Draw a portrait of a superhero in photoshop

If you were superpower, what would it be? With the help of digital art, you do not have to sit waiting to create magic. Just open Photoshop and equip your favorite tablet.

In this lesson, I will show you how to create a portrait inspired by the character Thunder (Storm) from the movie “X-Men”.

The final result:

1. In Search of the Thunderstorm

Whether you get inspiration from the film version or from the original comic book, it will be great if you do a little research before you begin to start creating a portrait.

A little bit about Thunder

Thunderstorm (Storm) is known to all as a mutant from the movie “X-Men”, which has the ability to subdue the forces of nature – the weather. She was born a princess, her strength and perseverance make her a real leader and main member of the team.

From the point of view of design, there are several things that we must take into account when creating her portrait. Here is a brief list of character details that we should be aware of:

  • Thunderstorm has long white hair.
  • Her eyes turn white as soon as she connects her energy.
  • She controls the weather, lightning strikes from her hands.
  • Her outfit varies, but the main colors are black, white and gold.
  • Consider the dark stormy weather for the background.


After hours of searching for the right photo of the model, in the end, I settled on the photo of the Girl I found on the Envato Market website. I ask you not to limit yourself to various details or racial identity of the model when searching for the desired source photo. Whenever I look for the right image, I’m always looking for photos with the appropriate mood or energy.

The original image of the model along with the final sketch.

In the original photo, the model looks at us with a convincing look, and the body of the model is in a tense posture. In essence, this composition clearly describes the expression and mood, which will be perfect for a portrait of a superhero.

2. Draw a Superhero Sketch

Step 1

Now that we have chosen the perfect photo, we can go to the sketch. Select Hard Round Brush Push Opacity (Hard Round Pressure Opacity brush) before you start creating a draft Thunderstorm.

For this composition, I want the Storm to be in combat pose, accumulating electromagnetic force before releasing it.

Concentrate on the shape and location of your model before going into details. You can allow yourself to randomly draw lines as you experiment with composition as well as model uniforms. Just like in the photo, I want the model’s body to go beyond the image. Ultimately, this will help give the model a more dynamic position.

Step 2

Decrease opacity (Opacity) layer with a draft up to 30%, and then create a new layer. We use a new layer to draw a clearer sketch using the same brush. One of the reasons why I chose this photograph of the model is a more complex form and composition than those I had previously encountered. Try to draw a clearer pattern, creating more smooth lines.

It is very important to draw Thunder, considering all its details, before you start coloring. From clothes to curls of hair, apply each line with a specific goal and meaning. The only area that doesn’t worry me too much is hands. Later I will correct them to make them look more attractive.

Step 3

Since I plan to change the light and shade a little, it is very important for me to recreate the light and shade, which I will use as a guide. Here I used strokes of gray and white to create a palette of light and shade, given that the light source will be located in the lower right part of the image.

White areas in the image will serve as a guide for you, where the highlights will fall.

3. Draw the Base

Step 1

Once your outline is complete, merge all the layers except for the gray tone layer and the white background layer. Next, hold the color palette of the selected shades as a guide. First let’s fill the layer with Background (Background Layer) saturated lilac with a tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (G)).

Next, create a new layer and use the round brush. Toughness (Hardness) 100%, apply base colors as a base. Change the blending mode for the draft layer to Overlap (Overlay) to combine it with the base layer of coloring.

We know that the final portrait does not have a completely yellow color. But I want you to understand how important it is to be open-minded and feel free when you create a picture with a conceptual idea. Whether it is composition, color or light and shade, you can change it at any time.

Step 2

Create a couple of layers on top of the base coloring layer as a clipping mask. Change the blending mode for the created layers to Multiplication (Multiply). On the new layers, we will draw the shadows for our portrait. Simply select the color shades that are nearby, using the tool Pipette (Eyedropper Tool (I)). We use selected color shades as the foreground color when we apply shadows. Since we changed the blending mode for layers with shadows on Multiplication (Multiply) then the colors will look darker.

Step 3

As shadows are added, light areas of the image begin to appear. Create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Linear clarifier (Add) (Linear Dodge (Add)) to combine light with the whole scene. As with shadows, all you need is to use colors from the closest areas of the image. This time, the applied colors will be much lighter, it will help you to understand where to add light.

4. Adjust the Color Picker.

Step 1

After we have created light and shade and already have an idea what the portrait will look like, we can proceed to combining the colors.

Use a hard round brush to paint details, such as hair and clothes …

… and soft round brush for beautiful and smooth skin.

The result is currently after the color correction.

Step 2

I’ve already drawn a lot, and now I’m starting to realize that colors don’t mix very well together. Although I originally planned to use the gold details on the clothes of the model, but the colors confused me when I tried to implement the idea with lighting.

Take a break, and then go back to look at your picture with a fresh look. Since hair model should be white in any case, I just created a new layer, changed the blend mode to Chromaticity (Color) and dyed black brush over hair and gold parts of clothing. And immediately the color composition has improved significantly!

5. Change the Form of the Body Model

Step 1

Listen to your picture. If you feel that something is wrong, perhaps something is really wrong with the picture.

Considering that I wanted to give a dynamic pose to the heroine, the Storm begins to look a little bulky in the upper part of the body. You can easily fix any part of the body with the tool. Plastics (Liquify).

First, merge all the layers. Create a duplicate of the merged layer (Ctrl + J) so that you have a backup copy just in case. Next, go Filter – Plastic (Filter> Liquify). Using tool Deformation (Forward Warp Tool (W)), tighten the back, waist and neckline.

In the picture below you can see the animation before and after applying the filter. Plastics (Liquify).

Be careful in this step! Avoid severe distortion of the body, otherwise you will cause more harm than good!

6. Final Details

Step 1

Now that we have completed the bulk of the work, you can ask:

“What else is left?”

Well, let’s start with the background. Since I had to merge all the layers together, now I need to separate the image of the Thunderstorm from the background. Choose a tool Polygonal Lasso (Polygonal Lasso Tool (L)), create a selection around the Thunderstorm image. Next, click on the selection area and in the menu that appears, select the option Copy to new layer (Layer Via Copy).

Now blur the background with the filter. Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur). Let’s go Filter – Blur – Blur by Gauss (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur). Install Radius (Radius) blur at 8 px. This will help us create an excellent base for our storm background. Next, create a new layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay). Using a soft brush, draw fluffy clouds. On this site (http://photodune.net/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93term=cloudsreferrer=homepage) you can examine the cloud images to understand the shape and texture of the clouds.

Step 2

While working on the details, zoom in to add more personality, as well as details that will help to tell about the history of the character. Add eyelashes, increase lips. Draw a ruby ​​stone on the chest of the model, similar to the X-Men logo.

Each additional detail you create enhances your character’s design.

Step 3

I somehow do not really feel the lilac shade. Let’s change it with an adjustment layer. Color Balance (Color Balance). Let’s go Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Color Balance (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Color Balance). Set values ​​for Medium tones (Midtones) and Sveta (Highlights) to enhance the blue tones.

Step 4

It’s time for the highlights! In this step, we will add light highlights, which will take a long time to create. Since the model has thick hair, then first begin to add light highlights to the hair strands. Using a hard round brush Toughness (Hardness) 100%, paint each hair curl with strokes, it will also add glossy shine to hair.

Do not forget to modify the hapless hands, before proceeding to the creation of lightning. Show the incredible power of our heroine, for this add strokes as streams of electrical energy to her eyes, hands and background.

Drawing lightning is like drawing a vein. Use wavy curves with bends to recreate lightning.

Step 5

The last step, but not the last one in importance. I’m going to fix the skin tone of the model, for this I will hide the pink tones and give the skin a more saturated tan. For this purpose, I will need to create a new layer, and then change the blending mode for this layer to Darkening basics (Color Burn).

Repeat the same thing that you did before, take samples of color shades from adjacent areas to darken the skin of the model, so it will look more contrast on a bright blue and white background. If you decide to continue the correction, you can add a correction layer, for example, Curves (Curves) to add yellow tones to your picture.

Modify the edges of the scene. Try to keep every detail as clear and pronounced as possible. Add reflective light reflections on the clothes and face of the model to show the incredible power she radiates.

Great job! We have completed the lesson!

Creating a picture of a superhero is no different from creating other digital portraits. The key to success is to create a composition full of powerful energy and magic.

And using Photoshop, you can fix errors much faster than when creating a traditional drawing.

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed this tutorial. So who is your favorite character from the X-Men? We will see it in the comments to the lesson!

The final result:

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