Hand-rendered Photoshop art

Neil Duerden takes us back-to-basics with this stunning tutorial on creating personal art in Photoshop without hundreds of layers. It seems that everyone in the digital creative field is going technology mad at the moment, equipping themselves with machines running 32GB of RAM, 5TB hard disks and 1,000 plus layers to some pieces.This tutorial is the opposite, and hopefully a breath of fresh air. We are going back to the basics of pen and paper to create a cool multi-layered piece with a personal touch. You’ll be hand-rendering loads of elements and integrating them in to your piece.It’s a lot more personal and this shows in the end result. So, stop messing around with filters and digital trickery and let’s get our hands dirty.

01. Image prepping is a very important stage and not enough people do this. But you wouldn’t go out and try heart surgery in a greasy spoon, so why do the same with your pieces? Start by selecting an image you like – I have chosen a pleasing face as the base to this piece, but it can be whatever you want. Remember this base image will dictate the other elements you use, so try to pick something that is flexible, like a face.

02. Now, either clip out the background or mask it out depending on which method you prefer, then select the background and delete the area around the image to create a transparent background. Then duplicate this layer and select the top version.

03. Pull a guide down to mark the centre of your image and using the marque tool select and delete half your image. Deselect and then Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontally to get the shoulders and eyes exactly the same and in perfect synergy. Now select the Delete tool and remove areas down the joint line to make it look more natural.

04. Now merge your layers by using merge visible in the layer menu pallet. Then duplicate this layer again and apply Filter > Blur > Surface Blur to clean the skin tones and create a perfect complexion. Experiment with the settings to get the feel you want, and then also experiment with the layer opacity.

05. Walk away from your computer and get out a pen. Start scribbling and generate a pattern in the style you prefer, make it relatively complex and then scan in your image at a high resolution. This will be the main factor in the feel of the piece so get it right and don’t skimp on time on this stage.

06. Go back to your main image and create a new layer at the bottom of the layer stack and fill it with white. (CMD/ CTRL+A, Shift+F5, and then select white). Then create a new layer above this, paste your sketch onto it and position and scale to make it fit correctly.

07. Now duplicate the top layer of the girl and turn this level to a grayscale. You are going to have to give the face a suntanned complexion to help the contrast work with the strong background so use the layer effects and choose the overlay option. Again, adjust the opacity to get the feel you want.

08. Now merge your hand-drawn elements and go to Image > Adjustment > Hue And Saturation and adjust the colours until you are happy. Duplicate the layer and then do the same, getting a colour that contrasts with the other perfectly. Then go to Layer > Layer Mask and hide areas of the top image to allow the first colour to show through.

09. Using the clipping tool, select all the white areas of your pattern and delete them. There are other ways to do this but you won’t get the same level of accuracy. Then select all of the white base level and flood it with a colour that looks good. You can use a gradient or anything you wish here, including imagery.

10. Repeating the techniques explained earlier start to add more elements – both hand drawn and photographic to build up a better composition. Be careful not to add too much as the next few steps will add more complexity to other areas. Just have fun here.

11. Now, it’s time to draw some illustrations for the body. To make it easier simply print out your piece as it stands and draw the doodles directly over the top using a lightbox (or TV) and tracing paper, then scan them in. Keep these to the same feel as the others you did previously.

12. Now paste this at the top of the layer stack and select the multiply option to allow the skin to show through. Make this as detailed as possible as we are getting near the end of this tutorial and these are the things that can make a real difference.

13. Now duplicate the top grayscale layer you created and again use the hue and saturation set from step 8. Change the whole face to a contrasting or subtle shade of the back just to add the final touch. Then either reduce the opacity down or delete sections you don’t wish to be visible.

14. Finally, use the smudge brush around the hairline to break up any straight lines within the hair structure. This will give it a more natural feel when viewed at 100 per cent. Then it’s as simple as flattening the whole piece and sitting back and enjoying the hard work you have put in. With hand-rendered pieces like this it is not just pure computer knowledge and composition, so well done! 


01. To change the colour of an image, press Cmd/Ctrl+U to open the Hue/Saturation dialog box. Then, simply move the Hue slider to change the colour, and the Saturation control to adjust colour intensity. Lightness does exactly what it says on the tin. As a bonus, if you click on Colorize, you can add colour to a greyscale image or add a duotone effect to an RGB/CMYK image.

02. Here’s a tip for creating quick fills. To fill a layer or selection with the foreground colour, press Alt/ Option+Delete. To fill a layer or selection with the background colour, press Cmd/ Ctrl+Delete. To fill just the area with pixels, hold down the Shift key as well as the keys above. This toggles the Preserve Transparency option. Press Shift+Backspace to open the Fill dialog box.

Author’s URL: Neil Duerden – www.neilduerden.co.uk

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