How about doing a really fun retro comic book effect on your favorite
photographs of your favorite people with Photoshop Elements (all
It's fun to do and you'll totally amaze your friends
This is a somewhat long tutorial so be sure to save your work
often as a Photoshop Format file (.psd). This will save all of
your layers so you can work on it over a couple of days if necessary.
The technique is not particularly difficult using a few different
Elements techniques and the result is surprisingly effective!
The look of a page is quite a bit different from what you would
normally do in Elements. The images of a retro comic page can be
grainy with visible half tone values.
The paper is generally off white and the text is contained in text
boxes, speech balloons and thought balloons.
The first thing to do is find a suitable photograph to work with - this
one should do nicely ....
This is a straight forward three step technique ...
first thing to do is increase the overall contrast of the picture with
a Levels adjustment.
Create a new Levels Adjustment layer
and pull the Shadow and Highlight sliders in toward the centre
A Input setting around 60 for the Shadows (left slider) and around 220
Highlights (right slider) should do nicely.
Leave the middle
slider alone unless you feel an urgent need to move it somewhere.
After completing the adjustment, flatten the image (Layer > Flatten Image).
Here's the image after this initial adjustment ....
Select Filters >
Artistic > Film Grain and mess about with the
settings. On this picture I used these settings ...
Grain - 6
Highlight - 5
Intensity - 10
To get this result ...
This is coming along quite nicely, isn't it?
The third step is to duplicate the Background layer, add a color half
tone effect to the image and change the Blend Mode to Darken.
The recommended settings from the original tutorial I saw are ...
Max Radius - 4
Channel 1 - 108
Channel 2 - 162
Channel 3 - 90
Channel 4 - 45
Leave the 4 channels alone but you can mess about with the Max
Radius. The picture I am using is large and with the Max Radius
set to 4 the halftone was too small.
With the Max Radius set to the default of 8 - the halftone was too large.
The best setting was a Max Radius of 6. Play with this setting
This is how we're looking now ...
The addition of the Color Halftone has the potential to make a face too
red. If this is the case then a Hue and Saturation Layer will
take care of the unwanted
Add a Hue and Saturation adjustment layer and move the Saturation
Slider to the left until you're happy with the look.
I guess we could stop right here but there is more to do to build a
retro comic book page.
Building The Page
A retro comic page generally has interesting text and speech bubbles
What we have so far is good but it needs some retro comic book
to spruce up the page.
The first thing that this one needed was a bit of cropping before the
next step. A full face is a good thing to aim for - or not - do
whatever you wish.
The border will be added by increasing the Canvas size.
Go to Image > Size > Canvas
Size ... which will bring up this panel.
Put a check mark in the Relative box and then change the units to
Pixels. With the size of my image (500 pixels X 325 pixels) a 25 pixel
border seems to work quite well.
The color should be kind of a an off color comic book page color - and
this one a good choice - #E3D3C0.
At the bottom of the palette is the Canvas extension color
selection. Copy E3D3C0, click the little color swatch and paste
the color into here ...
The color for the paper can be modified to your taste.
Now you've got a retro comic image and a canvas. Here it is ...
Not looking too bad, is it?
So now we have the photo turned into a comic picture and a background
paper has been added. Now its time to add some text. The
first one is a Headline Text Box that will set the scene for the page.
This is how to do it ...
Add a new layer and create a rectangular selection like this ...
Now - either paint the selection an orangy color or create an orange
foreground to background gradient and drag it in the selection - I
chose the gradient.
The next step is to add a black stroke around the gradient - go to Edit > Stroke (Outline) Selection ...
My settings are a 2 pixel black line on the inside of the selection.
This is the top Headline box ...
The bottom text box will be a bit larger than the top one.
Create another new layer and drag out a selection (in my case on the
bottom right corner). Fill it with white and apply a stroke as in
the Headline box.
Here's the retro comic page to this point ...
Now we're going to add a border on the outside of the picture which is
the inside of the paper layer.
Create a new layer and drag a rectangular selection on the outside of
the picture (the inside of the paper layer).
Go to Edit > Stroke (Outline)
Select Black as the stroke color and set the width according to the
size of your image - this may take a few tries until it meets with your
The frame will need to be modified a bit because it's too sharp.
While still on the frame layer select ...
Filters > Blur >
Blur More ...
> Distort > Ripple (amount around 20%, size
Enhance > Adjust
Sharpness (keep an eye on the Frame in the Preview)
(the last step is optional - try it to see if the you like the result).
You can see the frame no longer has sharp edges - it's kind of
distressed and in keeping with the rest of the page.
The text is the easy part to add - all you need are some comic fonts
and they are readily available with a quick search.
The hardest part about adding text is deciding what to say!
You're going to create a layer for each text box, resize the text and
drag it over the text frames you created earlier - it's that simple.
The big letter "S" is on it's
own layer, resized and a nice color
added. It was then dragged into position. Of course - the
first letter of "say cheese"
The next thing is that each text layer had a drop shadow added.
This is the end result ...
retro comic page has both speech and thought bubbles - this ones
Elements has some built in speech and thought bubbles and they are easy
to use (no drawing of bubbles required).
Go to Window > Content and
drop down the selector on the right and then select Graphics.
The Speech and Thought bubbles are close to the bottom.
When you find one you like either double click on it or select it and
click Apply. The bubble will appear as a new layer over your
It can be dragged around and re-shaped by clicking on the edges and
giving it a good drag. Click the little green arrow when you are
done. Now add a new text layer above the bubble and type in
whatever strikes your fancy.
The bubble layer can also have some styles added.
Go to Layer > Layer Style >
Style Settings ... and mess about with the different options
(Drop shadows, Glows, Bevels and Strokes).
I added a drop shadow, an inner glow an outer glow and a bevel to my
And - ta da - here is my final retro comic page ...
This is a long tutorial with lots of steps but the end result is worth
it, don't you think. And - it is just a lot of fun.
Imagine how your friends and family will react when you feature them in
a retro comic!