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Photoshop CS3 or later

My objective when approaching this visual was to create a graphic and dynamic montage, with a photo turning into/being made out of paint. The first step is to find the right photo, and here I used a little bit of a cliché – a basketball player. The whole visual effect rests on the photo used, so make sure you choose wisely.

Create dynamic distortion effects

Bring velocity and meltdown to your subjects with a little Photoshop magic. Doucin Pierre, aka Soemone, shows you how… I like to create dynamic work that conveys a sense of velocity in its subjects, and the visual featured in this tutorial is a prime example of that style. In the following steps, I’ll let you in on one of the most effective and easily mastered techniques that I use to make striking, dynamic distortions of subjects – in this case I’ve used a model, although the technique can be adapted to any objects that you wish to feature in your work, such as cars or trees. In this tutorial we’ll use brushes to create what look like stains of paint, but in your future work you can use similar techniques with any number of style forms to dissect and distort your subject.

Doucin Pierre After 10 years working as a graffiti artist, Doucin Pierre’s interest in digital techniques was sparked when he tried his hand at producing flyers and began winning poster competitions. Pierre’s prior experience in painting and photography has enabled him to develop his digital design style very quickly, and his work focuses on both the

movement and fragmentation of subjects. He now works as a freelance graphic designer and is the artistic director of Factory 311 (London). See more of his work at

On the disc The files you need to complete this tutorial can be found in Disc Contents\ Resources\ Basketball

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Open the photo (photo-original.jpg) from the disc. There are numerous ways to select and isolate the person. I chose the Pen tool (making sure Paths is selected in the Tool Options bar) as it enables you to isolate the curves of the body. Draw around the person, then create a selection from the path and choose Select>Modify>Feather and enter a value of 1. Remove the background using Delete.

Time needed 4 hours Skills Using custom brushes Using the Pen tool to select objects Using Layer Groups Dynamic composition


Once the body of the basketball player has been isolated, create a new file in A4 format – 300dpi and RGB. I’ve called it BasketKing (if this piece is to be printed, use CMYK colour mode). Once the file has been created, apply a neutral grey background colour and import the selected image of the basketball player. Resize the player and place him where you want.

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It’s really important to have contrast and colours that are a little more raw in the final piece than they were in the original photo, and we can bump these up using Curves. After this, desaturate the colours slightly using Hue/Saturation. I’ve chosen a Saturation value of -32. Now we can move onto the background.


Now create a ‘floor’. To do this, create a selection at the bottom of a new layer and fill it with a very dark grey. Then apply a Gaussian blur of around 30%. With the Brush tool on a low Opacity, blend the floor into the background (as demonstrated in the screenshots above).


A neutral background will bring out the basketball player. Create a new Layer Group called ‘Background’ to organise the layers. Create two new layers within this, and use the Gradient tool to apply a gradient with an Opacity of 25 per cent to each. In one, use a black-to-transparent gradient going from the top-right to the bottom-left corners, and in the other use a white-to-transparent gradient going from the bottom-left to top-right corners.


To finish the work on the background, we’ll create the shadow of the basketball player. Using the Brush tool at 20% Opacity and 15% Flow, select Black and then, on a new layer, paint the shadow. Blur off the shadow on the edges with the Eraser tool at 15% Opacity.


In pictures: a rk of the career and wo iters our Technique wr

Doucin Pierre

Factory 311’s artistic director demonstrates the power of his paint effect…

Computer Arts February 2009

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Manchester United Soccer School – 2007 This illustration was commissioned by Factory 311 (London).

Jump Up – 2007 Tor Kristensen took the photo for this selfinitiated piece.

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To create this liquid ‘decomposition’ effect, I use brushes that create a paint-stain effect – these can be found on sites such as, or you can create them yourself. You’ll find my brushes on the disc. You can load these by going to the Brushes palette, clicking the arrow and choosing Load Brushes.


This kind of project always ends up with a lot of layers – and it’s important to anticipate this by creating and naming them so they’re easy to find and edit. To prepare yourself for the next stages, create Layer Groups to manage all the files. I’ve created the following Layer Groups: Arms, Legs, Body, Ball, Form, Foot and Background. Apply a colour label to each of them if you wish.


Once you’ve imported the brushes and created the Layer Groups, select the Brush tool and apply separate paint strokes so that the splatters are on separate layers – and make sure you name each layer to find them easily. For this exercise, I used around 20 different paint stains on about 20 layers, but you can use more or less depending on your image and the effect you’re after.

Personal work – 2007 The photo at the centre of this self-initiated piece was taken by Gildas Rafenel.

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Sweet Hoodies – 2008 Of this personal work, Pierre says: “I like bright colour and a real soul. For me the soul is the starting point for creating a good visual.”


Now we’re ready to distort the body. We’ll start with the left arm because it’s central to the movement of the piece. First, turn off the visibility of all the paint stains layers except for the first one you want to use. Place it over the arm, where you feel it works best, and select the layer (Ctrl/Cmd+click on the paint splat layer you’re working on in the Layers palette).

Le Cercle graphic – 2008 This visual was created for the Brittany-based eight-piece nu-jazz band Le Cercle.

Wiz Khalifa – 2008 This image of Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa was commissioned by Factory 311, London.

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68 Technique   


Next, turn off the Splat layer’s visibility, select the Basketball Player layer, and Cut and Paste. Do this several times with different splats to build up the arm. Decrease the Opacity of the basketball player to see the areas that have already been done. Place all the new layers created through Cutting and Pasting into the Arm Layer Group that you created earlier.


After building up the arm paint effect, you want to make parts of the underlying arm disappear. Do this by selecting part of the arm, blurring it slightly and then, with a Standard brush (without the wet edge – 100% Opacity and 100% Flow) delete the arm of the basketball player. Now the effect is pretty much complete on the arm.


Once the image is just about finished, all that you need to do is check thoroughly that everything is balanced and that there aren’t too many paint splats on the arm or leg in relation to the other parts. Check that you’ve not made too many lines of paint – it’s an important part of your work to be self-critical.



Now that you understand the technique, do the same to distort the ball, head, legs and feet, always placing the layers in the designated Layer Groups so that you can find them quickly if you decide to make changes. These steps can take some time, especially at the beginning, but it’s the most important part of this visual, so take all the time you need.

Computer Arts February 2009

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Once you’ve finished ‘decomposing’ all the parts you want, all that remains is to create the wispy traces of paint that detach from the body. These were made by painting with custom brushes, sampling colours from the basketball player and trying to create a sense of dynamism and movement.

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