Photoshop Tutorial: How to Make An Inked Digital Painting

I always wanted to combine my artistic skills with the digital abilities of Adobe Photoshop.
So when I got my tablet, I immediately set to work and came out with this technique.
It is a blend of various filter and layer blend options combined with an individual's artistic ability.

In this tutorial I will be teaching you on how to transform any image into a stunning digital painting in
a comic style with a sketchy inked effect using Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended.

End result:
How to Make An Inked Digital Painting Final Image

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Step 1

Now let me make this clear before I get started. I'm not so sure from which particular version this effect can be done, but if I'm right, you can do this with Photoshop 7 and above.

This effect will be a transformation of a real image into one that looks like its been colored, shaded and inked in black.

This is the source image I'll be using for this tutorial, which is a snap I've taken from my own camera.

As you can see this image is quite detailed which is not desirable for this effect, but the reason why I have chosen this is to show you how satisfying this effect can be (that is if you will follow the steps I've mentioned accurately).

Please remember that though I don't prefer details and complexity in the images and preferably the image size should be like 1MB plus to get it quite nice.

Don't ask me why but the image what I used was 2.7MB. So get a large image and please don't worry about its huge size later on when its complete. You can always re size it, but later.

WARNING: If your going to re size your image in the start, your going to mess up the image quality, so finish the work and finally re size it if you want.

Step 2

Firstly, we need to make the image look less detailed ; lesser the detail, easier to do. Colors should be maintained simple. Only then will the inking effect can be achieved later on and the shadows and highlights can be easily applied.

Having more of detail will obviously make the image look real which we don't want. So the less detailed, more the better it is. More details; more should be the surface blur. So whatever image it is, it should be (color) simplified first.

For that,
Duplicate the "Background" layer and name it "Color Blur"

Go to Filter> Blur> Surface Blur
Radius-7 pixels
Threshold-24 pixels

This reduces the details and makes the image more blunt and soft reducing its "sharpness".

Then, go to Filter> Artistic> Cutout
Number of Levels- 8
Edge Simplicity- 0
Edge Fidelity- 3

Now set the "Color Blur" layer opacity to 50%.

A mixed patchwork of colors will be achieved with this action due to the cutout filter.

Step 3

Now that we have the image simplified, we have to apply an ink outline to the image.
Since the image's detail have been reduced;the image will be clearly outlined.

Duplicate the "Color Blur" layer and name it "Black Ink"

Go to Filter> Artistic> Poster Edges
Edge Thickness- 6
Edge Intensity- 4
Posterization- 6

Set the layer mode to 'PIN LIGHT'

You will get a thin feeble black outline for your image.

Step 4

The image needs to have a grainy feel, the blurred and soft feel we created in the first step wont be needed anymore.

Depth will be added for the image and also the ink outline will be amplified. The grain will be more like a texture for the image.

So, to do that,
Create a new layer
Go to Image> Apply Image
Name that layer as "Grain"

Then, go to Filter> Artistic> Film Grain
Grain- 2
Highlight Area- 0
Intensity- 10

Also, we need some amount of noise to add to the grain.
Filter> Noise> Add Noise
Amount- 10

Select Gaussian in Distribution and tick Monochromatic.

Set the layer mode to 'DARKER COLOR'

A certain kind of 'roughness' will now be applied to your image.

You can't notice much or any difference in the step 3 and step 4 images unless you look carefully, but when you work on your image you will definitely see the change.

Step 5

The image has been simplified and the basic outline has been added.Unfortunately, the image looks bland and I'm not happy with it,so I'm going to give it some ink shading, making the image give a bold, sketchy and lively feel.

Create a new layer
Image> Apply Image
Name the layer "Ink Shading"

Choose black color
Then go to Filter> Sketch> Graphic Pen
Stroke Length-13
Light/Dark Balance-68

Select Right Diagonal

Set the layer mode to 'MULTIPLY' and reduce the layer opacity 40-50%

The image now has a sketchy, stroked ink shading.

Step 6

Now, for some serious changes. I'm going to give what I call 'mood' to the image. It adds a feeling of the climate, whether it is Cool (Bluish), Warm/Hot (Reddish or Yellow), etc.

Now mine has a cold look and I've given it a warm summer feel.

To do that, go to Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Gradient Map

Add whatever gradient you feel will suit your image and set the layer blend mode to 'SOFT LIGHT', but the gradient should be from dark to light in shades and try to maintain shades of a main color.

Reduce the adjustment layer opacity according to whatever you feel will suit best (here I have set it to 30%).

Here I have created and added a gradient of maroon to a light and dark green. The green at the bottom for where there is most of the greenery and red for the top since the bricks are there.

You can observe how the mood of my image changes once the gradient map is applied, giving it a nice warm evening effect.

You can also add a warming/cooling filter if you like but try and stick to the soft light because too much of the gradient map wont look very good either.

Step 7

Now, for the sake of those who don't own a tablet, I have done this step with a mouse so they can be happy on seeing how good it STILL CAN BE WITHOUT A TABLET. By doing this step one can achieve a more artistic look, giving it more distinct strokes of shadows and highlights.

Strokes of light and dark will be clearly visible after this step.

This step is something like increasing the Level that is, the black and white levels of the image, but here it done by creating manual soft brush strokes and in particular places rather than for the entire image.

Create two new layers
Name one as "Soft Shadow" and the other as "Soft Highlight"

In the "Soft Shadow" layer;
Do an Image> Apply Image.
Then, go to your brush presets window and choose the "Natural Brushes 2" brush set.
In that choose the "Watercolor I" brush which is in size 49 by default.
You can choose any other natural medium brush of your liking but this is what I've used here.

Set the brush mode to "Soft Light" and opacity to around 30-40%
Go to Window> Brushes (F5)
Go to Brush Presets and increase the Size if you like and also reduce the Spacing to 0.
**Click on the name 'Shape Dynamics' and make sure you every option at zero and just change the control for 'Size Jitter' to 'Pen Pressure' to get the smooth stroke of thin to thick as per pressure applied.

'Smoothing' should be ticked and 'Other Dynamics' settings is entirely up to you (here I haven't done it).

Choose black color and start stroking in places where you think there should be shadows.

Once your done with the shadows, go to the "Soft Highlight" layer and do an Image> Apply Image.
Do the same thing for what you did for shadows. Choose white color, soft edge brush, same brush settings**, 40% brush opacity and paint strokes in places where you think there should be

Repeatedly stroking again and again over the same place will increase the intensity of the shadow or highlight thereby giving more depth

**- These particular instructions are for those who have a pen tablet responding to pen pressure. So if you are not going to use one,then don't follow that instruction!

This is the image with soft shadow only

Step 8

I suggest that as soon as you finish a step save your file if you satisfied with it because the next step will mostly tell you to do a Apply Image which will apply the image with all the editing you've done on it.

Looks differ with each image, so patiently try out the different numerical combination to achieve not what 'looks' I have got, but to bring about my effect in your way and liking.

All values and layer opacity that I have mentioned is in accordance to the image that I have used for this tutorial. The numerical values will depend on your liking and what type of image your using whether its complex or simple.

This is how the image will look at last !

This is my very first tutorial and I have gone through a lot of experiment and work to develop this effect.

So, hope you all liked this tutorial and expecting to upload some more interesting and better tutorials each time!


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frosty194 says:

wont anyone comment!? this is my first tutorial

(5 years and 2431 days ago)
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Guest says:

Good work, keep it up. Even if the airheads weren't nice enough to say something, I will. Keep up the good work.

Have you ever tried to paint an object - like a flower or a dog or a face - using Photoshop? You have talent.

Don't be discouraged if you EVER get nasty comments. I've seen some really nasty stuff being said to even the long time tutorial professional's works so do not get discouraged. There are some people for whom it is impossible to say positive things.
Nice job and have fun.

(5 years and 2361 days ago)
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frosty194 says:

Thanks a lot. Actually I've got a tab recently coz a lot of my friends tell me ive got talent which is shud start to use. So actually ive done a few paintings, but I'm not finding time to work on photoshop. What I've learnt through the years, Im now experimenting and coming out with stuff.

So, thanks a LOT for taking your time to comment at my VERY first tutorial, and hoping to post many more in the future!

(5 years and 2325 days ago)
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Guest says:

Wow, that's a great look. I haven't tried it yet, I'm so impressed I had to leave a comment right away. I just found this tutorial on a search. I hope I can find the rest of your work. If this is your first, I can't wait to see what you've done since.

(5 years and 2023 days ago)

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