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CREATE STRIKING COMPOSITIONS Combine multiple tools in Photoshop and master essential compositing


ALSO INSIDE! Create surreal artwork Inside an arch-vis studio Make your own textures Design a font in Elements

LA YERS , MASKS AND MORE ✔ Fractal art ✔ Photo mosaics ✔ Perspective effects ISSUE 136

MASTER 3D ILLUSTRATE EXPERT GUIDE TYPOGRAPHY LIKE A PRO TO PAINTING Discover top tools for making your Advice from artists on how 3D type look stylish and stand out

to improve your illustrations

Take layers and masks further and turn your sketches into digitally airbrushed paintings


Free step-by-step tutorials online

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This issue we explore the world of photomanipulation, and look at some of the best techniques for creating spectacular photo edits. Turn to p16 where you’ll even discover how this issue’s cover was created. We also have tutorials on how to composite creative portraits, how to design a typeface in Elements, top tips from pro artists on how to improve your illustrations, and much more. There are also some exciting resources on this issue’s FileSilo, worth a total of $386, so download them now and start experimenting. You might have noticed that you are not just reading any Photoshop magazine, but an award-winning one! That’s right, Photoshop Creative was voted Most Inspiring Design Magazine in the Creative Market Awards 2015. Thank you to everyone who voted, and we look forward to inspiring you even more throughout 2016.

© Imagine Publishing Ltd 2016 ISSN 1747-7816

Sarah Bankes Editor



Contents Co



gallery 06 Readers’ Take a look at what your fellow

selections to swap faces 22 Use Copy, transform and apply layer

gallery 08 Trending Check out some of the most

2D and 3D elements 26 Merge Create a 3D model and edit multiple

challenge 10 Readers’ Enter our competition for a chance

portraits with 32 Blend layer masks

readers have been up to this issue

popular artwork that’s trending

to win a prize worth £500!

the studio 12 Inside We check out REDVERTEX, a

leading studio for arch-vis projects

Make spectacular 16 Feature: photo edits

Use filters, layers, masks and more for fun photomanipulation effects

project 54 Resource Make textures from everyday surfaces, such as walls

58 Look inside the playful yet witty Project focus

web comic Lackadaisy

I Made 60 How Julia Vidanova talks us through

Subscribe today and you’ll

SAVE 30% Turn to page 106 to get this amazing deal. US page 79

masks and adjustment layers images using essential tools

Enmesh a model in swirling ink, smoke, texture and colour

stunning compositions 36 Make Create a surreal scenario using multiple images and the Warp tool

your portraits 40 Take out of this world

YOUR FREE PHOTOSHOP RESOURCES ARE HERE! ✔ This issue: brushes, stock images, textures,

templates, fonts, actions and more

✔ Plus files to follow the tutorials ✔ Free and ready for you to download today!

Apply blend modes, Transform tools and much more

four seasons 46 Composite Use selections, blending and photos to create a year-long landscape

HDR effects to 50 Add your outdoor shots

See how Photoshop’s HDR feature can bring out stunning detail

how she created Selfie

I Made 80 How Discover the process behind Jonathan Maurin’s Skyline

102 Reviews Pixnub Hot Folder 2.1.3 plug-in and Macphun Aurora HDR plug-in

interview 108 Portfolio We talk to chief of La Boca about iconic music artwork and more



interview 111 Reader Photographic artist Vicki-Lea

Advanced Photoshop

Boulter showcases her projects

112 FileSilo This issue there are hundreds of

pro tips for 62 10 improving illustrations

Top tips

free resources worth $386!

We uncover the secrets that will take any illustration to the next level

up an illustration 68 Build with layers

Achieve the so™, clean look of an airbrushed-style illustration

3D typography 74 Master Create a 3D render and add shapes



and colour for eye-catching type

Take a look at our fantastic online shop at


for back issues, books and merchandise




Master the art of photomanipulation and do wonderfully creative things to your photos




Elements creative focus: Master the 84 Tool Spot Healing brush

Erase spots and blemishes with this straightforward tool

art: Get creative 92 Surreal with layers Push layers to the edge using brushes, masks and more

project: Design 96 Digital art: Make a 86 Creative comic-book panel your own typeface Sketch a typeface and bring it to life with selections and fills

Inject pow! into your photos to create a comic-book effect

edit: Create Common problems 90 Photo 100 Q&A: Instagram-style photos in Elements Learn to use Levels and adjustments, and blend colours

We answer your questions and find solutions to your problems



READERS’ IMAGES Welcome to an inspirational round-up of great Photoshop artwork created by none other than your fellow readers


Send us your images now for the chance to appear in future galleries Create your own gallery online Upload your images to Facebook Search PhotoshopCreative Tweet us your creative artwork @PshopCreative

Alternatively, you can email:

Elissandro Pinto


Image of the issue “This is an image I created for my sons. Colour was extremely important in the creative process and I used adjustment layers to control all of it. The lens flare gave a distinctively science fiction feel to the entire picture.”

Ata Alishahi


“I created this picture from a combination of photos and Photoshop brushes. I took advantage of layers, and blending every one to perfection, and I finalised the picture with a few adjustments. I was happy with the results!”


Peter Spencer user/Seventy%20Eight

“I started by cutting out the image of the lady and then adding the London skyline over the top as a clipping mask with the blend mode Screen. I added a photo filter and a few gradient maps to enhance the look and feel of the image.”

Svetlana Klimova user/Svetlana%20Klimova

“I made a photo collage of images. I painted the hair of the subject and then started on the other details. I like to paint everything separately before colour-correcting the picture as a whole.”

Laercio Messias Laercio%20SKULL

“This is a picture that I created to show the innocence of children. It’s a surreal image that uses layers, masks and adjustments to blend everything in the image together to look cohesive.”

Lina Beckman


“I wanted to challenge myself and learn something new. I selected a few photos from my own library and used a couple of stock photos to create the underwater part and the island. I added layer masks on all of the images and also photo filters in different colours.”


TRENDING IMAGES Check out some of the most popular artwork that’s been rocking the internet over the last few weeks, and take inspiration from what’s currently trending Nikita Pilyukshin There’s nothing more inspiring than surfing the internet and seeing what other artists are creating and we encourage you to do so. Here are some of our favourite pictures that caught our attention recently, from some of the world’s most exciting artists and designers.

“I made this image using Photoshop, Zbrush and Keyshot. The sketch was drawn in Photoshop, and I created the mountains and the girl with clothes by Zbrush. All these models were rendered in Keyshot and the post-production was done in Photoshop.”

Marija Tiurina

Thibault Daumain thibaultdaumain

“A3 digital Photoshop paintings were commissioned by a frontend developer who wanted to spice up his website with some detailed drawings. The idea behind the layout was to build a scene around a cube-shaped object.”

Nikita’s image is reminiscent of epic fantasy console games. His dramatic compositions have been viewed over 100,000 times on Behance, and we love the colour adjustments that have gone into creating such a cold atmosphere

“This illustration is a personal illustration inspired by James Blake’s song Measurements. I first draw the entire illustration with a thin mechanical pen on a thick white sheet of paper. Then I scanned the finished drawing and added the colour and details with Photoshop.”

A lot of artists work on paper first, and Thibault has proved here that you can enhance well-detailed art with Photoshop. This piece has been viewed thousands of times on Behance


This is one of a series of four seasonal pictures, which have all trended online. Marija has been featured by Behance and Adobe’s ‘Inspiration Is…’ page (www., partly due to her eye for detail

Toni López

“These images were created solely in Photoshop. I created the lines with the Halƒone Pattern filter and the Displace filter, and I also used the Wave filter in the Distort menu. I adjusted everything with Curves and Selective Colour adjustments.”

Ahmet’s illustrations are all extremely distinctive, and we love the texture of his work; this is a great example of how to use lighting

Ahmet İlta

www.behance. net/iltasahmet

“This is just one of a few doodles created at the end of 2015 and uploaded to Behance, before I signed off for the year! This one was created in Photoshop with a Wacom Intuos tablet.”

These portraits are really original and fantastically futuristic-looking. They’ve been selected to be displayed at the 2016 Adobe Summit aƒer a lot of buzz online, and no wonder: we love the use of colour and shape involved in these pieces

Nikola’s image has been seen thousands of times on Behance and it’s clear to see why. The stark colours are cohesive and cool, and it’s proof that it’s possible to create minimal scenes in Photoshop

Alessandro Pautasso

“I created this illustration primarily with Adobe Photoshop CS6, with the aid of a Wacom Cintiq tablet. As a starting point I combined two photos together and, aƒer that, I did an abstract paint job on it with some custom brushes I made.”

Nikola Arsov

“This was created for a Design connected contest. Some 3D rendering was used for this image, but a lot of the production was managed in Photoshop, tying the elements together.”

Low-poly artwork is extremely popular on the web at the moment, and Alessandro’s digital art has that feel, as well as being vivid and bright. He’s even been featured by Wacom


READERS’ CHALLENGE Upload your images to

2 We challenged you with these In Issue 134, we challenged you to get creative with these four chosen images. You were allowed to use any or all of the pictures, and then whatever other resources you chose.

Challenge entries The best entries and

overall challenge winner

1 Anna Przybylska

Challenge entry “Instead of setting this picture out in space, this composition instead centres in an art studio. The astronomers and the rocket images are both used as paintings.”

2 Ronaldo Unruh

Lugar de exploracion “This entry takes mystical influence. The plasma globe is used on the top of the pyramid, and the paintbox is used at its base. It uses all four images.”

3 John Fitzgerald

Global exodus “I wanted to create a story with the image and give it a punchy name. I’ve used all the images and positioned them onto an image I took with my iPhone out the window of a train.”

4 Marcus Jones

Yippi! We’ll be home for Christmas “Inspired by astronaut Tim Peake, this entry builds a space station with the start images and places the two astronauts into the scene.”



Readers’e Challeng WINNER





A Highlander Photoshop course

This issue, you could win a place on a Photoshop course worth £500 courtesy of Highlander! This is a fantastic opportunity for any Photoshop user to learn new skills, whether you’re new to the program or a seasoned professional. There are two locations to choose from: London or York (UK). The course will be valid for 12 months. Check out the website for more: www.

WORTH £500! RUNNERS’-UP PRIZE… Moleskine Smart Notebook


The winner, along with three runners-up will receive an amazing Moleskine Smart Notebook. Sketch on the go, and the Moleskine app will render your pictures perfectly into fully workable digital files.

This issue’s challenge Thinkchallenged you can do better?you Prove it! We Get creative with the supplied In Issue 134, we images and you win a challenged youcould to get fantastic asfour many of the creative prize! with Use these images youwere like (from previous images.asYou issues too!) allowed to and useinclude any oryour all own photos if you wish.and Head to www. of the pictures, and hit whatever other resources the youChallenge chose. link. Good luck!

WORTH £25.95! 11

Inside the studio

REDVERTEX Meet the design studio on the cutting-edge of the arch-vis industry


he world of architectural visualisation has moved on greatly in the last few years, so studios need to be at the cutting edge of design to keep up. One such studio is Bulgaria-based REDVERTEX, which develops 3D visualisations and animations for architectural clients. The studio has seen a huge growth in the arch-vis industry over the last seven years, working on more than 500 projects for a huge number of international clients. From a modest team of ten, working entirely in the local market, REDVERTEX now has over 80 team members and takes on clients from France, Belgium, England, India, Brazil, Chile, United Arab Emirates, Japan and Israel, among others. Over the years, architectural design has blossomed from purely functional to a product that can be sold. This has changed the kind of creative output that is required by design studios – REDVERTEX creates both high-end, luxury 3D visuals and animated projects, as partner and director Dimitar Rashkov explains: “Multimedia has become a natural part of successful architectural projects. We have started doing CGI and films for marketing companies that used to outsource its production for marketing purposes. After a few years we had the opportunity to start working directly with some of the most successful architectural practices around the world. Since 90 per cent of our team members are graduated architects, we decided to focus on that new challenge. During the last three or four years, we have developed very successful collaborations with world-known architectural practices and real-estate developers.” Post-production of 3D renders is another area where REDVERTEX excels and where incredibly detailed, high-quality results are expected. “Our post-production team is involved in the final stage before the images reach our customers, and Photoshop is an invaluable tool in our work,” says postproduction director Nikki Ranguelov. “The post-production process of images is very complex. We begin with colour correction of the materials, strengthening or retouching the light, and overall colour, tone and lightness modifications. Placement of additional


The studio is split into zones: a working hall, an entertainment hall and a green-screen studio

ABOUT THE STUDIO REDVERTEX A leading studio for the development of 3D visualisations, animations and masterplans for architectural projects. Founded in 2008 by two enthusiasts with extensive experience in the architectural field, it now has a team of more than 80 talented professionals.

Dimitar Rashkov Partner/director

Nikki Ranguelov Post-production director

Snejina Mateva Associate director

A day in the life of Dimitar Rashkov

The director takes us through his day

Plan the day


First thing in the morning, you can find me sitting at my desk, checking all the communications and planning the day of work ahead.

Team meeting time


Next is a meeting with the team managers for projects status review and accommodation of the urgent jobs. We have no other types of jobs than urgent ones!

Dealing with issues


During the course of the day I am often stopped with questions and queries from the studio staff, and I manage issues on the fly.

Lunch with colleagues


Finding time for lunch with colleagues is never an easy task, but we have the best Serbian Grill in town just across the street.

Studio problems defeated


End of the day


It’s the end of another successful day in the studio. Another unrealistic schedule was solved and we achieved all our goals that we set out to.

All images © REDVERTEX

There is no such thing as a perfect world! We had a crypto-virus detected so the backup servers have to be validated to check there are no resulting problems.


Inside the studio TOP 5 PRODUCTION TIPS


Dulwich College, Shanghai: The new Dulwich International School in Minhang, Shanghai, provides state-of-the-art teaching and learning environments

1. Be prepared for change It is important to be ready and be flexible. O en the deadlines change and are short. The 3D and post-production artists need to work together to complete a project quickly, efficiently and, at times, under stress in these kinds of situations. 2. Organise your resources Good management in big projects is always a key point for a seamless production workflow. It is of great benefit if you can organise your resources in the best possible way. By doing this you can achieve the required quality in a shorter timeframe. 3. Work as a team You need to be able to collaborate with others. Help each other out on big projects. The people in the studio are your second family. It is important to lend a helping hand and distribute the work as evenly as possible in order to manage deadlines. 4. Keep the client informed It is important to be sure that the client is well informed about how the project is developing at all times – for example, when they are going to receive dra images for revision and whether all of their comments are well received and understood. 5. Don’t focus on the money It’s not always about earning a lot of money. Be passionate in your work so that you can perform in the best possible way for the time being. The paycheck will inevitably come once your hard work and passion shines through.

Getting creative: The creative environment has everything the studio needs under one roof

elements, such as the sky, trees, plants, animals and people, is often required to complete the image and liven it up. Overpainting and retouching is also frequent. We sometimes work on photomontages, in which architectural elements are combined with photographs. Photoshop is a very flexible tool that gives us the power to inspirit and create stories from every CGI.” The post-production team consists of ten exceptionally talented individuals who know the Photoshop software inside out. “We use almost every tool in Photoshop,” continues Ranguelov. “Perhaps the most notable specific is that we are constantly working with alpha channels. It is very important for us to have the ability to work on the different elements of the render in separate layers. The alpha channels enable us to select an element or material with precision.” The amount of Photoshop required in a project is down to the style that the client is


looking for: “Some projects call for a more artistic approach and Photoshop is used to a great extent. These images have a more magical or fairytale essence. Other projects demand more realistic images and focus on the architectural element, so Photoshop plays a minimal role. We have managed to find a balance between the artistic and the realistic in the CGIs, and I believe this defines us.” Of course, Photoshop isn’t the only key piece of software for the studio to deliver the goods. The original CGI renders are created using Autodesign 3ds Max with Vray. “We use some very useful plug-ins to facilitate our work too,” says Snejina Mateva, associate director. “The most applicable ones are Forest Pack and Rail Clone, both created by Itoo Software ( Forest Pack gives us the opportunity to create a vast surface of trees and plants, as well as achieve great realism in the vegetation. Rail Clone is used for parametric modelling based on custom geometry parts, which saves a lot of time for modelling. In addition we use Sketch Up and Autocad for revising the information that clients are sending.” The talents of the team and the software that they use are utilised as required for each individual brief. Mateva explains: “Creating a high-quality CGI is different in each project. Probably one of the most interesting for me was an image representing a complex of wooden houses standing in the sea near Abu

Dhabi. Each house has its own porch and a private pier. The process of developing the whole environment in 3D for this image was really exciting. First, I researched real-life examples, so that I could observe exactly how the underwater world looks. This helped me a lot to re-create the specific seabed and water life in 3D in the best possible way. After the 3D work was done, I had an internal discussion with the artist who was finishing the image in Photoshop, and we decided what additional features needed to be added.” REDVERTEX plans to increase its capacity to take on more projects and establish international offices in Dubai (planned for 2016) and London (hopefully in 2018). “This will significantly improve our communication with our major clients, which will in turn improve our services,” says Raskov. They also want to further develop the animation side of the business, as that is becoming a popular avenue within architectural visualisation.

Global studio: The studio hopes to establish international offices in Dubai and London

All images © REDVERTEX

The Floating Seahorse The post-production process applied to architectural 3D renders

Preparing the render


This image is from a project for luxury villas situated around the Dubai islands. We begin with the raw render. After importing the RGB channels for all the elements, the render is then ready for post-production.

Finishing touches applied


Comping the image


Since this is based in Dubai, an appropriate skyline is placed in as a background image and a night sky is put in place using Photoshop. The seawater is textured and light/colour corrected to match it.

After all of these more detailed modifications are complete, a general retouch is applied to the whole image in Photoshop. Sometimes various plug-ins are used, but mostly it’s just a matter of brushwork.

Retouching the render


Most elements and materials from the render are retouched. Reflections and contrast are enhanced, some colours are adjusted and the overall mood of the image is defined. Subsequently, some elements might be moved or altered.

Ready for the client


The placement of people (if the image calls for any) and/ or lights are the final touches in our images. The render is now complete, together with post-production, and ready to be sent to the client.






Master the art of photomanipulation and do wonderfully creative things to your photos

hen we think of Photoshop, many of us think of a powerful program that can create whole new worlds or warp reality. It is also very much a tool for perfecting your photographic captures. Ultimately though, most of us just use Photoshop to have fun and get creative. A fun photo-editing project

can enable you to add your own quirks to pictures, while you master some fundamental Photoshop skills. Over the next few pages you’ll discover some essential tips and tricks for creating fun photo edits that will help you to produce unique imagery. The key is to try and be as creative as you can, and push the boundaries. The

best thing about these projects is that you can use your own pictures; fractal art can be created with any image, a photo-filled mosaic can be your holiday snaps and you might want to shoot On the FileSilo your own for a Download your free perspective-bending resources at www.filesilo. composition.


BOOST PHOTOS CREATE COOL WITH FILTERS SELECTIONS Use filters to enhance your imagery and add an eye-catching glow.


Combine two images to create an imaginative photomanipulation.


Create a complexlooking, photo-filled mosaic with ease.

Shrink a large subject and place it into a life-sized scene.


Use layer masks and filters to create a fun photo effect.


The main effect was created with the AKVIS Neon filter plug-in. It was applied at differing strengths across many layers. These were combined with masks and blend modes.


Downloa from the d a free trial of AK VI Photoshop.FileSilo. Aƒer installinS Neon Filter>AK VISelect the target layeg, star t S>Neon. St r at the bottom ar t with a and go settings in right, then play w preset ith th e the right colum preview of n. For th click Run. Toe current settings’ effa full ec sa ve cu stom settin t, click Save. gs, Whe to apply, cl n you’re ready ick App the top. ly at


The starting owl quickly became buried underneath effects and texture. A copy of the clean owl was brought upward and masked to reinforce the eyes, beak and ears.


Ready to cut loose with filters? They’re a perfect jump-start when you’re having a tough time getting an image off the ground, and they can be great finishers to visuals that might need that last bit of kick. Test out the myriad filters that come shipped in Photoshop (individually and in combination). When you’re ready for more filter fun, explore third-party plug-ins. This owl image was created with the help of the electrifying AKVIS Neon plug-in. Several copies of the owl were enhanced with different presets of the Neon filter. These were then masked and blended to unify.


Texture was used to fill the void caused by the absence of the lower part of the owl’s body. The bokeh/bubble texture was also treated with the Neon filter.





Lining up the edges of the orange peel and the frog using Warp requires quite a bit of careful manipulation, but it’s worth taking your time to get it just right.


This fun animal photomanipulation is made using just two images – a frog and an orange peel. Both are available on the FileSilo, or alternatively you can use different types of fruit or animals. Once you have your start images, begin by selecting the upper half of the animal. We found the Magnetic Lasso Add shadows tool worked well with our To give the image more realism, add a new start image, but feel free to layer below the frog’s head layer, set it to try different methods, such Multiply and Opacity 40%. Use an Airbrush as the Pen tool or Quick with R:7 G:28 B:31 to paint shadows beneath the frog’s front feet and Mask mode. Duplicating the midsection. Then add shadows selection by pressing Ctrl/ within the peel on a new Cmd+J means you will preserve layer above it. the original photo, which is essential for this process.


Move the upper body



Open ‘Frog.psd’. Select the frog’s upper body with the Magnetic Lasso tool and press Ctrl/Cmd+J to duplicate the selection. Move it up and left, then hide the layer (click the eyeball icon in the Layers palette). Duplicate the original layer.

Clone the background


Select the Clone Stamp tool and set to ‘Sample all layers’. Hold Option/Alt to sample areas of the leaf, then paint over the frog’s upper body. Keep re-sampling different areas and continue the ridges of the leaf. Make the frog’s head visible again.


When making a photo composite, look for extra finishing touches that will make the effect more convincing. Here we have extended the frog’s stripe and added more shadows.

Start images

Blend in the peel


Paste in the orange peel, press Ctrl/ Cmd+T, re-size and position accordingly. Ctrl/right-click, choose Warp and line the orange peel up with the edges of the frog’s body. Add a layer mask to the orange peel and use black and white Airbrushes to blend it in with the frog.

Change the colour


Add a new layer with blending mode: Overlay and Opacity: 75%. Use the Brush tool with R:248 G:123 B:0 to paint over the frog’s skin. Add another layer and use the Clone Stamp tool to sample the frog’s stripe and apply it to the orange peel.


Use the Pixelate>Mosaic filter to create the coloured squares from the base image. Use a pixel size of 40 pixels.


Photo-filled mosaics are an incredible and timeconsuming art form. But the effect can be deceptively easy with a few tricks in Photoshop. Transform the base photo into squares of colour. Use the Filter>Pixelate> Mosaic command with a pixel size of 40. Then create a new file with pixel dimensions that are a multiple of 40 and fill the canvas with small photos that are exactly 40 x 40, or use the ‘Photo grid.jpg’ image from the FileSilo. Create a new pattern from this file with Edit>Define Pattern. Back on the base project create a new layer and use the Edit>Fill command to fill the layer with the photo pattern. Then set the blending mode to Soft Light to complete the effect.


To avoid having to position thousands of tiny photos, create a pattern first and use that to fill the canvas.


Use the So  Light blending mode to force the photo pattern to adopt the colour of the underlying image. This creates the illusion of using specifically coloured images.



PHOTO EDITS PLAY WITH PERSPECTIVE Adding a big subject to much smaller surroundings might seem like a simple composition, but there’s so much to consider to get it just right, especially if you want the final image to look plausible. Everything needs to be deadly realistic, as this is a surreal picture to create; lighting and shading need to be perfect and if the sharpening and blurring don’t look right, your subject could look like a toy figurine rather than a real person. Rather than using a Quick Selection to mask out the subject, use a soft brush to get closer. Use brushes of low opacity to create the shadows and add an Overlay Fill layer of #808080 that you can Dodge and Burn to add light and shade.


For a subtle blurring of the surroundings, duplicate everything to the top and go to Filter>Blur Gallery>Iris Blur. This gives even more prominence to the subject.

Composite the subject


Start off by placing your subject layer, adding a mask and using a soft, 20% Opaque brush to trace a realistic outline around your subject. Be as precise as possible to ensure maximum believability that your subject isn’t just edited into the picture.

Start images

EXPERT TIP Add reflections

Work on shading and lighting


Once your subject is in position, add a new, 20% Opaque layer and with a soft, black brush, draw beneath them to create a shadow. Do this with multiple layers if need be to bring the shadow out, and Dodge and Burn to tweak the lighting and shading further.


Make adjustments


Adding adjustments for the whole picture can really unify the elements. Use the Curves, Camera Raw, Vibrance and even add vignettes, sharpening and blurring to create the illusion that your subject is actually in the scene.

If you place the subject into a picture that contains a reflective surface, in this case a phone screen, make sure you reflect your subject into that surface. Duplicate the layer, apply any masks and then transform onto the surface. Use So  Light and Multiply blend modes.


Apply different adjustment layers, such as Levels and Hue/Saturation, to enhance contrast or make colour and tonal corrections to your image.


Use layer masks and Filters to create a fun photo effect. First duplicate the original image. Now grab the Quick Selection tool and select the areas you want to keep in focus. Invert the selection and add a layer mask. Blur the image a bit using the Gaussian Blur filter. To create a smooth transition between the blurry and the original image, grab a soft brush, set its Opacity around 25% and paint over the mask using white colour to blend it. Place more images, select the subject, refine the edges and work with layer masks for combining the images.


Add a clipping mask to apply adjustments or effects only to the layer directly below it. To create a clipping mask, hold Option/Alt and click the line between the two layers.


Select your subject and enter in Quick Mask mode to clean up the areas in your selection. Zoom in and out, and vary the brush size to optimise your work.


Tutorial Use selections to swap faces

On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Essentials Works with Elements



What you’ll learn

Selection methods, transforming and blending with layer masks

Time taken 2 hours

Expert Sarah Cousens “Funny compositions make me giggle. When I make my own using photos of friends and family, it’s even more fun to see their reaction. I am a freelance illustrator, designer and writer, and have been using Photoshop extensively since forming my own illustration and design company, Cool Surface, over eight years ago.”


Start image

Use selections to swap faces

Try this fun face-swap method on friends and family by copying, transforming and applying layer masks and adjustment layers


unny photomanipulations are always sure to get a few laughs! Here we are going to show you how to create an amusing face swap image, and have provided a start image for you, however we’d recommend you apply this idea to a photo of your own for some truly hilarious (or possibly creepy!) results. We’ll be using different selection methods, such as the Magnetic Lasso, Freeform Lasso and Quick Mask mode, then copying and pasting to transfer

one face to another. Different types of transformations, plus using a variety of Photoshop brushes with layer masks, will help to create a seamless transfer. By applying adjustment layers we will also be able to match the skin tones. To make the application of adjustment layers quick and easy, make sure your workspace is set up to include the Adjustments palette. Go to Window> Adjustments, and you will be able to add adjustment layers with the click of a button.

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Select the face


Open the start image from the FileSilo. Press Ctrl/Cmd+J to duplicate the background layer, so that we can work from a copied layer and preserve the original photo. Select the Magnetic Lasso tool and use it to select the baby’s face.

Transform and flip


Press Ctrl/Cmd+C to copy, and then Ctrl/Cmd+V to paste the selection. Repeat this process to select, copy and paste the mother’s face. On the baby face layer, press Ctrl/Cmd+T, Ctrl/right-click and choose Flip Horizontal.

Distort the mother’s face


Apply a layer mask



Blend it in

Clone out the cheek

Hide the eyes

Distort the baby’s face

Move the baby’s face over to cover the mother’s face, and change the angle and size to create a better fit. Reduce the layer’s Opacity to 50%, Ctrl/right-click and choose Distort, and drag the corners of the box to line the face up correctly.


Apply a layer mask to the mother’s face and use a black Airbrush to blend it in with the baby’s head. Use a large Airbrush of around 150px and use the edge of the Airbrush to create a softer, more gradual blended effect.

Restore the layer’s Opacity to 100%. Add a layer mask, and use a large black airbrush to mask out the top and side of the baby’s face and blend it in. Use a small-sized Airbrush for more defined edges, such as under the baby’s chin.


On Layer 1 (the duplicate of the original photo), select the Clone Stamp tool and hold Option/Alt to sample an area of plain background next to the baby’s cheek. Paint over the cheek where it shows beneath the mother’s face.

On the mother’s face layer, press Ctrl/Cmd+T, and move it over to the baby’s head. Again, Ctrl/right-click and choose Distort to line up the face appropriately. Ctrl/right-click and choose Perspective and drag the top-left corner up to alter the angle of the face slightly.


Next hold Option/Alt and sample an area of the baby’s forehead, then paint over the baby’s eyes where they are showing above the mother’s face. You may need to re-sample from the forehead several times to create a natural looking effect.


Tutorial Use selections to swap faces

Expert tip Source good photos

If you use a photo of your own for this tutorial, there are some aspects to consider when sourcing one that’s appropriate. In order to make the face-swap process easier and give a better final result, try to find an image in which the subjects’ faces are at similar angles. It is also helpful if the lighting is consistent on each face. Consider taking a photo specifically for the process; this way you can match the angle and lighting perfectly and make the process easier.

Shrink the head


Do more cloning


Use the Clone tool again to sample the background then use it to hide the mother’s eyelashes that are showing beneath the baby’s face. Depending on how you have positioned the faces, you may need to clone out other elements, such as the mother’s eyebrows or chin.

On Layer 1, use the Freeform Lasso tool to select the top of the mother’s head plus some background above. Press Ctrl/Cmd+J to duplicate, then Ctrl/Cmd+T. Drag the top down to make it shorter, apply a layer mask and blend it with a black Airbrush.

On the baby’s face layer mask, use the Brush tool with Photoshop’s Spatter 59px brush and use small upwards and downwards strokes along the bottom edge of the fringe. If the effect looks too harsh, go over it with a 30% Opacity Airbrush.


On the baby’s face layer, press Ctrl/ Cmd+J to duplicate it. Go to Filter> Sharpen>Smart Sharpen. Enter values of Amount: 70%, Radius: 5.2px, Remove: Gaussian Blur and tick More Accurate. Now click OK.

Press Ctrl/Cmd+E to merge the sharpened layer down onto the baby’s face layer below, clicking Preserve to retain the layer mask. Apply a Photo Filter adjustment layer, Ctrl/right-click the layer name in the Layers palette and click ‘Create clipping mask’.



Apply a Smart Sharpen filter

Apply a Photo Filter adjustment layer


Use the Spatter brush

Mask and Airbrush


Hold Option/Alt while clicking the ‘Add layer mask’ icon in the Layers palette to apply a layer mask filled with black. Use a white Airbrush at 50% Opacity to bring back some of the sharpened image over the baby’s eyes, nose and mouth.

Add a Levels adjustment layer


Tick Color and choose R:181 G:138 B:45, click OK and change the Density to 60%. Add a Levels adjustment layer, Ctrl/right-click the layer name and choose ‘Create clipping mask’. Enter values of Black: 20, Grey: 1.00 and White: 252.

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Make more adjustments


Change skin hue


On the mother’s face layer, add a At the top of the layer stack, add a Photo Filter adjustment layer, create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. clipping mask as before and choose Cooling Enter Hue: +16, Saturation: +26 and Lightness: Filter (82) and 12% Density. Add a Levels -10. Hold Option/Alt and click the ‘Add layer adjustment layer, create another clipping mask’ icon. Use a white Airbrush at 50% mask and enter Black: 14, Grey: 1.16 and Opacity to restore the Hue/Saturation over White: 249. the baby’s skin, especially the arms and legs.

Select the background


Use the Magnetic Lasso tool to select the white background by tracing around the figures. Press Q to switch to Quick Mask mode and use a hard-edged brush to refine the selection, then press Q again to exit Quick Mask mode.

What can go wrong

Apply a blur


On Layer 1, use the Freeform Lasso tool to select the top of the baby’s head, press Ctrl/Cmd+T and enlarge it slightly, ensuring that the edges remain lined up. On the mother’s face layer, go to Filter> Blur>Gaussian Blur, enter 1.0px and then click OK.

Apply white gradients


Add a new layer (Shift+Ctrl/Cmd+N), set its blending mode to Overlay and layer opacity to 70%. Select the Gradient tool, set it to ‘Foreground to Transparent’ and Spot Gradient with the colour White. Click and drag from the top corners inwards to lighten the background.


Line it up A key element to creating a realistic faceswapping result is getting the perspective and angle of the faces just right. Don’t simply alter the position and size of the faces to fit their new head; chances are they won’t match up and you will be left with an image that looks off. Utilise Photoshop’s many different Transformation methods, such as Perspective, Distort and Warp. Take your time and experiment until it looks well matched. If you do find you need to go back later and make some final adjustments to the positioning, unlink the layer masks from their layers by clicking the Chain-link icon between them in the Layers palette.



Tutorial Merge 2D and 3D elements


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Essentials Works with

Merge 2D and 3D elements

Start images




What you’ll learn

How to create basic 3D models and edit images using essential tools

Time taken 2 hours

Expert Daniel Sinoca “Creating 3D models is one of my preferred hobbies in Photoshop. I can easily transform a flat image into a 3D shape using the intuitive commands and tools available to add an extra dimension to my work. I started to get involved in the digital world more than 10 years ago and have been working as a freelance artist ever since, creating all kinds of multimedia projects.”

Create the background


Learn how to create a 3D model in Photoshop 3D, and edit multiple images using layers masks and basic tools


n this step-by-step guide you’ll discover how to change a flat image into a 3D model, apply decals and modify the object using basic Photoshop 3D tools, then incorporate and edit multiple images to create a fantastic composition. To warm up, you’ll create a detailed background image using layer masks, adjustment layers and custom brushes. These basic techniques will be used repetitively in the entire tutorial. Next, you’ll jump in the 3D environment and transform a flat template into a 3D boat. You’ll learn how to apply the extrusion and distortions, shape the boat and

Go to File>Open ‘Background.jpg’. Now go to File>Place Embedded ‘Sky. jpg’ and hit Return/Enter. Let’s add a layer mask and blend the images. Go to Layer> Layer Mask>Reveal All. Set the Foreground colour to black. Grab a soft-tip Brush (B), hold Shift and paint over the horizon to blend it.

Adjust the tones


then apply a simple decal to complete the model. Last but not least, you’ll bring in multiple images and edit them using the Quick Selection tool, layer masks, adjustment layers and other basic techniques. Working with multiple images and layers can be very confusing, so don’t forget to organise the layers in groups to make your life easier. As you can see, there is a lot of work to do and a lot of cool techniques to learn. Some of the images are already cut out and ready to use, so you just need to download them from the FileSilo and start learning.

Load custom brushes


To adjust the tones go to Layer>New Go to Edit>Presets>Preset Manager. Adjustment Layer>Levels. Set the Choose Load, locate the supplied Input Levels to 0, 1.15, 215. Now go to Layer> ‘Brushes136.abr’ and click Load. Create a new New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation. layer (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N) and name it Cloud_ Adjust the Hue to +25 and the Saturation to 10. Brush. Grab the Brush tool (B), hit F5 and find Save your document. Go to File>Save As. the ‘Cloud136’, set the Foreground colour to Name it ‘Animals on Boat.psd’ and hit OK. white, resize it and paint over the canvas.


Tutorial Merge 2D and 3D elements

Expert tip Group your layers

Creating layer groups will keep the Layers palette well ordered. Go to Layer>New>Group. A folder icon will appear in the Layers palette. Add a descriptive name and then drag all of the related layers into the folder. Another easy way to create a layer group is by holding the Shi  key and selecting the related layers. Then simply hit Cmd/Ctrl+G in order to create a layer group. You can move the group around, change the opacity and even resize it.

Deform the object


Open the 3D workspace


Arrange the 3D workspace to have access to the 3D panels. Go to Window>Workspace>3D. Now go to File> Place Embedded ‘Ark_Shape.png’. From the top Option bar set the Horizontal/Vertical scale to 200% and hit Return/Enter.

Let’s deform the 3D object. In the 3D panel, click on ‘Ark_Shape’. Now go to the Properties panel and click Deform. Make sure that the centre Deformation Axis is selected. Now adjust the Taper to 75%.

Modify the bevel settings


Add texture



In the 3D panel, check 3D Extrusion and click Create. Grab the Move tool (M). In the Properties panel, set the Extrusion Depth to 100mm. Placing the mouse cursor over the model will activate the on-image controls. Go over the blue controller and Rotate it 90° around the ‘X’ axis.

To add texture go to the 3D panel and select ‘Arc_Shape Extrusion Material’. Jump to the Properties panel, click the Diffuse icon and choose Replace Texture, locate the ‘Wood texture.jpg’ and open. Adjust the Shine to 10% and Roughness to 20%.

In the 3D panel select ‘Arc-Shape’. Now go to the Properties panel and click on the Cap icon (the third icon from the left). Click on the drop-down menu and choose Front. Set the Bevel Width to 5%, Angle to 15%, adjust the Inflate Angle to -20% and Strength to 10%.


Create the 3D boat

Apply decal


Let’s apply an image directly over the 3D model. Go to File>Place embedded ‘Door.png’. Scale the image, placing it right above the 3D model, and hit Return/Enter. To apply it, go to Layer>Merge Down or press Cmd/Ctrl+E.

Adjust the light


In the 3D panel click Infinite Light. Use the on-image controller to adjust the light, placing it in front of the 3D model and moving it to the top-right corner. Render the image by going to 3D>Render 3D Layer.

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Enhance contrast and colour

Mask it


Duplicate the layer (Cmd/Ctrl+J) and then go to Layer>Rasterize>3D. Hide the original 3D layer. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+T. Resize the image and turn the left side down. Create a layer mask (Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All). Grab a soft brush and paint the bottom to immerse the boat.

Work on shadows


Go to Layer>New>Layer. Name it Shadows/Highlights, check ‘Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask’ and set to Soft Light. Set the default Foreground/ Background colour (D). Grab a soft brush and use black to add shadows on the left side and white to add highlights on the top.

Select Refine Edge


Go to Select>Refine Edge. Adjust the Radius to 10 pixels, Smooth: 10 pixels, check Decontaminate Colours, Amount: 100% and then click OK. (Use the Brush tool to enhance the mask if necessary.) Now go to Layer>Layer Mask>Apply.


Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels. Check ‘Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask’ and hit OK. Adjust the Input levels to 0. 0.70, 190. Now boost the colour. Go to Layer> New Adjustment Layer>Vibrance. Set the Vibrance to +5 and Saturation to +15.

Choose Splash brushes


With the Brush tool selected hit F5. Set the Foreground colour to white (press ‘X’). Choose a custom splash/wave brush, set the appropriate size and paint over the waves to create the crest and splash water around the boat.

Use Puppet Warp


Go to Edit>Puppet Warp. Add few control points over the body and neck and then drag it to straighten the neck. Hit Return/Enter to commit the change. Add a layer mask and mask the body to make it fit in the boat.

Place the giraffe


Go to File>Place ‘Giraffe.jpg’. Grab the Quick Selection tool (W). In the Option Bar select ‘Add to Selection’, check AutoEnhance, choose a small brush and select the giraffe. (If you select the background, press and hold Opt/Alt to switch to Subtract from Selection, click and drag to remove.)

Make adjustments


Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer> Levels. Check ‘Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask’ and hit OK. Adjust the Input levels to 0, 1.20, 210. Now boost the colour. Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Vibrance. Set the Vibrance to +20 and Saturation to +20.


Tutorial Merge 2D and 3D elements

Create fur and hair


Now hit Z and zoom in. Grab the Smudge tool, and then choose a small, soft-tip brush and set the Strength to 80%. Now with short and quick strokes, start pushing the hair/fur outwards along the neck and the body.

Add more animals

Dodge and burn


Grab the Dodge tool (O). Set Range to Midtone, Exposure 25%, choose a soft-tip brush and start to paint the shadows under the neck and head. Select the Burn tool (Shift+O) and using the same settings, paint the highlights over the neck and body.

Closer look Fine tune the composition


Create a neutral layer


Now hit Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+N. In the dialog box name it Shadows/Highlights, and check ‘Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask’, change the blend mode to Overlay. Check ‘Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray)’ and hit OK.

Now start adding more animals. Use the same technique you have just learnt from step 15 through to 21. Start by selecting the animals using the Quick Selection tool, refine the edges, and use the Puppet Warp if necessary. Make the adjustments using the appropriate settings and add shadows and highlights.

Add a lens flare


Click on the top layer of the layer stack. Now hit Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/ Alt+E to create a snapshot. Go to Filter> Render>Lens Flare. Adjust the Brightness to 150%, choose Lens Type 50-300mm Zoom. In the preview window, drag the light to the top-right corner and hit OK. This will add a subtle light effect to enhance your work.


Use the adjustment layers and try different settings to make tonal corrections, enhance or change the colours for each image.


Use the Pen tool to create a precise path around the image and then convert it to a selection to create a layer mask.


If you place the animals on top of each other, don’t forget to add shadows to create a nice blend between the images.



Create clipping masks if you want the effect or adjustment to only affect the layer immediately below it. To create it, click the content above the layer and hit Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+G.

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Tutorial Blend portraits with layer masks


Check out the latest blog On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Essentials Works with Elements



What you’ll learn

Use masks, filters and adjustments to create an inky and creative portrait

Time taken 1-2 hours

Expert Andre Villanueva “One of my favourite things to do in Photoshop is to give a portrait an imaginative makeover. Anything goes: using under-utilised filters, blending random imagery and testing unfamiliar adjustment settings. I discovered Photoshop when studying web design. I’m now art director for a tech company, soothing my inner instructor by sharing techniques with readers.”

Create a clipping mask


Blend portraits with layer masks Start image

Enmesh a model in swirling ink, smoke, texture and colour to craft a wickedly creative portrait


hotoshop is the ultimate artistic blending engine. Where else can you mix a portrait with ink, clouds, texture and colour with such ease? An inky blob will serve as the launching point of the piece. You’ll use this as a clipping mask to regulate the model. After this, the barrage of blending begins. Layer masks will factor heavily into the blending process. They enable you to hide parts of an image with black. Because shades of grey equate to semi-transparency, painting with a soft-edged brush at a large size will give you some nice fading.

Open ‘Start.psd’. Go to File>Place (Place Embedded in CC), grab ‘Model.psd’. Scale down and position. Hold Option/Alt, hover between the Model and mask layers until the cursor changes, left-click, then release all. Reposition the model with the Move tool.

Apply Radial Blur


As you pile on inky swirls, spectral smoke and bubbly texture, you’ll melt away edges with masks to ensure dreamy seamlessness throughout. When you need to work on smaller details, you can reduce the brush’s size and increase hardness for more precision. When it’s time to blend, the blend modes can make the difference between a wishy-washy merge and a striking unification. Lowering the opacity can ease up the blend if it’s too strong. A series of Color Fill layers set to Soft Light along with filters and adjustments will finalise the wicked look.

Click the Mask layer. Go to Filter> Blur>Radial Blur. Set Amount to 27, Blur Method to Zoom and Quality to Good. Click OK. In CC/CS, you can paint black (use a soft-edged brush) in the Smart Filter mask to reduce the effect in areas.

Add ink


Let’s get inky! We’ll be using assets from the Liquid Ink pack from Click the top layer. Place ‘LiquidInk_1041.png’. Click the ‘Add layer mask’ button in the Layers palette. Paint black to reduce. Then add the other liquid ink images from the FileSilo.


Tutorial Blend portraits with layer masks

Alter the ink


Working with stock assets is nice, but sometimes you need to bend them to your will. Free Transform (Cmd/ Ctrl+T) lets you hit basic edits, such as scaling, rotation and rudimentary distorts. In Photoshop, you can move on to Liquify (Filter>Liquify) to apply gooey alterations!

Add particles


Particles and debris are great for a chaotic touch. You get implied explosions going off, giving the piece energy. Also courtesy of Media Militia, place ‘Particles_22.png’ and confirm. Free Transform and position. Add ‘Particles_23. png’. Use layer masks where needed.

Introduce smoke and clouds


Follow a similar process as the one outlined in the previous step to add ‘Clouds.jpg’ and ‘Smoke.jpg’. You can also add ‘Bokeh.jpg’ at this stage. Set this one to Hard Light. Option/Alt+click the ‘Add layer mask’ button, then paint back with white. Free Transform any of these or lower the opacity if needed.

Duplicate texture


Keep painting white to increase the texture. With the Move tool, Option/ Alt+click and drag to swiftly duplicate/move the texture to another area. Adjust the mask if needed, then make more duplicates if you like. If you want to add your own textures, go for it! It’s great to experiment.


Inject warm colour


Remove the match


Place ‘Match.jpg’. Set the blend mode to Screen. Add a layer mask. We don’t need the match in the image, so paint with black to remove that. Continue painting to reduce the smoke. Reposition and/or Free Transform if needed. Repeat to add one or more instances.

Create texture


Let’s add a bit of textural interest to a dull area. Place ‘Fountain.jpg’. Position atop the target area. Scale if needed. Set blend mode to Overlay. Option/Alt+click the ‘Add layer mask’ button. Paint back with white.

Select the top layer. Click ‘Create new fill or adjustment layer’ at the bottom of the Layers palette, choose Solid Color. Pick #7b5735. Click OK. Set the blend mode to Soft Light. Click the mask, paint black to reduce.

Add more colour


Continue by adding more Color Fill layers using #aea21b, #e1d764 and #4987e4. Set these to Soft Light and paint black in the mask to reduce. You can even work with Gradient fills. Here the Gold 1 preset from the Photographic Toning set (Photoshop) was used.

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Merge layers


Take a moment to look over your composition and perform any lastminute fiddling and repositioning. When done, select the top layer and press Cmd/Ctrl+ Option/Alt+Shift+E. In CS/CC, Ctrl/right-click on the layer, choose Convert to Smart Object.

Improve merge


In CS and Elements, you can sharpen things up by applying Unsharp Mask (Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask (Elements: Enhance>Unsharp Mask). In CC, you can do this as well, or you can go to Filter>Camera Raw Filter and use the plethora of adjustments to really fine-tune the image.

Add lens flare(s)


Now go to Filter>Render>Lens Flare. Click in the preview to place the flare’s origin. Then adjust the Brightness and choose from among the four different lens types. Click OK. Repeat to add more lens flares if you like.


Use Soft Light and Overlay


Create new layer. Go to Edit>Fill (Elements: Edit>Fill Layer). Choose 50% Gray, click OK. Set the blend mode to Soft Light. With a low brush Opacity (start at 10%), paint with white to Dodge and black to Burn. Work across multiple layers if desired. Use Overlay for a stronger effect.


You may be perfectly happy with the result after the last step. However, if you want to tweak it more, go right ahead. Here we applied some additional adjustments including a Color Lookup and a few more Color Fill layers, as well as a bit of HDR Toning. PRESETS

Not sure where to begin? Try a preset. If the HDR is too heavy, tone down with the settings, or mask/lower opacity aer placing in your working document.

Expert tip Try HDR Toning The HDR Toning command (CS5+) is great, but it only works on a flattened image. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t integrate this potent command into our multi-layered workflows. When you’re at a point where you need some HDR, select the top layer, merge (Cmd/Ctrl+Option/Alt+Shift +E), copy all (Cmd/Ctrl+A then Cmd/Ctrl+C), open a new document, then paste. Now go to Image>Adjustments>HDR Toning. Say yes when asked if you want to flatten. Play with the settings or choose a preset (we used Photorealistic High Contrast). Place and blend into your working composition.


Use the various settings to either cra your own HDR look or customise a preset. Don’t overlook Toning Curve and Histogram at the bottom.



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Essentials Works with Elements



What you’ll learn

Create a surreal scenario using multiple pictures and the Warp tool

Time taken 6 hours

Expert Rodrigo Marinelli “Since I started working with Photoshop, one of the areas that always caught my attention was photomanipulation. I found the ability to join multiple pictures to create one specific scene very exciting. I’m an art director and have 10 years of experience in advertising agencies. I learned and am still learning to use Photoshop through following tutorials.”

Make a clean sky


Make stunning compositions Start image

In this tutorial you’ll use several tools to create a surreal world where only your technique and imagination can reach


ne of the coolest things about working with Photoshop is being able to create worlds that exist only in our imagination, making an image that is unique and original. Working with photomanipulation takes a lot of patience and time in order to choose the right photos. Often only part of a picture will be used to compose the whole scene. So, use as many pictures as you feel necessary, and keep in mind that the most important aspect is the final result. In this tutorial you will be presented with many tools, such as Warp, Erase masks, Quick Mask,

First, create a new page (Ctrl/Cmd+N) 230mm x 310mm. To make a clear sky with just a few clouds it will be necessary to combine two pictures. Place ‘Sky B.jpg’ in the middle of the page then add ‘Sky.jpg’ above it with 70% Opacity.

Place the mountains


and some light and shadow techniques, which will all help you to create your own world. To be able to make an image like this you have to be aware that making mistakes is part of the process; you will learn from these mistakes and evolve your technique. To get to the best final result, many pictures were tested and many of them have not been used, but do not be discouraged; trial and error is an important part of the process. Let your imagination run wild and have fun with Photoshop to create your surreal world. The files used are available on the FileSilo.

Cut the ‘Mountain.jpg’ image and put it in the scene. Duplicate it and go to Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal. Make an Erase mask, select the black colour and with the Brush tool erase the excesses. Duplicate again and add some trees at the base.

Work on the grass


Now start working on the garden where the egg timer will be placed. To make the grass place ‘Grass.jpg’ at the bottom of the image and ‘Background_grass. jpg’ for the background. Make a mask to erase the excess.


Tutorial Make stunning compositions

Form the garden


Make the side base, place the ‘Field side.jpg’ and with the Warp tool shape just like the above. Change the Hue/ Saturation to -33. Place the ‘Yellow_field.jpg’ and make the same procedure, but keep the original colour. Duplicate all layers and make a horizontal flip.

Add some colourful flowers


It’s time to make the garden more colourful. Crop ‘Bottom_flowers.jpg’ leaving only the flowers curve. Duplicate the layer and do a horizontal flip to occupy all of the garden. Finally, make clipping masks to eliminate the unnecessary parts and merge with the rest of the grass.

Position the background tree


Give more depth to the scene by adding some trees near to the lake. Place ‘Trees.jpg’ and cut the background. Then do a horizontal flip. Don’t worry about the fact that the picture is not perfect; remember that the egg timer will be sitting in front of everything that is in the scene so far.

Work on the bottom half


To make it easier, create a folder (Ctrl/Cmd+G) to group all layers and make a general mask. Use ‘Fish_a.jpg’ and flip horizontally, and with the mask, erase the unnecessary parts. Adjust the colour Saturation to -50 and 0/1/234 of Levels.



One of the biggest secrets for making a good photomanipulation is adding elements that will make the scene more interesting. So place ‘Lake.jpg’, which will be positioned behind the garden and the egg timer.

Place the egg timer


Place the main image of the scene, the ‘Eggtimer.jpg’. First take out all the Saturation (Ctrl/Cmd+U) -100. This will help in the next few steps to merge the photos that will be inside the glass. Make a mask and erase some of the photo details, especially the bottom.

Place the diver


Place the lake

Work on the egg timer’s top


Correct the ‘Diver.jpg’ colour with the Place ‘Ship.jpg’ into the top of the egg Color Balance tool, and use the timer. To add more reality in the scene, configuration -36/0/12. With the same place ‘Wave.jpg’ next to the ship, showing the procedure, place ‘Reef.jpg’ in front of the diver. impact caused by its fall. To make the water Add some lights on the egg timer. With the shape place ‘Sea.jpg’ and use the Warp tool. Pen tool make a path and paint it white, then Then adjust the colour with the Color Balance apply a Gaussian Blur of 30px. tool -36/0/12.

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Expert tip Perfect the lighting

Warp the branches


This step requires a lot of attention. Place the ‘Eggtimer_flower.jpg’, cut a branch and with the Warp tool shape its way around the egg timer. To wrap the branch of flowers around the whole egg timer use the same photo three times, one for the top, one for the middle and one for the base.

Work on the little details


Add some leaves


It’s time to put the leaves on the branches. Place ‘Eggtimer_flower.jpg’ and cut out some leaves. With the Warp tool, model it to follow the branch’s shape. With the Color Balance tool adjust the saturation to -34 and Levels to 0/1.30/255.

Small details are essential, so add two butterflies (‘Butterfly.jpg’) that will be placed outside the edges of the egg timer. Also add the ‘Up_flower.jpg’ picture on the top of the image and with the ‘Bottom_ flowers.jpg’ add some different sized flowers in front of the egg timer to give more depth to the scene.

What you’ll learn Key tools used

With photomanipulations it is always necessary to make a few adjustments in order to keep the same lighting throughout. The most important factor is to imagine how the final image will look. There are many adjustment tools; for this specific image we used the Burn and Dodge tools, Levels, Brightness and Contrast, Color Balance and Color filters. Don’t be afraid to test the effect of these tools; this is the best way to learn what they can do.

Make some final adjustments


Make the whole scene more shiny and smokey. This will add a fantasy feel to the image. First add some adjustment layers, such as Levels (10/1/255) Photo Filter (Sepia - 25%) and Brightness and Contrast (5/10). Then with a blurred brush add some white lights on the scene with 40% Opacity. ORIGINAL LIGHTS

Whenever you can, use the original lights of the photo. In this case, the original lights of the egg timer were cut and replaced above, only changing the opacity.


It’s not always easy to find a picture that is in the right position – the Warp tool is always helpful. For the garden, this tool shaped the vegetation.


To create a complex image you need to pay attention to the picture’s proportions. Find references and always keep in mind which images will be highlighted and which will be secondary.


Usually to erase small details the best tool is the Erase Mask. With this tool you can choose the opacity and hardness of the brush and delete anything you want.


Tutorial Take your portraits out of this world On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Essentials Works with Elements



What you’ll learn

Paint highlights and shadows, use Transform tools and blend modes

Time taken 6 hours

Expert Moe Pike Soe “When creating a piece of artwork I think about how each object is placed and the depth of their positions. Everything else depends on these variables. I’m a selftaught, freelance digital artist and designer from Myanmar. I started using Photoshop in high school and began my career in 2011. Since then, I’ve worked with clients from around the world, including Nike and Nissan.”

Take your portraits out of this world Start image

Transform your portrait into futuristic space artwork using fundamental tools along with blend modes and Transform tools


pace and science fiction extend the boundaries of imagination endlessly. In this tutorial you will explore how to create a surreal celestial portrait. You will learn how to use multiple light sources to blend different subjects together and create a dynamic scene that will bring your space and scientific imagination to life.  To do so, you will experiment with different blend modes, use multiple adjustment layers and play around with various opacity levels in order to create depth and detail for different subjects within the composition.

A drawing tablet is highly recommended, since a lot of paint and brush work is included, but it is not absolutely essential.  With the skillset you learn from this tutorial, you will discover how to bring ordinary images together and create a composition with a variety of daily life subjects. The techniques you will develop in this tutorial extend beyond combining different subjects effectively, and moves towards other field areas, such as photography and retouching. The most important thing is to enjoy yourself and let your imagination run free in the endless space.

Adjust the model

Set up the canvas


Create a new document that is 230mm by 310mm. Import ‘Galaxy. jpg’. Create a new adjustment layer and go to Levels, then set the value of the three sliders to 21, 0.92 and 250.


Insert the model


Import the model image from the FileSilo and start selecting by using the Pen tool (P). Be sure to only select the face of the model without any hair. After that, place the model in the centre of the canvas.


Select the left half of the face and create a new layer from the selection by pressing Cmd/Ctrl+J. Duplicate the layer and align it so that the face is symmetrical. Merge the two layers and name it Face. Then hide the original stock photo layer.

Watch the latest video Search Photoshop Creative Magazine


Tutorial Take your portraits out of this world

Expert tip Blending images

When using images with different light sources, they will not blend without adjusting how they are affected by the new light source. It’s quick and easy to create new highlights and shadows to blend all the objects with a common light source. To do that, just create a new layer and use a so  brush with very low opacity and paint to create new highlights and shadows. A er that use the 50% grey technique to dodge and burn for more intense contrast.

Liquify the face


Convert the Face layer to a Smart Object by Ctrl/right-clicking on it in the Layers panel and go to Convert to Smart Object. Go to Filter>Liquify. Then transform the face into a V shape. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T> Ctrl/right-click>Perspective. Drag one of the bottom points closer to the centre.

Set up the body


Unhide the original model layer and this time select only the body part. Create a new layer from the selection. Place it beneath the Face layer and name it Body. Go over the same process as for Face using the Perspective Transform tool. After that, group the Face and Body layers and name the group Model.

Touch it up


Create a layer above the Model layer. Create adjustment layers Fill it with 50% grey. Select a soft, Create a new Exposure adjustment round brush (B) with the colour white. Set the layer and set the values to +28, blend mode to Soft Light. Paint highlights. -0.0294 and 0.56. Then create a Vibrance Then elect black as the foreground and this adjustment layer and set the values to time paint on the shadow areas. +45 and -33.

Make ground adjustments



Rasterize the Moonscape layer. Desaturate it (Cmd/Ctrl+ Shift+U) and make the contrast higher with the Levels tool (Cmd/Ctrl+L). Repeat step 6, but paint the highlight along the edge of the ellipse and shadow in the middle.


Create a capsule


Set up the ground


Create a new layer. Select the Elliptical Marquee tool (M) and align it to the contour of the model’s face. Import ‘Moonscape.jpg’ on top of the ellipse. Create a clipping mask by holding down Option/Alt while clicking between the two layers.

Create a new layer. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool (M). Grab a soft, white brush (B) with 60% Opacity and paint along the left and right sides of the selection. Create a new layer, select the Elliptical Marquee tool (M) and paint around the edges of it.

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Adjust the lighting


Create a new layer on top of the capsule and grab a soft, white brush with an Opacity of 20%, and paint along the lines of it to create a soft outer glow.

Paint the face


Draw a wavy line with the Pen tool. Ctrl/right-click and go to Stroke>5 px. Set Foreground to white. Choose the Custom Shape tool (U) and set the number of sides to 4. Draw the diamond in the middle of the wavy line. Fill with white and merge them.

Improve the capsule


Create an outer glow


Create a new layer below the model layer. Grab a big, soft, white brush and paint in the middle and bottom of the canvas. It will give an outer glow behind the model.

Colour the canvas


Go into layer style of the face paint and add an orange glow with 70% Opacity, change the blend mode to Screen. Create a new layer below the model, pick a soft, pink brush and paint around the contour of the model. Set the blend mode to Screen.

Duplicate the Capsule layer and apply a Gaussian Blur of 5 px. Set the blend mode to Screen. Press Cmd/Ctrl+U to bring out the Hue/Saturation adjustment. Check the Colorize box and shift the Hue slider to pink. Repeat the instruction in step 6 to increase contrast.

Add details


Check for anything that seems out of place. When working with different opacities, it can create colour noise. Reduce it by applying Gaussian Blur or choose a soft, big brush and erase parts of the intersection of the colours.

Insert asteroids


Import ‘Asteroid.jpg’. Select one of the rocks using the Pen tool (P) and create a new layer from the selection with Cmd/Ctrl+J. Desaturate (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+U) the new layer. Now, hide the original Asteroid layer.


Tutorial Take your portraits out of this world

Blend the asteroid


Repeat step 6 to create highlights and shadows on the asteroid. Be sure to note that the light is coming from behind the model. After that, select both layers and covert it to a Smart Object. Duplicate the layer until it creates a ring of asteroids around the capsule.

Improve the light rings


Apply a Gaussian Blur of 5 px to the smaller strokes and while selecting all the strokes, Ctrl/right-click and go to Convert to Smart Object. Duplicate it twice. Create a new Hue/Adjustment layer with Colorize checked box on each ring. Change the value of Hue to set different colours.

Create some halos



Create a new layer below the model. Select the Elliptical Marquee tool (M), Ctrl/right-click and go to Stroke>30 px. Duplicate the layer and resize it so that it fits inside the original stroke. Create another stroke with 100 px and place it between the two 30 px strokes.

Add the flower and astronaut


Import the flower and astronaut images. Set the flower in the middle of the ground and the two astronauts around it. Be sure to desaturate the astronaut images. Repeat the process of creating highlights and shadows for all the layers.

Create a new layer for the halos. Select the Elliptical Marquee tool (M) and stroke it with a 5 px white line. Then apply an Outer Glow in layer style. Now grab a hard, small Eraser brush and erase parts of the halo. Repeat the step with different outer glow colours.


Create a light ring

Apply a filter


Create shadow


Duplicate the flower layer, and shift the Lightness slider to the left. Apply a 12 px Gaussian Blur. Flip the layer by Ctrl/ right-clicking and Flip Horizontally. Rightclick again and select the Perspective tool. Move the bottom points further away from the centre. Repeat for the Astronaut’s layer.

Create a new layer on top of all the layers. Merge visible layers by pressing Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E. Set the blend mode to Soft Light. Apply the High Pass filter by going to Filter>Other>High Pass and set the value to 8 px.

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Make final adjustments


Create a new layer and fill it with black. Then go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. Check the Gaussian box. After applying noise, change the blend mode to Soft Light and adjust Opacity to 15%. Create a new exposure adjustment layer and set the values to +17, +0.0042 and 0.92.

What you’ll learn

Touch it up


To cap off the artwork, create a new Selective Color adjustment layer. Play around with the values of Red, Whites and Blacks to bring out more colours.

Pay attention to details


The Oil Paint filter can be used to blend different subjects in the composition even more. Go to Filter>Stylize>Oil Paint. Be sure not to check the Lighting box.


Different opacities can show many levels of depths and texture in the artwork. Play around with different brush opacity and blend modes.


Focus on how each subject fits in the composition. Pay attention to the details on each subject because one wrong highlight will make the subject look fake.


When creating glow, pay attention to the layer beneath it and how the glow should affect it. If the layer beneath has depth, the glow will act differently depending on it.


Tutorial Composite four seasons

Essentials Works with Elements



What you’ll learn

How to composite a four-season landscape with masks and blending

Time taken 8 hours

Expert Mark White

“I love this kind of project: it’s bright and exciting and it really tests your creativity. The best way to hone your skills is to start off with a blank canvas and see what you create. As Senior Staff Writer on Photoshop Creative, I’ve learned all kinds of tips to help with even the most impressive pictures.”


Composite four seasons

Use selections, blending and photos to create a year-long landscape


reating a panorama based on a few select photos is a simple project for any photographer to master. But how far can you take that idea? Trying to include all four seasons in one picture is an ambitious idea. You can spend hours just on the colouring alone, and searching for stock photos is as much a project as the actual editing process. This is a project that can really put your masking skills to the test; we’re

going to use everything from simple, soft brushing to selecting a Color Range. The key to blending is trying to keep everything as believable as possible. Use soft brushes for water, find images of sandy or frosty grass to blend with regular grass and remember: anything that you can’t blend, you can hide. Place objects such as trees, rocks or even mist over any edges that don’t look quite right, and you needn’t spend hours masking every pixel.

How do you blend individual layers? Use clipping masks!

On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Add guides and a background


Start by creating a new document, width: 460mm, height: 190mm and resolution: 300ppi. Go to View>New Guide and place guides at 11.5cm, 23cm and 34.5cm to distinguish the sections. Insert ‘Valley.jpg’; use Cmd/Ctrl+U to alter the Hue/ Saturation, slide Hue to -10.

Build a natural backdrop


Next, insert the supplied images of mountains and backdrops. For each, select by going to Select>Color Range, select the sky, hit OK, click the Mask icon and then invert with Cmd/Ctrl+I. This is the quickest way to mask. Add ‘Birds.jpg’, select them with the Magic Wand and mask.

Add a beach and water


Use ‘Beach_1.jpg’ and ‘Beach_2.jpg’ to add a lake to the centre of the picture. Instead of using the Color Range tool, use a soft brush to mask the edges. Overlap the images to create a realistic coastline and rock edge for each side.


Tutorial Composite four seasons Expert edit Create the details

Make leaves


Choose an orange colour and a leaf shape. Set Scattering to 1000%, alter Color Dynamics to change the hue slightly, and add a second leaf brush to tone with Dual Brush.

Add waterfalls


The tiniest details can really flesh out a fantasy landscape. Insert the waterfalls on the grassy edges in the middle two sections of the picture (spring and summer). Mask them with the same soft-brush technique.

Layer the left-hand side


The section on the far left is going to be our wintery section, so insert the glacier images and softly mask them into place. In the foreground of the spring section, do the same with ‘Grass.jpg’. Don’t worry too much about blending to perfection just yet, as we will fix that later.

Extend the beach


Add ‘Beach_3. jpg’ and overlay it with your original beach. Mask and use a Curves layer with a clipping mask (Ctrl/right-click>Add Clipping Mask) to match the tone of the original beach. Do the same with the supplied ‘Snowy scene. jpg’ on the left. Use ‘Snowy rocks.jpg’ to blend the winter scene with the cliff.

Create mist


Create mist by selecting black and white in your swatches (D). Then go to Filter>Render>Clouds, set it to Screen, Opacity: 50% and then mask in subtly with a soft brush.

Add rainbows


Create a new square document. Add a rainbow gradient on a new layer and go to Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates. Select Rectangular to Polar, apply a Gaussian Blur and mask.

Begin the autumn section



Add new layers above layers you wish to recolour and brush your chosen colour onto them, before altering the blend mode to Soft Light. Add a clipping mask to these colour layers.


Blend the grass


The best way to blend grass with either snow or sand is to use real examples. Insert ‘Sandy grass.jpg’ and ‘Frosty grass.jpg’ to either side of the grass and mask in.


Now we’re going to focus on the autumnal section of the picture on the right. Add in ‘Swamp.jpg’ and ‘Forest.jpg’ and mask them all together with a soft brush. Add mist for atmosphere and recolour the trees (see the ‘Expert edit’).

How do you blend individual layers? Use clipping masks!

Give the sections trees


Each season will be characterised with a tree: add ‘Fir tree.jpg’ to winter, the two cherry blossom images to spring, ‘Palm tree.jpg’ to summer and ‘Autumnal tree.jpg’ to autumn. Select the leaves’ colours with Color Range then mask.

Touch ups and details


On a new layer, select the Clone Stamp tool. Check the ‘All Layers’ option. Clone over edges that need touching up. Insert the iceberg images and ‘Wolf.jpg’. Make rainbows over the waterfalls (see the ‘Expert edit’). Finally, add ‘Hut.jpg’ to fill in the dead spaces.

Use the Camera Raw filter


Scatter leaves and snow


Using the supplied brushes, add some snow and leaves to either side of the picture, making sure the Scatter option is checked. Place ‘Autumn.jpg’ beneath the autumnal tree, and add ‘Pond.jpg’ to further blend the edge between the summer section.

Dodge and burn


With the composition complete, bring out the best of the image with a Dodge and Burn. Insert a new layer of neutral grey (#808080) and brush in highlights and lowlights into the picture to give tone to the landscape and blend everything further.

Again, Merge Visible (Cmd/Ctrl+Option/Alt+Shift+E) and go to Filter>Camera RAW. Alter the temperature and tint then experiment with the tone, colour and detail in the picture to unify the elements. To follow our tweaks, use the supplied Camera Raw action.



Add a quick sharpen by using the High Pass filter. Merge all the layers into one layer at the top of the layer stack (Cmd/ Ctrl+Option/Alt+Shift+E), and go to Filter> Other>High Pass. Set this layer to Overlay and it will bring out the shine and the details.

Make final adjustments


Now add two Curves layers, some vibrance, and a gradient fill layer set to Soft Light to add further colour and tone to the composition. Again, we’ve supplied an action of our particular adjustments, but you can tweak according to the atmosphere you want to give.


Tutorial Add HDR effects to outdoor shots

On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Essentials Works with Elements



What you’ll learn

How to use HDR adjustments, Camera Raw filter and adjustment layers

Time taken 2 hours

Expert Simon Skellon “Even though there are plenty of HDR programs out there, I love nothing more than to explore Photoshop’s own HDR function to keep things purely Photoshop based. “I have been working with Photoshop for more than 10 years, and even to this day I find myself learning new techniques and discovering new things in the program.”


Start image

Add HDR effects to outdoor shots Learn how effective Photoshop’s HDR feature can be for bringing out stunning detail in your landscape images


igh dynamic range imaging, or HDRI for short, has always been a challenge for even the most technically minded photographers. Originally involving the overlaying of the same image taken at differing exposures, the end results presented a detailed image from the darkest shadows through to the brightest highlights. But what if you only have one image taken with one exposure? Thankfully, if that’s the case, we can use Photoshop’s HDR Toning feature to replicate

the effect to bring out detail that was otherwise invisible to the naked eye. On top of that, Photoshop lets us take the effect further, with adjustment layers and the Camera Raw filter to create powerful, and in some cases, exaggerated results. Experimenting with detail, colour and exposure will take your photography to new levels. Follow these steps to find out how to turn a landscape image on its head, even if it means swapping out the original sky for a better one.

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Assess detail


Open up the original photo from the FileSilo. Notice how there is not much detail in the sky, but very good detail everywhere else. Load up the HDR Toning adjustment found inside Image> Adjustments. Over the next couple of steps, ignore what happens to the sky, as it will be replaced later on in the tutorial.


Duplicate and reposition

Mask the sky



To place the sky into your HDR image, Ctrl/right-click over the new layer and select Duplicate Layer. Choose the HDR photo from the Document drop-down list and click OK. Go back to the HDR image and hide this sky layer for now.


To create a bespoke HDR effect for this image, start by increasing the Radius slider to 80 pixels and the Strength slider to 0.57 under Edge Glow. This will increase the contrast and can blow out some of the highlights. Fear not, as we can bring those back later.

Improve the detail

Alter tone and detail

Under the Tone and Detail section of the HDR Toning adjustment, reduce Exposure down to -0.69 to bring back detail to the blown-out areas. Increase the Detail slider to +150% to make the detail in the image pop.

Adjust Edge Glow

To improve the detail in the brighter areas of the image, set the Highlight slider to -19%. Lastly in HDR Toning, the Saturation slider gives stronger overall colour when set to +20%. Press OK to apply. We can adjust exposure and colour again using the Camera Raw filter.


Use the Quick Selection tool to select the sky area on the HDR image, including the patch of sky under the arch. Add a layer mask to the new sky layer using this selection so that the sky only shows over the required areas.

Select the sky


The existing sky is quite dull, so locate the other image found on the FileSilo and load it into Photoshop. Use the Quick Selection tool to select just the sky area, then press Cmd/Ctrl+J to duplicate it onto a new layer.

Transform the sky


Unlink the mask from its layer by clicking on the chain symbol between the thumbnails on the layer. Click on the sky layer’s thumbnail and go to Edit>Free Transform to resize and position the sky over the existing area for a better overall composition.


Tutorial Add HDR effects to outdoor shots

Expert tip HDR in Elements

There may not be a dedicated HDR Toning adjustment in Elements, but the Shadows/ Highlights adjustment (Enhance>Adjust Lighting) can produce a similar effect. Reducing the Lighten Shadows slider down to 10% and pushing up the Midtone Contrast slider to around 60% will improve the exposure. Duplicate the layer, set it to the Hard Light blend mode, and then apply the High Pass filter (Filter>Other) to help to bring out details similar to this HDR effect.

Improve quality


Add more impact


Make the new sky layer a Smart layer by going Filter>Convert for Smart Filters. Then go into Filter>Camera Raw Filter and set Contrast and Highlights to +50, the Shadows and Blacks sliders to -50, and boost Clarity to +20. This will give the sky more punch.

Inside the third tab along, Detail, increase the Luminance slider to 30. This will reduce the amount of noise in the sky. Set the Color slider to 50 and Color Smoothness to 80 to soften noise in the colour, then press OK to return to the main Photoshop interface.

Edit the rocks


Make another adjustment



Inside Camera Raw, open the next tab that contains the Tone Curve. Set the Highlights to +35, Lights to -30 and Darks to -10 to boost the contrast in the sky. Adjusting the small handles under the Parametric Curve will tweak brightness and contrast even further.

Because the sky layer is a Smart Filter, a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer can also be stacked on top of the Camera Raw Filter. Go to Image> Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast and set Brightness to 2 and Contrast to 48, then hit OK to confirm.

Increase Exposure to +0.25 and Contrast to +50, and also set the Shadows slider to around +36. Increasing the Highlights, Lights and Shadows sliders up to +20 inside the Tone Curve section of Camera Raw will also help boost the effect over the rocks.


Edit the Tone Curve

Adapt the water


Select the Background layer in the Layers palette and go Filter>Convert for Smart Filters. Then go back into the Camera Raw Filter, but this time set the Clarity slider to +25. Also set Vibrance to +20 for extra colour and depth in the water area.

Adjust Shadows/Highlights


Add the Shadows/Highlights adjustment to the layer containing the rocks and water, and go to Image> Adjustments>Shadows/Highlights. For Shadows, set Amount to 15%, Tone 50% and Radius to 100px. For Highlights, set Amount to 20%, Tone to 50% and Radius 100px.

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Adjust the midtone contrast


In the Shadows/Highlights adjustment, set the Midtone adjustment to +30. This will help to boost up the overall contrast even further. Confirm the changes, then go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer and choose Curves, then press OK in the pop-up box.

Adjust the Curves


Make sure the Curves adjustment is just above the rocks layer. Inside the adjustment, about two thirds of the way up the line, grab and lift up slightly to boost brightness. Lower the bottom third of the line to deepen the blacks.

Duplicate and Rasterize


Duplicate the rocks layer by pressing Cmd/Ctrl+J, and then Ctrl/right-click on the new layer and select Rasterize Layer so we can make further edits. Select the Burn tool, set its Range to Midtones and Exposure to 30%, and untick Protect Tones in the Options bar.

Include the sky


Add another Curves adjustment layer, but this time above all the layers, and apply a similar adjustment as in step 17. Now add a Vibrance adjustment layer and boost up the Vibrance to +30 and Saturation to +10.

Blend lighting


Set the blend mode of the duplicated layer to Luminosity. Apply the Burn tool to the rocks where it meets the sky to darken the edges. Also use the Burn tool over the white areas of the breaking water to bring some detail back to complete this HDR effect.

What can go wrong Distorted colours Sometimes when applying the Camera Raw Filter, as well as numerous adjustment layers, you could start to see colours looking unnatural. For example, in this image, the blue water started to become purple along the shore, because the blue regions had been pushed to their limits. To adjust this, add new Hue/ Saturation layer and use the hand and arrows button just under the Preset options to click and drag over the purple pixels to slowly desaturate them until the purple becomes less obvious. Sliding the Hue setting to the left will help remove any unwanted purple tinting in the water, which should be a bluey green.

Right Wrong


Resource project Make textures from everyday surfaces On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.



You don’t need many supplies for this tutorial, as the results you end up with will be a result of the surfaces that you’re photographing.

You will need a camera, obviously with a wide angle capability, to really take advantage of the textures.


A rough wall will be easiest to get good shots of because of the more dramatic texture. A stucco wall or ceiling will work well.

Make textures from everyday surfaces

Discover how to take pictures of flat surfaces, such as walls and doors, to be used as textures and backgrounds in your Photoshop projects


o matter how many photos and textures you have, as designers, you’ll always be looking for more. Textures can be found anywhere; inside, outside, small and large scale, just waiting to be used. But there are a few basic tips for realistically capturing useful textures. These methods and tips can be applied to any flat surface textures, from walls, to floors or ceilings. Once you understand how to create a usable texture,


you will be able to turn anything into a textural element for your own use. These textures can be used to age photos, to make logos and designs appear worn and vintage, and can even be used to replace backgrounds. A quick photo walk around your neighbourhood can be a great way to collect textures. The more you walk around looking for textures, the more you’ll find. There’s brick, wood, granite, concrete, asphalt, stucco,

cobblestone, rusted metal and more just down one street. You don’t have to know how you’re going to use a texture while you’re photographing it. It’s better to have a collection of images handy so you can try different effects and see what works for your specific design. Next time you’re out and about with your camera, think about the environment that you’re in and how you can translate that into a design.

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Things to avoid Find out what not to do in texture photography

Don’t be harsh


Don’t light your texture with a harsh lamp really close to it; the shadows it creates will make the texture look unnatural in most settings, especially if the texture is very raised or gritty.

Don’t invade the space


Don’t just capture an inch-by-inch section of your texture; not only will it make that texture huge and overwhelming, but it also stops you from taking full advantage of the texture as a whole.

Don’t have an angle


Don’t get all artsy and try to take texture photos at crazy angles; the depth of field and uneven lighting will prevent them from being usable as all-over texture elements in your artwork.

Essential tricks for success Discover some basic tips for wall textures

Use the daylight


The best way to get soft, diffused light, especially if you don’t have your own lighting studio, is shooting on an overcast day. The light is bright enough for photos, but soft and diffused so there are no weird shadows.

Back it up


Shoot straight on

Stand with your camera far back from the wall, at least five feet. Then zoom with your camera to crop what you want. This eliminates distortion, so you can use more of the image and do less editing.


Even if other objects are in your way, shoot straight on so the front of your lens is parallel to the wall or surface you’re photographing. That way, it will look even and consistent once applied as a texture.

Add character Use textures to add a new dimension to your imagery


Once you’ve taken your photos, the textures can be used for many purposes such as changing or creating backgrounds for composites.


Collect many types of textures; peeled paint is an easy texture to find if you live in an old house or anywhere with old buildings.


You can then use them to create wear and tear on designs that are meant to look vintage.


Resource project Make textures from everyday surfaces

Tile texture Learn how to create a seamless tiled texture

Choose Offset


Attack with the Clone

Select a photo that is a square and doesn’t have specific dividing lines. Go to the Filter menu and choose Offset, then input half the image size into both the horizontal and vertical adjustments.


Once you offset the image, you’ll see the edges line up to make some ugly lines. Use the Clone tool to erase those out and create a seamless image. Now the image will tile easily and perfectly.

21 wall textures – 21 various wall textures using a variety of wall surfaces, both internal and external. Feel free to use them for your own personal work.


Create the pattern


Now go to the File menu and then select Define Pattern. Name your pattern so you’ll remember it. Now you’re ready to use your pattern as large or small as you want.


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Print edition available at Digital edition available at Available on the following platforms

Project focus The cool cats’ comic

The cool cats’ comic

Tracy Butler’s playful style and sophisticated wit has brought many fans to her Lackadaisy web comic, and now the printed volumes are gaining popularity too

About the artist Tracy Butler

www.lackadaisy @LackadaisyCats

Tracy Butler studied biology at college and took freelance illustration gigs in her spare time. Her work was noticed by St. Louis’ game development company Simultronics, which took her on as an illustrator and concept artist. She learnt 3D while working for them, but initially specialised in animation. She started creating Lackadaisy in 2006, and now works on it full-time.

Name of the project Lackadaisy


racy Butler was an animator for a games company when she started creating web comic Lackadaisy. She says: “I was listening to a lot of jazz and swing revival at the time. I had just bought a very old house in a historic neighbourhood, and I had begun reading about the history of St. Louis and the labyrinth of limestone caves that coil beneath it.” Butler started to develop a story about prohibition: “a semi-farcical gangster fare about bootlegging and speakeasies, shady figures and shady alleyways.” For years Butler was torn between her job and the world she had created online, but she finally left her job at the beginning of 2015.

What’s your creative process?

Whether I’m working on comics or accompanying illustrations and paintings, my

process almost always begins with a pencil drawing. It’s a matter of comfort and familiarity, I suppose. Lackadaisy wouldn’t be Lackadaisy without its sepia tone – a look well associated with the past and the warm, hazy, weathered face of a faded photograph. That’s where Photoshop comes in. Generally, once I’ve scanned and cleaned up my pencil drawings, I begin toning on a new layer on top of the line work in grayscale with low opacity, soft round brushes and the Burn and Dodge tools. Sometimes I duplicate the tone layer and set it to a Multiply blend mode to emphasise shadows and add a little extra depth. On top of that, a Screen layer often comes in handy for more pronounced lighting or even a little bit of overexposure. Once the image conveys some sense of dimension, I’ll collapse these layers together into one new layer so that I can zero in on the details with the Paintbrush tool and smaller, round brushes. At this stage, I’ll also sharpen up any line work that has become lost or obscured along the way. To add a photographic depth-of-field effect, I duplicate the base art layer, apply a small Gaussian Blur and then selectively mask it out so that the foreground elements of the image appear more in focus than the background. Next, I add some paper texture. The textures I use here are created from scans of different types of paper with the contrast turned up to emphasise noise, pulp or even wrinkles and defects. Depending on the look I’m going for, something resembling a tattered time-worn cabinet card to something that’s just subtly reminiscent of an aged photo, I’ll pick a texture and apply it as a Hard Light layer or overlay on top of the artwork.  To append the texture and add some more specific touches, I put some custom-made scatter brushes and texture brushes to use on new layers, creating the illusion of splotches, scratches and rough spots. Final touches include creating a border with a few rough edges and, of course, applying the sepia tone that really defines the look.

How would you describe the look of Lackadaisy?

My style, I think, falls somewhere between the cartoonish and the illustrative. I’ve been a Using the characters


All images © Tracy Butler


“When I’m feeling energetic and upbeat, Rocky and Ivy are fun to work with; channelling them into drawings and dialog comes naturally. If I’m feeling maybe a little melancholy, it’s Mitzi and Zib. And on days when I’m at my most irascible, I sympathise most with Viktor.”


Butler has her process down; sketching and then working in Photoshop. She wants to finish Lackadaisy and hopefully make a short animated film. “If it’s not too uncouth to resort to clichés, it’s been a dream come true so far,” she says. That sepia look

characterisations have quickly made him a favourite of mine. 

What’s the biggest challenge: the art or the writing?

devotee of classic animation since I was a child, and in drawing characters, I enjoy applying similar animation principles as they relate to things like gesture, expression, and line of action. At the same time, I have a weak spot for minute details and the lushness and richerthan-life looks of everything from the preRaphaelites to Leyendecker, Rockwell and Winsor McCay. In some partly unconscious way, I suppose I’ve been trying to imitate and combine such things.

Which other artists do you enjoy?

Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes has been a joy and an influence since my early childhood. A. Wilkenfeld’s Tanglefoot comics and illustrations are eccentric and delightful in the extreme. Some of my readers turned me onto the work of Juanjo Guarnido not long ago too – his amazing drawing and

The most challenging thing about comics is, well, making them. The work involved in researching, writing, editing, rewriting, composing layouts for each page overall and each panel individually is enough to get interminably tangled in. Add to that the multitude of late nights and wrist aches that producing the artwork requires and the sum total is all-consuming. You have to be at least a little obsessed to do it, I think. It’s sort of like writing a book – and also drawing everything that happens in that book. I try to avoid being overwhelmed by taking it on in small segments at a time, and take pleasure in the process. It’s altogether worth the strain, though. It’s the most difficult and also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

Do you have an end point in mind?

Although latter parts of the story exist mostly in rough draft and outline form right now, I do have an end in mind. I expect the story to take up about five volumes in total. I’m only just wrapping things up on volume two right now, so I’ve got several more years of work ahead.


In this recent standalone Lackadaisy side-comic, Butler “utilised Screen, Hard Light and colour layers to try to recreate the look of a dusty, sundrenched space.”


How I made Selfie

Essentials Time taken 9 hours

The artist Julia Vidanova Russian illustrator Julia Vidanova ( www.vidanova. has been building up a portfolio of drawings and illustrations for a while now, mostly consisting of bright, evocative @thepixelprosites pictures. She had always wanted to create a piece of artwork in black and white, but had never found the perfect project for it, until she imagined creating a self-portrait.

Selfie by Julia Vidanova See how this self-portrait was brought to life using brushes and monochrome palettes


llustrator Julia Vidanova explains that she loves “expressive eyes in paintings, painting gloss and reflections. I looked in the mirror and I saw that I had messy hair and freckles, because it was summertime. I wanted to create a vivid, artistic portrait from what I saw and incorporate all of my favourite techniques.” The petals that Julia describes as adding a girly quality were inspired by anime. “I wanted an intense expression with this picture, like the subject was reaching an epiphany. I had the

vision for the painting first, and I used a Wacom Bamboo tablet, along with Photoshop, to bring it to life.” Julia also claims that she brought much more into the picture than she saw in the mirror. “I’m pleased with the finished work,” she says. “It all started from drawing with a neutral tone, and then lightening and darkening where I needed to, just like a gradient. It’s a simple technique but an effective one. The tone of my face in this picture was key: it makes for a more natural picture.”

Contour and volume


First, I filled in the background with a neutral grey colour (#808080). Then, on a new layer, I drew contours with the Hard Detail brush. I then created a new layer under the contour layer the same with volume, using the same brush.



To smooth over the image, I first turned the contour layer to 50% Opacity and then merged this with the volume layer. Next, I created another new layer and then added spots with a round, hard brush, which was 15-30% Opaque.



On the same layer I drew eyes with the Hard Detail brush and added details to sharpen my picture in the key features. I then added more freckles with the texture brush and created gradients to smooth everything over.



ADVANCED PHOTOSHOP Learn how to… •Improve your illustrations with expert advice •Make the most of layers to build up an illustration •Learn to paint in an airbrushed style •Design stunning 3D typography all in Photoshop •Create a 3D render then add shapes and colour




When looking for a way to give colours more effect, Bram Vanhaeren ( states: “I always go by a dark background and play with the gradient tool to fill in small shapes. It is a fine challenge to find matching colours and create a vibrant energetic portrait in the end!”


© Bram Vanhaeren





he term illustration covers all manner of different styles when it comes to digital artwork. In this feature, we pin down ten professional artists, who create everything from geometric landscapes to whimsical characters, and find out their top tips to take your artwork to the next level. There is a marked difference between a good illustration

and a great one, which takes a steady and well-practised hand. It’s about understanding exactly how to work with colours to build subtle variations that create depth; picking the right brushes to build texture and atmosphere, so that images tell a story and create intrigue. It’s about knowing when it’s okay to make a mistake and then even leave it in your

illustration for a new dimension adding a personal quirk. These are just a few of the essential nuggets of information that our artists share over the next few pages. Whatever style of illustration you work with, any of these tips can be taken in and applied to your own designs to move them on to a professional standard.


“I take photos of a traditional abstract painting section by section, making sure I leave enough overlap, just like I would if I was using the Merge tool.”


Freelance digital artist David Wols ( DavidWols) emulates the work of Photoshop’s Merge tool, but takes his time bringing in photos of his traditional abstract paintings and piecing them together layer by layer. His combination of traditional paint and Photoshop helps him to create truly unique blends.


“I then paste the photos as individual layers on a new canvas. I use the Eraser tool to smooth away any unwanted vignettes or harsh edges. I try to be as creative as possible in this process.”


“I’ll oen print the image onto a Foamex panel using a flatbed printer, paint on top of the image then start the stitching process in Photoshop again.”

© David Wols





Graphic designer Spencer Watson ( starts with a basic sketch in Photoshop, which he then refines gradually. Once the details are refined he adds in ink splatters and scribbles to add an extra dimension.

Build a foundation


I begin by sketching the image. I try to be as broad as possible, leaving the detail off, except for the basic face construction, shadows and highlights.

© Spencer Watson

© Middle Boop

Detail with brushes


Next I start filling in with details. This is where I start to develop the illustration with ink splatters and messy scribbly effects. I begin to blend in the background too.

Blend and finish


Once I’m satisfied with the detail in the face, I start to use the blending modes to guide the viewer into the main areas of detail. Lastly, I will add all the final touches and adjustments to the face.


Lighting can have a huge impact on how effective your overall illustration is. For illustrator Aaron Campbell (, there are a few tricks he uses. For example, he suggests having either the foreground or background dark or light to introduce contrast. In the image shown, he chose to go with most of the foreground dark against a light background. He then built in extra lighting detail:

“I added some light to the trees and the little guy riding the creature in the foreground by simply making a Marquee selection of the trees and character (Cmd/Ctrl-click on the Layer icon), then brushing in light with a soft brush; you can use a textured brush if it works better for your image.” He also suggests doing some experimentation with your lighting effects in your image: “Try out different lighting colours and swap the blending modes. In this piece, I had the orange lighting set to Lighten.”

© Aaron Campbell



Gordon Reid (www.middleboop. com) works for a number of high-end and well-known clients, who are drawn to his geometric, clean and precise style. While they look complex and eye-catching, the secret to Reid’s successful style is in understanding the most fundamental tools in Photoshop. For example, this artwork, which was designed for an exhibition, was created using the Polygon, Line and Ellipse tools. “I think it’s amazing how far you can take a piece, whether it’s just adding to the composition or fully creating a piece, using these tools,” says Reid. He suggests that in order to improve your own illustrations, a lot of it comes down to experimenting with simple shapes and stripping down the colour palette to focus on them, as well as creating symmetry for a balanced illustration: “Get yourself a focal point to work from, and work outwards creating shapes and patterns. Once you’re done with your geometric shapes and composition arrangement, copy all of the layers behind the focal point by selecting all the layers you want to copy, hold Opt/Alt and drag in the Layers box, then flip the images horizontally. This should complete the image or be the decider as to whether you want to add more detail or not.”




In order to create these eye-catching visuals, Bram Vanhaeren uses a combination of blending modes and single coloured layers.“I might try a green-coloured layer with 30% Saturation on top of a Blue layer with 15% Difference. I love to look for that sweet combination and see what happens while I change blending mode after blending mode, colour by colour. Another favourite layer is a gradient glow from purple to orange, with the blending mode set to Color. Before I finish an artwork, the energetic effects from this trick always surprise me.”

© Bram Vanhaeren





Sometimes trying to create the perfect illustration from the start doesn’t give the best results. For Anna Wardle (, she lets mistakes happen naturally and builds them into her artworks.

Build rough colours


Fill in your sketch roughly with all colours. I use the Eyepicker tool regularly; this causes some colours to merge into the wrong sections. I use a 90-100% Opacity with the Hard Round brush and Pen Pressure set to Size Jitter and Transfer, which gives great flow and blending ability.

Create interesting shapes


My next step is to keep going as before with the Eyepicker tool, then blending as I go, until the shapes all start to merge into the desired image. However, when I am carving into the image, I will often find the most interesting shapes emerging from the mess I originally made.

Enjoy happy accidents


I do not rub out mistakes or colour misplacements. Instead, I paint over them to lessen the appearance and then blend. I use these ‘happy accidents’ to create textures, shapes and blending with different colours to help bring the image together.

© Anna Wardle, 2015


© David Cousens


You can control and elicit modes within your digital illustrations by making use of certain brushes and colours, suggests David Cousens (; DavidCousens). He explains that in order to bring a story to your artwork, you first need to master the content: “Here we can see the hero is walking towards something with a concerned look on her face, and there is an old tattered flag suggesting people lived here once, but something has clearly happened. The skull suggests that things are dying around this area.” However, you can go on to emphasise this subtext and story through the way you paint your illustration, through the texture, colours and linework: “The sky and clouds are painted in an almost-dreamlike fashion with an Airbrush. The soft edges and light colours give a fantastical, ethereal quality to the image. But the image avoids being a happy one by having all of the rocks painted with a Hard-edged brush. “All of the painting of the scenery is jagged and sharp, alluding to danger. There is not a soft shape to be found on the ground, hinting at the potential threat that resides in the area. The flag painting is textured to emphasise distress and decay.” © Christos Mavridis



© Andy Hau


Most illustrators will make use of photographic textures to help add depth and realism to their illustrations. “Textures don’t just add a material (stone, paper, wood, dirt), but they become an excellent guide to create areas of volume within the surfaces that I build on top of the texture using small brushes,” explains freelance graphic artist Antonio Javier Caparo ( For this reason, Caparo uses flat textures without a defined light source, preferring a plain diffuse light with no spotlights or reflections. “A photo texture with a visible light source would be difficult to match to the light in the scene, or will force you to use it in just one way.” Once the textures are in place, Caparo then creates volume in his artwork by painting in the light and shadows, building the emboss and irregularities of the surface depending on the lighting settings. “Painting on top of textures also helps to downplay the photographic look of the © Antonio Caparo surfaces to something more integrated with my visual style, which is composed mostly of rough pastel strokes. I am a big fan of Kyle T. Webster pastel brushes (www.; they have become an excellent tool for my everyday work.”



“Although flat design still remains one of the most important styles in illustration, sometimes you want to bring some dimensionality and tactility to your image while retaining the approachability and clarity that flat design embodies,” says architect and graphic designer Andy Hau (www. In his striking artworks, Hau makes use of subtle gradients using the Gradient tool to add a three-dimensional quality: “The colours you choose don’t need to be high in contrast – just a couple of shades lighter or darker.” He also suggests that you should try colour-blocking areas of light and shade on your objects to increase this feeling of depth: “Once you have determined the direction of your light source, use only one highlight colour and one shade colour to contour your object. The restricted colour palette will help to retain the simplicity and cleanness of flat design, while giving you a sense of tangibility. If the contrast is too harsh in some areas, lower the Opacity or Fill of the layer. Really think about how the light would fall on your object, and sculpt and carve the areas of light and shade accordingly. One of my favourite tricks is to use an unexpected highlight colour, which can give the appearance of a neon light casting light on your object or a light-leak exposure.”

When you are working on an illustration that involves typography, it’s important to make the type feel like it’s part of the image, and one way to do that is to mask effects inside the letters. This is a technique that Pete Harrison ( used for this image. He first creates the typography layer and then places the image he wants to mask onto the type on the layer above it. Use Layer>Create Clipping Mask (Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+G) to create a clipping mask, which will be visible in the Layers panel by it becoming indented above the type layer. “You can add any amount of layers into this clipping mask,” says Harrison. “The great thing about this is that the type is still editable, and paths or vectors will remain intact. I think a lot of people forget you can do this with type, and you can create some really nice and dynamic effects. It can also be used to blend the type better into the background. Try creating some shines or lighting effects by using a soft, round brush and set the blending mode of the layer to Screen, or maybe you could mask another image or texture inside the type.”

© Pete Harrison


Advanced Build up an illustration with layers On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Essentials Time taken 18 hours

Expert kittozutto “If there’s one thing we @thepixelprosites couldn’t live without in Photoshop it would be layers and masks (alright that’s two). These two tools open up a whole new dimension to creating images. We’re going to show you how these tools not only offer you more flexibility for editing, but also produce nice clean edges to your artwork. As we are both artists under the moniker kittozutto, and a graphic design studio, BÜRO UFHO, we have been using Photoshop for more than 10 years. In 2015, we had the privilege to be invited by Adobe, together with 70 other artists, to celebrate its 25th anniversary of Photoshop, which was an honour.” For more of kittozutto’s stunning work, head to

Make a basic sketch


Build up an illustration with layers

Start image

Achieve the soft, clean look of an airbrushed-style illustration from start to finish in Photoshop


rom highly polished seductive album covers to handcrafted imaginative movie posters, airbrushed realism brings a fascinating surreal quality to images. The artwork here has been greatly influenced by graphics from the Eighties, as well as masters such as Drew Struzan and Hajime Sorayama. In this tutorial, we’ll take you through the process of digital airbrushing, showing you how to use Photoshop’s layers and masks to create this image. This layering technique gradually builds up to produce a soft, smooth quality to your illustrations.

Begin by sourcing for reference images. They don’t have to be large; we’re just looking at overall proportions. On a new layer, make a rough guide (see the pink lines on the screenshot) with a hard brush, followed by a detailed guide (the blue lines). You can now create your first sketch (Gray).


Refine the line work


By using a systematic approach to creating the artwork, it will enable you to turn complex processes into easier phases to concentrate on, and opens up flexibility in terms of editing at the later stage. Just one thing though, you’ll need to name your folders and group your layers accordingly or it will be a headache to find them. Check out our ‘Expert tip’ for more specific advice on selection and advanced layer blending, and you can download the layered PSD from the FileSilo to get a better understanding of how you can build up your artwork.

With your first sketch underneath as a guide, it’s time to create your refined sketch. Improve on the details for the eyebrows as well as the waves of her hair. At this stage you need to add in some shutter shades to really bring out the Eighties theme. Our sketch is available on the FileSilo for you.

Path it out


Start pathing out areas of your refined sketch using the Pen tool. These paths will be used to mask your shadings later. Fill each path with a different colour so you can see where the areas are. Remember to name them accordingly so you can easily find them.

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Advanced Build up an illustration with layers Expert edit Essential steps

Create your guidelines


A rule-of-thirds guide, together with your image’s centre guides, will help you position your elements. Google ‘Photoshop rule of thirds action’ to download this handy tool.

Shade within masks


Make a selection of your path (Cmd/ Ctrl+Click), for example the right eye layer. Create a group (Cmd/Ctrl+G). Apply the selection as a group mask. Press the ‘Add layer mask’ button. Uncheck your right eye visibility. Create a new layer within this group and begin shading the eye.

Create a nested masked group


Repeat the same steps for the iris and you now have a nested masked group. Use a large soft brush for subtle shadings around the iris and a smaller brush for details. Slowly build up the layers of shadings and finish off with a white brush layer for the highlights.

Mirror and flip the eye


Add shadings for the eyelid and eyebrow. Group all of these together as a right-eye group. Duplicate it, flip horizontally and place over the left-eye sketch. Be sure to flip the white highlights layer back and edit the left eye accordingly to make sure they don’t look too symmetrical.

Blur your paths


The group mask derived from your vector paths will be too sharp, so click on the mask and then go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur, with a radius of 1px – 1.5px.

Flatten your image


When you apply too many blending modes, it can look too saturated and contrasted. Adding an invert adjustment layer helps to counter this, in our case Opacity is at 25%.

Start on the nose

Soften your image


Copy-merge the canvas and set the layer’s blending mode to lighten. Give a Gaussian Blur of 20%. Apply it to the shutter shades area through masking to soften the edges.



Shade the nostrils and keep them within the masked group. Keep the shading towards the tip of the nose subtle. Take note of the highlights around the rims of the nostrils. Invert the selection of the nostril vector shape and brush the highlights on a new layer.

Work on the bridge of the nose


Use a soft white brush (Opacity 40%, Flow 25%) to paint in the highlights of the nose. The highlights should fade off gradually towards the bridge of the nose, and more abruptly towards the tip of the nose. The fuller the nose, the larger your white brush should be.

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Add texture to the lips


To create texture on the lips, use a soft, white brush to paint in a big subtle highlight on the lips. Next, use a soft Eraser (Opacity 82% and Flow 59%) to remove portions of the glow from the lips to create the texture according to your reference material.

Paint the shutter shades


Painting the complex shutter shades becomes easier with the heavy lifting completed during the earlier pathing stage. Select the path, create a group, apply the selection as a mask to the group. You can safely paint within the area. Duplicate the group below, shift it slightly up for depth.

Colour the nose


Create hair waves


Begin painting roughly the shape of the hair, brushing over a few times for darker areas. Similar with how we created the lip’s texture, use a soft, round Eraser to work out the hair. You can create a new layer and use a soft, white brush to brush in some highlights.

Add skin colour


We’re going to add colour by filling a new layer with skin tone. Set the blending mode to Soft Light. Duplicate the layer and your black shading has now turned into coloured shading. Brighten it a bit by duplicating the layer and set it to Screen at 25% Opacity.

For the nose area we will introduce some bluish tones for shadows and specific highlights. If you find the colours too strong at 100% you can reduce the layer’s Opacity down to about 25% to 50%. Lastly, add a new layer on top to brush in some white highlights.

Colour the lips


Similarly, colour the lips using the Soft Light technique. Setting layer blending mode to Soft Light helps build up the colours harmoniously. You can paint each new colour on a separate Soft Light layer and use layer masking or the Eraser tool to define precisely the area you want to affect.

Face toning


After completing the nose, proceed toning the rest of the face. Add some warm orange tones around the face, red tones around the cheeks, and cyan-tone highlights under the eyes and nose areas. Create more depth by brushing black over sunken areas and set the layer to Soft Light.


Advanced Build up an illustration with layers

Expert tip Modify your selections

In this tutorial we have created many pathed-out shapes using the Pen tool. Now to make a selection of your path, Cmd/Ctrl+Click on the layer thumbnail. You will then see the marching ants around your shape. In order to add a selection to your existing one, simply Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+Click on the new layer thumbnail. If you want to subtract your selection, just Option/ Alt+Cmd/Ctrl+Click on the layer thumbnail of the layer you wish to remove.

Give details to the eyes



There are two paths you’ll need for colouring the eyes. The first is an eclipse for the iris, the other is the shape of the eye. Using a nested masked group to keep the colours within the intended mask area, duplicate and flip horizontally for the other eye.

With your reference, begin colouring the inner portion of the iris. Take note of the reflected shadows of the eyelashes on the reflected highlights on the eyes. First, brush over a soft, white highlight over the eyes. Next, use a soft eraser on the highlight to create the reflected eyelashes.

Introduce some pores

Work on the hair colour

Flip the eye


Make a selection of the hair, fill the layer with an orange colour and set the blend mode to Soft Light. Repeat the same process for the shutter shades and clothes. See our ‘Expert tip’ on adding and subtracting selections.

Create eyelashes


Include some coloured make-up around the eyes. Add in eyelashes. Use a small, white brush for some of the lashes to represent reflected lights. You will also need to add in some shadow onto the eyes. Darken them slightly so your eyes will look less protruding.

Add in some strands of hair


Create a new layer, then add in some hair strands around the forehead. This will help to cover up the seams, make the face look smaller and add depth to the hair.

Add more pores


On the noise layer, create a layer mask. Fill it with black Fill a new layer with white. Set it to Soft Light. Group the layer (Cmd/ to hide everything. Next, use a soft, white brush to brush Ctrl+G). Apply a layer mask to the group. Go to Filter>Noise>Add in the areas to create the pores. You can repeat the same Noise>Amount 50%. Unlink the mask. Enlarge the mask 200%. Re-link the process, but use a black layer instead for brushing in dark pores mask back to the group. over light areas.

21 72

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Make reflections


Create some white blocks using the Rectangle tool. Merge them together (Cmd/Ctrl+E). Warp the layer using the Fisheye Distortion tool, set to Soft Light mode at 50% Opacity. Rotate the blocks at an angle, rasterize it. Give a Gaussian Blur of 2%. Keep it within the shutter shades’ mask.

Add sparkles


Create neon glowing earrings


Add an inner shadow to the earrings. Blend mode: Multiply. Opacity: 75%. Angle: 90. Distance: 0px. Choke: 0%. Size: 40%. Add an outer glow. Blend mode: Normal. Opacity: 35%. Noise: 0%. Technique: Softer. Spread: 0%. Size: 75%. Apply a layer mask to brush in some hair, hiding parts of the earrings.

Using the Pen tool, draw out some sparkles. Rasterize the layer and give it a Gaussian Blur of 2%. Duplicate this layer and increase the Gaussian Blur to 10% and 20%, then stack them up to produce a soft glow around the sparkle.


With a soft, black brush, create the silhouette of palm trees using references. Set the layer’s blending mode to Overlay, with Opacity at 75%. Cmd/Ctrl+Click on the layer’s thumbnail of the shutter shades and apply the layer mask to the palm trees.

Apply finishing touches


Take some time off and revisit the artwork with fresh eyes. Here we’ve added in more details over the sweatbands and neck area, softened the shutter shades using a Gaussian Blur layer set to Lighten mode, as well as some general darkening for the lower parts of the image. CURRENT/UNDER LAYER

Moving either black or white slider of ‘This Layer’ means Photoshop will only apply blending if the tonal value of the current layer is between the values of the sliders.

Expert tip Advanced blending In this tutorial we’ve used a lot of layer blending to gradually build up the image. One of the more powerful features of the layer blending would be the Blend If slider. It’s like an auto-mask that will help you mask out complex areas based on adjusting tonal values. Play with the sliders, under Layer Style, and you will be able to restrict the blending to affect only specific parts of the image based on the light or dark values. This will help prevent the blending from affecting areas you don’t wish to be blended, without using any layer masks.

Place some palm trees


You can split the slider in half by pressing Option/Alt and dragging the slider out to smooth out the blending and transition between the two layers.


Advanced Master 3D typography


Share your 3D typography Tweet us @pshopcreative On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Essentials Time taken 5 hours

Expert Neil Duerden “I’ve created many @thepixelprosites illustrations in Photoshop, and my 3D illustrations have included typography projects for Nike, Ford and Pepsi. These projects are usually even more complicated than this tutorial and can involve external programs. However, this tutorial will teach you how to create press-ready graphics that can be used for other media. “I am a self-confessed Mac monkey based in the UK. Creating mixed-media pieces that combine elements from photography with complex vectors or 3D, I work for clients all over the globe. I’m always hungry for the latest commissions and trends.” For more of Neil’s illustrations, head to

Construct the typography


Stock images

Master 3D typography

Take your typography further by creating a 3D render and adding shapes and colour – all in Photoshop


elieve it or not, Photoshop is capable of creating complex-looking renders without the need for specialised dedicated 3D software. The 3D functionality in Photoshop enables the creation of beautiful compositions that move away from flat, 2D art. It means you can adjust camera angles, lighting and textures through a set of integrated tools. We’ll be using all these tools in this tutorial and forming a strong foundation for you to build upon. The idea here is that you will have a lot of control over the end result and create a piece that is truly your own.

To begin with you need to construct the basic wording while considering who the design will target. This is very important, as it will control the entire end look of your design and the final result, so think carefully about the fonts you use and how they interact.

Get organised


The typography aspect is also down to you. Choose a strong type style and remember not to make it too fussy. A simple type style will always work better for this type of piece. As you progress from your flat graphic, the 3D will evolve under your control to a fully fledged 3D type composition. If you have a very powerful computer, use it. The rendering time will be cut in half and the whole process will be much smoother. We will guide you through the steps, but feel free to deviate to make the work your own. Experimenting with textures and lighting can completely change the outcome and final result.

Organise your file logically and make sure each letter is on a separate layer within the Layers palette. This may sound like common sense, but if you don’t get the organisation sorted out at the start, things will be far more complicated later down the line.

Add twist and movement


Duplicate one of the letter layers and go to 3D>New 3D Extrusion from Selected Layer. Choose the properties you wish, but make sure you click on the star layer in the 3D Layers palette and then adjust the values in the Deform palette to get the twist and movement you wish.


Advanced Master 3D typography

Expert tip Get a second opinion

Ask another person to take a look at your piece every so oen. You’ll get very close to your artwork aer staring at it for hours and quite oen won’t notice how it can be improved. A fresh set of eyes might give you feedback that really helps to take this forward to the next level. Constructive criticism can really help and if they suggest a different extrusion, material or lighting don’t take this to heart. Consider it, and if it improves the piece, why not give it a try?

Repeat for other letters


Assign a texture


In the 3D Layers palette click on the inflation materials (below the star layer). In the Properties palette, assign a 3D texture that gives the look you want. Choose from gloss, glass, brick, stone and more. We’ve gone for gloss. Once you have adjusted the different qualities click back on the star layer, click on cap in the Properties palette for inflation.

Repeat these actions on the other letters, making sure the extrusions go behind each other. You could add a layer above at this stage with full black fill and colour with the blend mode set to Color. This allows the composition to be seen clearly and take your mind off the colouring.

Add a background


Organise your layers


Save under a different name and then delete all unused working layers to clean the file and organise layers. This will be important as you go forward as you will be adding details to specific areas and need to be able to navigate through your document. Use obvious folder names.

The background will depend on the effect you want. We have gone for a simple infinity depth layer by using the Gradient tool. Add an extra few layers of the background colour and mask with the blend mode set to Multiply here if you wish to get more depth.


Twist the shape


Duplicate the layer with effects, click on the star layer once more, select the Selection tool in the Tool palette and then twist the whole shape to the angle you require, then click on the ISO icon on the base and wait for it to create the 3D art.

Add depth


Add individual shadows to help the letters interact. Select the area around your letter using the Magic Wand tool and invert your selection. Create a new layer above and set to Multiply. Use the Brush tool to paint in your shadows and adjust the opacity to get the correct level of darkness.

Change the colour (optional)


Click on your rendered layer of text and click on the fx at the bottom of the Layers palette. Choose Color Overlay and set the blend mode to Color. Click on the box of colour and make a selection that complements the background. Skip this step if you are happy with your present colour ways.

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Have a break


Make a drink or go for a walk, then come back to your work after an hour or so. This will stop you getting too close to the piece. Decide if any changes are needed before progressing to the finishing stages. It’s hard to go backwards from this point so make sure you give serious consideration to the composition.

Experiment in 3D


Add embellishments from other 3D forms to round off the finished shape of your piece. This can be created from any simple shape then rendered using the technique in the above steps. Experiment and you’ll come up with some amazing random shapes in no time. Bubbles are a good idea. There are some on the FileSilo.

Enhance the details


Add effects


Drop shadow below by duplicating the letter group and merging the group. Then go to Layer>Effects and use the various Transform modes to get the angle to match your background. Turn the opacity of the layer down a little and also add a mask to get a subtle yet obvious shadow reflection effect.

Inject some vibrancy

Create more details


Add more detail by thinking where there are holes in the composition. Use the above created shapes to sit above, inbetween and below the various letters and glue the whole composition together as one piece. Think how you can get them to look the best and apply them at will.

Flatten the image, change the mode to greyscale in Document settings, then copy the layer. Now go to your history and paste this new layer at the top of the layer stack, set the blend mode to Overlay and it will add a little pop. You can mask out sections and change the opacity to get the level you require.


Click the top of the layer stack, go to the top menu and select Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Vibrancy. In the Property palette boost the settings a little and bring your creation to life. Don’t take the levels up too far or you’ll get a colour burn out and strange things happening to your gradients within the shapes form.

Apply a High Pass filter


Paste another copy of the layer again at the top of the layer stack, then go to Filters>Other and apply a High Pass filter. Change the settings to get the edge of the shapes showing then change the blend mode to Overlay. This will sharpen all the edges and bring more life to the finished example.


Advanced Master 3D typography

Save a layered version


Make sure you save both a flat version and a layered version of the artwork. There is nothing that will make you madder than going back to a piece only to find that you didn’t save all the working layers within a 3D document.

Take it further Here are a few more examples of 3D renders created using the same techniques as in this tutorial. It’s all about experimentation and enjoying what you do. These examples have been used for the pitching process in various

Experiment some more


Experiment with the colour. Here’s another version with recoloured sections using the Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation and adjusting the Levels to a colour that looks good. Then mask out sections to give it a new cool look.

Apply the same techniques jobs and, although simple in form, are what a lot of agencies are looking for in 3D. They are not overly complicated and get the message across quickly. The last thing you want is to lose the client’s message in an overly complicated piece.

Bass beat – A simple piece that is aimed at the youth market. Design you trust – Stacked typography to give the message more priority while adding more interest in a legible way.

We all love ice cream – Everyone loves ice cream and this render communicated that quickly and effectively at first glance.


Buy me now – Bold and strong typography communicates this message in a powerful and direct manner.

All images © Neil Duerden

Disco diva – Integrating a simple texture to bring more attention to the message can be an effective way to bring more interest to the message.

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How I made Skyline


Check out the latest blog

Essentials Time taken 10 hours

The artist Jonathan Maurin Jonathan Maurin (, also known as Aeon-Lux, has been a freelance digital artist for four years. Based in France, he is passionate about visual art and graphic @thepixelprosites design, working mainly in the areas of concept art, matte painting, illustration and graphic design. He enjoys adapting his style.

Skyline by Jonathan Maurin

Discover the process behind creating a sci-fi landscape with simple tools in Photoshop


his picture was created for a personal project by Jonathan Maurin, who is also known as Aeon-Lux. The concept artist and illustrator from France is absolutely passionate about creating new worlds and universes. Most of the time he realises fantasy paintings or sci-fi artworks, but he also likes to give life to worlds that have been invented by others such as writers, directors or compositers. He generally likes to

Creating the composition

show people his visions of the future or of somewhere else. Here Maurin talks about an original process of digital painting. He created the structure like a 3D modelisation just using Photoshop and his use of simple tools like the Lasso tool or the Gradient. This is an original approach, making the buildings look like sculptures, and it can accelerate your workflow in any of your projects.

Applying the texture



Adding the colour

Making finishing touches

I began by creating the composition. I made the structure with the Lasso tool, and the gradient in black and white. I then worked on the values. The darkest parts and the more blurred areas were to create a focal effect.


The colourisation was a difficult step. I created new layers in different blend modes: Overlay, Multiply, Screen or Color. I chose an orange/yellow colour for the surface exposed to the light, and a purple colour for the area in the shadows.

I refined a few elements in the bottom of the picture. After I worked on the texture of the building to give the image realism, I added a new layer with a clipping mask on each plan and drew lines using textured brushes.


I added some details, such as lights on the moon, highlights on the buildings and the clouds, and more contrast. I refined the character. I cropped the artwork to enhance the size of the buildings and give a feeling of vertigo.


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18 pages of practical guides Create more in Elements‌ Tool focus: Master the Spot Healing brush..................... 84 Creative project: Design your own typeface .................86 Surreal art: Get creative with layers ....................................... 92 Digital art: Make a comic-book panel....................................96 Q&A: Common problems in Elements...............................100

Essential techniques Follow the step-by-step tutorials

On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Start image

Photo edit‌


ADD INSTAGRAMSTYLE EFFECTS Use Levels and adjustments, and blend colours for a retro effect that imitates typical Instagram-style images p90

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What does it mean?

CONTENT-AWARE – Content-Aware in Photoshop and Elements is a tool that removes an object from a background seamlessly, filling in the gap left with content from another part of the image. It’s an intelligent Fill tool used primarily for erasing things from photos – the Spot Healing brush is similar.


Stroke the Spot Healing brush over wispy strands of hair to remove them from your subject’s face.

On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Tool focus…

Master the Spot Healing brush Start image

Erase spots and blemishes like magic with this simple tool Texture can really enhance your projects in Photoshop and bring them to life, but it’s not always welcome when it comes to skin. A good HDR effect can make your subject look grittier and coarser, but for most portraits, there’s a fine line between gritty and messy. It’s a standard editing step to erase blemishes and smooth everything out, and Elements has a range of tools to help perfect your portraits. The Spot Healing brush has been a regular retouching aid for years now. The tool uses a black marker to show you exactly where it’s working; in the last few Photoshop and Elements updates it’s seen a speed upgrade and now it works instantaneously. It’s always been an important retouching tool for many users, as it’s as easy to use as


a brush, as accurate as the Clone Stamp tool, and as effective as Content-Aware filling. Simply painting over the blemishes of your pictures with the Spot Healing brush can remove them like magic, but the science of the tool relies on simply matching the texture of another part of the image. It’s a massively useful tool, whether you’re wanting to wipe spots from your skin, or hair from out of the face. This is a fundamental Elements feature worth learning, and there’s no doubt that it can improve your artwork once you’ve mastered it. Check out our quick guide to erasing blemishes, and learn which tools to pair the Spot Healing brush with for the ultimate retouching experience.

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Brush away blemishes Choose the settings then Spot Heal to perfection

Choose a brush

View further settings

Download the start image from the FileSilo and head to the Spot Healing brush icon on the left-hand toolbar of Elements. Choose Content Aware as the type of Spot Healing, and click on the drop-down Brush choices. Select a soft brush to avoid obvious edited edges.



Use the brush delicately

Edit more thoroughly


To erase single blemishes from the skin, tap the tool subtly on a specific spot: the tool will remove it immediately. Start editing the skin by using this restrained technique, before moving on to more widespread healing.


Use the J key as a shortcut to the Spot Healing brush

Below the drop-down brush menu you will notice that you can select the brush size. Set it 10px to begin with – you can always resize it using the [ and ] keys – and check ‘Sample All Layers’ if you are editing on an image with more than one layer.


You can use the Spot Healing brush more or less like any other brush too. Make sweeping brushstrokes over the subject to remove any grainy skin; you can heal already edited skin too to get a good, all-over texture.

Other retouching tools Use these features in combination with the Spot Healing brush

Healing brush The Healing brush can be found in the bottom

toolbar next to the Spot Healing brush. It’s a similar feature, as it relies on stroking the brush over blemished areas of skin, only it shows the Content Aware Patch that you are replacing in the highlighted area. It isn’t as precise as the Spot Healing brush, but is good for overall coverage.

Surface Blur Clone Stamp tool The Surface Blur filter can be found under Filter> The Clone Stamp tool can be used for all kinds Blur>Surface Blur, and is used to soften skin yet retain sharpness of features. Duplicate your layer, apply this blur, and then mask in the softness over the grittier skin texture to soften your portrait; you may still use the Spot Healing brush here to erase some unsightly blemishes.

of edits, including erasing whole subjects from photos. It relies on using a source area to copy over blemishes, which you can set by Option/ Alt-clicking and then brushing. It isn’t the most accurate spot removing tool available in Elements, but it relies on the user’s control.


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On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.


Hit Cmd/Ctrl+’ any time in order to bring up the guide

Creative project…

Design a typeface

Sketch your very own bespoke typeface, and then bring it to life with selections and fills in Elements A good typeface is at the heart of any good poster or design. Despite there being so many great fonts on the internet, picking the perfect typeface can sometimes seem impossible. Online fonts can be expensive, have ‘personal use only’ licenses or simply look common. Making your own font needn’t be difficult. If you have a font-creating program, you can take this project one step further and save your individual characters into a TTF or OTF file ready to be imported into Elements for typing. There


are programs out there that are fairly inexpensive and simple to use, so it’s a good investment if you’re interested in taking this kind of hobby further. In the meantime, perfect your skills with selecting and filling in Elements, and get the hang of creating typefaces that look stylish and cohesive. Remember to reuse elements of characters to keep a flowing style, and study other fonts for inspiration. When typefaces are so important in design, it’s worth spending a little time getting everything perfect.


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STAGE 1 Sketch the font

Construct your guidelines and begin designing

What does it mean? SERIF AND SANS SERIF – Serif fonts have flicks on the end of letters, such as Times New Roman. Sans serif (which means ‘without serif’ in French) fonts don’t have these flicks, such as Arial. Serif fonts are considered more classic or highbrow, whereas sans serif is often clearer and more modern.

Just as every great piece of art starts out with an idea, professional font creators will sketch out and draft ideas for their letters before jumping onto their computer. You might want to get creative with pen and paper, even if it is just to make sure you have a basic structure for your letters to follow – it’s important to be organised and have a good idea of where your design will go. Use the guides and grids too to keep everything concise and in place.

Create a new document


Go to File>New>Document and choose a width of 25cm and a height of 32cm, at 300dpi. This is roughly the size of an A4 piece of paper, and will make your letters large enough for most projects; the guides will enable you to shape your characters accurately.

Sketch out the font


Begin by making simple sketches with a pencil and paper of how you want your font to look. Choose either serif or sans serif and keep cohesive elements; here, we’re going to keep 45-degree sides and a constant curve to the sides of the font.

Add guidelines


Go to View>Grid and then View>New Guide to insert locked blue guidelines. Place the first one 2cm from the top, then the next few at 10cm, 22cm and 30cm. This will allow you to keep your letters shaped along the same guide.



Go to the top bar and choose Preferences>Grids & Guides in order to change the settings of your guidelines.


You can change the look of your guidelines any time if they’re clashing too much with the image you’re creating.

If the guidelines fall 2cm apart, this keeps the font relative to the blue guides; change to 1cm for smaller fonts.


The Subdivisions divide the grid further so that you can be even more precise when placing objects around the guide.


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Lay your text out into a sentence that uses every letter to see how each character looks next to the others.

STAGE 2 Construct your characters

Create a character and expand your skills to an alphabet Once you create a single letter for your alphabet, you can duplicate the straight lines and curves onto new layers to form a complete alphabet. The most time-consuming section of the project is making sure that the letters all look like they belong to the same family, but it can also be the most fun. Don’t be afraid to be as creative as you can on individual characters.

Add guiding dots

Begin creating straight lines

Create curves

Select four subdivisions of squares, or 2cm to be precise, and fill on a new layer with black in position of where each of your letters should fall. Reduce this layer to 50% and keep it visible as a guide of where to place the corners of your letters.


With the Rectangular Marquee, select spaces from the grid and fill on a new layer with black to start creating a letter. Use the top and bottom guidelines to keep upper-case letters confined, and middle and bottom guidelines for confining lower case.



Start building the letter

Create a second letter

Finish the alphabet


With the core elements of the letter finished – the straight line and the curved edge – all you need to do is copy these layers to different places in the document to form your first character. Refer to your sketch to include and embellish your original ideas.



Once you’ve made one letter, you just have 25 more to do! Select all the layers that you used, duplicate and merge into one. Copy this layer into a new document then reduce Opacity to 25%. Start creating a new letter, while referring to the last one.

Add another new layer, and with the Elliptical Marquee, select perfect circles at the corners of the character. With the same tool, mask out the centres of these circles to create a perfect curve. Mask out the excess, Ctrl/right-click your layer, Apply Mask.


Go from A through to Z, copying elements of your original letter to create an entire alphabet. Don’t be afraid to buck the trends on certain letters; M and W should be wider and Q could be given a fancy flick, even if it doesn’t adhere to the style.

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STAGE 3 Apply the final touches

Add glyphs, punctuation and other styles to finish off Saving the font and working out where and how to use it is really where you judge how good your work is. You might have a font-creating program that you can import your letters into, or you might just want to save to PNG. If you’re feeling particularly creative, incorporate colour or even pictures into your Hit Ctrl/Cmd+Opt/ characters and then simply Alt+Shift+S to Save it for paste whichever letters the web you need for your projects.


Use basic layer styles like Stroke to create special versions of your font, and save these as duplicates to use in projects.


Add punctuation and glyphs

Save for the web

With your upper case completed, decide on whether you want to do lower case, and then add punctuation. Use the same styles of your original font to create these and remember to keep everything within the guidelines.



Add variations

Create other styles


You might want to get creative with your font, masking out sections of the font, using brushes to add new elements, or even joining up the letters. Save these variations as new files so that you can interchange them with the original characters if needed.

If you have a font-creating program, such as High-Logic’s FontCreator 9.0, you can import your letters into it now. Otherwise, simply save as PNG files and paste into projects manually by going to File>Save for Web.


You may also want to consider different weights or styles of the font you’ve just created. Create the same font half the size for a thin weight, duplicate and nudge letters to create bold letters or go to Transform>Skew to create italic styles.


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What does it mean?

FILL LAYERS – Fill Layers are Smart Objects that can fill in your layer with either a solid colour or a gradient. Unlike filling in a layer manually, they adjust with your project; this means you can create a gradient in the exact centre, or fill in your layer with a colour, and the layers won’t change if you crop outwards.


Merge everything into one final layer (Cmd/Ctrl+Alt/ Opt+Shi+E) and tweak the final saturation (Cmd/Ctrl+U).

On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Photo edit…

Start image

Create Instagramstyle photos

Learn to use Levels, adjustments and blend colours for retro results In the 21st century, everyone’s a photographer thanks to cameras on smartphones. Not only is photography easier to practise, but it’s also easier to share thanks to social media. There are countless apps that you can download to follow others, ‘like’ their imagery and share your own phone photography. Instagram is perhaps the defining photo-sharing app and, with its retro filters and simple sliders, it has helped to re-popularise retro snaps. It’s easy to see why Instagram filters are so popular too; they evoke classic Lomo cameras with bright colours. But while anyone


can add a filter and increase the saturation on a picture from their Camera Roll, Elements can offer some more refined, controlled adjustments to create stunning vintage photo effects. The advantage of creating in Elements is that you can pick your own colours, place gradients wherever you like, and have finer precision over your shots. You can add light leaks if you like, mask out areas of colour, or even just apply actions to your pictures. Instagram might have changed the way many people think about retro photography, but Elements is more versatile and powerful.

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Re-style with gradients Use colour and adjustments for classic filtered looks

Tweak brightness and contrast

Adjust colour channels

Start off by increasing the brightness and contrast of your photo by going to Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Brightness/Contrast. This will give your picture a simple all-over boost before you start adding colours into the mix.



Add a fill layer

Inject colour with gradients


Click on the ‘Create new fill layer’ icon, and choose Solid Color. Pick any colour and click OK, set layer to Lighten and doubleclick on the layer preview again before selecting a dark pink (we chose #523b46). This adds a block colour over the darker shades.

Head to Levels by hitting Cmd/Ctrl+L. With the drop-down Channel menu, pick the individual RGB strands in turn and move the middle stopper to 1.5 for Red, 1.3 for Green and 0.8 for Blue. This will add a subtle lomo effect to the picture, ready for recolouring later.


Now it’s time to get creative with your gradients. Pick bright blues, pinks, greens and oranges for your gradients and drag them over your image on new layers beneath the Fill Layer. Add masks and drag monochrome gradients to fade the colour.

Further edits Use more Elements features that mimic Instagram adjustments

Crop Instagram introduced the option to upload

rectangular images to its app last year, bucking the famous trend of all its images being square shaped. If you would like to get that classic Instagram look though, simply use the Crop tool with the Shi key held down to crop your shot to a ratio of 1:1.

Lux Lux is an option within the Instagram app to

basically add cinematic contrast and brighten the colours of your picture all at once. It’s a great fix for photos, and it can be mimicked with the Levels dials (Cmd/Ctrl+U). Slide the stoppers at either end of the histogram in order to create a Lux-like finish.


Add a Gradient to your presets if you plan on reusing it

Structure Structure is a feature of the app added last year. Where Sharpen adds detail to your pictures, Structure adds noise; it’s great for removing blurriness and can be created in Elements. Merge Visible into a new layer (Cmd/Ctrl+Alt/ Opt+Shi+E) and go to Filter>Other>High Pass. Pick a radius of 20 and set layer to Linear Light.



The shadows are worked into the finger segments, along with added texture, to make the composition seem even more realistic.

Surreal art…

Start image

Get creative with layers

On the FileSilo Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Push layers to the edge using brushes, masks and more If you usually prefer to use Photoshop CC for your photomanipulation projects, then it might come as a surprise to learn that this effect was completed totally in Elements. You can create something so layer-demanding with the tools that Elements has to offer – it’s just a case of knowing how best to use them. Before making the first incision into the hand, we need to head to the Expert section of Photoshop Elements, which houses the Layers panel. This effect is going to create a string of layers, masks and adjustments, which will fill up your Layers panel sooner than you


might expect. In the following steps, you’ll discover how to use Photoshop Elements to create a surreal composition that will make fingers look like chopped-up pieces of carrot! We’ll be taking you through some of the basic, as well as the more advanced, techniques to cut up and compose an image that, although looks quite disturbing, is actually a lot of fun. By the end, you’ll have gained greater knowledge of how layers and masks can work together. Head to the FileSilo now and download the resources needed to create this gruesome artwork and get started.

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Create carrot fingers Create a multi-layered composition using selections and masks Shortcut

If a Quick selection spills over, simply hold Opt/Alt to remove it

Open your image


Open up the starting image for this tutorial found on the FileSilo. Make sure you’re in Expert mode, and as we’re going to be using the Layers function regularly, click on the Layers button at the bottom of the Elements interface.

Make a selection


Locate the Quick Selection tool by pressing A. Set its Size to 30px and tick Auto-Enhance from the Tool Options along the bottom. Brush over the forefinger to create the first selection. Try not to include the shadows in this selection. Zoom in to get a better selection.

Put the fingers on separate layers


Smooth the selection


In the Tool Options, click the Refine Edge button. Set Smooth to 10 and Contrast to 30, and press OK. Now press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+J to cut and paste the forefinger onto its own layer. The quality of the selection doesn’t have to be perfect, as a bit of roughness helps with this effect.

Duplicate and hide

Select, Refine, cut and paste the remaining three fingers onto their own layers. Be sure to select the Background layer first before selecting a finger. Once the fingers are on their own layers, you should end up with four layers above the Background layer.


With the forefinger layer highlighted, press Cmd/Ctrl+J five times to create five copies of the layer. Hide the five copied layers by clicking on their eye symbols, and then add a layer mask to the original Layer 1 by clicking on the ‘Add layer mask’ button in the Layers panel.



The Layers panel will soon fill up. Naming each one helps to stay on top of things as it gets more crowded.

When you make the original selection, avoid selecting the shadows areas underneath the fingers as these will need to stay.

What does it mean? WHITE SPACE

The Background layer will contain white space from the fingers which have been cut and pasted. Don’t worry, as this is a locked layer, which means it cannot be moved.

AUTO-ENHANCE – Supplied with the Quick Selection tool, having Auto-Enhance switched on will improve selection areas by smoothing out rough edges. With Auto-Enhance checked, Elements will help your selection tool detect object outlines better, and adjust the area for a better cutout.


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Create a chunk


Pick the Brush tool (B) and set its Size to 100px and Opacity to 100%. Select Hard Round from the Brush drop-down. Using black as the colour, click on the layer mask to make it active, then apply the brush from the nail to the first knuckle on the forefinger to leave the first chunk visible.

Continue the carnage


Create another chunk


Select the first copied layer in the Layers panel and reveal it by clicking on its Eye symbol, and then add a layer mask. Using the Brush tool, remove about half of the finger, not forgetting to brush over the first chunk as well.

Repeat steps 5 to 8 for the remaining fingers, adding layer masks and using the Brush tool to create a chunk of finger on each of the copied layers. You will need to create three copies for the little finger as it’s shorter.


On a blank layer, set its blend mode to Soƒ Light and use a low opacity black brush to paint in shadows between the fingers for added depth and contrast.


Add a Levels adjustment layer to match the exposure of the new board under the fingers with the rest of the board. Go Layer>Create Clipping Mask to apply it to that layer only.


Slice and dice


Reveal the next copy layer in the Layers panel, give it a layer mask, and brush over the finger to reveal the next chunk. Repeat this process for the other layers until you have all six individual chunks formed for the forefinger.

Overlay a carrot texture


Use the Quick Selection tool to select the front and edges of a piece of carrot. Press Cmd/Ctrl+J to copy it onto its own layer and move the piece over to the first chunk of finger. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T to load the Transform controls.


When working on a mask, press the X key to switch your foreground colour to white, then correct any edges that have gone astray.


It helps to add masks to the carrot layers as well so you can brush away odd bits sticking out from the chunks and to generally tidy things up.

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Expert tip Transform the carrot

Find the right position


Now move the first carrot piece under the first forefinger chunk and hide the other layers. Rotate the piece of carrot and then also Ctrl/right-click and select Distort. Try to make the carrot match the perspective of the image.

Create extra board space


Hide all the finger and carrot layers, and use the Elliptical Marquee tool (M) to select an empty piece of chopping board. Press Cmd/Ctrl+J multiple times to duplicate, then manoeuvre the pieces to cover the white space under the fingers. Press Cmd/Ctrl+E to merge these layers into one.

Remember layer locking How to avoid frustration

Merge the layers


Duplicate this piece of carrot multiple times for the remainder of the finger chunks. Be sure to place each piece below the respective chunk in the layer stack. Stretch and reshape each piece as you go, and move the chunks around for a more chopped-up look.

Enlarge the blade


Use the Quick Selection tool to select just the metal part of the knife, then press Cmd/Ctrl+J to place it onto its own layer. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T and enlarge and lower the blade so that it looks like it is cutting through the fingers.

By default, while using the Transform commands, Elements prevents the height and width of the layer being altered. To override this to reshape the pieces of carrots so they fit into place more accurately, hold Shi… while moving the corners of the transform box. Another clever trick is to hold down Opt/Alt to adjust the height and width values of a layer from a fixed central point. A…er altering the height and width, try tweaking its perspective by holding down Cmd/Ctrl and dragging one of the corners of the Transform box.

Make adjustments


Make a layer above the knife, and use a low opacity brush to paint in shadows between the blade and the fingers. Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer at the top of the layer stack and boost overall Contrast to +50 and reduce Brightness to -15 to complete the effect.


Turn on Auto Select Layer with the Move tool to go to an object’s layer

In a multi-layered composition, where there could be layers with low opacity settings on top of layers with a different opacity setting, it can make moving an object somewhat tricky. You will find that if you set the Move tool to Auto Select Layer in the Options bar, Photoshop picks up a layer even if its opacity is at a very low setting. To get around this, click on the padlock symbol along the top of the Layers panel to secure a low opacity layer in its current position so it can’t be moved accidentally. The Move tool will always ignore any layer that has the padlock symbol turned on.



Layer up some filter effects to give a comicbook twist to your photos. No drawing required.

Start image

Digital art…

On the FileSilo

Make a comic-book panel

Download your free resources at www.filesilo.

Inject pow! into your photos to create a comic effect Before the slew of superhero films arrived and geek became chic, the mainstream didn’t really pay much attention to comics. But over the past few years, more and more people are starting to realise the joy the comic book universe offers and have a new appreciation for what an art form it is. Comics have their own rules for storytelling, using panels and images to create a cinematic effect. Acquiring the skills to create the artwork takes years of dedication. So you might be wondering why we are suggesting you have a go yourself. The fact is, you can create a comic-book effect in Elements using nothing but filters, selections, some text and adjustments. You don’t


even have to be able to draw, as everything is based on a photo. This means that once you run through our tutorial, you can then apply the principles to any photo you want – whether it’s your family, friends or even pets. Nothing will be safe! While the effect looks great just on one image, by applying it to numerous images you can take the next step and create your own comic book with multiple panels and a narrative. We show you how to set this up on the last page. This makes a wonderful device for documenting a special occasion, whether it’s a holiday, event or just photos taken on a lovely day out.

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Transform photos into comics Take one photo, apply some filters and pazzow!

Prepare for the first filter


We’re working in Expert mode, so select that and then open up the start photo. As with any project, it’s best to work on a duplicate to keep the original safe. Go to Layer>Duplicate Layer and name it Cutout Fine. Go to View>Zoom In to see more detail.

Begin the illustration effect


Keep the detail


Go to Filter>Artistic>Cutout. This simplifies an image into colour sections, with the sliders controlling detail. The aim of this layer is to keep a fair amount of detail, set Number of Levels to 8, Edge Simplicity to 5, and Edge Fidelity to 2.

Create the main effect layer


Click on the Background layer and go to Layer>Duplicate Layer. Call this one Cutout Rough. This is going to become the effect that people see, so it needs to sit at the top of the layer stack. Do this by clicking and dragging to move it to the top.

Erase for perfection

Head to Filter>Artistic>Cutout again, but this time we want looser detail. This will give an illustration effect. Set Number of Levels to 4, Edge Simplicity to 7 and Edge Fidelity to 2. While this has worked really well in some areas, our subject is now obviously missing eyes and a mouth! This is fixed next.


Pick the Eraser tool from the toolbar and use the [ or ] keys to adjust the size. Drop the opacity of the Cutout Rough layer so you can see the Cutout Detail layer. Now, making sure you are on the Cutout Rough layer, erase parts like the eyes and mouth in order to bring back detail.

What does it mean?


Use the Cmd/Ctrl and the + or - key to zoom in, or out


Use the Number of Levels slider to set how detailed the effect is. A high setting will look photographic.

ADJUST THE LAYER ORDER – In this tutorial, we play about with the layer order. By doing so, it’s possible to apply a filter effect to the whole image and then erase parts that don’t work to reveal parts that do. If we didn’t do this, we would have to make lots of fiddly selections.


This slider simplifies an image – the higher it goes, the more simple the image. You can turn an image into geometric patterns.


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Expert tip Add a Color Halone filter

Boost contrast


Time to do a bit of layer magic. Press Cmd/Ctrl+Option/Alt+Shift+E to create a new layer from all the existing layers. Click on the layer and rename it to Cutout Merged. This gives you a base to create on, while keeping previous edits safe. Go to Enhance> Adjust Color>Adjust Color Curves and select Increase Contrast from the Select a Style.

Create an inky outline


Click on the Background layer and go to Layer>Duplicate Layer. Call it Graphic Novel. Drag it to the top of the layer stack as you did before. Go to Filter>Sketch>Graphic Novel and click the Fine Detail preset. Leave the settings as they are and click OK.

Halones are dots that enabled printers to achieve shades of grey. The size and distance of the dots enabled lighter or darker effects. Colour halones are popular in comics. The shading possibilities mean that only a small number of inks are needed in order to create the desired effect. Adding the filter to your photo helps you to achieve that retro-paper comic-book effect. The Max Radius setting is the most important, as this sets the size of the dots, which will affect the shading and colour in your image.

Frame it

Merge effects


The aim now is to make the black outline merge with the Cutout effect. This is achieved using blend modes. Working on the Graphic Novel layer, click on the blend mode drop-down from the Layers palette and pick Multiply. Set the layer Opacity to 70%.


The Graphic Novel feature has four presets that can be used and tweaked for a great sketch effect.

Add a Color Halftone filter


Use the Cmd/Ctrl+Option/Alt+Shift+E trick once more. Click on the layer to rename it Color Halftone. Guess where we go now – Filter>Pixelate>Color Halftone! Set Max Radius to 4 and click OK. Set the blend mode to Overlay to bring back some contrast.


Comic books have a distinct style with thick borders that create the panels. Go to Layer>New>Layer and call it Frame. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+A to select the area and go to Edit>Stroke (Outline) Selection. Ensure Color is set to black (if not, click the square and pick black) and set to 50px in the Width. Click OK and then Cmd/Ctrl+D to deselect.


The Presets panel should be your first port of call. Decide which one is closest to the effect you want and then click it to apply it.


There is a nice big preview area so you can see how the filter will look. Use the two magnifying glass icons in the bottom-le to zoom in and out as needed.



Once you have a preset, use the sliders to edit it further. When happy, click OK.

Ele m en ts

Start the speech bubble


Your comic creations need a voice, so that requires a speech bubble. Search online for free comic-book fonts – we used Komika Title from Pick the Text tool and choose your font from the bottom options bar. Click where you want your text and type. You can Cmd/Ctrl+A to select all text and adjust the size from the options bar.

Add the speech bubble


Now the text is sorted, you can make the speech bubble. Go to Layer>New> Layer and name it Speech Bubble. Pick the Elliptical Marquee tool, then click and drag out to make a circle. Go to Edit>Fill Selection and pick White, then Edit>Stroke (Outline) Selection, ensure the colour is black and enter 20 pixels.

Create the text square


Create a new layer, call it Rectangle Border and pick the Polygonal Lasso tool. Because we have text going over three lines, we can create a staggered box. Click to make the edges and then click on your start point to end. Fill with white and outline with 20px Stroke as in step 12. Deselect and bring the text layer to the top.

Repeat to make multiple panels

Create a story using various images

Invent a narrative device


Finish the bubble by hitting Cmd/Ctrl+D to deselect, creating smaller ‘think’ circles and then move the text layer to the top of the stack. In addition to speech bubbles, comics use inset pieces of text. Select the Text tool and pick your font as before. Type out some descriptive text and click the tick to confirm. If you want multiple lines hit Return.

Make a background


The only other addition you might like to make is a background. Use the Quick Selection tool on the Background layer to select the background. On a new layer above the Color Halftone layer, pick the Gradient tool, the Orange, Yellow, Orange gradient and the Radial option. Drag from the centre then run the Color Halftone filter.


The Custom Shape tool even has preset speech bubbles

Once you have mastered the comic-book effect, you can apply it to many images and build your own story. But you will need to make panels – one for each image. Go to New>Blank File and set the size you want for your final document. Go to View>Rulers and View>Grid to help line up the panels. Go to Layer>New>Layer and call it Panels. Now use the Rectangular Marquee to draw a shape, using the guides. Go to Edit>Stoke (Outline) Selection, set Location to Inside and use whatever colour you want. Black is always good. Deselect and repeat the process until you have all the panels you want. Add your comic images below this layer. Use Edit>Transform if you need to make them fit.


ts n e m Ele


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The Dodge and Burn tools (O) are used to add light and shade to your pictures. They’re subtle brush-like tools that either increase or decrease the exposure wherever you apply them. Where they can really be used creatively though is as a final overlay layer in your work. If you create a new layer with a neutral grey colour filled (#808080), set this layer to Overlay and dodge and burn here rather than just on the original layer, you can edit non-destructively. This makes it good for refining portraits delicately, but it’s also a useful tool for completing an ambitious composition. With this particular picture, the Dodge and Burn tools are used to sculpt the shape of the deer, bring highlights to the eyes, face and back, and increase the contrast. You can create HDR images in this way, or tone down your Dodge and Burn layer’s opacity for a more subtle effect.

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Splatters look great over digital paintings, as they enhance the painted feel of the picture.


The Dodge and Burn tools work fantastically at increasing colour and sparkle in any subject’s eyes.




Creating brushes is a skill that can come in useful for any user of Photoshop or Elements. Sure, it’s a must-need trick for when you’re embellishing and creating digital paintings, but you can create watermarks or even elements for your compositions with brushes. While there are plenty of brushes on the internet that can help with your pictures, there’s nothing quite like adding a personal touch and creating your own. Start by creating a paint splatter, pattern or sketch on paper and scan it into your computer, before importing it into Elements. Select whatever you’d like to form your brush with the Magic Wand – check the Contiguous box if you’d like to just select all of one colour – and go to Edit>Define Brush. Choose a name for your brush, and check the Preview box to see how big your final brush will be in pixels. Once you’ve done this, you can apply your brush anywhere, as it will be visible in the Elements Brush drop-down menu. Use Brush Settings to adjust its size or rotation, and use the Load and Save options to manage your brushes. You might want to create an entire brush set for a project, or maybe you only need one for a particular picture.

Ele m en ts WHEN TO USE

Vignettes look great on vintage-looking shots, but a subtle darkening around the edges of a picture can improve any composition.



Toy cameras are famed for their lo-fi approach to taking pictures. Photoshop Elements offers a simple one-click fix to turning any shot into a toy camera-taken photo; just go to the Quick section of the program to find the filter. Elements offers a host of filters, including Tints, Smart Looks, Seasons and Pencil Sketch. Toy Camera is the fih down on the right-hand list, and for every picture, it offers five potential options to edit your picture with. Each varies in style, colour and contrast, and each can be applied with just a click. Head to the Expert section to tone down the opacity of the effect, and feel free to go back to the Quick section of Elements to add another filter on top of the first one. You can build these effects up to form a completely new look.


There are lots of ways to create borders or edges to your pictures in Elements, but not only is a vignette one of the most stylish photographic techniques to add to your shots, it also shis your focus to the centre of a photo subtly. To create one in Elements, head to the Guided tab at the top of the program. The last option on the Basic edits, Vignette consists just of a slider and two options. Start by selecting a colour to your vignette – either black or white – and then use the Intensity slider to either increase or decrease how thick it is. You can use the Refine Shape option to improve the feathering or reduce the opacity of the Vignette too. Head to the Expert section of Elements to make further edits aer you’ve completed the Guided section.

Quick tip

Selection tools

With so many selection tools on offer in Elements, there’s usually one for each kind of project. The question is, when should you use each of them? If you’re selecting freehand then the Lasso is the one to use; the Polygonal Lasso and Magnetic Lasso are also useful if you have straight or curved edges respectively. The Marquees can be useful too. Practising with them will give you experience and knowledge that you can then apply to your own projects.



It is rare to take a perfectly straight shot, and it’s a good habit to remember to straighten up all your pictures just to make sure they’re perfect. Use the Straighten tool: simply drag it across your image following the line of the horizon, and Elements will rotate your image to the angle of this slope. Remember to choose one of the options along the bottom of the toolbar for how Elements crops your picture. It can either Grow or Shrink the image, maintain the same size as the image before, or remove the background of your image.




Price £90 / $129.99 US Web

Pixnub Hot Folder Run batch processes and apply actions to entire folders of photos using Pixnub’s Hot Folder 2.1.3

The specs Company Pixnub Additional specs Mac 10.6.8 + Windows XP / Vista / 7+ Photoshop CS3 +


Pick which actions you want to apply. Pause the actions if need be so that you don’t have to stop the batch process.

Five actions you can use Discover actions that Hot Folder 2.1.3 is perfect for processing

Camera Raw


If you create an action of some simple Camera Raw tweaks, such as temperature and sharpening, Hot Folder is perfect for applying the same RAW adjustments to a group of pictures. Great for shots from the same photo album.




Cropping actions are easy to create, and if you’d like an entire folder to be a specific ratio, Hot Folder can speed up that process. If you work for the web, this is a particularly useful way to always get perfect dimensions for blog-post images, for example.



If you wish to apply a simple HDR toning to your shots to bring out the clouds in each of them, use the Hot Folder option in the plug-in to automatically create moodier versions of your pictures after you’ve edited them.


Decide on the folder you wish to edit and the destination that you wish to save your edited pictures into with these options.


You don’t have to overwrite your original pictures: name them something new and even add the action you’ve used to the filename.


hotoshop users and photographers in particular are always looking for ways to cut their editing time. Learning shortcuts and creating actions can drastically reduce the time you spend at your computer as opposed to shooting, but there still remains the problem of having to apply the same edit to multiple shots. Hot Folder 2.1.3 is a plug-in that aims to help speed up your workflow and edit multiple pictures in one fell swoop, using actions. It’s easy to install and set up, but despite being located in the Filters section of Photoshop, it feels more like an extension to the Actions menu. You don’t even need to open all of the pictures you wish to apply the effect to: simply have one of them open, and go to the Filter menu to begin. For a batch processor designed to alleviate editing stress, Hot Folder is as straightforward in design as you would imagine; it’s sleek and black to match Photoshop CC, and it feels like

a part of the actual program as it does not look too complicated, and everything you might need to begin an edit is situated on one screen. There are two modes in Hot Folder. First of all, running the Hot Folder mode and the plug-in will process any new images that are saved into the designed source folder that you choose. Alternately you can run the Batch Processor, which will simply put all the pictures in an existing folder. The first option is great for ongoing projects, and the second is good for retrospective edits. Start by selecting a source folder and deciding on where you wish to save the copy of the batch process you are about to make, with the Save Folder (you can incidentally save in the Source Folder, but the plug-in creates a new folder within that original existing folder). You can then choose a designated filename for the images that you’re going to create with the batch edit. Either use the original as a

basis or change the filename; you can even add the action you’ve used to the filename. From there, Hot Folder is a little more creative, as you can pick actions from their action sets – make sure they’re installed in Photoshop first – and apply them to your pictures. Hot Folder can process up to 12 recorded Photoshop actions for each of the images in your Source Folder and save up to 12 different copies of each image, enabling you to experiment with different effects. Where it differs to Photoshop’s own batch edit though is that you can also pause before or after any of the actions; this gives you a little more control when editing, as you can manually stop the action without stopping the batch process. This is something that the Adobe batch processing scripts cannot do, as the batch process and actions are linked. While photographers are most likely to be the prime candidates for using Hot Folder, the plug-in is useful to any designer or artist seeking cohesion across a project. Often, you may just apply actions to large groups of pictures individually for ease of checking them afterwards, however, Hot Folder is not only efficient and easy to use, but it also doesn’t feel like an external program. It may seem a little costly for what it does, but once you consider that this is one of the best batch processors around, it really feels like a great investment in saving you time on your creative projects.

The verdict


A ruthlessly efficient plug-in, Hot Folder 2 isn’t as creative as some Pixnub plug-ins, but it’s just as powerful. Arguably the best batch processor on the market.

Standout feature Presets

Improve colour


Maybe you’re a digital artist who wants to get the best out of your colour, or maybe you enjoy creating novelty pictures such as this. Colour-specific actions work well with any kind of picture, so use Hot Folder to process them.

Retro Filter


Hot Folder’s ability to save up to 12 versions of the same photo might come in useful if you enjoy applying Instagramlike effects to your pictures. Save a whole host of different retro shots at once with the batch process.

Shave more time off your editing process with the Presets option at the top of the window. You can save your most-used batch processes and use the Save or Delete Presets option to organise your presets too. Once you have a collection of presets, use the Load Presets drop-down menu to use one with your edit.




Price £128.75 / $147.75 US Web

Macphun Aurora HDR

The specs Company Macphun

Additional specs

Create stand-out HDR imagery and enhance the vibrance and detail in your captures using Macphun’s latest plug-in


DR pictures are easy to create on smartphones these days, but there is still an art to harnessing high-dynamic range effects in your photography, and there are no shortage of apps and software packages that can help to turn any dull shot into a bright, eye-catching or dramatic HDR masterpiece. Aurora HDR is the latest plug-in from Macphun, and it’s one of the most in-depth apps of its kind. It’s split into a preview area, a selection of sliders down the right-hand side of the screen – divided into handy subcategories – with Macphun’s customary Presets menu at the bottom of the window. It contains masking capabilities and the power to layer your effects, select blend modes for these layers and set different opacities for the project. The program is designed with the finished article in mind: the preview area is huge, and the tools barely take up any room. Like many of Macphun’s products, Aurora HDR is easy to get to grips with and focuses solely on the power of the effects. The user-friendliness is definitely a selling point of the plug-in, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t offer some rather sophisticated editing tools. The sharpening and structure tools help to add detail and clarity to your pictures. These are cornerstone tweaks for HDR photography and they don’t disappoint; though they should be used with subtlety, they can completely transform your image with just a switch of a slider. Critically, Aurora HDR offers some softening tools to complement the sharpening, and the de-noise effects work perfectly to counteract harsh details. By utilising the masking brush, located at the top of the window, you can create two layers and brush either detailed or blurred elements in and out of your picture, giving you far more control with your HDR shot than most programs are able to offer.


The colour options are also great for improving an HDR shot, as well as some Photoshop-like Tone Curve options, which can boost either the blue, red or green in your picture, Aurora HDR comes with Vibrance, Saturation and even colour-toning options to give your pictures the perfect hue or brightness. There are Vignette options that can be added to a piece, and again, by layering your effects and choosing to mask different colours into your picture, you can create wildly creative HDR pictures. Both the sharpening tools and the colour effects can be volatile though and must be used delicately to avoid excessively noisy end products. The Presets panel can help combat this, and not only can you save your own most-used effects there to use again later, you can try out some of Macphun’s default picks for converting pictures to HDR. The presets are of top quality too: if you’re a photographer

OS X 10.9.5 or above 1280 x 800 resolution or higher 2 GB free space on hard drive

who isn’t particularly creative when it comes to experimenting with bright effects, you can just use the program for these in-built examples, and still get a lot out of it. Aside from the inability to open multiple windows, there isn’t a lot of criticism you can level at Aurora HDR. It offers incredible scope for any kind of HDR picture, it’s easy to use and it doesn’t scrimp on features to excite advanced users. It puts the art back into HDR photography, and it’s a great addition to any photography fanatic’s programs.

The verdict


A vastly powerful tool for creating HDR pictures, it also contains simple options for beginners. A great investment if you’re passionate about photography.

Five top features

Find out the key adjustments to consider when applying HDR effects



Clarity is a well-known adjustment to any Camera Raw user. It heightens the contrast in your picture to create a grittier texture, and it’s one of the key adjustments to make when upping the detail in your picture. Use it subtly for best effects.

Colour correction


You can always alter anything about the colours in your chosen pictures, using the Tone Curve and the other Color Filter tools. You can increase the saturation of individual hues and even add a split toning to your photo.


Every tool you possibly need to create an HDR shot is located on the righthand side of Aurora HDR, including tone, colour and sharpening effects.


Take the hassle out of organising shots with the simple Open and Export commands. Aurora HDR can also post to socialmedia sites.

Standout feature Presets

There are all kinds of exciting and original HDR effects preloaded into Aurora HDR’s presets, for all kinds of pictures. Whether you’re looking to edit anything from architecture to landscapes, the program has a host of basic effects that you can further edit with the sliders; renowned HDR photographer Trey Ratcliff has even contributed a set of effects.

Start image



If you wish to add detail to specific places in your image, select the Brush tool at the top of Aurora HDR and simply paint where you’d like your effect to be applied. Always edit onto a new layer so that you can control your edits this way.



Strong details in your pictures can add in lots of noise, so use the HDR Denoise sliders to add a Smooth and Super Smooth effect. This simply adds a surface blur to your picture, which you can then mask to perfection using the brush.

Tone correction


Before you begin doing anything to your picture, start by correcting the tone. The Tone Mapping sliders, and in particular the Smart Tone, can alter the brightness in your picture ready for bringing out colour and detail in your picture.



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Portfolio interview

Inside a designer’s mind @labocadesign


La Boca chief Scot Bendall guides us through the influences and creative process of his London-based studio, sharing some of his favourite pieces

aving created art for Grammy-winning Muse and Oscar-winning Black Swan, Scot Bendall has come a long way from his first Notting Hill studio. “When we started we had a scanner on the sink, not to mention the mice,” Scot recalls. “It was horrible. Slowly, the projects and the studio improved… Sort of!”

How did you first get into design, and what were the early days of La Boca like?

I first got into graffiti in my early teens and from that developed an interest in design. We’re talking about the Eighties, I was into subway art, Vaughn Bode comics, Nike sneakers and records. In 2002 I started La Boca with my business partner, Alain. At first I was the sole designer, in a converted bathroom above an old record shop on Portobello Road.

Records and music seem to be huge influences in your work. Were you surprised by the huge response to your artwork for Muse’s The Resistance?

It was quite a surprise, yes – it won an NME award and the Best Art Vinyl 2009 prize – but what we were most surprised about was how fantastic fans of Muse are. It wasn’t our first major-label record cover, and I wouldn’t say the project created many new offers for us, because we always try to be conscious of not repeating ourselves in our work. But it was definitely the first cover where we had such active responses from fans.

From BAFTA tickets to Aldous Huxley book covers, what projects excite you the most?

We’ve been very fortunate to be able to apply our designs to a wide variety of projects. But, my background has always been in music, so vinyl record covers will always be my first love. I think it’s almost impossible for a studio to survive just on music projects alone these days, but when we started there were many studios just working in music. Today record covers have to be projects you take on for the love of music, and definitely not for the money as you almost certainly wont make any!

What are your favourite pieces?

I’m very proud of our film posters for the film Black Swan. They had a huge reaction when they were released and opened up a few debates about what film posters could be. I think some people thought they were fan art or licensed posters, but actually we were commissioned by 20th Century Fox while the film was still in post-production, and then formed part of their official marketing campaign for the film worldwide.

Everything you do has a strong sense of colour, it must be an important factor in your work?

Oh, yes, it’s an essential part of everything we do! I’d say it’s usually among the first

considerations on every project. Thinking about it, I can probably come up with a few projects that started with colour before the actual image. I grew up on a grey housing estate, under a grey sky, in a very grey central London, so I always like to think this is where my need for colour has derived from, but actually it’s probably from Milton Glaser too, who is probably my biggest influence.

What are your favourite Photoshop tools?

I still have to remind myself that I started using Photoshop before layers were introduced, Photoshop is so much more versatile and exciting compared to how it was when I first started. We use a lot of the vector tools in Photoshop now, which have improved things massively in recent years for us. I’d say creating airbrush effects is probably still the most fun though. I’m hopeless at airbrushing in real-life, but far more comfortable with it in Photoshop.

What does the future hold for you and La Boca?

We just have our heads down right now, and we hope to work on some animations soon: it’s the one area we’ve never had to chance to explore. It’s also a long-standing ambition for us to create La Boca products and clothing. Hopefully one day!

At the moment there are six of us. Most of the images we do involve two or three people, and I act as a sort of art director trying to hold things together. We freely share PSD files between us; I’ve always found that our best work happens when more people are involved in the creation. We don’t have egos in the studio either; it’s all about the client’s brief.


Nike Basketball Range for Kids: “This was a series of images to accompany the release of kids-only basketball shoes. The shoes are all available exclusively in kids’ sizes (no adults allowed) and the images illustrate the key features and stories behind each of the designs”

All images © ® La Boca

Who else is at La Boca, and do you all chip in with creative ideas?

Black Swan posters: “This was a set of four posters commissioned by 20th Century Fox to appear in cinemas as teaser images leading up to the film’s release. The posters are inspired by Art Deco theatre posters”

Brave New World: “This was a re-release of the classic sci-fi novel by Aldous Huxley. The cover is designed to evoke the Thirties period when the book was originally released, but at the same time not feel like a pastiche”

Rocky poster: “This was a film poster commissioned by MGM to celebrate the 4k Blu-ray release of the original Rocky film. The design uses type to symbolise the steps Rocky climbs in the film, acting as a metaphor for his climb to greatness”

So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club: “The title of the album, So Long, See You Tomorrow, suggested an image which could loop and repeat itself like night and day. The technique was inspired by Phenakistoscope discs”


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Reader interview



The making of Crystals

Create a portrait in the style of Vicki-Lea’s Crystals image in just four easy steps




Vicki-Lea Boulter


Discover the beauty behind the masks of photographic artist Vicki-Lea’s incredible portraits

y aim is to make the subject of my portrait artistry look powerful,” says Vicki of her work. “The objective is beauty through expression and emotion.” Vicki’s striking portraits have seen her recognised for awards, including the Gold PSA Medal, The RPS Silver Medal, and in January 2015, she held her first exhibition. But what makes her artwork tick? We were intrigued to find out.

How do you tend to use clowns in your work?

How do you start your images?

I do, and I use brushes a lot. I enjoy making my own by drawing them in pen and ink and then scanning them. I also use adjustment layers, to alter parts of the image without affecting the rest of the image.

I begin by sketching some ideas, colours and shapes, as well as jotting down key expressive words, which describe the subject and the emotions that I want to capture in the image. Anything that comes to mind will always go down on paper: this helps me when I need to take the photographs.

Do you have any recurring themes you always come back to?

I always use a lot of colour in my images. I find colour a very good way to express an emotion. And clown faces – I have a love/hate relationship with clowns and use them in my work a lot.

Well, I o€en use masks in my images and usually they are clown faces. Masks hide personality, emotions and the soul of a person, so I find them interesting to use in a piece.

Do you use the masking tools available in Photoshop to create masked portraits?

Are there any tips that you would give to a beginner?

Experiment o€en! Don’t be put off by looking at e Was t Onc work that other people have produced and Wha thinking that you could never be that good. Anyone can learn how to use Photoshop. To see more of Vicki’s art visit www.

The first thing I did was de-saturated the skin of the subject to create a ghostly feel, then I strengthened the blue colours of the subject’s hair with brushes and adjustment layers.

Add colour

I then added more colours of the same tones in a layer using a large, soft brush. This gives a much more cohesive feel to the entire portrait, bringing in similar tones in order to unify the portrait.

Adjusting & perfecting

Next, I added adjustment layers to bring out the best tones of the portrait, and cut away different shapes from the subject, using a variety of brushes.

Final adjustments

I softened the blacks and muted the tones by adding a slight yellow tinge. You can do this by going to the Adjustments panel and selecting a Photo Filter to overlay you work.





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NEED HELP WITH THE TUTORIALS? Having trouble with any of the techniques in this issue’s tutorials? Don’t know how to make the best use of your free resources? Want to have your work critiqued by those in the know? Then why not visit the Photoshop Creative Facebook page for all your questions, concerns and qualms? There is a friendly community of fellow Photoshop users to help you out, as well as regular posts and updates from the magazine team. Like us today and start chatting! The next issue is on sale 3 Mar from 114

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Photoshop Creative Issue 136