Adobe Photoshop Tip: Comic Art Effect

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Adobe Photoshop Tip: Comic Art Effect


Hey man, if somebody takes a picture of something and then you get Photoshop to draw the same thing right on top of it, only going outside the designated original art to make it looks somewhat comic book like, what do call that? I call it my latest tutorial! Use this baby to convert your digital pictures and scans into comic book style illustrations. Nothing can take the place of talent …except for maybe a relative who works high up in the business…but this tutorial will get the idea across without requiring much artistic talent at all.

Disclaimers, conditions and preparations

Start with a good high resolution RGB image–at least a 5″ by 3″ image at 300ppi–that you’ve color corrected and sharpened. If the image is bad, the result of this tutorial will also be bad–I can’t stress this enough. I will give you some extra steps to fix a few quirks of the process as we go, but having an image that crisp and vibrant in the first place will go a long way to making this effect really pop.

Note: I wrote this tutorial a long while back… maybe 2002… maybe earlier. Its warranty has long since expired, but it continues to be a favorite. And, while I cannot promise to answer your questions about how to use the tutorial and I certainly have no time to teach you how to use Photoshop, there is a section in the 1Qi forums devoted specifically to this tutorial where you can ask each other questions, compare notes and link to your work.

I will be using three different images in my demonstration to illustrate various challenges and subtleties of the effect. The first is a picture I took on my trip to San Francisco at the Sharper Image. Behold!



How can you go wrong making a comic book illustration from a picture of a comic book hero? We’ll be tweaking how this tutorial effects this caped Kryptonian in the Optional Stuff at the end of the tutorial. The second is a shot that my buddy and steadfast Photoshop tutorial beta tester “Digital” Bill Douthett took while he was on a trip to San Francisco. Here you’ll see him with the sledgehammer wielding alpha geek Patrick Norton on the set of the Screen Savers.



This image is going to give me a bit of trouble because it seems to have been taken on an unlit set, probably after the show was finished taping, which has caused a bit of digital grain in places. Also, Bill (the dude on the left) is pretty close to the camera flash and it’s giving him an odd pallor. These kinds of things are very common in digital shots taken in uncontrolled environments. But those shots are just the kind on which you might like to try this kind of effect, so we’ll have to address those issues with extra steps in the Optional Stuff section. No biggie. The final image is also from the set of the Screen Savers and features not only Patrick Norton (geez I hope Pat likes comic art…he’s in this tutorial a lot), but Leo Laporte…the man who graciously provided this image and the one at the top of this page (Thanks, Leo!).


This image was more than likely shot by a professional photographer, with a pretty fancy, if not schmancy, camera. The lighting and clarity is great. The only thing that may challenge it as a comic book panel is that it is brimming with rust, brown and beige–needs a bit more oomph to make it in the same universe with the Man of Steel. This pic of Pat and Leo will be the main focus of this tutorial. I’ll be using Adobe Photoshop CS version 8 but I have also successfully tested the steps involved and they work just dandy on Adobe Photoshop 7 and may even work on lower versions and possibly Adobe Photoshop Elements. So, if you’re ready, let’s get started… If you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to alter the image before proceeding with this tutorial. I’m thinking particularly of the Liquify filter in the Filter menu. You could distort your picture into a caricature and then use the comic book effect on it after.

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Rick Yaeger

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