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The Road to Web designing

Art Illustrations

Do you want to look great?

27 May 2009

Vector and photo mashup

Mix and match gritty photography with crazy vector splurges for a riotous, cartoonish effect.

Juxtaposing serious images and light-hearted elements can be a highly effective technique – look at the clever way Banksy replaces of guns with flowers in many of his artworks.

Photoshop offers you a way to achieve a comparable effect, in a polished fashion that’s considerably easier to achieve with pixels than spray paint. One way to give a fun twist to serious photos is by using vector elements, giving the finished piece a dose of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? styling.

While Illustrator is Adobe’s best-known vector program, Photoshop also has vector tools, which you’ll get familiar with in this tutorial. Rather than simply adding in flat layers for the blobs, we show you how to get the best from your vector art, starting with the drawing itself.

You’ll learn how to use layer blending options such as Bevel and Emboss, Inner Glow and Satin to lift your flat, lifeless shape layers into a 3D environment.

Finally, you’ll add motion blur and real-world effects to tie the vector elements into the final image. You can download the source images for free from; they are at for the mortar cannon and for the clouds.

01. Set up the canvas as A4 in portrait format at 300dpi. Open the mortar image and position it in the document. Resize it to 190% and then use the Clone Stamp tool (S) with a soft-edged brush to clone the background to fit (hold Alt/Opt to define the area you want to clone and then paint).

02. Select the Pen tool (P) ready to draw a path. Zoom in to 300% and draw a path around the end of the barrel of the mortar. Go to the Paths palette and create a selection from your path (Cmd/Ctrl + click on the path thumbnail). Duplicate the Mortar layer and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection. Select the Layer Mask icon and apply a 0.8 pixel Gaussian blur to it (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur).

03. Select the Pen tool again, but this time set it to Shape Layers. Begin drawing dribbles of goo from the end of the barrel. Think about how thick goo would act in real-world physics as a starting point. Once you’ve dragged a point, hold down Alt/Opt while clicking on it to delete the outward handle. You can then drag a new handle to create a sharp corner.

04. Try and drag the anchor points at the start and end of each curve rather than mid curve, this should give you a more natural line. Once you’re finished drawing the dribble you can use the Direct Selection tool (in the Path Selection tool sub-menu of the Tools palette) to manipulate the anchor points and their curve handles.

05. Draw a big spurt to form the main shape of the goo explosion. It’s good practice to keep a hand on the keyboard while drawing, to switch quickly between the Direct Selection tool (A) and the Pen tool (P), so you can adjust and tweak on the fly. Name the layer ‘Big Spurt’

06. Now here’s where the magic happens. Select the ‘Big Spurt’ layer and go to Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options. We’ll start with Bevel and Emboss, which generally produce cheap-looking results until you begin to master the tool. Set them up exactly as shown here, and then tweak them slightly for your shape.

07. Next up is Inner Glow. There are far fewer settings to take into account, so set up as shown here. The main things are that the glow doesn’t spread right across any section of your shape, and that the colour is a lighter version of your shape colour (setting the blending mode to Screen will aid this).

08. Finally add Satin to give the shadows a boost and add a touch more depth and roundness. Changing the contour to Cove – Shallow will give better shadows where you need them. These settings can be applied to any layer by going to Layer > Layer Style > Copy Layer Style, then selecting your target layer and going to Layer > Layer Style > Paste Layer Style.

09. Draw in all the big gloops of goo to get the overall shape of the explosion. Move them up and down the Layers palette to create depth. The layer order will become more important once the smaller elements have been drawn in. It’s good practice to name all of your layers something appropriate – there will be many of them.

10. Punctuate the bigger spurts with smaller, faster-moving spurts. Mix it up with big, bulbous globules and thinner, stringier strands. Try adding some barrel runoff – this will need to be above the masked Barrel layer as opposed to the goo Spurt layers which go under it.

11. Draw in a few different small drops of goo; you’ll need to adjust the Inner Glow so it’s smaller, and also adjust the Bevel and Emboss. Select the Move tool (V), then hold Alt/Opt and drag a copy of each drop layer. Press Cmd/Ctrl + T to quickly resize and rotate them. Repeat this step until you have a load of drops everywhere.

12. Select all of the smaller drop layers and go to Layer > Merge Layers. Then select Filter > Blur > Radial Blur. Set the amount to 6, the method to Zoom and move the blur’s centre to the tip of the barrel (this will take some trial and error). Duplicate the blur layer to strengthen the effect.

13. Create a levels adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels) at the top of the layer stack. Select the Adjustments Layers Mask thumbnail and fill it with black, so that the effects of the layer become invisible. We’ll be using this layer to create shadows rather than using blending modes or drawing on each individual layer. Refer to the Tip boxout to see how the shadows are achieved.

14. Open the clouds image you’ve downloaded and hit Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + U to desaturate it. Press Cmd/Ctrl + L to bring up the Levels palette and enter 40, 0.77 and 255 respectively into the Input Levels. Select the Burn tool set to Shadows with an exposure of around 50%. Take big soft-edged brush and burn all around the cloud, try not to encroach on the cloud itself too much.

15. Import the clouds into the document and change the layer blending mode to Screen. Position it under all the goo layers, resize it and mask off any areas you don’t want. Drag a copy of the layer into the middle of the goo layers, make this version smaller and rotate it. Finally, drag another copy to the top of the image. Adjust the opacity of each layer and try adding a motion blur.

16. Grading the final image is key to fusing the elements together. Use adjustment layers such as Gradient Map (set to Color Burn and Pin Light blending modes) and Curves. Run Shadow/Highlight (Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlights) on the Mortar image to remove darker areas, flatten all the shape layers, add a 0.8-pixel Gaussian blur (see step 2) and change the colour using Hue/Saturation.

James Davies

25 May 2009

Create cool fantasy art

Dare to dream amazing scenes with help from Paul at Pixel Criminals.

Fantasy scenes are limited only by your imagination. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create amazing fantasy art using old photographs you never thought could be used, and learn how to use vibrant colour for that rich fantasy feel.

This tutorial will also polish your skills with blending modes, brushes, shadows, Photoshop effects and clipping masks to create a vibrant and extremely upbeat scene. This tutorial is all about fun – feel free to adapt it, adding your own elements.

Before you start this tutorial go to to download and install the free cloud brushes created by javierzhx. The puddle image is by Beverley Bridge, who has kindly given her permission for us to use it. You can find the original picture at

01. In Photoshop, open cobblepuddle. jpg from the cover disc, and rename the background layer ‘Backpuddle’. We then need to exaggerate the colour: go Select > Color Range, enter a fuzziness value of around 98 and select the brightest green colour in the grass. The grass will be highlighted but so will some parts of the cobbles. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + C to copy your selection then paste it (Cmd/Ctrl + V) in a new layer above. Name this layer ‘Grass’.

02. With the ‘Grass’ layer selected, click Image > Adjustments > Curves, make the output 74 and the input 91. Now select your ‘Backpuddle’ layer, right-click (Ctrl + click) and select Duplicate Layer; rename this as ‘Back puddle highlights’. Set this layer’s blending mode to Overlay to give some contrast. Holding Cmd/Ctrl, select all your layers, then Cmd/Ctrl + E to merge the layers together. Now rename this single layer ‘Background’.

03. Press Cmd/Ctrl + T to enter the Transform mode and at the top of the screen, click the button to switch between Free Transform and Warp modes, then warp the top of the image so that it looks like hills. Create a new layer underneath the ‘Background’ layer and call it ‘Sky’. Paint-bucket the layer white (Shift + F5) and then doubleclick the layer to open the Layer Styles menu. Give the layer a top-to-bottom gradient, with the top blue of #2870af and a bottom blue of #b3def8.

04. Select the Magic Wand tool and set the tolerance to 40, then select the puddle from the ‘Background’ layer. You’ll notice that you’ll only select a small section, so hold down the Shift key and continue clicking the rest of the blue of the puddle. Copy and paste the selection into a new layer called ‘Puddle’. Double-click the layer to open the Layer Style dialog box and give it a top-tobottom gradient of #addce9 to #184f6c.

05. Create a layer under ‘Puddle’ and merge this with the ‘Puddle’ layer by selecting both and pressing Cmd/Ctrl + E. Change the ‘Puddle’ layer’s blending mode to Saturation. Using the Eraser tool set to a soft, rounded brush at around 100 pixels, delete any blue from the ‘Puddle’ layer that runs over the cobbles or looks a little pixellated.

06. Create a new layer called ‘Puddlelight’, now with this layer selected, Cmd/Ctrl + click the picture preview of the ‘Puddle’ layer. Select the Paintbrush and paint some yellowy oranges and peach colours at the top of the puddle and some emerald blue at the bottom. Deselect your selection (Cmd/Ctrl + D) and drop the opacity to 57%.

07. In the Shape tool, select the ellipse. Create a yellow sun in the layer underneath ‘Background’ layer, and call the new shape layer ‘Sun’. Double-click this layer to open the Layer Style dialog and select ‘Outer Glow’, then enter these settings: Blend Mode – Normal (change the colour to yellow); Spread – 15%; Size – 250 pixels. Open the file grasshills.psd from the cover CD and drag the grass layer in. Place it above the ‘Sun’ layer and name it ‘Grass’.

08. With this new layer selected, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/ Saturation and enter these settings: Hue = -2; Saturation = 31; Lightness = -7. Create a new layer called ‘Clouds’ above the ‘Sun’ layer. Select the Brush tool and the cloud brushes you downloaded at the beginning, and create some clouds and haze around the sun in white and peachy reds. Create a new layer behind the sun called ‘Sunhaze’ and use a soft, rounded brush in peach with a diameter of 1,400 pixels to paint a blob behind the sun.

09. Select the ‘Sunhaze’ and ‘Sun’ layers, then right-click (Ctrl + click) and select Duplicate Layers. Merge the two layers and name it ‘Grassreflect’. Select Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical and drag the ‘Grassreflect’ layer above the ‘Grass’ layer. Right-click (Ctrl + click) the ‘Glassreflect’ layer and select Create Clipping Mask. Change the blending mode to Hue and drag the layer to a good position on the grass to show the sun’s reflection.

10. With the soft, rounded brush, make various white blobs on a new layer called ‘Stars’ above the ‘Sky’ layer. Duplicate the ‘Stars’ layer and open the Transform tool (Cmd/Ctrl + T). Holding down Shift, shrink the duplicated ‘Stars copy’ layer down and place it over the ‘Sun’. Duplicate the ‘Stars copy’ layer and shrink it down even more and put it in the puddle to function as a reflection.

11. Open trees.psd on the cover CD to take a look at different trees I cut out from various old photos. Drag some onto the scene or make some of your own. To give the trees a shadow, duplicate the layer of a particular tree and flip it vertically (Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical). Position it under the tree and hit Cmd/Ctrl + T to rotate it at an angle. Then select Image > Adjustment > Hue/Saturation and set the lightness to -100. Now that it’s black, take the rounded Eraser tool and delete the tips and also fade the opacity. For trees further away or in a bunch, create a new layer under the tree and use the rounded paintbrush to paint some dark colour underneath. Repeat until you are happy with the trees in your scene.

12. You’ll need to add some light from the sun to the trees: select the tree you want to do this to, and create a new layer above it, naming it ‘Treelight’. Select your paintbrush and paint some yellow over the tree as sun reflections. Right-click (Ctrl + click) the layer ‘Treelight’ and select Create Clipping Mask, then change the blending mode Pin-Light’ and lower the opacity to about 80%. Do this to all trees that you feel need light and shade. Also select Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to change the trees’ colour to match the setting.

13. Open fence.psd on the CD and drag it into your scene. This is a photo I took. Apply the shadow and light areas using the same effect you used on the trees in the previous steps.

14. Open flowers.psd on the CD: this is a bunch of flowers, insects, shadows and sparks of light. Again, these are from old pictures. Create shadows for the flowers in the same way you did for the fence and trees; create drop shadows in the Layer Styles dialog. To make water reflections, duplicate the flowers and transform and rotate them to reflect in the water using Cmd/Ctrl + T. Then use Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur to create a ripple feel. Also use Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to change the colour of the flowers or give them a higher saturation. To give the leaves at the top-mid left a windy look, just duplicate the leaf layer and use the Filter > Stylize > Wind effect until it has warped and put the layer behind the leaves. Drop the opacity if need be.

15. Open raysoflight.psd on the cover CD and drag them over into your scene. These were created using a brush or shape, then modified using Outer Glow in the Layer Styles palette. Put them anywhere in the scene to help create that fantasy feel. Select the layer ‘Background’ and open the file field.psd on the cover CD. This is a picture I took of a field and used a soft brush to delete certain sections randomly. Drag this image into your scene on a layer above ‘Background’. Rename this new layer ‘Cobblehighlights’ and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

16. Open the file sky.psd on the cover CD. This is a sky from a picture I took. Increase its saturation and use the Eraser in a rounded brush to delete random sections. Then use the cloud brushes downloaded to add some more white clouds. Drag sky.psd into the layer above ‘Sky’ and name the layer ‘Skyclouds’ and position it appropriately.

17. Open the file on the CD titled burstlight.psd and drag it into your scene behind the ‘Sun’ layer. Title your new layer ‘Sunlight’ and position it behind the sun. Open the animalinsect.psd file on the CD and position them into your scene. These images were cut out again from old images, feel free to try your own. If you place anything over the water it needs to reflect in the water. Select the layer – in this case the ‘Bird’ layer and duplicate it and call this new layer ‘Birdreflect’. Then go to Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical and position this upside bird underneath the original bird. Cmd/Ctrl + T the reflection layer and while holding shift shrink it down, rotate it a little and finally change the opacity to 36%.

18. Finally, zoom into the image and feel free to change any of the flower colours or the green grass by using Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to suit the overall image. Clean up the puddle edges with the Eraser tool. Add shadows anywhere you feel it is necessary or add more flowers and animals. It’s totally up to you how far you want to go with this scene.

Paul Cowley

23 May 2009

Earth-shaking Photoshop tips

For anyone who’s ever daydreamed about being bitten by a radioactive spider, the lure of extraordinary powers remains a distant fantasy.

Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t fake it: in this great tutorial, Fabio Sasso shows how to create a scene of an everyday superhero wreaking havoc on a city street with a sonic boom.

You’ll hone your skills at comping together photos and applying filters and colour adjustments, but more importantly you’ll also learn how to create the amazing sonic boom effects using advanced layer masks and layering of filters, one after another, so that they combine to create unique effects.

You’ll also get plenty of chances to play about with blurs, including Gaussian Blur and Motion Blur, and you’ll learn how to control the lighting of your image, giving it that faded sepia tint.

01. In Photoshop, create a new document measuring 2100-x-3500 pixels. We’ll need to put in a street view image: open iStockphoto urban scene.jpg from the cover CD. This image was taken by Anam and was kindly provided for free by iStockphoto.

02. Sometimes it’s really hard to find stock photos with the pose you want. Also even cheap digital cameras these days are really powerful, so sometimes it’s best just to take your own images. Open guy1.psd from the cover CD, place it in the image, and cut it out from its background. Name the layer ‘Man’.

03. With the ‘Man’ layer selected go to Layer > Layer Styles > Gradient Overlay. Set the blending mode to Multiply, set the colours to black and white, set the style as Linear and the angle to 90º. After that go Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. Use -25 for the brightness and 58 for the contrast. Also go to Image > Adjustment > Hue/Saturation. Use 0 for the Hue, 23 for the Saturation and -5 for the Lightness.

04. Add a new layer on top of the guy’s layer and fill it with black, then go to Layer > Create Clipping Mask. Change the blending mode of the black layer to Color Dodge then with the Brush tool (B) use a very soft white brush and start painting some light effects on the edges of the arms, hands, face, and chest.

05. Now duplicate the ‘Street’ layer and with the Elliptical Marquee tool (L), create an ellipse. Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection. Then holding Cmd/ Ctrl + click on the layer mask in the Layers palette to reload the marquee selection. Next, go to Filter > Distort > Zig Zag, and enter the following settings: amount – 15; ridges – 20; style – Pond Ripples. Finally, go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur. Change the amount to 10 and the quality to Best.

06. Repeat the same thing we did in the last step to create the effect for the man’s other hand. You can change some values to make them slightly different. Also create a new layer and select the Gradient tool (G). Then click to edit the gradient and change the type to Noise, roughness to 100% and tick both Restrict Colors and Add Transparency.

07. Select Angle Style for the gradient and fill the layer with it. Start the gradient from the centre of the left-hand ripple effect. Next, go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate: that will transfer the layer to greyscale, then with the Eraser tool (E) start deleting the layer so you will only have a few rays of light. Then, go to Layer > Layer Styles > Gradient Overlay. Use orange, dark red, white, light blue and pink for the colours, Radial for the style and play with the scale. The idea is that you will have a pink edge with some blue, white and the light starts getting orange close to the centre of the effect.

08. Repeat the last step for the other hand’s effect. Again make it a bit different so it will look more natural. Also create a new layer on top of the street layer and paint the blue sky with white – we don’t want the happy blue sky of the photo.

09. Let’s add more elements to the composition, starting with a car. You can download the one I used for free from stock.xchng at Extract the background of the image and leave only the car, then go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Set the amount to 10 pixels and the angle to 90º. You can reduce or increase the value too, if you like.

10. At this point I needed a very specific photo of a guy being hurled away by the power of the effect so again I decided to take the photo myself – this one is of me jumping over my bed. Import guy2.psd from the cover CD, extract the background and leave only the person and go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. Set the brightness to 0 and the contrast to 100. Also go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/ Saturation. Use 0 for the hue, -60 for the saturation and -35 for the lightness. Create another layer on top of the flying man and go to Layer > Create Clipping Mask. Select the Brush tool (B) and with a very soft black brush start painting over the guy. Change the blending mode to Multiply and set the opacity to something between 80 and 100%. Name the layer ‘Flying Man’.

11. Select the ‘Flying Man’ layer and go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Set the angle to -70º and the distance to 51%. Then open guy3.psd from the cover CD – this is another image I took of myself. Repeat the actions in Step 10 to comp the figure into the composition.

12. Add a new layer on top of the other layers and change the background and foreground colours to #dabe70 and #c1964f. Select Filter > Render > Clouds, then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, setting the radius to 15 pixels. Change the blending mode to Multiply and set the opacity to 80%. Then with the Eraser tool (E) delete the central area of the layer above the explosion effect.

13. With the Brush tool (B) in white, create some sparks. Go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur, then select Zoom, with an amount of 10 pixels; set the quality to Best. Also add another layer and repeat the Noise Gradient effect we created in the Step 7 to create more rays of lights. Change the blending mode of these two layers to Color Dodge.

14. Select all layers and duplicate them, so go to Layer > Merge Layers to merge all duplicated layers to one. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, set the amount to 20 pixels, and change the blending mode to Screen. This will add a nice glow to the image.

15. Grab a big, soft black brush and paint at the top and bottom of the image. This will create a vignette effect, which will draw viewers’ attention to the centre of the image.

Fabio Sasso

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