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 tinyurl.com/cec9nr. 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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