How to Develop a Handmade Illustration with Photoshop


Tutorial Resources

Step 1: Research and Gathering Materials

You might need to search for images that you will use as your illustration’s reference. Pick a reference image that you like.

Also, choose the right tools and materials for your illustration. For example, in my illustration, I use A4 size 250gsm paper with Indian ink and watercolor.

Research and Gathering Materials

Step 2: Sketch

I use a sharp pencil to draw the sketch softly. It is important to emphasize here that if you do not draw softly, the pencil marks will remain even after you ink the sketch and it will be very hard remove.

Step 3: Inking the Sketch

Use Indian ink and a brush pen to draw lines on top of the pencil sketch.

For wide pencil strokes, use ink and a brush. Ink and water should be mixed to control density and to add brightness.

Use a brush pen for the narrower, finer pencil strokes (such as the facial area). The reason for using a brush pen is that, compared to a normal pen, its lines are more organic and, at the same time, gives you the benefit of being able to control your lines more freely.

Inking the Sketch

Step 4: Remove the Pencil Lines and Draw More Details

Erase the pencil lines cleanly and continue adding and expressing more details in the illustration.

Remove the Pencil Lines and Draw More Details

Step 5: Using Watercolor

Use watercolor to color in the illustration. In this instance, we will start with the subject’s stockings. Water should be placed in some areas of stockings to add subtle variations, texturing and details in the watercolor — this will enhance the expression of our watercolors.

Using Watercolor

Step 6: Scan the Illustration

Scan in the illustration into your computer. When illustrations are scanned, they can often lose their original colors and subtle details. They become lighter and some of the strokes become messy.

Once scanned, open up the illustration in Photoshop.

Scan the Illustration

Step 7: Levels Image Adjustment

First, we need to correct the colors and other unwanted effects of scanning hand-drawn illustrations. One of the ways to do this is to use image adjustments.

Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels. I experiment with the Input Level sliders until I get the colors I want. For this particular case, I want the whiter colors to become a little brighter and the darker colors to become darker, which will also remove some of the messy marks made by the scanner.

Levels Image Adjustment

Step 8: Layer Mask

Add a layer mask on the illustration layer (click on the Add layer mask button at the bottom of the Layers Panel) to erase unnecessary parts. There are several Photoshop techniques for erasing, but a layer mask is nice because it is non-destructive and gives you finer control.

To erase, simply use black as your Foreground color, switch to the Brush Tool (B) and paint on the layer mask. If you make a mistake while erasing, change the brush to white and paint over the mistakes (on layer masks, white shows and black hides) or use the History Panel — whichever is appropriate. Use varying brushes and brush settings as needed.

Layer Mask

Step 9: Handwritten Typography

I like using handwritten type in my work as it suits my illustration style and it helps complement and complete the piece. If you also like this typographic style, you might need to try several times with Indian ink to get the perfect one (you can see my experiments below).

Handwritten Typography

If you don’t like your own handwriting, ask a friend to do it for you or even just use a handwriting font.

Step 10: Refining the Handwritten Type

Scan in your text and place it into the illustration as its own layer. Then use Levels image adjustments and a layer mask to make corrections on the text, just like we did with the illustration.

Refining the Handwritten Type

Tutorial Summary

In this tutorial, you saw my general workflow for drawing an illustration and processing it in Photoshop. The two main Photoshop features I use are image adjustments to correct and enhance the colors of the illustration and layer masks to non-destructively remove unwanted parts of the piece.

I hope you all enjoyed my tutorial and have found it to be useful.

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  • Just want to say: beautiful illustration… πŸ™‚ very nice

  • This is great, love the graphic style!

  • great stuff….
    loving this kinda technique πŸ˜€

  • Edward

    Kind of a misleading title – I thought it was done 100% in photoshop. This is a scanned art with photoshop color adjustments. πŸ˜›

  • Artist who made this kind of art is really awesome. Yeah its easy if you will illustrate this using your hands but integrating it to Photoshop? Maybe a little bit harder.

  • Thanks. Very useful πŸ™‚

    Have a nice day

  • I do not know what to say. Beautiful job. Very useful tutorial.

  • I’m sorry you feel that way, and I want to tell you that there was no intention to make you think the tutorial would be something it was not.

    In hindsight, we could’ve picked a slightly more informative title. But to be honest and upfront with you, we really didn’t think much of it until you brought it up.

    The title was supposed to convey that this tutorial is for developing/enhancing/tweaking your hand-drawn artwork in Photoshop. This tutorial was, in addition, meant to showcase a talented illustrator’s manual->digital workflow for inspiration as well as to see if you can take away tips and techniques to add to your own workflow.

    Thanks for sharing your concern, and we will make a note of it to ensure that, moving forward, we will review titles more intently to avoid confusion.

  • Very nice job, illustration looks great. Lots of great tips in here as well. Keep it up!

  • Great tutorials,nice use of illustration thanks!

  • Thank you, this was helpful.

  • Nara

    Yeah, same here =/

  • Great tut, and amazing result!

  • Good tutorial, though those panties don’t look flattering! Like they edgy style, keep up the good work.

  • no, I think the title is right for the content of the post,
    it said “How to Develop a Handmade Illustration with Photoshop”
    meaning from manual then going digital with photoshop, why do they get confused? or did they think that the tut was how to make a “handdrawn” style illustration in photoshop.

    the process was awesome, nice illustration. oh and don’t apologize the title is not misleading, its correct ^w^

  • Really like it. Tried some stuff myself. Thank you, please, keep teaching us, appreciated. πŸ™‚

  • Yeah, it’s the sketch part where I’m lost, otherwise it’s awesome! πŸ˜€

  • not 2 bad i love it 2

  • great tutorial thanks

  • muy lindo trabajo sigue asi

  • ramon ricardo

    buenisimo este tutorial que a personas aprendices como yo nos enseΓ±a el camino de arte con imaginacion hasta pronto

  • According to Google Translate, this comment is in Spanish and translates to:

    buenisimo this tutorial that people like me apprentices teaches us the way of art with imagination you soon

  • Looks awesome, Thanks so much for the tutorial!

  • WOW! great way to illustrate a pic.


    Edward……..your confusion led to your being misled.

  • amazing tutorial for illustration design!

  • Veronique Benedictson

    This is great! Just a question though. How do you get rid of the paper texture when you scan it in?