In this tutorial we will be taking a look at masking and how you can give your work a sense of depth using this technique, as well as layering textures and elements to help lift your piece – in this case using paper to create rock and mountain-like elements.
This tutorial is an example of how a few simple techniques can be used to create more elaborate illustrations using multiple layers, masking, the Pen tool, some basic lighting and one simple texture. Using the processes here, you will be able to apply the same techniques to your work, hopefully giving you the confidence to use masks and create your own textures to give greater scope to your work.
For this masterclass you’ll need a headshot of a model. Max Spencer has used a shot by Pasi Lehtinen (
designsapiens.com). You’ll also need access to a digital camera and some paper, though we’ve included Max’s photos of scrunched-up tissue paper in our project files. Time to Complete
Download the files for this tutorial from
To create a textured background element for this piece, I’ve simply scrunched up some tissue paper into
a ball: this is a good way of using up old pieces of paper lying around. Some great effects can be achieved using paper that already has images or scribbles on.
Import your paper texture to Photoshop. Desaturate the image using
Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + U. Change the contrast if you feel your texture needs it. Now invert the texture by pressing Cmd + I. Once you’re satisfied, select the Pen tool ( P) and trace around the paper ball.
Once you have finished tracing the paper ball, select the Marquee tool and
Cmd/Ctrl + click the outline you’ve created in the Layers palette. This will bring up the outline you created as a selection. Click back on the layer of the image and simply copy ( Cmd/Ctrl + C) and paste ( Cmd/Ctrl + V) and your paper ball will now be on a layer of its own.
Open up the image of your model. Select the Pen tool (
P) and trace the outline of the image. Try and be as accurate as you can; in this case I’ve purposely avoided cutting out her ponytail, taking into consideration the composition of the piece. Using the same technique as Step 3, put the cut-out of the model onto its own layer.
Create a new A4 document at 300dpi. This is where we use the Ellipse tool (
E) to create our basic composition. I find circles easier to work with when laying out the different areas.
Open up the image of the model you cut out earlier and drag the cut-out layer into your new document on top of the circles you’ve created. Position the model where you want her to sit within your piece.
Click Add layer mask on the model layer on your new document.
Select background shape the same way you selected the paper ball in Step 3. Perform a
right click > Select Inverse. Select the Eraser tool ( E) with a white foreground and black background and erase the shoulders and any other parts you don’t want to find in the final piece.
Open up the image of your paper ball and drag the layer into your main document. Invert the paper texture and position the layer at the bottom. Select the Marquee tool (
M) and on the paper ball right click > Free Transform. Position the ball so it peeks out behind the model. Create additional balls using copy and paste and place them on the canvas until you have a texture like the one shown above.
Using the same masking technique as in Step 8, you can add texture on the layers behind your model. I’ve used the same circle to mask in the paper ball texture. Using masks in this way is a great way to add depth to 2D pieces you’ve created.
Using the Pen tool (
P), create some shapes that complement the flow of the piece. This is a great opportunity to add a splash of colour as at the moment the piece is pretty much black and white. Move the layer so it’s just below the circles you created at the beginning.
Create a new layer above the shape and change the opacity to 50%. Select your flowing shape the same way you did in Step 3. Choose a soft brush roughly 200px in size, making sure your foreground colour is black. Paint around the appropriate edges of your shape to create a shadow.
Repeat Step 12 to create more shapes. Use this stage to tweak the final placement of elements.
Here is where your piece will come together. Using the techniques learned in this tutorial, you will be able to add smaller details. Here, I’ve used masking techniques to add small bits of paper around the edges as well as some larger circles which have had parts erased away.
To finish the piece, create a layer above all of the other layers and set the blending mode to Screen – this is located in the top left-hand corner of the Layers palette; the default is Normal. Choose a large, soft brush between 600 and 1000px wide and a vivid colour, in this case orange. Apply the colour around the composition in places that you want to highlight or bring some colour to.
An illustrator and graphic designer currently living on the coast of south-west England, Max Spencer’s work consists of central composition, bold images and lots of textural detail, while maintaining a sense of minimalism. Max has been freelancing for the past three years and has worked on projects for Nike, Sprite, Charles Schwab and The KDU, among others. Contact