Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop tutorial: Create striking photo and vector mash-ups

Jazzing up straightforward model shots using Photoshop and Illustrator is a time-honoured technique – creatives have been doing it since the software was invented. Some vector interventions and lighting effects can transform the most run-of-the-mill photo into something verging on a work of art. However, doing this well takes flair, skill, and lots of practice.

In this tutorial, leading illustrator Neil Duerden shows how he got stuck into creating one of his stylish images, starting from a basic model shot. He shares his tips on tricky cut-outs, seamless compositing, and blending of vector images so that they complement, rather than clash with, your composition.

Duerden says that he feels that the key to success in this discipline is going with an instinctual flow, saying: “Get into this on a passionate level: you can’t go wrong. You want this to become your baby, something you will be proud to show your loved ones and blow their minds.”

Step 1
This is the most important stage. The image you choose will define the illustration’s look and feel. I picked a high-end model shot from iStockphoto as the quality of their shots is great at this price point. You can get this photo from You can decide whether to create a static look or dynamic movement at this stage, too.

Step 2
Now we need to clip the image out from the background: this is time-consuming, but it’s important to get the details right. To remove the background, duplicate the background layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J), select the duplicate layer, create a path, make this path into an active selection, then hit Delete. You can speed this process up by using third-party masking software, which is well worth investing in if you’re often doing cut-outs.

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