How To Create a Superhero Stephen Fry in Photoshop

March 15, 2010 • By

In this tutorial, we’re going to paint a cartoon version of the ‘near-iconic’ Stephen Fry. The cartoon is styled in a comic book fashion but however, there’s still some painting to be done and this in the end, will be make the final image quite detailed.

Step 1

Starting off with a sketch of a younger Stephen Fry, I sketched out his prominent features such as his hair, slightly narrowed nose, dreamy eyes and chubby cheeks.

Step 2

Select the Pen Tool (P) and make sure the “paths” is chosen.

Step 3

I dragged the Fry sketch into the the main document window and resized it before tracing the face out in a layer above it. By the way, the document size is 1100 by 1300 and this makes the document window a portrait by orientation.

Step 4

After filling the path with a #f3dec6 colour, name the the layer “face base.”

Step 5

Secondly, make a  pen selection for the neck. Note that I didnt select both the face and the neck at the same time in one layer. This was because, I wanted to have a clear outline of the jaw area when I start painting the face.

Step 6

Fill the selection with the same base colour as the face and name the layer “neck.”

Step 7

a Soft Round brush with a #bb856d colour and in between painting, switch its opacity back and forth between 20% to 30%. Name the layer “face shade.” Using the Sketch as reference, trace out the features of the face and neck as shown below. This would be called the “shade” layer.

Step 8

For another layer, “dark shade.” Change the brush colour to #050404 with its opacity reduced to 10%, add more shades to the face and neck. The features here are made more pronounced. Use the Blur Tool (R) to smooth out of the paintings of all the “shades” layers too.

Step 9

Over the “dark shade” layer, create another layer and call it “highlights.” Set brush colour to #fef4f0 and reduce its opacity to about 30%. Paint the around the areas of the forehead, nose, cheeks, necks and ears. The result is a splash of light over the face.We’ll now go on ahead to merge the “face shade” layers down to the “face base” layer by pressing Crtl+E. Also go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise and set the Ratio to give both the merged layers a slight grainy look.

Step 10

For the eyebrows we’ll go to the Brushes Palette and fade the brush with the Fade Size set at 50.

Step 11

Paint the eyebrows.

Step 12

Select the Burn Tool (O), and on the “face” layer (the previously merged layers), burn out the outlines of the face. That is, the wrinkles below the eyes, the outlines of the nose and so on. With a larger brush size, burn the ares of the cheeks, chin, jaw, neck etc. The Range of the brush must be set to Highlights and its exposure reduced to 20%.

Step 13

Now set the Burn Tool’s Range to Midtones (Exposure: 25%) and proceed to burn the same areas highlighted above. With the Burn brush size reduced to 1px to 2px, work on the outlines of the face and neck as well. Now the image is given more solidity.

Step 14

In a new layer, use the Pen Tool to trace out Fry’s hair.

Step 15

Fill the hair with a black colour.

Step 16

Still on the “hair” layer, select the Brush Tool (B) and set its colour to #53524f and paint strips of lines on the hair. Never mind exceeding the boundaries of the hair when painting over it.

Step 17

Now for the interesting part. Select the Smudge Tool (R) and set its Strength to 80% and smear the grey lines over the hair in the form of waves. On the edges of the hair, smudge inwards. It will take your intuition to get the desired look you prefer.

Step 18

Reduce the size of the Smudge brush to 2px and create thin strains of hair. Also select the Dodge Tool (O) with an Exposure of 30% to lighten up certain parts of the hair.

Step 19

Create a new layer, “eyes” and use the Pen Tool trace out the eyes of Fry and fill with a white colour.

Step 20

Use the Burn Tool to darken to the corners of the eyes.

Step 21

Draw two circles with the Ellipse Tool (U) and fill with a dark blue colour.
Have the circles halved by using the Marquee Tool (M).


With the Soft Round Brush’s colour set to #acbaef and paint the insides of the eyes – the pupils to be exact.


Change the brush colour to a white one to add a reflection to the eyes.

Step 22

Create a “lips” layer to draw the lips with the Pen Tool.

Step 23

Fill with a the colour #d16159. This colour would be used as the base and so its by no means a lady’s red lipstick colour.

Step 24

Lighten up the lips with the Dodge Tool and with a white brush, paint the lips concentrating most particularly around the edges.

Step 25

For a dark shade, use a Soft Round brush with colour: #3e0f06 and opacity at 30%.

Step 26

With a little more retouching, use the Burn Tool to make the lines of the face more prominent (the insides of the cheeks as well). The face is now complete.

Step 27

For a muscular physique (something Fry doesn’t possess), use the Pen Tool to trace out his body. You may use the Add Anchor Point Tool to create more anchor points to enable more smoother curves.

Step 28

Still with the Pen Tool, right click and select Stroke Path for a lighter lines (I had the foreground colour as ash colour).

Step 29

The resulting Stroke makes the body outlines faint.

Step 30

We’ll now create a superhero logo with the Ellipse Tool and by pressing Crtl+T, rotate the obilque circle.

Step 31

Fill the circle with a yellow colour: #faf574. Draw another circle of the same size and fill with black.Dont forget to clear the outlines of each shape after its been filled with a colour.

Step 32

In another layer, draw a five rectangles (rotating each rectangle) for a question mark shape. Fill with the same yellow colour as above. Draw another square in a new layer and add a Stroke Layer Style and change its default color to black. I just made this question mark logo for humour.

Step 33

Draw the hands of our ‘hero’ with the Pen Tool and with the colour #f3dec6.

Step 34

Set the Burn Tool’s Range to Midtones and Exposure to 28%. Burn the around the edges of the hands.

Step 35

Switch the Burn Tool’s Range to Highlights. I also shaped knuckles with the Erazer Tool (E) thereby making them more defined. A noise Ratio of about 2.9% was added was added as well.

Step 36

For the superhero costume with a synthetic look, apply a Soft Round brush with a #e7e4e1 colour within the body’s shape. Paint out a arms, abdomen and chest. Along the way, reduce the brush’s opacity to about 30% for a lighter shade within the body.

Step 37

Select the Burn Tool (Range: Highlights and Exposure: 15%) to and apply at the base of the logo. A light blue line (#e1ecf5) was added to the left side of the body for effects.

Step 38

Select the “face” layer and go to Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast and set the Brightness to 16. Do same for the hands. We now have a brighter and smooth looking face.

Step 39

Up in the sky. Its a bird, its a plane, its…just Mr. Fry. The comic book styled version of Stephen Fry’s completed and I had the time, I would have created a more elaborated costume for him with a cape and all.

This is the final image with an added background.

By David Ella Ella

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