Transforming Photographs into Graphic Novel Style Images #CREATEEDU

Graphic novels and Manga are very popular with the 10-18 year old population. So it can be an effective method to communicate. There are many ways to weave it into any of your classes, community service projects or personal life. Graphic Novel Tip Sheet

Photoshop Tutorials

This set of tutorials is designed to get you started using some of the key techniques in Adobe Photoshop. Feel free to play around with my sample files or use your own photographs. If you are looking for free stock images online I like https://pixabay.com/ | National Archives | Wikimedia Commons | Getting Images

Downloading the sample files

Sample Files

Page Layouts

Now it is time to start laying out the pages. If you have InDesign you might want to do this with that tool but I will be sticking with Photoshop for these lessons. Download these pdf templates and then follow the tutorials.



Planning Documents

The planning stage took my classes about a week to complete. We started by discussing the Roles: each person would fill. Then we went to the lunch room to creating our draft layouts.

  • Directions
  • Roles
  • Pre Production Handout: give students this handout and review it prior to the draft layout stage.
  • Sketches or draft layout -: I like to give students 11" x 17" sheets of paper for this part of the process.These documents are very important and will take time to create and then proof. I like to have my students number their pages and write lots of notes about props, costume, lighting, background images, names of actors and other important things on these sheets. I give each group a 3 ring binder to keep all their documents and these are stored in a cupboard in my room.
  • Group Feedback: This document can be used after the draft layout is created or the draft Photoshop documents.
  • Production Schedule: Take the time to plan out a production schedule and post this for the class.


This can be really fun part of the process but if you are not careful it will suck up massive amounts of time. Setup a schedule that includes time for the students to review how to operate the cameras you plan to use, create/gather props and practice shooting dynamic angles/poses.

Simple Background

When you plan to select the character and put them on top of a different background it is a good idea to shoot against a solid color wall or hang a sheet from the ceiling. If you have a video program at your high school they may have a green/blue screen wall that would work well but you really don’t need anything fancy.

Story Background

Sometimes you can find backgrounds at your school or in your community that fit your story. Try to make arrangements prior to your shooting day for this location. Think about issues like lighting, weather, and other classes using this location.


You can make your graphics more dynamic by changing the way you photograph your subject. Lay on the ground and look up at the subject or get on a ladder to look down. Get creative!


You can do some really cool things with cheap shop light. Remember holding that flashlight under your chin when you were telling ghost stories around the camp fire? If your classroom is too dark try going outside.

Hand Drawn

This is a whole different technique but can be just as creative and fun. These designs were produced for our local Fire Fighters Association's annual pancake breakfast. The black and white image below can be used as a practice file thanks to Tiffany.

My students usually draw out their design on one sheet of paper and then use a light table and sharpie to create a clean design. If you want the coloring process to go quickly, make sure to close your shapes so you can use the paint bucket. If you have a mobile phone you can use Adobe Capture as a quick way to digitize your drawing.

This 7 minute tutorial will walk you through the techniques for coloring your hand drawing images in Adobe Photoshop.

Created By
Joe Dockery

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