Create digital paintings that look like high-end comics from photos with great Photoshop tips from David and Sarah Cousens.

One of the most important pieces of advice for painting a portrait is to draw what you see, rather than what you think you see.

It’s very easy as an artist to start drawing in details that you assume are there, altering the image without realizing it – however, this will leave you staring at a finished piece that bears no resemblance to your model, wondering why you can’t get a good likeness.

If you constantly analyze your reference throughout, you’ll have a much stronger piece at the end. Marcus J Ranum has given his permission for us to base this portrait on his photograph of Miss Mosh.

You can download this royalty-free stock image for free from; check out his website, for more royalty-free stock images. Before you start, download and install the custom brush set from the cover CD.

01. Open the reference photo alongside a new A4 300dpi file and create the layers named ‘skin’, ‘clothes’, ‘clothes2’, ‘hair’, ‘blends’, ‘roughs’, ‘lines’ and ‘above’. On the rough layer, use the brush ‘Dave C’s Pencil 7 Blue’ to sketch the rough layout before drawing your final lines on the ‘lines’ layer with the ‘ink’ brush. Don’t worry about your final lines being perfect – most of them will be painted over.

02. Still using the ‘ink’ brush, lay out the flat colours on the relevant layers (so paint the skin tones onto the ‘skin’ layer). Keeping the colours on separate layers allows us to make selections easily, so make sure there are no adjacent colours. Don’t flat-colour the hair, as we’ll deal with this in a separate stage.

03. Use the Linear Gradient tool to add some colour to the background layer, as painting against white skews your perceptions of colour. Add a shading layer for each existing flat colour layer (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + N) and tick Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. This will allow you to add shading only on existing pixels so you don’t have to worry about keeping within the lines. Add shading on the face on the shading layer linked to ‘skin’.