Sport Photo Illustration Step by Step


"Pele" is a sport photo illustration using mostly basic skills so I decided to share this is a detailed case study which I will not only show the steps of how it was done, but I also wrote what was exactly done in each and every step so you can watch and learn a bit.

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Pele is a collab I did with the photographer Sam Robles, he contacted me with a couple photos of this soccer player that reminds of the king Pele and what we had in mind is pretty much what we got as a result, place him on a field and make it look realistic and hot at the same time, and this is what I got. For more from Sam Robles visit and

view Pele on behance


Here you will be able to see the steps I took to get to the final result, the image started with the soccer player photo by Sam Robles, the others are stock photos I had to keep the quality so i went with the best place ShutterStock.

01 - First thing I did was to select the player out of his photo, I used a pen tool on this case. This is a very important step to your work, if you don't do this right it will bite you back at the end so take you time and make sure you get a good selection. I took me about an hour to get that in case you wondering.

02 - Now I place the stadium photo on the background, somewhere around the middle because I still have the sky and the grass to fit in.

03 - Since I first seen the stadium photo I noticed the grass was not exactly what I wanted that's why I grabbed another photo with better grass and here you can see the difference.

04 - Placing the sky now, I could go with something blue and nice but the final look that I had in mind was kinda dark so I decided to go with a nice cloudy sky.

05 - Now that I have almost everything in place it's time to work a bit on the illumination so I can make these photos look more like one. Starting with the grass, I create a layer over it and with the Gradient Tool and the color black I create a shade around the grass to make it look like it belongs there.

06 - The same step I did with the grass I repeat on the sky, getting it a little darker.

07 - Time to fix the stadium light now, this one is a little trickier because I want to make the right side a lot lighter than the left one so it looks like the light is the same way as it is on the player, to get that done I used the technique I taught here (Manipulation Basics: Illumination and Coloration)

08 - Now that I correct a little bit in every photo the image is starting to look better, to give a whole better look to it I decided to add a crowd there, it takes a bit of patience but it's not hard to do, I used the pen tool to select the empty spaces and placed the crowd photo in there, re-sized to look real and added a darker shade on the edges so it blends in well as you can see.

09 - The scenario already got everything I wanted, time to make it look even more real so I replace the soccer ball with new and better looking one. Also added shadow of the player (following the light direction on his body) and a little shade under his foot and the ball so they won't look like they are flying. I also created a new layer to add some light around the player so that area stay lighter than the others to bring more attention to that area.

10 - This step was essential for my image to have that look it had in the end. I saved the image as it was and using Adobe Lightroom I made the image look somewhere like an overdone fake hdr photo, saved as a .jpg and placed it back on top of all the layers, I reduced the Opacity a bit so the over all look wasn't too overdone and this kinda worked as a texture.

11 - Now on top of that I create a couple layers to fix the lights, this time more like an overall instead of each photo separate. I put some light coming from the top left, also add light to the stadium and got the grass a little darker.

12 - My last steps were to give more shadow around the player since I put light on the stadium the shadow usually goes 4 ways so I did that but still left that main shadow darker because the light on the player was on that direction. The last thing I did was add the color, I did that by adding a layer desaturating the whole image a little bit and another layer on top with the final color I wanted to apply on the image.

I hope everyone like this case study and remember if you want you results to come out good always pay attention to details.

Written by

Paulo Canabarro

I'm a passionate designer at where I focus on helping small business grow online. I'm also an enthusiastic blogger here at abduzeedo.  Say hello on twitter @paul0v2.