Photoshop: Digital Portraits


Sep 6th,

12:00pm — 3:00pm

Location: Steinberg 006

About The Workshop

This workshop will serve as an introduction to image-making and editing in Photoshop, with an emphasis on working non- destructively, I.e. preserving image information and allowing for future edits.

We will introduce students to using adjustment layers, layer masks, clipping masks, and Photoshop brushes to create digital illustrations, collages, and photo editing. We will also cover installation of Photoshop brushes from the Creative Cloud website, as well as how to work with a pressure sensitive pen tablet in Photoshop. We will cover driver installation for Wacom tablets on Mac computers.

Adjustment layers the workshop will cover:
• Hue/Saturation
• Levels
• Curves
• Photo filter
• Gradient map

Tools covered:
• Lasso and marquee selection tool
• Brush tool
• Eraser tool
• Smudge tool

Cross Disciplinary Connections

The techniques taught during this workshop will be beneficial to the Sam Fox community as follows:

Studio art students that work with traditional materials: learning this skill set will help them better edit photos of their work in order to present it in the best light when applying to shows, grants or displaying them on their website.

Design students: will have better control over editing photos in their layouts as well as portfolio images of their 3D packaging designs. Working with Photoshop brushes they can also create illustrated type and patterns. Photoshop is a great tool for designing and manipulating textures that can then be implemented into printed layouts, packaging, animations or web layouts. Final color and contrast adjustments can help their designs stand out during presentations.

Architecture students: applying these techniques will help them improve the quality of their presentation images. It will allow them to have more precise selections when importing architectural entourage into their renderings. rough adjustment layers they can better control the contrast of their images in order to design a strong focal point. Surface Materials on their renderings can be added, replaced or enhanced through Photoshop editing as well. Layer masks will give them greater control of layer opacity and how elements fade in their composition. Curves adjustments can help enhance lighting contrast and temperature in a rendered image.


There will be two components to this workshop. A demo and a project that students will work on. The demo will start by introducing the basic tools of Photoshop as well as the function of adjustment layers and layer masks. All of these tools will be put to use as I demo how to create an illustrated digital portrait sketch. After the first portrait, I will show a different approach where photographic material is manipulated and gradient maps are used to create a collage portrait sketch.
Students will create a digital portrait sketch from photo reference. We will cover how to search for high resolution images. Students may use their own reference if it has clear directional lighting and adequate resolution. They can choose to create either an illustrated portrait using Photoshop brushes or a collage based portrait. More advanced students may choose to do both or integrate both approaches into a single image. Students can interpret the subject matter and design their composition in any way they see fit.

Learning how to preserve image information for future editing, also known as working non-destructively, in Photoshop is of great benefit to any designer, architect or studio artist. Learning about adjustment layers combined with using a pressure sensitive pen tablet will teach students how to have more control over editing, manipulating and designing their images. Planning out image adjustments through separate layers allows students to be more purposeful with how they design their images, it also facilitates revisions, iterations and experimentation throughout any stage of the process.
Digital sketching is also a great skill for every Sam Fox student to incorporate. It allows for flexibility through working with layers and provides a low pressure environment that facilitates iteration and experimentation. It is a great tool for ideation in any creative discipline.

Resources for Continued Investigation

For further investigation into working with pen tablets in Photoshop, students should use the Cintiq Lab. Wacom Cintiqs are tablet monitors where you can draw digitally directly on the screen. They allow the highest degree of precision for digital painting and photo editing.
The photo lab is another great resource to explore in order to take high quality photos for better editing or as reference for digital illustrations.

Next Steps

For further questions about Adobe Photoshop, pen tablets, other image editing software or work-flows you can email me at or you can schedule an appointment during office hours.
For further inquiry into illustration and digital image making you can contact:
John Hendrix
D. B. Dowd
Shreyas R Krishnan
Jeff Pike
Linda Solovic
Edward Kinsella
Dmitri Jackson

For further inquiry into using digital techniques for image-making in studio art contact:
Tim Portlock

For further inquiry into photography and photo manipulation contact:
Meghan Kirkwood
Heather Bennett

Recommended courses:
Digital Studio
Pictures for Communication
Basic Illustration
Word and Image
Big and Graphic: Making Posters with Type and Image Making Comics


  • Tom Moore, Instructional Technologist

    Tom Moore is an illustrator based in St. Louis. He graduated with an MFA in Visual Art from Washington University in 2015 and has since worked a variety of editorial, video, and packaging illustration projects. His clients include The Boston Globe, Bleacher Report, The New Republic, Politico Europe, and The Saint Louis Brewery - Schlafly. His work has been featured in the Society of Illustrators - Los Angeles and American Illustration annuals. In fall 2019 he started working as the instructional technology specialist for the Communication Design program at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art. Website:

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