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Design

How to Create an Illustration Photoshop Action (From Photo to Illustration)

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create an illustration Photoshop action. I will explain everything in so much detail that everyone can create it, even those who have just opened Photoshop for the first time.

What You Will Learn in This Photoshop Action Tutorial

  • How to create a Photoshop action
  • How to select the subject in Photoshop
  • How to go from a photo to an illustration look
  • How to create an illustration Photoshop effect

The effect shown above is the one I will show you how to create in this tutorial. If you would like to create the even more advanced vector art style Photoshop illustration effect shown below, using just a single click and in only a few minutes, then check out my VectorArt Photoshop Action.

Illustration Photoshop action final result

What You'll Need

To recreate the design above, you will need the following resources:

1. How to Get Started

First, open the photo that you want to work with. To open your photo, go to File > Open, choose your photo, and click Open. Now, before we get started, just check a couple of things:

  1. Your photo should be in RGB Color mode, 8 Bits/Channel. To check this, go to Image > Mode.
  2. For best results, your photo size should be 2000–4000 px wide/high. To check this, go to Image > Image Size.
  3. Your photo should be the Background layer. If it is not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.
checking image size and mode

2. How to Select the Subject in Photoshop

Step 1

In this section, we are going to make a selection of our subject and then copy the subject to a separate layer. Choose the Quick Selection Tool (W) and select the background of the photo. Use the Shift-Alt buttons on your keyboard to add or subtract areas from the selection. After you've made a perfect selection, press Control-Shift-I on your keyboard to invert the selection.

making selection

Step 2

Now go to Select > Modify > Smooth and set the Sample Radius to 5 px. Next, go to Select > Modify > Contract and set Contract By to 2 px. Finally, go to Select > Modify > Feather and set the Feather Radius to 2 px.

modifying selection

Step 3

Press Control-J on your keyboard to create a new layer using the selection. Name this new layer Subject.

creating new layer using selection

3. How to Start Recording the Photoshop Action

In this section, we are going to start recording the action. Go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the menu icon in the top right-hand corner, choose New Set to create a new set, and name it Illustration. Then, click on the same menu icon again, choose New Action to create a new action, and name it Illustration.

creating new action

4. How to Create the Background

In this section, we are going to create the background. Select the Background layer, go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color to create a new solid color fill layer, name it Background color, and choose the color #cfcac8 as shown below:

creating new solid color fill layer

5. How to Create the Illustration Photoshop Effect

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create the illustration look. Select the Subject layer, go to Filter > Stylize > Diffuse, and set the Mode to Anisotropic.

adding diffuse filter

Step 2

Now go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask, and set the Amount to 125%, Radius to 3 px, and Threshold to 0 levels.

adding unsharp mask filter

Step 3

Go to Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise and use the settings below:

adding reduce noise filter

Step 4

Now go to Filter > Blur > Surface Blur, and set the Radius to 5 px and Threshold to 15.

adding surface blur filter

Step 5

Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask, and set the Amount to 250%, Radius to 3 px, and Threshold to 0 levels.

adding unsharp mask filter

Step 6

Now go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Artistic > Cutout, and set the Number of Levels to 8, Edge Simplicity to 5, and Edge Fidelity to 1.

adding cutout filter

6. How to Create Subject Outlines

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create subject outlines. Control-click on the Subject layer thumbnail to make a selection of this layer. Then, select the Background layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to create a new layer using the selection. After that, drag this layer to the top of the layers in the Layers panel.

creating new layer using selection

Step 2

Now go to Image > Adjustment > Levels and enter the settings below:

adjusting levels

Step 3

Go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Sketch > Stamp, and set the Light/Dark Balance to 25 and the Smoothness to 5.

adding stamp filter

Step 4

Now go to Filter > Stylize > Oil Paint, set the Stylization to 5 and Cleanliness to 4, and uncheck the Lighting option.

adding oil paint filter

Step 5

Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask, and set the Amount to 250%, Radius to 5 px, and Threshold to 0 levels.

adding unsharp mask filter

Step 6

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Multiply and set the Opacity to 32%. Name this layer Subject Outlines.

changing blending mode and opacity

7. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

In this section, we are going to make final adjustments to the design and save the action for future use. Control-click on the Subject layer thumbnail to make a selection of this layer. Then, select the Background layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to create a new layer using the selection. After that, drag this layer to the top of the layers in the Layers panel.

creating new layer using selection

Step 2

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Color. Name this layer Subject Color.

changing blending mode

Step 3

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer and name it Color Look.

creating new curves adjustment layer

Step 4

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, enter the settings below:

adjusting curves

Step 5

Press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches. Then, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to create a new gradient map adjustment layer and name it Overall Contrast.

creating new gradient map adjustment layer

Step 6

Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light and set the Opacity to 63%.

changing blending mode and opacity

Step 7

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance to create a new vibrance adjustment layer and name it Overall Vibrance/Saturation.

creating new vibrance adjustment layer

Step 8

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, set the Vibrance to +45 and the Saturation to +22.

adjusting vibrance and saturation

Step 9

Double-click on the thumbnail of the Background Color layer and choose the color #cfecfe as shown below. Then, go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the rectangle icon in the bottom left-hand corner to stop recording the action. Then, in the same panel, click on the menu icon in the top right-hand corner and choose Save Actions to save the action.

adjusting solid color

You Made It!

Congratulations, you have succeeded! You've learned how to create an illustration Photoshop action. Now you can transform any photo into an illustration.

You can also apply the effect to a photo and then add it as a background. This is the stock photo I chose. Here is the final result:

final result

Take It to the Next Level!

If you would like to create the even more advanced photo illustration Photoshop effect shown below, using just a single click and in only a few minutes, then check out my VectorArt Photoshop Action.

With this vector art style Photoshop action, you can turn photo into an illustration with only a few clicks, even if you are a complete beginner! Simply open your photo, brush over your subject, and run the action!

action final result

You can also get this item in a bundle and save 50%—check out my Cartoon 5in1 Photoshop Actions Bundle. Other tutorials you may also like:


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