Create Comic Book Art with Photoshop

01
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Turn a Photo into Comic Book Art in the Style of Roy Lichtenstein

Comic Book Effect in the Style of Roy Lichtenstein
Comic Book Effect in the Style of Roy Lichtenstein. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

In this tutorial, Photoshop is used to transform a photograph into comic book art in the style of Roy Lichtenstein. I will work with Levels and Filters, choose a color from the Color Picker and have it fill a selected area, plus work with the Quick Selection tool, Rectangle tool, Ellipse tool, Clone Stamp tool and Brush tool. I'll also ​create a custom pattern that mimics ​Benday dots, which are the small dots sometimes seen in older comic books due to the printing process used. And, I'll create a narrative box and speech bubble, which are the graphics that hold dialogue.

Although I'm using Photoshop CS6 for the screen shots in this tutorial, you should be able to follow along with any fairly recent version. To follow along, right click on the below link to save a practice file to your computer, then open the file in Photoshop. Choose File > Save As, and in the dialog box type in a new name, choose the folder you want to keep the file in, choose Photoshop for the format, and click Save.

Download Practice File: ST_comic_practice_file.png
02
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Adjust Levels

Adjust Levels
Making a Levels adjustment. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

For this tutorial, I'm using a photograph that has a nice contrast of darks and lights. To increase the contrast even more, I will choose Image > Adjustments > Levels, and type in 45, 1.00, and 220 for the Input Levels. I'll click on the Preview box to give it a check mark and to indicate that I want to see how my image will look before I commit to it. Since I like how it looks I'll click OK.

03
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Add Filters

Add Filters
Choosing a filter. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I will go to Filter > Filter Gallery, and click on the Artistic folder, then click on Film Grain. I want to change the values by moving the sliders. I'll make the Grain 4, the Highlight Area 0, and the Intensity 8, then click OK. This will have the image appear as if it was printed on the kind of paper you find in comic books.

To add another filter, I will again choose Filter > Filter Gallery and in the Artistic folder I will click on Poster Edges. I'll move the sliders to set the Edge Thickness to 10, the Edge Intensity to 3, and the Posterization to 0, then click OK. This will make the photograph look more like a drawing.

04
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Make a Selection

I will choose the Quick Selection tool from the Tools panel, then click and drag to "paint" the area surrounding the subject or person within the photograph.

To increase or decrease the size of the Quick Selection tool, I can press the right or left brackets on my keyboard. The right bracket will increase its size and the left will decrease it. If I make a mistake, I can hold down the Option key (Mac) or the Alt key (Windows) as I go over an area that I want to deselect or subtract from my selection.

05
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Delete Area and Move Subject

Delete Area and Move Subject
The background is deleted and replaced with transparency. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

With the area surrounding the subject still selected, I'll press delete on my keyboard. To deselect, I will click off the canvas area.

I will choose the Move tool from the Tools panel and use it to click and drag the subject slightly down and to the left. This will hide the remaining copyright text and make more room for the speech bubble that I plan to add later on.

06
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Choose a Color

Choose a Color
Picking a foreground colour. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I want to choose a foreground color using the Color Picker. To do so, I will click on the foreground Fill box in the Tools panel, then in the Color Picker I'll move the arrows on the Color Slider to a red area, then click on a bright red area in the Color Field and click OK.

07
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Apply a Fill Color

I will choose Window > Layers, and in the Layers panel I'll click on the Create a New Layer button. I'll then click on the new layer and drag it under the other layer. With the new layer selected, I'll choose the Rectangle Marquee tool from the Tools panel, then click and drag over the entire canvas to make a selection.

I will choose Edit > Fill, and in the Fill dialog box I'll choose Foreground Color. I'll make sure that the Mode is Normal and the Opacity 100%, then click OK. This will make the selected area red.

08
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Set Clone Stamp Options

Set Clone Stamp Options
The Clone Stamp options. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I want to clean up the image by removing some of the black specks and heavy lines. In the Layers panel, I will select the layer that holds the object, then choose View > Zoom in. In the Tools panel, I'll choose the Clone Stamp tool, then click on the Preset picker in the Options bar. I'll change the Size to 9 and the Hardness to 25%.

While working, I may occasionally find it necessary to change the size of the tool. I can either return to the Preset picker for this, or press the right or left brackets.

09
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Clean Up the Image

Clean Up the Image
Cleaning up the artifacts. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I will hold down the Options key (Mac) or the Alt key (Windows) as I click on an area that holds the color or pixels that I want to have in place of the unwanted speck. I'll then release the Options key or Alt key and click on the speck. I can also click and drag over the larger areas that I want replaced, such as the heavy lines on the subject's nose. I'll continue to replace the specks and lines that don't seem to belong, as I keep in mind that my goal is to make the image look like comic book art.

10
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Add Missing Outlines

Add Missing Outlines
using a Brush to add missing detail. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I want to use the Brush tool to add a missing outline along subject's shoulder and upper arm. You may not be missing this outline in your image, since your selection when deleting the area surrounding the subject may have been different than mine. Just look to see what outlines are missing, if any, and add them.

To add an outline, I will click on the D key to restore the default colors and choose the Brush tool from the Tools panel. In the Preset picker I'll set the Brush size to 3 and the Hardness to 100%. I'll then click and drag where I want to create an outline. If I don't like how my outline looks, I can just choose Edit > Undo Brush Tool, and try again.

11
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Add Thin Lines

Add Thin Lines
A thin 1-pixel brush stroke can add detail to areas. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

In the Tools panel I will choose the Zoom tool and click on or near the subject's nose for a closer view of the area. I'll then choose the brush tool, set the brush size to 1, and click and drag to make a short, curved line on the bottom left side of the nose, then another on the opposite side. This will help to suggest the nose, which is all that's needed here.

To zoom out, I can either click on the image with the Zoom tool while pressing the Options key (Mac) or Alt key (Windows), or choose View > Fit on Screen.

12
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Create a New Document

Create a New Document
Creating the dots document. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Some older comic books have noticeable Benday Dots, which are small dots made up of two or more colors that can be used in the printing process to create a third color. In order to imitate this look, I can either add a halftone filter, or create and apply a custom pattern.

I will use a custom pattern. But, if you're familiar with Photoshop and interested in creating a halftone filter, create a new layer in the Layers panel, choose the Gradient tool from the Tools panel, choose a Black, White preset in the Options bar, click on the Linear Gradient button, and click and drag across the entire canvas to create a gradient. Then, choose Filter > Pixilate > Color Halftone, make the Radius 4, type in 50 for Channel 1, make the remaining channels 0, and click OK. In the Layers panel, change the Blending Mode from Normal to Overlay. Again, I won't be doing any of this, since I will instead be using a custom pattern.

In order to make a custom pattern, I first need to create a new document. I will choose File > New, and in the dialog box I'll type in the name "dots" and make the Width and Height 9x9 pixels, the Resolution 72 pixels per inch, and the Color Mode RGB Color and 8 bit. I'll then choose Transparent and click OK. A very small canvas will appear. To view it larger, I will choose View > Fit on Screen.

13
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Create and Define Custom Pattern

Create and Define Custom Pattern
Creating a custom pattern for the dots. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

If you don't see the Ellipse tool in the Tools panel, click and hold on the Rectangle tool to reveal it. With the Ellipse tool, I will hold down the Shift key as I click and drag to create a circle in the center of the canvas, leaving plenty of space surrounding it. Keep in mind that patterns are made up of squares, but will appear to have smooth edges when used.

In the Options bar, I will click on the Shape Fill box and click on a Pastel Magenta swatch, then click on the Shape Stroke box and choose None. It's okay that I'm using just one color, since all I want to do is represent the idea of Benday Dots. I'll then choose Edit > Define Pattern, name the pattern "Pink Dots" and click OK.

14
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Create a New Layer

Create a New Layer
Adding a layer to hold the dots. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

In the Layers panel I will click on the Create a New Layer icon, then double click on the name of the new later and rename it, "Benday Dots."

Next, I will click on the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Pattern.

15
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Choose and Scale Pattern

Choose and Scale Pattern
The layer is filled with the pattern. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

In the Pattern Fill dialog box, I can choose the pattern and adjust its scale. I'll choose my custom Pink Dots pattern, set the Scale to 65%, and click OK.

To lessen the severity of the pattern, I will change the blending mode in the Layers panel from Normal to Multiply.

16
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Create a Narrative Box

Create a Narrative Box
The narrative box is added. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Comics tell a story using a series of panels (images and text within borders). I won't create panels or tell a full story, but I will add a narrative box and speech bubble.

To make a narrative box, I will choose the Rectangle tool from the Tools panel and click and drag to create a rectangle in the upper left side of my canvas. In the Options bar I'll change the width to 300 pixels, and the height to 100 pixels. Also in the Options bar, I'll click on the Shape Fill box and on a Pastel Yellow swatch, then click on the Shape Stroke box and on a black swatch. I'll set the Shape Stroke width to 0.75 points, then click on the Stroke Type to choose a solid line and make the stroke align outside the rectangle.

17
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Create a Speech Bubble

Create a Speech Bubble
Creating a speech bubble for the comic. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I will use the Ellipse tool and Pen tool to make a speech bubble. With the Ellipse tool, I'll click and drag to make an ellipse on the right side of the canvas. In the Options bar I'll change the width to 255 pixels and a height to 180 pixels. I'll also make the Fill white, the Stroke black, set the stroke width to 0.75, make the stroke type solid, and align the stroke outside the ellipse. I'll then make a second ellipse with the same Fill and Stroke, only I want to make it smaller, with a width of 200 pixels and a height of 120 pixels.

Next, I'll choose the Pen tool from the Tools panel and use it to make a triangle that overlaps the bottom ellipse and points toward the subject's mouth. If you're unfamiliar with the Pen tool, just click to make points where you would like the corners of your triangle to be, which will create lines. Make your last point where your first point was made, which will connect the lines and form a shape. The triangle should have the same Fill and Stroke that I gave to each ellipse.

I will hold down the Shift key as I click in the Layers panel on the layers for the two ovals and triangle. I'll then click on the small arrow in the upper right corner to reveal the Layers panel menu and choose Merge Shapes.

If you would rather not draw your own speech bubble, you can download a free custom shape set of cartoon and comic book style speech bubbles from this page:
Add Speech Balloons and Text Bubbles to Your Photos

18
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Add Text

Add Text
The text is added to the Narrative Box. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I'm now ready to put text inside my narrative box and speech bubble. Blambot has a wide range of comic fonts that you can install into your computer for use, many of which are free. And, they provide easy to follow instructions on how to install their fonts. For this tutorial, I will use Smack Attack from Blambot's Dialogue Fonts.

I will choose the Type tool from the Tools panel, and in the Options bar I will choose the Smack Attack font, type in a font size of 5 points, choose to have my text centered, and look to the Text Color box to be sure that it's black. If it's not black, I can click on it to open the Color Picker, click on a black area within the Color Field, then click OK. Now, I can click and drag within the borders of my narrative box to create a text box where I will type in a sentence. If your text isn't visible, check the Layers panel to be sure that the layer for your text is above the rest.

In comic books, certain letters or words are made larger or bold. To make the first letter in the sentence larger, I will make sure that the Type tool is selected in the Tools panel then click and drag over the letter to highlight it. I'll change the font size in the Options bar to 8 points, then press escape on my keyboard to deselect the text box.

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Make Adjustments

Make Adjustments
Fitting the type in the speech bubble. Text and images © Sandra Trainor

I will add text to the speech bubble in the same way that I added text to the narrative box.

If your text doesn't fit within the narrative box or speech bubble you can either adjust the size of the font or adjust the size of the narrative box or speech bubble. Just select the layer you want to work on in the Layers panel and make your changes in the Options bar. Be sure, however, to select the Type tool in the Tools panel when making changes to your highlighted text, and select one of the shape tools when making changes to the narrative box or speech bubble. When I'm pleased with how everything looks, will choose File > Save, and consider it done. And, I can apply the techniques described in this tutorial to any future project, be it a personalized greeting card, invitations, framed art, or even a full comic book.

Also see:
Add Speech Balloons and Text Bubbles to Your Photos in Photoshop or Elements
Cartoon Effects Actions for Photoshop
• Turning Digital Photos into Cartoons