Creating Design Illustrations From Plant Photographs

The teaser for a series of posts on photographing flowers and plants and post-processing in Photoshop and Illustrator as design elements and illustrations.

Creating design illustrations from plant photographs

Photography to Post-Processing Teaser

These days I’ve been obsessed with photographing (mostly) my dahlias before the Fall freezes start. While I’ve always photographed plants in a botanical fashion and used them in designs, lately I’ve been experimenting with pushing them much further into the realm of illustrations using Photoshop filters and Illustrator. I’ve often had requests for tutorials that show my floral photography process from start to finish, so this is a teaser of posts to follow.

I’ll show my entire photography to post-processing process:

  • Picking and preparing flowers and plants.
  • Equipment for photographing.
  • Photo set-up and lighting.
  • General post-processing to prepare the master image.
  • Using Photoshop’s native filters.
  • Using 3rd Party filters — mostly *Topaz Labs and Alien Skin.
  • Using Illustrator’s Live Trace feature.

Basic Post-Processing For Clarity And Detail

Dahlia design by Leslie Nicole

As mentioned above, I’ve always used flowers in designs, but usually, the processing is clearly a photograph. This design with a Sir Alf Ramsey dahlia uses an image with my basic flower post-processing for clarity and detail. It used *Topaz Labs Adjust, Clean, and Detail. (These days, I usually go to *Topaz Labs Clarity first.)

Design Details:

Processing For Design

Right now, I’m playing with pushing photographs further towards illustrations and design elements.

Original dahlia photographs

Above are the photographs straight from Lightroom before editing.

Dahlias with basic post-processing.

Above are the photographs with my basic post-processing which includes:

  • Retouching. Any dust, bugs, eaten petals.
  • Masking to knock out the background (I only do this when the flower is a design element — I don’t do a full mask for more natural flower images with textures.)
  • Burn / Dodge. I’ll do a post on how I create a burn/dodge overlay layer.
  • Clarity and Detail filters. My “Go To” filter is the *Topaz Labs Clarity filter, although I do sometimes use the Nik or Alien Skin filters.

Dahlia Design by Leslie Nicole

Above is a design study. I used various presets from Alien Skin’s Snap Art filter. (Posts to come!)

Other design elements:


Let me know in the comments if you have any specific questions you would like me to answer in up-coming posts.


* *Topaz Labs Filters is an affiliate link. I get a small commission from any sales resulting from a click from this site (at no extra cost to you.) I really do love these filters. Nearly all of my own images use one of these filters. Thank you for supporting the site!

Alien Skin  creates a number of great filters. I use the Exposure and Snap Art. (I’ve got my eye on others!)

Shop for Textures and Overlays

, , , ,

9 Responses to Creating Design Illustrations From Plant Photographs

  1. Kate November 9, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    This is just terrific! I can’t wait to
    See the other parts.
    Thanks kate

  2. rk November 13, 2015 at 7:51 pm #

    I love flower photography and have taken several pics. I would love to see the actual steps please even though I am a total novice to PS and I don’t have lightroom. Anything I can learn from you on how to post process or create illustrations from my flower pics would be so greatly appreciated!

    • Leslie Nicole November 18, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

      I’ll be writing more in follow up posts. 🙂

  3. William Blaesing November 14, 2015 at 12:11 am #

    Beautiful. Excellent example with easy to follow along instructions. More please.

  4. paula reis December 5, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    Love your work…could you tell me what camera and what lens you are using….would be so interesting…thank you and do check out my work if you have time

    • Leslie Nicole May 13, 2016 at 8:55 am #

      I have a Canon 7D and a Canon 5 MK III. I usually use a Canon 60mm macro for flowers, but I have several other Canon lenses that I use. Don’t dismay if you don’t have a pro camera though. I have gotten good results even using a really old compact camera and my iPhone!

  5. Ruth Drews March 4, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

    Leslie, you mentioned using Alien Skin’s EXPOSURE and SNAP ART. If you use PS and/or Lightroom, what does EXPOSURE do that the other two wouldn’t do? I want to make sure what I am investing in to further my photo editing…..

    Love your work.

    • Leslie Nicole April 26, 2017 at 9:51 am #

      I don’t use Alien Skin’s Exposure much for my floral editing. I do use Topaz Lab’s Clarity or Detail for almost every floral I do for the base edits. If you are a really experienced Photoshop/Lightroom editor, you could probably get the same results, but it’s way easier with those filters in my opinion. For me, a tool that is useful and makes work faster is worth it’s weight in gold. As far as the more creative effects like Alien Skin Snap Art or Topaz Lab’s Simplify, it would be pretty hard to get the same results.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes