As we can see, creating illustrations is a pretty fun way to add some spark to your pictures. A lot of people start experimenting with drawing or painting as an art form, and then realize that they love it!

Illustrations have become very popular in our media-filled world. They are great for enhancing otherwise plain photos, making them stand out more. Or you could create your own unique illustrations!

There are many ways to digitally illustrate a photo. You can use free apps, website tools, or paid software to achieve this. No matter what method you choose, make sure to research each one before using it to ensure it will not hurt your camera/phone! Some applications and websites may cost money, but are totally worth it if you enjoy doing digital artwork.

This article will go over several easy methods to take your artistic skills to new heights by illustrating different types of images.

Create a painting-like background

how to digitally illustrate a photo

When choosing what style of illustration you want to use, there is an initial step that requires no digital tools at all. You will need to take your photo down a not very fun tangent by editing it into something more neutral.

This can be done in software such as Photoshop or Lightroom. There are several free resources online that can help you do this too. Some people even upload their own photos onto stock sites to get rid of some of the “style” that they like about them.

Once this has been completed, you can then begin creating your new painted look background! Settings for this may vary from person to person so please do not just copy someone else’s work. What works best for you will tinker around until you find it.

Find your inspiration and create your digital illustration

how to digitally illustrate a photo

As we already mentioned, finding inspiration for digital illustrations is easy! You can look through magazines, sites, or even just take some time to explore different styles and techniques.

There are many ways to get creative with digital art. You do not have to stick to simple shapes and patterns; you can try experimenting more. There are plenty of free resources online that can help get you started as well.

As seen before, creating an illustrative piece does not need too much advanced technology or software. All you really need is your own creativity and style to pull it off.

When beginning to design your artwork, remember to keep it light-hearted and fun. Try drawing from things that inspire you, and use textures and colors to add depth and realism to your image.

Use the photo’s background as a reference for your painting-like background

how to digitally illustrate a photo

When editing or digitally altering a photograph, one of the first things you should do is look at the surrounding area of the picture. What colors does the sky have? What shades of green are in the plants?

These color schemes can be used as references for what colors to use in your new illustration. By using similar colors to make it seem like it belongs there, you will achieve an authentic looking digital art piece!

General tips: remember that we mentioned earlier about how important it is to use original photos – now apply this tip to adding illustrations to pictures!

If possible, take some time to find the copyright owner and permission before altering the image.

Outline your illustration

how to digitally illustrate a photo

Now that you have your source photo, it’s time to start designing your new image! The first thing you will need to do is create an outline of the image. This will help direct where the focus of the picture goes and what part of the image gets cut off.

You can now begin drawing your design or creating shapes in photoshop or other software. Try experimenting with different styles, colors, and textures until you find one that fits well with your original picture.

Once you have found your style, go into Photoshop or another editing program and paste your designed element onto the image. Then, reduce the opacity of this new layer down to about 30% so some of the background color comes through but enough to see the shape of the element.

Lastly, increase the blend mode of this new layer to either overlay or soft light which should give the effect more depth and intensity than just using the regular setting.

Start creating your digital illustration

how to digitally illustrate a photo

Starting with something you have in abundance is the best way to begin designing your new artwork! You can use pictures you already have, or create new images using free or paid software.

There are many ways to start incorporating illustrations into your designs. Creating an illustrative design does not necessarily mean drawing everything from scratch. You do not need to be trained as an artist to get started designing.

Here are some easy ways to start digitally illustrating. Read more about these tips here!

How to digitially illustrate

1. Use inspiration as materials for designs

Inspiration comes in many forms; it can be artistic, natural, seasonal, conceptual, or anything else that gives you ideas. Using this material as a resource for designs is one of the most effective ways to add digital illustrations to your style.

You can take pieces of the design completely out of the picture and mix and match them together, or you can keep all of the elements and combine them into one whole image.

2. Find analogues of how to draw like lines

Line art is very popular today because it’s easily modified and organized. Line drawings are also said to help improve hand-eye coordination and perception of space.

Finding analogue shapes and patterns of line work helps you learn how to draw those perfect lines. Some of the easier ones to find include circles, squares, and triangles.


Use the pencil tool to add shapes to your illustration

how to digitally illustrate a photo

The first way to digitally illustrate is by using the Pencil Tool. This tool can be used in many ways. You can either draw lines, squares, or free-form designs.

The best way to use this tool is to start with an outline of the image. Then, you can add inner details to create your digital illustration.

You can also blend colors for your artwork. Once everything is complete, go in and edit the shape and color of the pencil line to make it look more natural.

Use the paintbrush to add colors to your illustration

The second way to digitally illustrate a photo is by using the tool called “paintbrushes” or simply, as it is often referred to, ‘the pen tool.’ This allows you to pick your color palette and mix and match them together to create your image.

By choosing different shades of each color in your picture, your digital illustrator will then apply these colors onto your drawing in a variety of ways- for example, creating lines, circles, squares, triangles, etc.

The best way to learn how to use this tool effectively is to experiment with it. You do not have to stick to only picking colors from the computer screen, either! There are many apps that feature online color schemes where you can find new inspiration.

Finish your digital illustration

how to digitally illustrate a photo

Now that you have completed all of the steps, it is time to save and edit your final image. You can either upload your work directly from the website where you created it or you can choose to export it as a PDF, JPEG, PNG, or another file format.

Most software allows you to customize your saved images by editing colors, shapes, and styles. For example, you may want to add in some text or use different brushes to emphasize certain parts of your picture. Take your time to do this if needed!

Once done, you can share your new artwork via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more.


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