advanced photoshop

Tips Feature Preview: 15 Illustration Tips & Tricks

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General, by Adam Smith

Industry secrets on how to use Photoshop to enhance our illustrations

Invest in a concept

Vincent Garcia Morillo /

To promote DJ sessions by electronic music label Black Book Sessions, Vicente Garcia Morillo  created the Alive Objects series, which encapsulates the artists and presents them as just one entity: “In this case, I was playing with the combination of elements that represent two of the most popular musicians in Chicago and the L.A. scene, respectively.

“The first step is always to conceptualise the piece. I consider this one of the most important phases of the development process, as this is the base of the piece. I like to invest all the time that’s necessary to come up with a good idea.

“Once I have the concept, I start doing sketches of the composition and also the analogue elements, such as drawing and painting, in case I want them later. I create the vector elements in Illustrator, then import and edit them in Photoshop, fitting them together like a jigsaw. I then apply effects like gradients, layer styles, shadows and noise.

“I like to experiment, mixing methods and software in my projects, adding elements like pencil drawings to my artworks when I get the opportunity. I usually play with Photoshop to edit the compositional elements and finish my pieces, but I avoid photographic finishes as I like to preserve an illustrated element.”

Make use of Actions

Mark Verhaagen /

Tasked with creating 36 robot playing cards for kids magazine Bonbeck, Mark Verhaagen, the brain behind the Zoobles toy line, had to build in originality and then deliver uniformity.

“The challenge here,” says Mark, “was to create 36 different robots, each of them looking interesting. I started sketching a lot of robots, focusing on shape and character, bold versus fragile, round versus square shapes, etc.

“I had to think about how the robots would move and do things, which also helped determine their looks. I tried to keep things simple, as the final illustrations wouldn’t be that big. All the robots and card designs were made in Illustrator using fairly basic shapes and shading.” Mark then turned to Photoshop for the final touches.

“To save time and to make sure each card looked the same, he recorded Actions to use as part of his workflow. “I primarily used Photoshop for adding texture and a glow effect around the robots,” he explains.

“As I was working with 36 different files, I saved a lot of time by using Actions for these things. I also used an automate batch Action to save all the files into formats.” The cards were featured in Bonbek magazine, where kids could cut out the different cards to play with. Later, an actual card game was produced too.”

Read more in Advanced Photoshop 110, now on sale at and



Tips Feature Preview: 15 Illustration Tips & Tricks