Create A Retro Comic Book Look In Photoshop


In this Photoshop tutorial, we will create a comic book image with somewhat of a retro look. We will create a scene where a zombie anchor reads breaking news about a zombie invasion! Eh, why not?!

I used stock photos from Deposit Photos for tutorial. This is where I always get them btw as the price of their monthly membership beats anyone else.

Below is what we will recreate.

Zombie Anchor

Ok, let’s start!

Step 1:

Grab the picture of the TV studio below as this will be our background.


Step 2:

Then grab the photo of our news anchor below. The background has already been cut out for you.


Step 3:

Put the anchorman on top of the studio background like you see below:


Step 4:

Then grab the skull below and put it over the guy’s face.


Lower temporarily its opacity so you can align their eyes together. It should look like this:


Step 5:

Now add a LAYER MASK to the skull layer as we will do some erasing in a non-destructive manner. To do so, at the bottom of the layer palette, click on the little icon with a square and a circle inside.

With a Layer Mask, remember that Black hides/erase and White has the opposite effect.

So take a sot black paint brush, maybe 40px in size, Hardness 0% and Opacity between 50% and 100% and start erasing the contour of the skull so it appears like its part of his face.

Then ZOOM IN your image a few times, use a TINY black Brush, maybe between 2px and 4px, Hardness at 60%, lower temporarily the skull Opacity so you see the glasses and erase on the mask the area of the skull that is over the glasses as we want the glasses to appear as if they were on top of the skull.

This is how it looks now:


Step 5:

Now let’s create the effect that his skull is being exposed from under his skin so on the edge of the skull/skin, we’ll add some bloody, red, rotten skin.

To do so, grab the image below and place it over his face. Call that layer “Face Blood”.


Change the Layer Blending Mode to MULTIPLY and the Opacity to 60%.

This is how it should look like now:


Step 6:

Now add a LAYER MASK to that “Face Blood” Layer.

Now what we want to do here is erase any blood that is right over the skull using a Soft Black Paint Brush.

Then we want to erase the blood that is beyond the skull/skin edge as we only want the contour of that to be really red and bloody.

To do so, again, use a soft black paint brush but also “grunge” brushes to erase the blood as it will give it a more uneven and natural look. If you don’t have Grunge brushes, you can grab them free HERE.

Then, you can use a WHITE Grunge paint brush and “unerase” some blood stains on the skull.

And of course, leave some blood on his jacket and maybe some in his hair.

This is how it looks now:


Step 7:

Now grab the blood splatter below and put it over the notes he’s holding. Change teh Layer Blending Mode to DARKEN to get rid of the white background.


This is how it looks now:


Step 8:

Ok now let’s do some color grading.

Add a HUE/SATURATION Adjustment Layer. (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation)

What we want to do here is turn down the Saturation for certain colors and crank it up for others.

Enter the settings below:

MASTERS: Saturation -30
YELLOWS: Saturation +33
GREENS: Saturation +41
BLUES: Saturation -100

This is how it looks now:


Step 9:

Now let’s continue the color grading by adding a SELECTIVE COLOR Adjustment Layer. (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Selective Color)

We are just going to try to improve the colors a little by adding the settings you see below:

REDS: Cyan +9, Magenta -6, Yellow +20, Black +12
YELLOWS: Cyan +30, Magenta -29, Yellow -35, Black +17
GREENS: Cyan +31, Magenta -49, Yellow -41, Black -29
CYANS: Cyan 0, Magenta 0, Yellow 0, Black +12
NEUTRALS: Cyan +5, Magenta +2, Yellow -20, Black +4
BLACKS: Cyan -1, Magenta +4, Yellow +17, Black +7

This is how it looks now:


Step 10:

Now let’s add a COLOR BALANCE Adjustment Layer. (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance)

Let’s try to improve the colors a little more by entering the settings below:

Shadows: Cyan/Red +15, Magenta/Green +17, Yellow/Blue +17
Midtones: Cyan/Red -16, Magenta/Green -17, Yellow/Blue -23
Highlights: Cyan/Red -6, Magenta/Green +5, Yellow/Blue +10

This how it looks now:


Step 11:

Finally, let’s add a PHOTO FILTER Adjustment Layer. (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter)

I want to add a greenish tint to the image so choose GREEN with 25% Density.

This is how it looks now:


Step 12:

Now let’s add the frame for the image of the featured story.

Just use the RECTANGULAR MARQUEE TOOL, create a selection and then go to Select > Modify > Smooth and choose 6px for some round corners.

Then go to Edit > Stroke, choose a Width of 4px and the color #274811.

Then go to Layer > Layer Style > Bevel & Emboss and enter the settings you see below:


This is how it looks now: (Don’t spend too much time on the frame, it won’t matter at the end)


Step 13:

Now let’s add the “Zombies Attacking” image.

CLICK on the image below to get the BIGGER version.


If you are interested, an in-depth tutorial on how I did this zombie scene is available at

So now just resize the image and place it under the frame. Use the lasso tool to cut out the corners.

This is how it looks now:


Step 14:

Now let add a title to the featured story.

Get the free Badaboom BB font if you don’t have it Here and you can write, using the color #fcf393, ZOMBIE ARE ATTACKING!!

Then CTRL+CLICK the thumbnail on the text layer to create a selection of the text, choose Select > Modify > Expand and then expand 1 or 2 px. Add new layer and fill selection with the color #db7d0e.

You can also add a shadow effect to that layer if you want.

This is how it looks:


Step 15:

Ok now, the fun part, let’s give our image the retro comic book look.

First off, select all the Layers, DUPLICATE them and then choose MERGE LAYERS as we will work on a single layer, call that layer “Blueprint”.

Then we will use a plugin call Topaz Adjust to give us the look we want. You can get the plugin HERE, it is completely FREE for 30 days. You can read my full review of it HERE.

Once installed, go to Filter > Topaz Labs > Topaz Adjust 5 and under Stylized Collection, choose Blueprint.

IMPORTANT NOTE: With this plugin, the size of the image will affect your results. For example, with the 600px wide image we are working on, this below will be the result you’ll get:


By working with a bigger image, 1000px wide like THIS ONE (You can grab it and add the Blueprint effect to it, then resize it to 600px), you’ll get this result:


You can notice a much more detailed look.

Step 16:

Ok, because we want some colors in our image, lower the Opacity of the “Blueprint” layer to 60%.

This is how it looks now:


Step 17:

Let’s add some more colors.

Select ALL the Layers under the “Blueprint” Layer and DUPLICATE them, then MERGE them. Name that Layer “Color 1” and move it right above the “Blueprint” Layer. Change the Layer Blending Mode to COLOR and lower the Opacity to 70%.

Then DUPLICATE the “Color 1” Layer and name it “Color 2”. Change its Blending Mode to MULTIPLY and lower the Opacity to 70%.

This is how it looks now:


Step 18:

Now let’s add some finishing touches.

First Add a LEVELS Adjustment Layer and enter those settings: 0, 1.05, 230

Then Add a SELECTIVE COLOR Adjustment Layer and enter the settings below:
NEUTRALS: Cyan +5, Magenta +2, Yellow -2, Black 0
BLACKS: Cyan +5, Magenta 0, Yellow -10, Black 0

Finally, let’s sharpen our image. Select the “Blueprint” Layer and go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask, enter the settings you see below:
Amount: 20%
Radius: 1.0px
Threshold: 0

This is how the layer stack looks like:


And this is the final image:

Zombie Anchor

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