate her from the background. We can use different Tools for this purpose. But I am going with the Color Range command (Menu > Select > Color Range). It does a great job when selecting plain backgrounds. Load up the Color Range box, sample the background color using the color picker. You can see the thumbnail of the image inside the Color Range box, the white part in the thumbnail represents the area selected by the command. You can also see some grey areas left on the corners and on the subject. We will deal with it in the next few steps. Press Ok to confirm.
Your selection should look something like this. The color range command does a decent job.
Invert the selection (Ctrl + Shift + I). This will now select the model.
Let’s fine tune our selection using the powerful Refine Edge command. (Menu > Select > Refine Edge or just press Ctrl + Alt + R). It’s like a one stop solution. We can contract or expand the selection, feather the selection, smooth it and so on. Click on the On Black thumbnail which lets you the preview the selection against a black background. I slightly smoothed the selection and contracted it a bit. Press OK when you are done.
We just refined our selection. So let’s use it to mask out the model. While the selection is on, click on the Add Layer Mask button located at the bottom of the Layers Palette.
Now let’s deal with the holes in the mask. To view the mask hold Alt key and click on the layer mask thumbnail. Now you are inside the mask. Notice, there are some grey areas inside the white area and at the corners of the mask. Those are holes and we need to get rid of them. Pick a hard brush, color set to white and paint out. Now change the brush color to black and paint out the corners. Make sure you didn’t left any greys.
Here is the perfect mask after the corrections.
Examine the image once again. There are lots of strands of hair which can cause problems. I want to remove them. Select them using the Pen Tool. Since lot of Curves involved Pen Tool is the best choice. Select the “Paths” option for the Pen Tool on the Options Panel.
Try to be as good as you can. Just leave of those strands of hair.
If you finished drawing the path. Convert it into a selection. Hit Ctrl + Enter or just right click on the path and choose Make Selection.
Now use the selection to hide those strands of hair. Remember we already have a mask associated with the model. Now click on the Layer Mask. Set the foreground color to #000000 and hit Alt + backspace to fill the selection. That is the great thing about layer masks. We can hide or reveal as we need! totally non destructive.
One final step before we drag the model into our main document. Convert this layer into a Smart Object. Right click on the layer and choose Convert to Smart Object from the context menu. This is just a good practice with numerous benefits. we can transform smart objects freely and apply filters to them without destroying the original, can apply layer masks to them and all those good things. And at any point of time we can revert to our original image.
Ok we are done with the model and we are ready to go. Drag the model smart object layer into the main document. You need to resize her and position her properly on the canvas. We are not going to use the whole of the image. Hide the bottom portion of the image. Grab the Pen Tool and make the selection. Make it a bit organic with curves. It should look something like the below one.
Ctrl + Enter to turn the path into a selection.
Add Layer Mask with the selection like earlier.
Here everything is going to happen. We are going to create the mood, you know that is a bit retro and set the tone for us. Add a Curves Adjustment Layer above the model layer. Modify the curve to get the below result with nice saturated tones. If you feel we are abusing it, don’t worry it’s going to be fine.
Not so brilliant at this point. But from now on everything we do is going to make the design come alive. We progressively add different elements to our design. Remember we are aiming for some organic look with a retro feel in terms of color and shapes. We are not after nice round smooth finishing. A mix of all those elements would do the job. So keep in mind our objective so we can abide by it.
Lecture is over, just grab the Pen Tool and draw this outline. This is going to serve her jacket. Remember don’t make a perfect selection we are not looking for it.
Convert it into a selection. Create a new layer above the model layer. Create this gradient in the gradients palette. Draw the gradient inside the selection.
Draw another shape with the Pen Tool.
Convert into selection and fill color.
Draw this shape using the Pen Tool just above her jacket. Select the Shape Layers option on the Options Panel before you start drawing. Shape layer is defined a vector path, so it is vector. We can do lot of things with it.
Double click on the shape layer thumbnail. Set the color to a nice pinkish red (#ff2847). This is one of those benefits comes with the shape layers.
Now Make the shape more interesting. Select the Direct selection Tool. Click on the Vector Mask of the shape layer. Now you can grab those anchor points and work with them. Pull some of the anchor points downwards until you got the desired look.
We have some work in Illustrator. And we need to take the model into Illustrator. To do this Ctrl + click on the model’s Layer Mask. You have the selection now, press Ctrl + C to copy.
Now open up Illustrator, create a new document and press Ctrl + V to paste. Select the image. On the Options Panel you can find Live Trace button. Click on the small triangle next to it and you will get dropdown menu with tracing presets. Choose Hand Drawn Sketch from the list.
Once the tracing is completed you can fine tune the trace using the Tracing Options box. which can be found on the Options Panel.
Copy and paste the trace into Photoshop. We can simply copy and paste items into these programs so easily and they work very well together. Now Place the trace layer the model layer.
I want to apply a different color to the trace layer on some areas. Create a new layer above the trace layer and clip it to the trace layer (Ctrl + Alt + G). Apply color with the brush wherever you want.
Hide unwanted lines using the Layer Mask.
Now bring in the galaxy stock image into our design. It will add nice dynamic feel to the design. Take it and place above the jacket layer.
The galaxy layer spread across the entire canvas. We need to limit it only to our model and hide the rest. Ctrl + click on the model thumbnail. It should load up the selection.
Add Layer Mask with the selection.
Let’s make this galaxy to work. First set the blend mode to Lighten.
Add Curves Adjustment Layer. Slightly pull down the mid tone values.
Finally Set the layer opacity to 75%. It’s looking better now.
Here I am going to make a colorful shape. I used the normal Lasso Tool to make this selection. It will give that unevenness to the selection. Which we like to have.
Fill #ffe38b in the selection.
Lock the transparency of the layer. Make another selection above the previous one and fill it with #ff7178.
Finally clip our shape to the model layer (Ctrl + Alt + G).
Let’s create this nice shape with the Pen Tool.
Convert it into selection and fill it with #ffe38b.
Duplicate the shape.
Lock the transparency. Set the foreground color to #ff685e and hit Alt + Backspace to fill the new color. You can fill any color anytime once you have locked down the transparency, and it’s an alternative to Color Overlay which is accessed through Layer Styles. There is more than one way to achieve things in Photoshop. We need to choose what is intuitive in a situation.
Press Ctrl + T. Right click and choose Flip Horizontal. The Flip Vertical.
Place it on the other side of the face. Position it properly to get the desired look.
Make several copies of the shape. Place them above her arm. As I mentioned you can fill different colors in the shapes because we have locked the transparency of the layer.
We have this shape here which is created earlier. Remember it is a shape layer that has a vector path associated with it! Click on it.
Now open the Paths Palette. You can see the Vector Mask of the shape layer. Click on it and drag it onto the Create new Path button at the bottom of the palette. This will create a new path for us which we need to do something.
Pick the Brush Tool. Set the size to 2px and hardness to 100%.
Create a new layer just above the shape layer. Back on the Paths palette right click on the path we just created. Choose Stroke Path.
Here we go! this is what we needed, a stroke.
I want to use only a part of it. Select the unwanted and delete it.
Create this shape on her neck with Pen Tool.
Convert the path into selection. Select the Brush Tool. Set the color to #545064. Create a new layer and paint inside the edge of the selection. Leave the bottom unpainted, that will make the selection transparent one side and gradually mixing into the image below.
Created another shape using the same method as above.
Now we are going to draw some hair for our model in Illustrator. All by our self. To do this we need to take the image into Illustrator so that we can draw the hair on top of the image precisely where we want. The simple way you can do this is by selecting the whole document (Ctrl + A), then Ctrl + Alt + C (Copy merged). Now head back to Illustrator. and press Ctrl + V to paste the image. Next Load the brushes we need to draw the hair. Go to Menu > Window > Brush Libraries > Artistic > Artistic_Ink.
Select the Brush Tool from the Tool bar, select art brush and draw the hair.
Don’t worry about the precision. You can Edit those paths using the Direct Selection Tool later.
Keep on adding more strokes until you finish.
If you want to modify the paths enter the wireframe mode (Ctrl + Y). Select and modify the paths using the Direct Selection Tool.
Copy and paste the hair into our Photoshop document. Clip the hair to the model layer.
I want to change the color. Apply Color Overlay using the Layer Styles dialog box.
Once again head back to Illustrator. We already have our image pasted there. Create a similar mesh on top of the image using the Rectangle Tool and the Line tool.
Bring into the main file.
Apply Color Overlay.
We are going to create a leaf particle brush. Here I have an isolated leaf. You may like to come up with your own thing. Once you have it separated into a new layer go to Menu > Edit > Define Brush Preset
We need to tweak various parameters to get our particle brush working. Find the Brushes Palette under Menu > Window > Brushes. And set these parameters.
Now paint some particle using our brush. Keep it subtle. Change the brush color to vary the color of the particles.
We continue to add more shapes to our design. We are going to create a simple blend in Illustrator. We already have our design pasted there. So draw these two circles around her necklace pendent with the Ellipse Tool (L).
Select the Scissors Tool and cut the circles where they intersect the necklace.
Select both the circles, press Ctrl + Alt + B. Double click on the Blend Tool to edit the blend count.
Paste into Photoshop.
We have almost finished with the model. Let’s move on the background and spice it up. Open up the masks image in Photoshop. Copy the mask on the right side.
Switch back to illustrator, create a new document and paste the mask there.
Trace the mask using the Trace command. Choose the Hand Drawn Sketch preset from the tracing presets. By default your trace should look like this.
Paste the mask trace in the main file. And place it behind the model.
Color is too dark, let’s apply a different color using the Layer Styles box.
We are going to trace yet another image. This time drag and drop the image into Illustrator. Select the image and apply Hand Drawn Sketch preset to it. When finished Take the trace into Photoshop.
Paste in the main file.
Place it below the model layer. Well it looks nice and organic and the background is coming alive. let’s move on!
Bring in the Umbrella image into the design. Place it below all the other layers. This image has a nice retro look and will complement our design.
I selected a portion that I want to use.
Mask out the umbrella with the selection.
Change the layer blend mode to Linear Light to make it more cheerful.
Create a new layer below the model layer and make another selection using the Lasso Tool. Fill the selection with #fe7163.
Draw a triangle shape with the Pen Tool.
Apply a 1 pixel stroke to it using the Layer Styles box.
Reduce the Fill opacity to zero because all we need is a triangle outline.
Draw some random shape below the triangle. Use the Pen Tool or Lasso Tool whatever you like.
Ctrl + click on the triangle’s vector mask.
Invert the selection (Ctrl + Shift + I). Hit delete. And it looks good.
Create another shape following the same method as above. Create a circle shape layer using the Ellipse Tool.
Reduce the fill opacity to zero.
Make the circle a half circle by deleting one of the anchor points. Use the Direct Selection Tool to select the anchor point.
Create another random colored shape below the half circle. Just as before Load selection from the shape layer, invert it and deleted the excess area.
Once again back to Illustrator. Select the Rectangle Tool and Draw a bar. Open the Transform Palette. Menu > Window > Transform. Skew the bar by 60 degrees by entering value in the Skew field.
Duplicate the bar and stack them. Apply different colors to them.
Paste the shape in Photoshop. Place it above the model layer. Press Ctrl + T and rotate to match the angle of the stripes of the umbrella.
Change the layer blend mode to Overlay.
Switch back to Illustrator. Draw a similar path using the Pencil Tool (or Pen Tool). Open up the Artistic_Ink palette. Select the path and apply a brush stroke to it.
Bring into Photoshop. Place it behind the model and adjust the rotation.
Apply Color Overlay.
We are heading to Illustrator for one last time. Create some swirls using the Pen Tool.
Once you have drawn the swirls, select each individually and apply art brush to them one at a time.
Draw circle with the Ellipse Tool. Apply art brush to it. Change the stroke width if it is thick.
Select all swirls and press Ctrl + C to copy. Now Paste in Photoshop. Duplicate and arrange them over the model’s jacket.
We need to create a custom pattern (in a separate document). Take the Pencil Tool and set the stroke width to 2 pixels. Turn off the background Layer. Put a dot. Make a 7 x 7 pixels selection starting from the corner of the dot. Now go to Menu > Edit > Define Pattern. Press Ok when dialog box appears.
Here is the area I want to apply the pattern. I selected it using the Pen Tool and converted into a selection. Then press Shift + F5 (Menu > Layer > New Fill Layer > Pattern) and locate the pattern you just created and press Ok. That should fill the area with our custom pattern.
We are almost there. I am not satisfied with something. That is the hair. The galaxy is a bit strong there. So we need to calm it down.
Click on the galaxy layer. Pick a soft brush. Set the brush color to #284965. Paint over the hair region directly on the galaxy layer. Don’t paint over her face while brushing, be careful. Well I think it is much better now and the hair is looking good too.
Notice the difference.
Title Added. The font I used is Motel King. You may like to use your own font.
Finally get back to the background layer. I feel it is too solid, so let’s add a Layer Mask to the background layer. Hide some of the background by painting with a brush, color set to black. This will reveal the white background beneath it. Well if you don’t have the default white background in your document, create a new layer and fill it with #ffffff and place it below the current layer. Once you did it, I will say that’s it, we just finished it Successfully!.