Photoshop Tip of the Week: How To Create a Comic Book Effect
So you thought you had to be an accomplished illustrator to make your own comic book character? Not so!
If you have a a willing subject (preferably one with a penchant for spandex) and a camera it’s easy to make your own comic book hero. Nathan Duff shares some clever Photoshop tips to help you realise your wildest superhero fantasies!
Software: Photoshop CS5
01 DEEP ETCH
The first step is to download the two start images – Super_Hero and Comic_Backdrop. In Photoshop go to ‘File > Open’ and choose the image ‘Super_Hero.png’. To save you time we’ve already separated our caped crusader from his background, but if you’re working on one of your own images you’ll have to use the selection tools to cut out your character. (We used the ‘Quick Selection Tool’ (W) and the ‘Lasso Tool’ (L) for the tricky bits.)
02 DUPLICATE LAYER
In the Layers panel duplicate the main layer. You can do this with the
keyboard shortcut ‘Ctrl-J’ (‘Command-J’, Mac) or by dragging the layer
onto the ‘Create a new layer’ icon.
03 UNSHARP MASK
In this step I want to define the edges and details of the image to make
it look more like an illustration. In the main menu go to ‘Filter >
Sharpen > Unsharp Mask’. Increase the amount to 200% and the
‘Radius’ to 2.0 pixels. Leave the ‘Threshold’ at 0. You can see the
effect on the image by toggling the preview checkbox on and off.
04 POSTER EDGES
Duplicate the top layer (Ctrl-J, PC or Cmd-J, Mac) again. In the main
menu choose ‘Filter > Artistic > Poster Edges’. This brings up the
filter gallery. Set ‘Edge Thickness’ to 7, ‘Edge Intensity’ to 1 and
‘Posterization’ to 3. You can see that ‘Posterization’ has the most
dramatic effect. The goal is to get that “hand-drawn” look of a comic or
05 HUE/SATURATION LAYER
In the ‘Layers’ panel click the ‘Create new fill or adjustment layer’
icon and choose ‘Hue/Saturation’ from the drop-down menu. In the
‘Adjustment’ panel move the ‘Saturation’ slider left to a setting of
06 BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST LAYER
The image is looking a little flat. To fix it let’s pump up the
contrast. Click the ‘Create new fill or adjustment layer’ icon again but
this time choose ‘Brightness/Contrast’ from the drop-down list. Set the
‘Contrast’ to +35.
07 STAMP VISIBLE
Let’s create a new layer on top of the ‘Layers’ stack that incorporates
all the information from the layers below (this is called a “Stamp
Visible” layer). To do this, click the top layer to make it active and
use the keyboard shortcut ‘Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E’ (PC) or
‘Command-Option-Shift-E’ (Mac). That’s the first part of the project
finished. Now, let’s have a go at the background.
08 BLACK AND WHITE
Go to the main menu and choose ‘File > Open’. Open the second start
image, ‘Comic_Backdrop.jpg’. In the ‘Layers’ panel click the ‘Create new
fill or adjustment layer’ icon and choose ‘Black & White’ from the
menu. Move the ‘Reds’ slider to -96, ‘Yellows’ to 77, and ‘Blues’ to
200. This adds some texture and contrast to the brick work.
09 HIGH PASS FILTER
Create a stamp visible layer as you did in step 07 (‘Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E’
for PC, or ‘Command-Option-Shift-E’, Mac). Duplicate the layer (‘Ctrl-J’
for PC or ‘Command-J’, Mac). In the main menu choose ‘Filter > Other
> High Pass Filter’. ‘High Pass’ helps define the edges, just as
‘Unsharp Mask’ does, but the effect is much more noticeable. I used a
‘Radius’ setting of around 25.
10 LAYER BLEND MODE
In the ‘Layers’ panel, change the ‘blend mode’ of the top layer from
‘Normal’ to ‘Overlay’. You could also use ‘Soft Light’ but it isn’t as
crisp as ‘Overlay’.
11 MORE POSTER EDGES
Duplicate the top layer again (Ctrl-J/Command-J) and change the blend mode of the duplicate layer back to ‘Normal’. Go to ‘Filter > Artistic > Poster Edges’. The same settings will still be there from the last time you used this filter. This time punch the ‘Edge Intensity’ all the way up to 10 and then play with the other sliders to get the desired effect. In this case, set ‘Edge Thickness’ and ‘Posterization’ to 5.
12 CURVES ADJUSTMENT
In the ‘Layers’ panel click the ‘Create new fill or adjustment layer’ icon and choose ‘Curves’ from the drop-down list. Click the middle of the diagonal line to make an anchor point. Now drag either side of the point to create an ‘S’ shape (as shown in the screen shot) and increase contrast. Create another stamp visible layer ‘Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E’ (PC) or ‘Command-Option-Shift-E’ (Mac).
13 MERGE IMAGES
In the final part of the project we are going to merge the two images. Drag the top layer of the ‘Super_Hero’ image onto the ‘Comic_Backdrop’ image. (If your images are organised into tabs you will need to drag the Super_Hero tab off the main tab bar so you can drag the layer from one image to the other.)
14 FLIP AND ROTATE
With the top layer active (the super hero) go to the main menu and choose ‘Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal’. Now, let’s rotate the character slightly. Go to ‘Edit > Free Transform’. Note that a bounding box has appeared around the character. With your mouse outside the bounding box, click-and-drag to rotate the character anti-clockwise. Click inside the box to reposition the character in the centre of the frame if needed. (Don’t worry if you can’t fit his feet in, we will crop out the bottom of the image later on anyway.) Press the Enter key on your keyboard to apply the change.
15 MOTION BLUR
You can leave the image as is or go a bit further to add a sense of movement. Click the layer below the top layer (the backdrop) and duplicate it (‘Ctrl-J/Cmd-J’). In the main menu choose ‘Filters > Blur > Motion Blur’. Chose an angle to match the trajectory of the super hero (we used 51°) and crank up the distance slider to about 750 pixels. Reduce the ‘Opacity’ of the blurred layer to 95% – this will reveal some of the detail from the layer below.
16 MORE MOTION BLUR
Duplicate the ‘Super Hero’ Layer (Ctrl J) and click on the second-top layer (the layer you duplicated). Go to ‘Filter > Blur > Motion Blur’. Change the angle to match the trajectory of our hero and bump up the distance to around 850 pixels.
17 LENS FLARE
Let’s add some lens flare to add some more drama to the image. Click the top layer to make it active and create a new stamp visible layer (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E for PC, or Command-Option-Shift-E, Mac). Go to ‘Filter > Render > Lens Flare’ and select the 105mm Prime. Place it above the hero’s head and increase the ‘Brightness’ to about 130%.
18 CROP TOOL
Let’s crop the image. In the ‘Tools’ panel grab the ‘Crop Tool’ and drag a rectangle around the hero. Before you apply the crop, go to the ‘Tool Options’ bar and select the ‘Hide’ radio button. With ‘Hide’ selected you can reverse the crop whenever you like. Simply increase the canvas size (‘Image > Canvas Size’) to get the cropped area back. To apply the crop, press the ‘Enter/Return’ key on your keyboard.
Let’s add a border around the image for that authentic comic book feel. First, in the Layers panel, click the ‘Create a new layer’ icon to bring up an empty layer. In the ‘Tools’ panel select the ‘Rectangular Marquee Tool’ and draw a text box around the edge of the image. In the main menu choose ‘Edit > Stroke’. Choose a ‘Width’ of, say, 20 pixels, choose a colour and click the ‘Inside’ radio button. Click ‘OK’ to apply the change. Click once inside the image to get rid of the selection.
20 ADD COMIC TEXT
Let’s add some text to the image. Choose the ‘Horizontal Type Tool’ and click on the image to begin typing. Choose the font and font size in the ‘Tool Options’ bar (we used Comic Sans MS at 12 points).
21 TEXT BOX
Create a new layer and drag it down a level so it’s under the text layer. Use the ‘Rectangular Marquee Tool’ to draw a box around the text. In the main menu choose ‘Edit > Fill’. Select a colour and click ‘OK’. Click anywhere on the image to get rid of the selection.
22 DROP SHADOW
To give the text box some depth, go to the ‘Layers’ panel and double-click the ‘Add a layer style’ icon at the bottom of the panel. Select ‘Drop Shadow’ from the style menu and adjust the distance spread and size to suit. Play with the angle slider to change which direction the shadow falls. And that’s it – an all-new crime fighting super hero. Now it’s time to create your own. Know anyone who likes to dress up?