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The Road to Web designing

Art Illustrations

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30 April 2010

Create 3D type art using Photoshop CS5

The new 3D tools in Photoshop CS5 are more advanced than ever. In this tutorial we will use the new Repoussé tool to extrude some text in a way previously only possible in a full 3D application.

As well as exploring the capabilities of this exciting new feature, we will explore the traditional 3D settings to get the most out of the different material and rendering options.

By using Photoshop’s blending modes and masks we can quickly build up different effects and play with colours in a way that would be far fiddlier and more time-consuming in a 3D program.

To bring the colours of the composition together, we will also have a quick look at using adjustment layers to give a cohesive scheme to the whole picture at once.

Step 1
We’ll start with the text and build everything else around that. Each letter will need to be created individually, but once we have the basic method down it’s simple to repeat for the rest. Create a new text layer, type the first letter (or most important letter) of your word and choose the font you want.

Step 2
Now to turn this letter into a 3D object. Make sure your 3D palette is open, and then scroll down to the Create New 3D Object section.

Tick the 3D Repoussé Object option and click on Create. You may be asked if you want to rasterise the layer before it goes ahead, just say yes if it does.

Step 3
Looking at the Repoussé dialog for the first time can be pretty intimidating; there are a lot of options. We’re going to specify our own settings rather than using the handful of presets Adobe has included as standard in the top left corner.

We’ll work on the shape before worrying about the materials or lighting.

Step 4
First let’s add some depth. I’ve used a setting of 4.75 for the C here. Our flat letter is now a full 3D object. This is all well and good, but we haven’t really taken full advantage of the Repoussé tools. There are no advanced rendering options, so we’ll need to use a few tricks to make our letter look dynamically 3D.

Step 5
To spice things up, increase the twist value to 560. You will see the extrusion start to corkscrew backwards now. The problem is that because it’s going straight back we can’t really see much of what’s going on. I’ve rotated it to the side here using the transform tools in the top left to show what’s changed. The problem now is that the letter isn’t facing us.

Step 6
To allow us to see the extrusion properly, we need to change the bend settings. Make sure the Bend option is ticked, and then try selecting different boxes on the square to the right. These represent which direction the extrusion will be bent in. A bend to the right looks good for my extrusion.

Step 7
Now we want to change the colour of the letter itself, to make it easy to select later. Exit the Repoussé tool and select the material for the front in the 3D Materials palette. The front will be called ‘X Front Inflation Material’ (where X is your letter). Select the box next to Diffuse below and change it to a bright, contrasting colour – I’ve used red.

Step 8
Now let’s add some more interesting lights. Select the Lights tab at the top of the 3D palette. You can now select and edit each light individually, and add new lights. I’ve used three infinite lights, two grey and one light blue.

Move them around to get a new distribution of shadow and highlights. You’ll need a different arrangement for each letter to get the best result.

Step 9
To add the chequered pattern, we’ll duplicate our 3D layer and use a mask to blend between the two. After duplicating the layer, select the X Extrusion Material in the 3D palette and change it to the preset chequer pattern.

Select the little icon to the right of the Diffuse box, and choose Edit Properties. Play with the settings here to get the texture to look how you want.

Step 10
Add a layer mask to your texture layer and using the Gradient tool, or a big soft brush, add black to the mask to fade the texture away. Change the blending mode of the layer to Overlay and lighten the texture to make it less harsh. Now to add a bit of colour.

Step 11
Duplicate your original layer again, and move it above the texture layer. Select Scene (at the top of the 3D palette), then scroll down and change the render settings to Normals. This colours the faces depending on which direction they are pointing, which is a nice effect.

Change the layer’s blending mode to Color. Use a hue and saturation adjustment to colourise the layer purple, then fade this to about 70% or so using Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + F.

Step 12
The final step for this letter is to style the front face. Use the Quick Selection or Magic Wand tool to select it; it should be fairly easy thanks to the bright colour we gave it earlier. Expand the selection by a couple of pixels to prevent overlap, and fill it with the colour you want on a new layer at the top. Try adding some layer styles, such as an Inner Glow to make it a bit more interesting.

Step 13
Repeat the same process for every letter of your word, arranging them around each other in an interesting composition. Use layer masks to hide parts of letters to make them appear as if they are underneath other ones. This will give a better sense of depth than if they are just stacked on top of each other.

Step 14
Keep playing with the colours to suit your tastes. Add extra details by using copies of your 3D letter. Try adding a stripy material to a letter, and then rotating it in many different directions. Change the extrusion depth, twist and bend to get different shapes and then arrange them around your main letters.

I’ve moved one letter off to the bottom left here to show that these shapes are really just different versions of my ‘C’.

Step 15
I’ve used a lot of adjustment layers at the top of my composition to bring the colour scheme together. Using gradient map adjustment layers with the blending modes set to Soft Light, Darken or Lighten is a great way to give an overall tone to an image.

Use low opacities – never more than 50%, unless you want to radically shift your colours.

Use curves adjustment layers to fix any contrast or brightness issues.

Step 16
Adding extra detail to the background is a good way to stop your text seeming too isolated, or not part of the image as a whole. Variations in the background colour, grungy textures and illustrative elements will all add interest to your composition. Add whatever you like to complement your text, but remember that it should remain very much the star.

Nik Ainley

25 April 2010

Create fireballs and explosions

Fabio Sasso uses custom brushes and layers to create an explosive scene in Photoshop.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to transform a fairly typical road-trip image – with a big blue sky and wide-open spaces – into an apocalyptic battle scene, complete with tanks, guns, parachutists and a hail of incoming missiles.

Of course, changing the colour of the sky and pasting in tanks and other elements is the easy bit: things get trickier when it comes to creating the smoke and explosions.

Here, Fabio Sasso shows you how to create custom brushes that recreate smoke and fireballs convincingly. You can use a background image of your own, or if you want to use the same image as Fabio, you can buy it from 000004942141. You’ll also need images of tanks, guns and parachutists.

01. In Photoshop, open your landscape image. Search for images of guns and tanks similar to those I’ve used here, and place them onto new layers. Duplicate the tank layer and make the new one smaller, as though they’re in formation. Next, change the saturation of the road image: go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation, use -40 for the Saturation. Now go to the gun layer and again select Image > Adjustments > Hue/ Saturation. This time use: Hue 35, Saturation 25, Lightness: 0, and select Colorize.

02. For the smoke we will create two brushes. Start by creating a new layer, with a white background and a black foreground. Then go to Filter > Render > Clouds. Then with the Lasso Tool (L), use a Feather of 40 pixels and create a marquee selection then select Edit > Define Brush Preset. Name it ‘Smoke 1’.

03. Select the Brush Tool (B) and go to the Brush Engine (Window > Brushes). Select the ‘Smoke 1’ brush, and activate the following settings: for Brush Tip Shape, select 25% Spacing. For Shape Dynamics use 100% for the Size Jitter, 75% for the Minimum Diameter, and select Flip X Jitter and Flip Y Jitter. For Scattering, use 135% for the Scatter and select Both Axis, use 10 for the Counter and 60% for the Counter Jitter. Select Color Dynamics and use 92% for the Foreground/Background Jitter, then 50% for the Hue, Saturation, and Brightness Jitter. For Purity use 100%. Finally, select Other Dynamics and use 20% for the Opacity Jitter.

04. Create a smoke column with the new brush, using a 50% grey for the foreground and black for the background colours. Then select Layer > Layer Styles > Inner Shadow. Use Color Burn for the Blend Mode, 30% Opacity, 50 pixels distance, 0 Choke, Size 10 pixels. Next, select Gradient Overlay, use Color Dodge for the Blend Mode, 100% Opacity and Style Radial. For the colours, use black and a brown (R: 188, G: 135, B: 8). Move the gradient to the bottom of the column to create the fireball effect. Finally, go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur, use 90º Angle and 30 pixels distance.

05. Rotate the column to make it fall at a 30º angle. Then create more fireballs by repeating the previous step. Use different brush sizes and blurs.

06. Create the second brush, which we’ll use for bigger plumes of smoke. To do this, repeat the steps we use to create the first brush, however when you use the Lasso tool, use a Feather of 100 pixels instead of 40 pixels, and make a different marquee selection. Name it ‘Smoke 2’.

07. To create the dense smoke, select the ‘Smoke 2’ brush with 50% grey and black colours. Start painting at a very small size, then start increasing the brush size as you move upwards. Reduce the size again to add more details to the smoke. To make it darker, add a Color Overlay with the Layer Styles. You can use black with Normal Blend mode. Create two black columns of smoke.

08. For explosions and fires, we will use two layers. For the first, use the ‘Smoke 1’ brush at 200 pixels for the size and create a small cloud in front of the fireball. Then select Layer > Layer Styles > Select Gradient Overlay. Use Color Dodge for the Blend Mode, 100% Opacity, Style Radial and for the colours use yellow (R: 255, G: 192, B: 0) and brown (R: 127, G: 92, B: 23).

09. On the second layer, use the same brush but at a smaller size (roughly 50 pixels). For the Layer Styles, change the colours to White and a dark brown (R: 61, G: 37, B: 17). Repeat this several times to create the explosions.

10. Add more smoke plumes and dust using the same process but changing the Layer Styles. For the smoke, select the Color Overlay, with the Blend Mode Normal set to normal. Create some sand around the tanks using a sand colour. With the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) create an ellipse, and using the ‘Smoke 1’ brush, create the wave of air surrounding the explosion on the ground.

11. Search for an image of parachutists, and place it. Use Multiply for the Blend mode, and create a new layer. Then select the Smoke 2 brush and with the Brush Tool (B), create another column of smoke, repeating the steps we use to create the other dark columns of the air. This time, however, use purple for the colour, set the Blend Mode to Screen on the Color Overlay settings.

12. Create a layer on top of the others, select the ‘Smoke 2’ brush at a very big size, use a light grey for the colour and paint some smoke in. Change the layer’s Blend Mode to Linear Light. Then add a new layer and in front of the previous one and paint a few more plumes of smoke. This time set the Blend Mode to Screen. Adding some smoke in front of the machine gun will give an extra touch of realism to the scene.

13. Now adjust the image. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter, use Deep Yellow for the Filter with Luminosity at 60%. Then select Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Fill again, select black and brown (R: 174, G: 110, B: 47) for the colours, and Radial for the style. The brown part of the gradient has to be in the middle of the big explosion. These two adjustment layers have to be beneath the smoke that is in front of the machine gun.

14. To make the scene more realistic, add a motion blur on the first tank. Select the ‘Tanks’ layer and go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur, use 0º for the angle and 30 pixels for the distance.

Fabio Sasso

24 April 2010

Facebook Like Button Plugin

Facebook recently rolled out quite a few new features for social media interaction and my favorite of these updates is the New Facebook Like Button. Unfortunately Facebook overlooked the millions of Wordpress users out there and developed the functionality for this Like Feature into Typepad. I have developed the Facebook Like Button functionality into a Wordpress Plugin that can be downloaded here.

DownloadInstallation of this plugin is a snap
1. Download
2. Unpack and upload file ‘facebook-like-button-plugin.php’ to ‘/wp-content/plugins/’.
3. Head to your dashboard and activate the plugin.
4. That is all, the plugin is ready to go!

The plugin will look like this on your page:

Facebook Like Button

I have given the plugin a style id ‘facebook_like_button’ so you can control the look and feel of the plugin with css.

22 April 2010

Master Photoshop's Liquify filter

The Liquify palette offers all sorts of ways to distort an image: you can twist and pull specific sections through the Warp tool, expand them so that they look like they’ve been inflated using the Bloat tool, or squish up sections using Pucker.

As with all Photoshop filters, the Liquify tools are usually best used sparingly. However, for this tutorial Sasso whacks all the settings up high and gets stuck in with creating disturbing and distorted Liquify filter effects.

Step 1
Create a new A4 document in Photoshop, then import a suitable photo of a cat – it’s quite important that it’s in a similar pose to this one and that the face is clear – and extract its background. The image I used was bought from Shutterstock; you can download it from

Step 2
Now let’s deform the cat to make it more cartoonish. To do that go to Filter > Liquify. In this palette, use the Bloat tool (B) to bloat the eyes, then the Forward tool (W) to move things around: push the ears down and stretch the mouth in preparation for the big teeth we’ll put there later. Play with the brush sizes, density and pressure with these tools to get the best results.

Step 3
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue and Saturation. Place the new layer above the cat’s in the Layers palette. Select Layer > Create Clipping Mask. When you create a clipping mask the layer is visible only over the area of the layer below, in this case the cat. So select Colorize then increase the Hue to 235, reduce the Saturation to 23 and the Lightness to -15.

Step 4
Again select Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue and Saturation, then go to Layer > Create Clipping Mask. Place this adjustment layer on top of the previous one. Change the Hue to 85, the Saturation to 60 and the Lightness to -35. This gives the piece a green colour.

Step 5
Using the Paint Bucket (G), select the mask of the Hue and Saturation layer over the Layers palette. It will be white, so fill it with black to hide the green. With the Brush tool (B), select a soft white brush and white, then paint over the eyes and
also create green areas on the cat.

Step 6
Now go to Layer > New Adjustment Layers > Gradient Map. This layer is on top of the other adjustment layers, and once again create a clipping mask. Change the blending mode to Soft Light. Set the layer’s blending mode to Soft Light too.

Step 7
Now let’s add some teeth. To get a suitably menacing set I used a crocodile image, again from Shutterstock ( Then with the Lasso tool (L) select a part of its mouth and copy it.

Step 8
Paste the teeth onto the cat image and place them. To adjust the form of the teeth to follow the cat’s mouth, once again use the Liquify filter with the Forward tool (W). After that duplicate and flip the teeth horizontally to create the mouth.

Step 9
Add a layer on top of the teeth layers and with the Brush tool (B), using a soft black brush, paint on the edges of the mouth to create a shadow and give the impression of depth. Use Multiply for the blending mode.

Step 10
Now add the branch the cat is lying on. The image I used was from Shutterstock ( Rotate and try to find the best angle for the branches. Also use the Liquify filter with the Twirl Clockwise tool (C) to distort the tree’s branches and create some swirls.

Step 11
Add more branches in the background and apply a Gaussian Blur with a radius of 15 pixels, then import a photo of a sky. The one I used was from Shutterstock (

Step 12
Select the sky image and move it below the others in the Layers palette. Still with the layer selected, go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness and Contrast. Reduce the Brightness to -135 and increase the Contrast to 100. After that go to Image > Adjustment > Hue and Saturation. Select Colorize, then increase the Hue to 262, change the Saturation to 43 and the Lightness to -15. This will give you a very purple background.

Step 13
Select all layers and duplicate them, with the duplicated copies go to Layer > Merge Layers (Cmd/Ctrl + Alt/Opt + Shift + E). Select the merged layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set the radius to 20 pixels and change the blending mode to Screen. The whole image will get shinier. Then with the Eraser tool (E) delete pretty much the whole layer leaving only the face of the cat very well lit.

Step 14
Add another layer and with the Brush tool (B) add a vignette to the design and you’ve practically finished. You can make the eyes brighter by duplicating the blurry layer and changing the blending mode to Screen.

Fabio Sasso

21 April 2010

Create lush, glossy vector images

It’s easy to associate vectors with flat shapes – but creating Illustrator images with real depth needn’t be a headache. In this tutorial, Thomas Burden (who works under the name ...There Will Be Unicorns) shows how you can create striking, vibrant work in Illustrator using a simple colour palette and basic blur effects – particularly Illustrator’s built-in Gaussian Blur effects.

Along the way, you’ll also learn how to bring simple shapes to life, and how to create charming characters and elements, using only basic Illustrator and Photoshop.

Shading elements in Illustrator with the Gaussian Blur leaves your objects completely editable. Once you’ve scaled these elements to the right size, you can import them into Photoshop for a quick brightening up and some tweaks to layer blending modes and styles.

The net effect is fresh, clean and irresistibly cheerful.

Step 1
It’s a good idea to start by sketching on paper: I find it easier and quicker to mark out rough compositions and characters or elements by hand first. These are very rough, though, and I don’t even bother scanning them in, preferring
to take snapshots with a digital camera for speed. Scan yours in if you prefer.

Step 2
Loosely trace these jottings in Illustrator, using the basic Shape tools in combination with the Pen tool to keep a uniform and simple look to all the elements. Then choose a colour palette – keep this as simple as possible. I usually use no more than 10 colours. Use these as a base to work with while getting the major compositional elements in place.

Step 3
We’ll focus on creating one element, as almost everything is created using the same process. Open Rainbow from the CD in Illustrator. Then select Illustrator > Preferences > General. Tick the box marked Scale Strokes & Effects.

This ensures that any stroke and effect applied to an object will scale relatively to the object it is applied to – which is key here, as adding strokes and effects is the bulk of what we’ll be doing.

Step 4
Select the red shape that I created from a basic rounded rectangle shape. This will form the base of the rainbow volcano, and, once shaded, coloured and duplicated, will form the rest of it too. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + G to group the object and double-click it to enter the group.

Now draw a highlight line with the Pen tool (P), just inside the top left of the shape, with a white stroke and a thickness of 3.5px with rounded ends.

Step 5
With line selected click Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set it to 10. You will see the effect appear in the Appearances panel on the right. If this is not open then select Window > Appearance from the menu or use Shift + F6. Double-click the effect in the appearances panel at any time to edit it.

Step 6
Now reduce the opacity of the line to 29%. There you have it – a highlight.

Step 7
Now we need to mask the group so that any shading we apply stays within the borders of the shape. Select the background shape again and go Cmd/Ctrl + C > Cmd/Ctrl + F > Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + ] to copy it and paste in the same place, then bring the copy to the front. Click the Make/Release Clipping Mask button in the bottom left of the Layers palette to mask the group.

Step 8
Now we need to add the shading around the edges of the shape. Select the background shape and Cmd/Ctrl + C > Cmd/Ctrl + F to copy and paste on top of itself. Knock out the fill of this new shape and change the stroke colour values to C – 0 M – 100 Y – 100 K – 32. Thicken the stroke to 10px.

Step 9
In the menu bar, click Effect. Don’t then click Apply Gaussian Blur, as this will use the last-used settings. We want to use slightly different settings for the shading – click Gaussian Blur and set the radius to 40px.

Step 10
In the Transparency palette, change the blending mode to Multiply and reduce the opacity to 90%.

Step 11
Double-click on an empty space to exit the group. Then, holding down Alt/Opt + Shift, click and drag a copy of the group directly above the original. Make it slightly smaller and place behind the original group by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + [.

Step 12
Double-click the new group to enter it, then select the background shape and change the fill to a deeper orange. You may find it difficult to select the background shape as the Gaussian Blur effect on the shading may overlap it: to get around this, place the shading line at the back of the group by selecting it and hitting Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + [, and then change the colour of the background shape, before placing it at the back again by selecting it and hitting Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + [.

Step 13
Using the Pen tool (P), draw a shape that will become the shading at the bottom of the section. Fill with the same colour as the shading stroke, set the blending mode to Multiply and reduce the opacity to 56%.

Step 14
Then, in the menu bar, select Effect > Gausian Blur and set it to 30px. Double-click in an empty space on the art board to leave the group.

Step 15
Repeat steps 11 to 13 for the yellow, green and blue rings of the volcano, changing the colour of the shading to match each layer.

Step 16
Group all five layers of the volcano by clicking and dragging a box around all of them with the selection tool and then hitting Cmd/Ctrl + G. Then Cmd/Ctrl + C to copy the new group.

Step 17
Now open up unicorns.psd file on the CD in Photoshop. Select the ‘background elements’ layer in the layers palette and paste Cmd/Ctrl + V the volcano vector object. Select As pixels in the dialog box that pops up.

Step 18
Position it in line with the splash at the bottom of the large rainbow on the left. Then, in the Layers palette, click and drag the layer onto the Create new layer button at the bottom of the Layers palette to duplicate the layer.

Step 19
Set the blending mode of the new layer to Soft Light and reduce the opacity to 70%.

Step 20
Select both layers by holding down Cmd/Ctrl and clicking on one then the other. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + E to merge the two together. Double-click the new layer to bring up the Layer Styles box. Select Bevel and Emboss’ from the styles list on the left. Uncheck the Use global light box and set the depth to 100%.

Set the size to 100px and the soften to 16px. In the Shading option set the angle to 101º and the altitude to 64º. Then set the highlight opacity to 24 and the shadow opacity to 100.

Step 21
Duplicate this new layer again by dragging onto the Create new layer button at the bottom of the Layers palette. Set the blending mode to Multiply and the opacity to 20%. Select both layers and merge again using Cmd/Ctrl + E.

Step 22
Now duplicate this layer by holding Alt/Opt while clicking and dragging, place it in front of the smaller splash and rainbow to the right and resize (Cmd/Ctrl + T) to fit.

Step 23
As a final adjustment, select the top layer, ‘Foreground elements’, in the layers palette. Then in the menu bar, select Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast. Set the brightness to +6 and the contrast to +18 and the image is complete.

Thomas Burden

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