Artist Mark Hammermeister Tutorial: Clint Eastwood Caricature Painting

Last Monday the great caricature artist, Mark Hammermeister, was featured on Illustration Pages. Today Mark returns. Walking us through his process, Mark constructs an amazing caricature of the legendary actor and director, Clint Eastwood. 

1. Start with a sketch. Nowadays I’m just as likely to start sketching right on the computer, but for these purposes I’m using a colored pencil sketch I did of one of my favorite actors and directors, Clint Eastwood. I’m not going to get into how to draw a caricature, because that could take up a tutorial unto itself. Just let it be said that I used the reference photo above and chose a few key areas to exaggerate.

Right off the bat, I know this sketch has a number of issues, both with the anatomy and the likeness, but that’s okay because really the sketch is only a guide and will be completely covered by the time I’m done.

2. Set up your layers. I open my sketch in Photoshop (I currently use Photoshop CS4, but pretty much everything I do could be done in any version of Photoshop). Before I get down to painting I open up the Layers palette (Window > Layers, or hit F7), then I begin setting up most of the layers I’ll be using during the painting process. First, I name the sketch layer, then I set up two layers below that are named “Dark” and “Background.”  Above the “Sketch” layer I add four more layers and name them, in order, “Cover”, “Light”,  “Paint” and “Palette”. It may seem like a lot of extra work, but good preparation will pay off in the long run.

3. Begin establishing your tones. Next, set your “Sketch” layer to Multiply, then click on the “Background” layer and fill it (Edit > Fill, or F5) with a dark gray color that’s almost, but not quite, black.

By the way, the painting I’m doing is going to be black and white. Working in black and white is one of the simplest, and most efficient ways of establishing a full tonal range in your painting. Establishing good tones is one of the most important things you can do in your paintings. It’s really what will create the illusion of three dimension and depth in your work. If you can do a good grayscale rendering, adding color on top is a snap. After you have filled the background layer with dark gray, select the layer you named “Cover” and fill that layer with a middle gray, then turn down the opacity on that layer just enough so that you can just barely see the sketch on the layer below.


4. Start laying in your darks and lights. Now we’re going to finally begin laying down some digital paint. Select the “Dark” layer and pick the same dark gray you filled the “Background” layer with. I don’t use many custom brushes in Photoshop. The main brush I use for everything is a simple round brush with "Other Dynamics" and "Smoothing" turned on.  When you click on "Other Dynamics", make sure you set the Opacity Jitter to 0% with the control set to "Pen Pressure", and the Flow Jitter set to 0% and the control set to "Off".

By the way, if you’re not using a pressure sensitive tablet to paint with, I highly recommend getting one. It’s darn near impossible to get the same results painting with a mouse. I usually keep my brush opacity set to around 90%. I like to begin working with a bigger brush, set to around size 30. Begin blocking in your darkest darks. This should only take you around five minutes or so. After you’re done doing the darks, click on the “Light” layer and set that layer to "Soft Light". Select white as your color and quickly block in your lightest lights. Again, work quickly. No need to be neat about it because you’ll be covering much of your work here too. Right now you’re establishing the road map of your tones. By the time you’re done you should have something that looks like this:

5. Time to paint! Well, almost. One more thing I do before diving in is set up my color palette. Since I’m working in black and white, I only need to paint a series of color splotches on the “Palette” layer that range all the way from white to black.

As you work, you’ll want to keep your finger on the Option key (Alt on a PC). This will automatically select the eyedropper tool, and you’ll need to do this a lot. At first you’ll choose your colors out of your palette, but as you continue to work, you should begin selecting your colors directly out of your painting. Given time, this will become almost second nature to you. Select your trusty hard round brush, set it to around size 30, then select your darkest gray, but not black. Use 100% black or 100% white sparingly in your paintings for a more realistic look. On the “Paint” layer, begin blocking in your darkest darks first. Take a good long look at your reference photo and determine where the absolute darkest areas are and begin reproducing this in your painting. In this case, I determine the main areas I need to focus on are the eyes, the shadow below the nose and the hairline. Take your time more than you did earlier, but still be fairly loose about it. You’re going to be at this a while. I like to work dark to light, so after I block in the darkest areas, I determine where the next darkest areas are in my reference, then move onto the next gray in my palette and begin blocking in that color, and so on.

6. Begin tightening up the details. All the time I’ve been painting, I’ve kept my image zoomed out to 100%. By working this way, I prevent myself from overworking the tiny details. I keep jumping around from area to area smoothing the transitions between my tones and sharpening up the details along the way. As I continue to work I also begin to use smaller and smaller brushes. I also begin to switch between my hard round brush and my other workhorse brush. It starts out as one of the basic rough edged brushes in Photoshop, with the following settings added:

I’m a big fan of seeing the brush strokes in a painting, and this brush gives me some nice painterly strokes. It also works really well for blending. I really don’t start zooming in tight until I start working on the key details, such as the eyes. If you can get the eyes right on a caricature, your at least halfway toward perfecting the likeness. In this case I zoomed in tight on my reference photo in one window, and zoomed in on the same area in my painting and began reproducing the details in the eyes, with just the right amount of exaggeration thrown in for good measure.

As you continue to render, try to maneuver your brush strokes so that they curve in the general direction that the skin wraps around the skull. This will make it easier to replicate the muscles and bone structure beneath the skin. You really need to understand the framework within whatever it is you’re painting in order to do it justice in the final rendering.

7. Add your finishing touches. By now, I’m really thinking hard about perfecting my image. It should be pretty evident that I’m consciously straying from my sketch in a number of ways. In order to further exaggerate Clint’s gaunt features and high cheekbones, I take the liquefy tool and begin pushing and pulling the features around to really stretch the features. I’ll also take the eraser tool and begin carving around the outer edges of Clint’s features to create a more consistent overall shape to the head. For the hair, I begin by blocking in the major shapes with my rough edged brush. Then I take that same brush, reduce it to around 5 or 6 pixels and turn on "Shape Dynamics" in the brush control palette. Then it’s just a matter of drawing in lots and lots of little hairs on top of the underlying shapes in order to give it all the feel of reality. Below you’ll see the final image. Some of the very final things I did were to look around online for some free stock photo textures and place them on a layer or two above everything else. I usually set the texture layers to either "Soft Light" or "Overlay", with the opacity turned way down, erasing out whatever areas I don’t want to pick up the textures. Lastly, I’ll take the "Dodge" and "Burn" tools and give a couple of quick passes over areas of my painting where I feel I need to make it either lighter or darker. My total working time has been a little over 4 hours from start to finish.

Mark Hammermeister is an illustrator and designer from the Detroit Metro area. Specializing in caricatures and humorous illustration, Mark has done design and illustration work for a diverse group of clients, including CitiGroup, ABN AMRO, Paramount Pictures, Hanna Barbera Animation Studios and HOW Design.

It's always a treat to go behind the scenes and get the chance to "look over the shoulder" of an accomplished artist and see how their work is created. Thank you Mark for taking the time to write this educational tutorial for Illustration Pages. Please visit Mark's links below to see more of his incredible work.



  1. This is a super great post! I realized that I discovered the same process accidentally except that I use painter instead of Photoshop. In terms of color? How would you suggest applying? Do you use the same technique?

  2. There really isn't much difference in the process. I use Painter a lot too. Most of the steps would apply the same way. The main difference will be in your choice of brushes. I'm a big fan of the Sargent brush under Artist Brushes, for example, to get that "painterly" feel I like to get. I also use one of the regular oil brushes and a detail brush as well.

  3. This is a good,common sense article. Very helpful to one who is just finding the resources about this part. It will certainly help educate me.


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