Kathleen Martin adds expression to a photo by layering it with colorful illustrations. See how she creates a textured crayon portrait in Adobe Fresco.

What you'll need

This sample file is an Adobe Stock asset you can use to practice what you learn in this tutorial. If you want to use the sample file beyond this tutorial, you can purchase a license on Adobe Stock. Check out the ReadMe file in the folder for the terms that apply to your use of this sample file. 

Use a reference

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

Toolbar on the left shows the import images icon selected and the options available are Camera, Photos, Files, Creative Cloud

Guide the sketch

Before starting, Martin tapped the + 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 then tap the eye icon to show it.

Sketch ruler boundaries appear across the girl’s head in the photo, red lines extend to the sketch on the canvas

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 from the bottom menu, then used the corner handles to resize the selection. She tapped Done and Deselect when finished. Martin used this technique to make the head smaller.

Lasso tool is selected on the left, a boundary appears around the left foot in the sketch, Transform is highlighted at bottom

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.

Eyedropper tool picks a color from the jacket; Right: Brushes panel shows Conte Crayon and part of the sketch has color

Blend media

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

The digital drawing with a bounding box appears almost inline over the girl in the photo

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.

Digital sketch is over the original photo, layer options with Create empty mask selected, red mask overlay on left leg

Complete the scene

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

Most of the city scene has been colored in with the Conte Crayon brush; left side of the face and left foot from photo appear

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

Six images in a grid of artist’s work who blended illustration with a photo

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

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