The Fundamentals of Photo-Illustration in Photoshop

Mastering Image Creation and Photo Illustration in Photoshop

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  • Lectures 16
  • Video 8.5 Hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion

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Course Description

The Fundamentals of Basics of Photo Illustration & Image Creation in Photoshop is a step-by-step, guided tour through 15 projects, start to finish, that will lead the student from basic understanding, to a mastery of image creation & photo illustration techniques. The Photo Illustration & Image Creation in Photoshop course is designed for the artist who wants to progress beyond the simple tips and tricks phase of Photoshop, and dig into Photoshop in a deeper way. The techniques presented are the result of over 20 years of experience in professional imaging and photography. The student will learn how to combine multiple images into a seamless whole, and enhance single images beyond what the camera saw, as well as create image elements from scratch using just Photoshop native filters and tools. This is not a beginning level course and it will require a serious commitment from the student. Over 9 hours of video step-by-step tutorials provide serious training with over 2.4 gigs of downloadable supplementary material.

Take this ultimate the basics of photo illustration & image creation course right now and learn your Photoshop skills.


What are the requirements?

  • Knowledge of your computer
  • Photoshop CS5 or higher
  • Basic understanding of Photoshop
  • Desire to learn professional level techniques

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Over 16 lectures and 8.5 hours of content!
  • Learn how to make and refine selections
  • Learn to use Layers and Layer Masks
  • Learn how to adjust the brightness and color of individual layers.
  • Create lighting effects
  • Create drop shadows and shading
  • Do figure shaping and retouching
  • Create special illustrative effects
  • Learn B&W conversion techniques
  • Work with type and type effects
  • Learn advanced masking techniques for hair
  • Master blend modes and advanced Blending Options
  • Learn advanced "lighting in layers" technique

What is the target audience?

  • This course is intended for students with a basic understanding of Photoshop, and the use of the basic tools & interface. It will be of special interest to photographers who can capture their own elements

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Basic Skills for Photo-Manipulation
Learn how to set up the Photoshop interface for maximum efficiency. Adjust the transparency preferences to enhance clarity of edge detail. Determine your color settings and set your Camera Raw preferences. Also includes a brief discussion of Color Workspace considerations and 16 bit vs 8 bit issues — these recommendations may surprise you but are the result of 20 years of experience!
This first project is about simulating a limited depth of field effect by throwing the background out of focus. Learn how to select and mask subjects using the Quick Select tool. Edit and refine the selection edge & convert to a Layer Mask. Look briefly at the new Iris Blur & Tilt-Shift filters and see why you might not want to use them. Examine the Shape Blur to simulate Lens Bokeh and use Content Aware Fill to eliminate a classic problem with blurring the background.
This project examines the act of placing one image on another background. You will learn how to make and modify selections & Layer Masks. We examine the basic layer organization features of Photoshop  with Clipping Masks and Groups. You will learn how to make drop shadows and see how to adjust layer brightness and color independently while maintaining maximum flexibility.
Another compositing project, this one examines the masking procedures for a difficult hair edge and starts the selection process with Color Range - a useful method for blue or green screen photography. Learn to fine tune selections and masks with paint tools and a blur and burn technique! We also look at an alternate method of generating a mask using  Calculations and blend the subject more fully with the background by coloring the hair wisps to suggest the lighting of the background. As a bonus retouching technique, skin smoothing is shown in detail – a very trick application of layers and apply modes.
This project shows how to remove an unwanted subject from a shot of musicians taken during a recording session. Learn how to "trick" Content Aware Fill into doing what you need it to do instead of inventing stuff you don't want - Along the way you will see how to use the Quick Selection tool, save Alpha channels, load selections, use the Gradient tool to do shading, add type and adjust Fill Opacity for effects using Layer Styles.
Section 2: Advanced Masking & Effects
This project shows two different composite images that utilize a brand new technique for blending very fine hair wisps seamlessly into new backgrounds. This does not rely on the Refine Edge dialog but instead uses Hard Light blend mode in the layer automatically knocking out background values of 128. You will learn some advanced layer blending techniques to achieve impossible blending effects -- great for photographers who can shoot their subjects in controlled lighting situations!
This project shows how to convert a color photo into the kind of classic B&W of the Hollywood glamour portraits of the 1930's. This is the Photoshop post processing part of my Classic B&W Portrait workshop at the California Photo Festival. Learn how to get the creamy tones of the old style photos of George Hurrell, as well as a vignetting technique, sepia toning & split toning, and the new Iris Blur filter in Photoshop. As a bonus, see how to shape the figure using Liquify and retouching tools.
This project starts with an historical examination of the principals of aerial perspective or the tendency of things to fade as they recede into the distance. This idea is then developed as it pertains to photographs and we look at a number of examples showing the application of "faux" aerial perspective in Photoshop. Finally, a project image is assembled that teaches how to use the Shadows/Highlights adjustment, the pen tool to make paths and selections, a High Pass Overlay technique for enhanced 3D contrast, the Clouds filter to simulate dust, and a screen layer to create light beams.
The project shows how to create a special "look" for an image that simulates a traditional film processing effect while maintaining maximum flexibility and control. The project continues with a contrast and "film grain" effect and finally arrives at a unique photo-drawing effect. Along the way you learn how to use a Reverse Curve adjustment layer, Layers and Layer Masks, Difference layer blend mode, Advanced Blending Options, Noise & Gaussian Blur filters, and Motion Blur & Unsharp Mask filters.
This project re-creates a traditional 1960's poster effect. Then, a unique psychedelic effect is added. Along the way, you will learn how to use the Threshold adjustment layer, layers & layer masks, Advanced Blending Options, Smart Objects, Gaussian Blur & Find Edges filters, Gradient Maps, and the Difference layer blend mode.
This project is actually three projects in one—all using displacement maps to get one image to follow the contours of another—two practical applications involving type and logos, and one special effect look for a portrait. You will learn how to use a grayscale image to apply lights and darks and use the same image to distort or displace an image to achieve a 3D effect. There is a step-by-step PDF associated with the video to provide another set of instructions & help with understanding. There are many small separate support files for this project and to make things simpler, I have compressed them into zip archives. You will have to use some kind of zip software (like winzip, etc ) to decompress the files - this feature is built-in to the Mac OS so simply double-clicking on the zip file should open the folder!
Section 3: Advanced Image Compositing
This project examines the construction of a still life image, assembled from multiple shots. Each shot becomes a layer with lighting from a specific direction. These layers are combined to create impossible lighting effects by painting into the layer mask where you want the light. This project will be of special interest for photographers who can shoot their own light layers. I have included an older PDF file to provide another conceptual angle for enhanced comprehension. Along the way, you will learn about layers and Layer Masks, Multiply and Screen blend modes, Groups and Clipping Masks, and the Hue/Saturation adjustment...
This project examines the construction of a Las Vegas style poster in detail. Besides Selections and Layer Masks, the step-by-step teaches you how to: refine the masks using a blur and burn technique, add hair highlights, darken the skin for a tanned look, create fire using the Clouds filter, Displace filter & a gradient, create reflections & a contact shadow, distort the reflection with Liquify, and organize everything with Clipping Masks and Groups.
This project examines the construction of a complex, multi-image composite for a Halloween poster. You will learn various masking techniques, as well as: use Liquify to stretch the fingers into claw shapes, convert a layer into a Smart Object, create lighting effects with gradients and stroked paths, and of course, organize everything with Clipping Masks and Groups.
The most complex project, this multi-image composite creates a movie poster Key Art image and utilizes most of the techniques covered in the other projects. Because of its complexity, I don't show the construction of the individual Layer Masks, and instead concentrate on the assembly of the elements. You will learn how to use Smart Objects, create drop shadows, adjust lighting, create a lens flare, and handle type and type effects. An important aspect of this tutorial is how to use Layer Comps to embed variations with different background elements and color effects into the same document. All of the elements used in the tutorial image are enclosed in the "" archive. I have also provided multiple versions of supplementary materials, in zip archives, for use in variations, but you should also consider using some of your own images as well... Finally, I have included the original RAW camera files for those of your that might be interested. This material is from my "Photo-Illustration" workshop and some of the material has been shot by my students. This is a heavy project and the downloads are fairly big files, please have patience when downloading the materials.
Concluding remarks and review of the techniques covered in the course. I hope that you have enjoyed learning more advanced professional Photoshop techniques and that the material provided here serves as inspiration for future explorations. May the force be with you and good luck in all your pixel adventures!

Instructor Biography

Photo-Digital Imaging Artist Lee Varis, 30+ years of professional imaging experience

Lee Varis is a photo-illustrator working in Hollywood. He has been involved in commercial photography for the last 35 years. He started working with computer imaging about 23 years ago and currently works with digital as well as conventional photography in conjunction with computer graphics to create images for use in print advertising.

Lee’s work has been featured on movie posters, video box covers, CD covers, numerous brochures and catalogs. He is responsible for the moth on the "Silence of the Lambs" movie poster! His creative imaging has been featured in National Geographic, Newsweek and Fortune magazines as well as trade journals like PDN, New Media, Micro Publishing News, Rangefinder and Photo Electronic Imaging. Most of Lee’s work starts off as photography that is manipulated in the computer using a wide variety of imaging software. Images are often re-combined with digital painting and effects or with additional photo elements to create digital images that transcend the original source materials.

Clients, art directors and fellow artists look for inspiration at Lee’s web site:

There he displays recent imaging work and updates on his numerous classes and workshops, as well as links to his blog and book websites. You can learn more about Lee's extensive career as an imaging artist from his presentation at Adobe:

Lee has also been involved with consulting and training activities for numerous corporate clients. He did two series of imaging seminars for Apple Computers that took him around the country to most of the major metropolitan areas and is currently active in seminar programs with APA, PPA, ASMP, and Julia Dean Photographic Workshops as well as a touring Creative Production Photoshop roadshow with Mogomedia. You can purchase a video download of a 3-day workshop he conducted at creativeLIVE here:

Lee’s first book was "Digital Photography for Creative Professionals" with Rockport Publishers 2003. This is an examination of professional applications of digital photography for commercial graphic artists and art directors concentrating on workflow issues and creative solutions for graphics workgroups. His best known book is the best seller: “Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies” Wiley Publishing 2006 & a 2nd edition in 2010. This book has become a must-have reference for every portrait and fashion photographer. His latest book is "Mastering Exposure and the Zone System for Digital Photographers, Cengage, 2010—a detailed examination of calibrating and shooting for ideal quality in digital captures. He has written numerous articles for Design Graphics, PEI, PC Photo, Rangefinder and Digital Photo Pro. Buy his books on Amazon from the links below:

As a fine artist, Lee has been working on a series of images based on the Tarot. Current progress on this project is on display at:

Lee's 40 years of experience in photography spans the transition from film to digital giving him an invaluable vantage point for teaching and inspiring future generations of artists.

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