A Guide to Digital Photo Illustration

Are you wanting to create beautiful pictures but don’t feel like you’re able to draw? Are you intrigued by the idea of photo illustration but don’t know where to start?

Digital photo illustration is a wonderful way to explore your creativity without falling into the trap of being too critical. Even a messy style can make a stunning illustration. That’s why many people are enjoying this process of turning their favorite photographs into something special.

It’s an easy hobby to start, so keep reading to learn how it works!

Prepare Your Tools

Since you’re diving into both trending technology and art, you’ll need the tools to match.

There are many digital drawing tablets available, both with and without screens. A computer tablet is another great option since many manufacturers sell stylus accessories to go with their products.

If you have nothing like this available, you can always use your mobile phone as your drawing tool. It’ll be more difficult to work with the smaller screen, but it still gives you great results!

Select a Program

To do anything to the photo, you’ll need an image editing program. You don’t need anything as expensive as Photoshop unless you’re planning to do this as a profession.

There are many types of drawing and photo manipulation programs out there. Many of them, such as Krita and Gimp, don’t cost anything at all while still giving you high-quality tools.

Find the Perfect Photo

Next, you’ll need to find a set of photos for your photo illustrations. These photos can be of anything and everything. Many people tend to go with portraits and selfies, but there’s no limit to what you can create.

For your first attempt, pick something that inspires you and doesn’t intimidate you with too many details.

Choose a Style

There are as many illustration styles as there are people. Each person gives their unique spin to a photo so there’s never a result that’s quite like anything else.

The good news is that there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to style. It’s all down to personal taste. As long as you like it, then it’s the right choice.

That said, there are some genres of styles to help guide you, especially as a beginner. We’ll touch on a few of them, but don’t forget to check out this blog for even more ideas!


The cartoon style is a popular one because it’s a lot of fun to create. It’s often represented with bold colors, simplistic lines, and exaggerated features.

Take a look at your photograph and figure out which parts of the photo are the most important. Which parts help you tell a story?

These are the ones you’ll want to emphasize as you work on your illustration. With a cartoon style, less is always more!


One of the most beginner-friendly styles is the one that only follows the outlines of the photo. There’s no need to worry about colors or extra details. Simply outline the parts you want to feature in a brush that you like, and then you’re done.

It’s a simple style but it’s effective. If you want to get more detailed with it, try adding lines of shading to give the illustration more depth.


There’s something unique about the faceless style. This is a style that only works on live creatures like humans and pets, but it’s a creative choice that never fails to excite.

This is similar to the outline method, but with a big difference. Instead of following the picture with lines, you’ll follow the picture with colors. For example, instead of outlining the shape of a face, you’ll fill in that shape with a color.

Leave the face blank. It’s okay to add eyebrows or a mouth to give a sense of emotion, but don’t fill in the eyes. It makes the illustration appear more mysterious but also relatable.

Our face recognition is so good that it’s easy to fill in the blanks and allows the viewer to interact with the illustration.

Turn the Photo Into a Work of Art

To create your photo illustration, upload your photo into the drawing program or computer tablet. Then, using a stylus, get used to the different brushes until you find one you like.

On a new layer, draw over the details of the photo in a way you find pleasing. Follow the shapes and lines of the photo, but don’t be afraid to experiment and go off the path. Go with the flow that seems right to you.

As you cover up the original photo with your brushstrokes, you’ll create your photo illustration. Play around and have fun with it until you’ve got the result you want.

Try and Try Again

One of the best things about digital art is that it’s easy to try new things without fear. You can undo any mistake and you can always load up another copy of the original photo if you want to start over.

This means that it’s possible to keep trying until you get the style you want. Don’t be afraid to practice. It’s not only fun, but it’ll also improve your skills!

Share Your Art

Now that you’ve created something you enjoy, make sure you share it with the world. Share it on Instagram or upload it as your profile photo. Invite friends over to look at your newest creation.

What’s even better is to take a friend or family member’s favorite photograph and turn it into a piece of artwork as a gift. It lets them relive a fond memory in a whole new way. Plus, they get to display a beautiful and unique masterpiece.

Don’t be afraid to share an illustration. It helps you grow as an artist, and it’s a lot of fun to get some feedback!

Explore Your Personal Style With Digital Photo Illustration

The best part about photo illustration is the fact that you show off all of your personality and style with each of your creations. Even if you and ten other people used the same photo as a base, every illustration would come out unique.

This type of technology trend gives you unlimited possibilities!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog for more fun and life-enhancing trends!

Cheryl Henson

Cheryl Henson is a passionate blogger and digital marketing professional who loves writing, reading, and sharing blogs on various topics.

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