Illustration • How-To How to Make an Illustrated Photo with Adobe Fresco

Add expression to photos with colorful illustrations.

Add expression to photos by layering them with colorful illustrations. See how Kathleen Martin uses brushes, colors, and masks to create a textured crayon portrait in Adobe Fresco.

Kathleen Martin is an illustrator and designer working in the Adobe Studio. An intrepid creative explorer, she traverses the digital landscape with an evolving toolkit of handy workflows. You can also find her as a host of Adobe Live on Behance.

Girl with long hair and a jacket in a crosswalk. Most of the scene is a drawing and part of original photo shows through. The Adobe Fresco logo is in the corner of the image.

Take a one-minute look at Martin’s technique in this video; the steps are written out below. 

Before You Start

Martin provided a Photoshop document. If you’d like to use it for practice, save her PSD to Creative Cloud Files or your preferred cloud service that you can access from your tablet. Then open Adobe Fresco and choose Import to open the PSD file.

Step 1: Use a Reference

Martin used a reference photo to begin her illustration. Feel free to either use the image in the PSD she provided or import your own.

Step 2: Guide the Sketch

Before starting, Martin tapped the + (plus-sign) icon to create a new layer. Then she enabled the ruler and chose the Conte Crayon brush from the Dry Media category. As she drew from the photo to the canvas, the brush snapped to the ruler, creating the straight lines she would use as guides. Martin continued to use the same brush as she drew the sketch on its own layer. She provided her sketch as a hidden layer in the PSD. If you’d like to use it, tap the sketch layer and then tap the eye icon to show it.

Step 3: Change Proportions

To add flair to the portrait, Martin exaggerated parts of the drawing. She chose the Lasso tool, drew a selection around the foot, tapped Transform in the bottom menu, and then used the corner handles to resize the selection. She tapped Done and Deselect when she was finished. Martin used this technique to make the head smaller.

Step 4: Get Ready to Color

Once Martin was ready to apply texture and color, she added a new layer to add color. She used the Eyedropper to select colors from the photo and drew with the Conte Crayon brush from the Dry Media category.

Step 5: Blend Media

When she finished the illustration, Martin selected the Transform tool and dragged the illustration over the original photo.

Step 6: Mask Reality

To create a composition that blended the illustration with the photo, Martin chose Create Empty Mask from the layer options. Then she painted with a black brush on the mask to hide portions of the illustration and reveal the photo underneath.

Step 7: Complete the Scene

Martin used these techniques to illustrate and blend the rest of the composition.

Have Some Hashtag Fun

Post your own creations and explore the great work others have submitted to social media using #toonme and #adobedrawing. 

Top left: Serge Acuna. Top right: Carvifox.

Middle left: Katie Chandler. Middle right: Alexia Khodanian.

Bottom left: Rob McKee. Bottom right: Carlota Borba.

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

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