From hand drawn to digital art

For my very first poster in our poster design class, I decided to go a much different route than I do with all of my other design projects. I decided to illustrate. But I wanted to still be able to edit and manipulate the poster in Photoshop. I’ve seen my classmate John, and others, pull this off many times but haven’t really tried it myself. So I asked him for some pointers to be able to take my illustrations into the digital realm. He has a great instagram with his work and his blog is pretty inspiring (, you should check it out. I also googled a bunch of random tutorials to see what people were doing, but none of them were all that helpful. This post said pretty much the same thing John said, but it’s fairly helpful:

First I started off by brainstorming ideas for the concept of my poster. It was a concert by a collective group of musicians from different bands. I knew it should be an eye-catching illustration that is somewhat random, but also evokes empathy and emotion, because that’s what the collective’s music is like. It was also a benefit for MusiCares, which raises money for musicians in times of need. So I knew that the poster needed to capture humanity somehow. I eventually ended up creating the shape of a guitar with hand written type.

Second step was to draw it! I sketched it out many times in pencil till I got it where I wanted it.


John gave me a tip and told me it would be easier to work with if it was in crisp black pen, so I traced the pencil drawings (very carefully) on the light table, with a fine tip sharpie.


I then scanned these and opened them in Photoshop. I converted them to grayscale and then did a levels adjustment. Go to Image–>Adjustments–>Levels, and move the highlight, shadow, midtone sliders around until the image looks as black and white as possible. You want to get rid of any grays in between black and white.

step1 step1b

Then, to make sure you make it really dark, do a threshold adjustment and move the slider until it looks as saturated as possible.

step2 step2b

Then, you’re going to select all the white or all the black. I selected all the white. Go to Select–>Color Range–>and use the eyedropper to pick black or white on the image.

step3 step3b

Once you have the white selected, (or the black, and then selected the inverse), delete it. Then you will just have the black of the type. To make it a little thicker and darker, double click on the layer in the layer panel, and then in the layer style dialogue box, add a color overlay of solid black. At this point, you can command click on the little image of the canvas in the layer panel and you will have all of the black selected. You can copy and paste this into a new document. Then you can start painting color with the outlines.


In that document, I deleted the white background, made it black, and added a layer of solid white, with a layer mode of overlay, to give the background a gray glow. Then I painted behind the outlines with soft brushes with different opacities. Here is the final poster: