advanced photoshop

20 ways to make money with Photoshop

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Tips & Tutorials, by Anna-lisa Saywell

Be it big or small amounts, there are many ways to cash in on your creativity. Here we present some of the more accessible ways that ensure regular commerce with advice and real-world projects from our industry experts.


1: Viable PSD templates

Mark Billen, editor at Web Designer magazine, suggests front-end web style elements that ensure successful commercial distribution of your templates, at sites such as


2: Make money from post-production retouching

20 ways to make money with Photoshop

Scott Kelby, founder and president of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) and, explains: “If I were to give advice to somebody on how to make a living using Photoshop, it would be to get really, really good at retouching. Not just retouching blemishes or fixing hair – although that’s an important part of the process. I’m talking about being a retoucher who is really good at compositing and creating associated effects, which are popular at present.

“The reason being is that there are a lot of photographers, especially those who get really popular and busy, who don’t have the time to do their own post-processing anymore. More and more, I see photographers splitting their work. They do the photography then partner with someone to do the retouching and compositing for them – especially portrait compositing.

“I think this is going to be a growing trend because there’s so much going on in photography today, and there’s so much happening with Photoshop that for most it’s going to be hard to become a master of both. But a team of two working together is going to be a really, really tough combination to compete against.”

There are many specific online resources that you can use to improve your photo editing skills, such as and Advanced Photoshop magazine supplying printed tutorials monthly. However, if you’re looking to seek active freelance, pushing existing skills through real-world projects, try sites such as and


3: Time equals money

20 ways to make money with Photoshop

A strong signature style splits many opinions. Some say it’s a unique visual hook, others a deterrent for clients with diverse projects. However, commercial illustrator Radim Malinic, founder of Brand Nu (, thinks otherwise. His design shows how a strong distinct style produces graphic elements and resources that augment future commercial projects, with the help of Photoshop’s powerful tool sets. Malinic explains: “I’ve learnt to work in Photoshop with as many versatile and non-destructible assets as possible. There are many ways to keep layers scalable, allowing endless repositioning and scaling. When Adobe engineers added Smart Layers to the application, it turned out to be exactly what users needed. The ability to lock a pixel object is super valuable.”

Malinic’s Nitrogen agency lifestyle illustrations are great examples of this utility. Here he combated brief changes quickly, still retaining a recognisable look. “After I had drawn new elements in Illustrator, each was pasted into Photoshop and manipulated via Gaussian Blur – creating a swooping energy effect around each subject. In the next step, I layered the objects in variable thickness and Opacity, building up a strong look for the campaign. Smart Filters offered the option of masking out parts of the objects, that adds perspective.” Subsequently, Malinic used the same style for another project afterwards, which shows great potential production wise – after all, time is money, and this way multiple projects are tackled quickly. “It works really well and goes to show that less can always be more,” he adds finally.


4: Artwork Skins with Teodoru Badiu

How to produce commercial laptop and iPhone skins with 3D assets, sellable at,, and

Step 1 – Render and save

20 ways to make money with Photoshop

When producing an iPhone skin, I want to release my characters from a detailed background. Therefore I add an Alpha Channel pass and Ambient Occlusion pass to my 3D file then render out a second file with my two characters and save this as a PSD file.

Step 2 – Alpha Channel

20 ways to make money with Photoshop

In Photoshop, place the Ambient Occlusion pass above the Final Color Output Layer, set to Multiply, 40% opacity. Copy the Final Color Output Layer, placed at the top of the stack, set to Soft Light. Copy>Cut>Paste your alpha channel layer into your Alpha Channels palette.

Step 3 – Gradient backdrop

20 ways to make money with Photoshop

Merge all layers, Cmd/Ctrl+click the new Alpha 1 channel thumbnail (Channels palette), making a selection, erasing the white backdrop from your merged layers. Create a new backdrop that makes characters stand out – I applied an orange to red radial gradient, adding Noise and Blur filters to eradicate print banding.


5: Producing premium stock resources


Designers always need a reliable premium stock resource to deliver high-quality graphics on tight deadlines. International artist Sorin Bechira ( tapped into this commodity with the Visual Freaks brand. He explains: “We group these by theme, creating distinctive elements that share the same design principles.”

90 per cent of the Visual Freak packs are designed using tools, brushes and effects available in Photoshop, or used to complement the compositing of 3D assets, ensuring high-resolution graphics. Although creating these is only half the battle – you still need to publicise your products. “We counted on the value of ours when promoting it,” Bechira reveals. “That is why most of our packs benefited from at least one feature on and other websites from the Behance Network.” Visual Freaks also received 3,500 visitors during the first month of launch because of posting to relevant blogs, as well as providing special sneak-preview exclusive packs with Abduzeedo, Advanced Photoshop and PSD Tuts+. “Marketing and advertising efforts with several daily deals sites can give you a constant social media presence,” Bechira explains.


6: Commerce from competitions and contests

20 ways to make money with Photoshop is more than a mere online apparel store. In fact, here you can win cash prizes and cement style popularity through an extensive online community. Members use Springleap to win prizes, network and attain credibility and exposure for their work. All competitions here are themed and run every two weeks, providing some impressive cash prizes – up to thousands of pounds. Winning designs are also printed so there’s extra incentive. Competition entry is free of charge. This site is more of a competition portal than a guaranteed cash cow, but for those of you looking to make a sincere income from this trade it’s all laid out for you here. The site categorises events into specific themes, including graphic design, photography, animation, illustration, multiple disciplines and student only. You’ll always find something suitable. Every competition has a detailed FAQ on-site and also includes direct links to the source.

– Adobe Imagination Challenge: This is one for the ambitious student, offering not just an annual chance to win massive bucks – three chances to win £10,000 and 18 chances to win £550 – but also receive notable exposure that could well transform your standing with commercial clients from the off. Finalists are placed in a gallery on the Imagination Challenge website ( for global online voting. This competition is a great way to be instantly involved with a global brand, instantly enriching your portfolio and bank balance if you should win. Regular updates mean you have plenty of chance to win, especially when you can submit a maximum of five proposals and receive one jury-selected prize per round. Each contest has a specific design theme centred on the iconic HUGO Man fragrance. Entering the HUGO Create challenge is again free of charge.


7: Purchasable apparel through limited runs

20 ways to make money with Photoshop
Photoshop has always been the choice software when it comes to T-shirt design. Even when importing vector-based artwork, this app can produce many effects to personalise outcomes. Blending modes are advantageous, letting you apply textures and create grunge styles. Photoshop can also generate an almost infinite amount of colours – easily matched to T-shirt fabric swatches supplied from local screen printers. These are accessed through your Color Picker Color Libraries with a range of Book presets, including PANTONE solid matte, solid coated, pastel coated and more.

However, keen creative skills must be reinforced with a clear agenda of how to make profit from your wares, but this needn’t always be purely out of a necessity to make money. This firstly seems paradox, until Joshua M. Smith AKA Hydro74 ( explains: “I’ve never tried to over sell something just for profit; instead, use it as a form of marketing, as well as something that the core target audience would be interested in possessing – in the end they’re the ones supporting your project.”
Smith has based much of his achievement in creating a sense of novelty in his products: “My success is based more on my limited runs I provide with every piece rather than trying to oversaturate or prolong runs, thus allowing myself to come up with new ideas continuously. The hardest part is deciding colours and placement, that is developed in Photoshop through several mock-ups. Having a solid template and being able to use Twitter to get feedback has helped in my decision process, far beyond what was expected.”


8: Commercial logotypes

20 ways to make money with Photoshop
Pino Lamanna ( dissects his logo design, revealing how you too can successfully create similar cool commercial styles

Step 1 – Style overview
Custom hand-drawn styles are profitable, adding a unique look and feel that makes brands stand out. This style is in demand in the fashion, creative and music industries.

Step 2 – Pen tool
Freehand sketches achieve unique font types in logos. The Photoshop Pen tool is the best digital option to trace around this, providing great handling of curves and edges through control points.

Step 3 – Unifying fonts
Adding a thick stroke to your edge creates an optical union of all elements. Simply apply a Stroke Layer Style (fx) to your font shape layer, then trace around it with the Pen tool before deactivating.

Step 4 – Combining colours
After drawing the outline, separate the elements of the logotype into independent layers, such as graphical elements or outline, and choose a suitable colour scheme. Look at current online themes for guidance.

Step 5 – Shape and shine
The cursive nature of the font coupled with bright colours and gloss effects – created with the Pen Shape tool – gives this design an urban edge, which is in vogue.


9: Concept art industry advice from Mike Corriero

20 ways to make money with Photoshop
“Post your work in online spaces that allow keywords or tags. It’s smart to include the name of the program you created the artwork with – that will maximise the amount of search engine hits it gets,” Corriero advises. “Digital painting offers you a simpler and better solution to record your process, to make content readily available and cross-promote it with a brand name such as Photoshop, that you already know is extremely popular within the entertainment industry.”
With the production of one image scattered across various outlets and venues, you’ll obtain a massive amount of cross-promotion, and exposure, through multiple platforms – prints, books, videos, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Tumblr or Youtube. “Let’s say you design a creature and hold on to as many rights as possible. Now you can sell prints of it, sell a process video tutorial and include it in your next art book,” he finally adds.


10: Turning to teaching

Throughout 2011 Studio Blup ( has been invited to a number of seminars at universities up and down the country. “The rewards are magnificent,” says studio head Mr Dines. “Not only do you feel like you’ve inspired and encouraged peers but it can be financially rewarding.” Teaching artists can look to gain fees ranging from £150 to £200 per hour.

However, before cash is assured there’s plenty of groundwork to be put in. Dines explains: “At the beginning we spoke for free and once the word spread of our capabilities, we began charging for travel and lunch. The buzz of our light-hearted and humorous talks began to spread.” Soon after, the Blup team realised this was a great opportunity to make money for funding the studio’s personal projects.

This also led to the team appearing at the 2011 OFFF festival in Barcelona. “We believed our work and were confident in what we wanted to say, so this helped us overcome any last-minute nerves. From the talk we gained a lot of press and exposure; that in turn got us more work.”


11: Producing profitable video content

20 ways to make money with Photoshop
A great way to profit from your Photoshop knowledge is through video tutorials. There are a number of ways to achieve success commercially. If this is an independent venture, remember physical DVDs do introduce additional overhead costs and the headache of shipping. Photoshop expert Kirk Nelson ( explains: “Digital delivery is usually preferred. There are even some training sites that will allow you to vend your videos in the same way photographers sell their stock images, such as, an Envato-run site I’m currently in the process of developing content for.”

Recognition can help you challenge more demanding obstacles on the road to viable profits. Nelson elaborates: “By way of simple commission is a good way to earn. If publishers need a video of a certain technique, they pay you to do it. Of course, this approach requires you to be known and in good standing with said publishers.” Most challenging yet lucrative is developing a video series, as he agrees: “If this becomes popular enough you can get sponsors through a site like YouTube. These are rare, but inspiring. For an example, look for the “You suck at Photoshop” series.”


12: Global crowdsourcing sites

20 ways to make money with Photoshop

Crowdsourcing sites auction commercial opportunities to specifically skilled creative individuals in a professional and secure environment. With a diverse range of clients actively visiting and uploading to these site, hosts in turn provide a level playing field through equal opportunities – diverse categories for featured projects include logo design, graphic design, print design, mobile UI, stationery, clothing, writing and more. Similar to competitions, you’ll be competing against your peers, but the odds are greatly in your favour, with commissions updated daily.

The most essential assets you’ll need to make money will be time and persistence – there are no guarantees, but a consistent presence will set you in good stead against peers. CrowdSPRING ( in particular can offer regular cash incentive into thousands of dollars. DesignContest ( continually monitor entries for quality and originality, so not only can you win big cash prizes but the site also rates your skill sets, thus enhancing your chances of further commissions from visiting clients. Here, ranking systems are points-based from the Top Designers listing. Also explore and


13: Client appeal with unique UI design

With the rise of portable devices, likewise iOS and Android operating systems, apps have become a huge commodity for digital fans. Many companies including Adobe are creating interactive solutions to entertain creatives and enhance their production. This of course has created another huge opportunity for web-based designers to make money. UI design now extends to these software applications, with Photoshop driving custom asset creation.

These are a much more attractive proposition to clients, as Chris Grannell, development director at Red Ninja Studios ( explains: “This makes a consumer product stand out from white label apps that may do a similar job. Keeping the app on brand is essential and the attention to detail will make your app a unique experience for the user. If you’re serious about making money from app UI design, then you need to learn about device resolutions – make sure you’re disciplined when it comes to button and image sizes. There is no point in having pages of information that the user cannot read.

“Try to create a unique style that means you will be chosen over other designers out there. Providing one-to-one mock-ups, so the client can load these images up on their device to get a feel of what their app is going to look like in the real world, is essential!”


14: Making money with CG assets


Deanna M. Finocchiaro AKA Surreality believes the brokerage at DAZ 3D is the ideal for selling CG assets, explaining: “The focus is on realistic, creative textures in a variety of styles. All textures are seam-checked by quality assurance, and brokered artists are paid a commission of 50 per cent for each sale.” To submit items for consideration by the review team, send your product to

15: Photo style signatures sell

20 ways to make money with Photoshop
To be successful at selling on photo stock sites you’ll need to find a niche, or so international photographer Lise Gagné believes. Carving out successful commerce herself, she advises: “It’s important to set a mood with eye-catching and story-telling images. Be creative and unique. Prepare your photo shoot meticulously; it might ask a lot of you but it’s worth it. Shoot in RAW too, as the quality is as important as the subject.”

Don’t be afraid to process the very best of your images, as this can create a visual signature – no matter how dramatic or subtle this may be. “This is the way that clients and customers will recognise your works from hundreds of others,” explains Gagné. “Don’t be afraid to stylise and enhance your images. I love to work with Photoshop, applying layer masks to keep the original file always editable. Dodge and Burn tools add light and shadow, and the Liquify tool and Glow Filter add a little something extra.”

16: Lucrative eBooks with Andrew Brooks

20 ways to make money with Photoshop
“I’ve always felt that being able to communicate the ideas behind my images and the process that goes into creating these is really important,” explains Andrew Brooks ( “When I saw that enhanced eBooks had got to a stage where you could also add audio and video, as well as images, I saw a great opportunity to create a book about my fantasy-based work.

“There are so many different photographic elements that go into the New Worlds strand of my work, so it was good to find a way of telling people how they are constructed using camera and Photoshop. Some images are made up of elements from over 15 photo shoots and audio explanation about this brings the work to life.”

Brooks used Apple Pages software to format the book, adding audio, video and hyperlinks to the images. “I then used BookBaby as an aggregator to upload the book onto iTunes, making it available globally for Apple digital devices,” he explains. “When the eBook was released, I was able to use design blogs and photography Twitter feeds to spread the word. As this is a new way for photographers and digital artists to share their ideas and images, I was able to promote it well.”

Brooks also added an edited section of one of his recent talks, and as an added bonus a music video created using footage made only with still shots from a digital SLR. You can find the book, formatted for iPhone and iPad only, by looking up New Worlds by Andrew Brooks on the iTunes Store.


17: Additional income with tutorials

20 ways to make money with Photoshop
It’s important to keep in mind that your tutorial work is first and foremost based on your personal style. Strike a balance between innovation and familiarity when you create new designs. Rob Shields (, regular contributor and beneficiary, concurs: “The ideal mixture is fifty-fifty, but in reality you will probably waiver between the two from month to month. The important thing is to push your skill level while remembering what you value – in other words what kind of brand you’re selling. This will keep people interested and keep you moving forward in this industry.”

Aside from keeping your style fresh, it’s likewise important to make your work apparent. Shields explains: “This means not only selling an image but selling a process as well. If you can do this successfully, editors will have a better idea of exactly what you’re bringing to the table. A good place to showcase this is within a web blog or news section on your website.” With magazines offering no more than £80 per page, it’s imperative to use such techniques to stay in the minds of editors.


18: Make bucks with your blog

20 ways to make money with Photoshop
In this industry, especially at present, it can be challenging to make money from a new venture, so it will take a lot of hard work and perseverance. Getting yourself out there, making yourself known and meeting the right people is essential if you’re to stand a chance of making money from your ideas. A great way to do this is to run a separate blog or news site from your personal website portfolio, where you can actually make money from hosting advertising.

Gordon Reid, founder of Middle Boop (, has found success by doing this, as he tells us: “Advertising is an obvious route to go down, but you can’t guarantee this without proving to people your site is as good as you believe it to be. The best way of doing this is by meeting contacts face to face, and really selling yourself and your site. By doing this, you never know the limit to the deals you could attain.”

Offer incentives, like really cheap or even free deals of ad space, for people you actually want advertising on your site, and use those names to find other advertisers who may not be as trendy but may pay a decent rate. “Do things differently, put on events to the public, exhibitions or gigs¬¬¬ – this is a great way to meet your readers, build up contacts and make some money too,” adds Reid. “If you get known for putting on great events, people will not only flock to the event, they’ll continue to read and promote your site too. Through that you will be able to get more hits and make new contacts. Do a joint event with similar sites or magazines to really get buzz going.”


19: Cover artwork commissions


If you can tolerate a fast-paced and competitive environment, you’ll reap the rewards of working in this lucrative editorial-based market with edited styles. “Success is based on how well you follow instructions,” explains digital artist MichaelO ( Having produced covers for Macmillan, EDGE, and Imagine Publishing, he advises: “As artists, we have a vision of what works, tempted to push this opinion on clients. However, in the editorial market they’re only interested in using your skill to produce their idea. Your energy would be better spent speeding up your Photoshop techniques with prepared Actions and custom paintbrushes.”

This editorial field is small compared to other industries and so repeat business is essential. Many publications are ongoing; publishers tend to stick with what works, so once your foot is in the door dig in your heals. “Retain strong relationships by replying to emails promptly, using correct grammar, and get work done on time,” he adds. “Follow up completed jobs by sending examples of new work. This will help keep you in the client’s mind at all times.”


20: Marketing your brush skills


Selling brushes can be advantageous but extremely competitive. The web is saturated with free samples, so quality is paramount to ensure sales. Graphic designer Liora Blum ( is one success story working with this commodity, as she advises: “I knew it was unlikely that I would manage to make money from brushes alone, unless I partnered with someone who would take time to deal with marketing, customers and the financial aspects of the business for me.” This partner was

Actively seeking such clients is a possibility, marketing your skills and services at places such as There are two distinct ways to generate income: flat or percentage payment. The second can be more profitable over longer periods, guaranteeing steady profit. Remember though, clients are looking for two main factors: originality and hi-res sizes. Blum finally explains: “Pay close attention to each and every brush in terms of cleanliness, making sure of no stray pixels. This always gives them a competitive edge.”