photoshop creative

6 simple tips to improve your illustrations

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
September 4, 2014

Ideas and tricks to help you draw the Photoshop way!

So many of us turn to Photoshop because we’re not very good at drawing, but illustration can be just as time-consuming and skilful in the program as it is in real life. Luckily though, there are a few hacks that any Photoshop illustrator can employ to make their life easier: you don’t have to be a great artist to create a great piece of art!

Duplicate your original layer

If you’re drawing a portrait with a pencil and paper, you get the best results from using tracing paper. So why not do the same with Photoshop? Duplicate the image you want to turn into an illustration and use the original as a guide. It’s the best way to follow lines and shapes perfectly.

The Pen tool

It’s not available in Elements, but the Pen tool can be great for selection. The Polygonal Lasso gives great block shapes, but the Pen utilises curves to really round off edges and smooth over your picture.


Sure, you can paint all the different sections of your photo one block colour each, but alternatively, posterising can give a nice, even tone to your illustration. The Cutout filter is also quite handy, depending on what kind of image you want to go for.

Gradient blocks

Again, why fill something in as a block colour when you can use gradients? The Gradient function is excellent particularly on eyes, and can even give hair a bit of a shine. Just because you’re creating a cartoon-like image, it doesn’t mean you can’t play with tint and texture!

To outline or not to outline

Some illustrations look brilliant with an outline: just ask any comic book fan. To give a nice edge around your selection, make a path with the Pen tool, and then stroke the selection. This is a great for one for creating Julian Opie-like images.


Finally, smudging can be a neat finishing touch, especially to give hair a natural, flyaway look. Use it subtly after everything all illustrated sections of the image have been completed.