Today we’re going to be taking a look at a few basic techniques to get you started using Photoshop’s blending options to give you some very nice looking results fairly quickly!
Here we’ll be giving basic graphic shapes some depth and style with blending options. I chose to use a humming bird as the basic shape however this can be used however you’d like! I’ll be explaining as well as showing my settings for this look but I encourage you to experiment to get comfortable using these methods on your own! I’ll also be going over some techniques I use to get some nice bright colors in an otherwise dull piece rather quickly. You’ll need Photoshop CS3 or newer to follow this tutorial.
- Humming Bird – Shutterstock – However any stock photo can be used as its only for reference and wont be seen in the final result.
- Smoke – Shutterstock – Again something you can find for free on sites like Free Stock Photo Exchange or Deviantart.
- Concrete Texture for Background Shutterstock – However free sites can offer similar results.
- Metal textures From CGTextures, a great site for high quality tetxures.
- Bokeh Textures – Feel free to use the one you like best in combination with your color scheme.
First up let’s make a document to work on. I like to use a nice big size with plenty of resolution to work with so it makes it easier to scale later on. However your welcome to use any size you see fit or that runs best on your computer.
For the base of our background make a new layer (Shift+Control+N on pc) and used a green gradient. From light (#14dc02) in the center to dark (#008325) on the edges. This might seem subtle now but it will help us later on when we use textures to give focus to the subject without being overwhelming.
Lets go ahead and bring in the first of our background textures, the concrete. I like to keep mine as smart objects so they can scale down and back up without loosing resolution in case you change your mind. For this we can set the blending mode to Soft Light and opacity to 27%. Below you can see that we’ll want to position it in the center so it covers the whole image.
We’re going to do the same for the next two textures, make sure the cover the whole image setting their blending mode and opacity accordingly. Experiment a little here and find what looks good for you by rotating though different options at different opacities. Remember though this is the background, we want it to enhance our image and provide interest without overwhelming the focus of our piece. I also used a black and white filter (Adjustments > Black and White) on Auto to tone it down just a little bit. After your happy with your background its good to group it all together, select the all the layers you want grouped using SHIFT and clicking the ones you want and clicking CONTROL+G or going to Layer > Group Layers. You can even color code a group as you would a layer by right clicking on it and selecting a color at the bottom.
Now that we’ve got our background all grouped up and organized its time to bring in the main subject. Depending on what you chose to use this part will be a little different but the process is the same. We’ll be using the pen tool to define our shapes the filling them with color by closing the shape and right clicking then selecting fill path. That will bring up the menu below where you’ll want to change the contents section to COLOR and select the color you want from the color picker. Remember to make all new shapes on new layers, with something like this you can end up with a lot of layers so its important to stay organized with groups and proper names (I.E. “body” “wings” and so on) and then even further you can group all these groups into one called “Bird” or whatever you’d like to call it. This will play a role later in getting a blending style over the subject as a whole.
So here we find ourselves with the subject all shaped out with with each shape in its own layer. Now we can group all the layers and groups for the subject into one group, I called mine “HummingBird”. Now what we’re going to do is apply an overall style to the subject as a whole by right clicking on your main group and clicking on Blending Options. Any styles we put in here will effect the group as if it was all one object rather than individual layers, very useful for giving the whole thing a drop shadow and the orange around the edge. Below you’ll find all the settings I used, play with them a little bit and see what you can come up with!
Now it may not look like much right now but its getting there! This next step will really pull it together and you’ll get an idea of how its coming together! We’re going to select any of the individual shape layers and apply the following settings in blending options. I usually go with the biggest shape so I can see how my settings look clearly as I apply them. When you’re happy with your results we’re going to apply it to the rest of your shape layers by right clicking on the layer you’ve applyed the style too and clicking COPY STYLE. Then we can right click on our shape layers and PASTE STYLE. Make this quicker by highlighting multipe layers at a time and pasting. (The pattern overlay here is entirely optional if your comfortable making your own patterns and bringing them into photoshop, a quick google search will show you how to do this)
Now that we have the Blending Options all set on each of our shape layers things are starting to look a lot like the final result! But there are still a few things we can do to really make this shine! First we’ll add the metal texture to each layer using clipping masks. There are a few ways to do this, including the Pattern Overlay option in our blending options but I like clipping masks personally because of the level of control. To do this place the texture youd like to use in a layer over the layer or group you’d like it too effect as shown below. Right click on it selecting Create Clipping Mask. This will make it so that it only shows up on the layer below it, clipping masks can be stacked so they all effect the one at the bottom. Position and rotate your texture for each group or layer to give a unique look to each one, this will add a sense of depth and help differentiate one layer from another. Change the Blending Mode to SOFT LIGHT and adjust your Opacity to your liking though I kept mine at 100% so
Getting close to the end! Now we’re going to bring in that smoke texture, I got mine from a stock I purchased for another project but many can be found on sites like Deviantart and Free Stock Exchange. Bring it in on a layer above your background group but below the main subjects group, for smoke on a black background set the blending mode to screen, this will show only the whitest parts and make the blacker areas opaque, a very useful blending mode for things like dust, fire, smoke, even water splashes. If the smoke is too transparent try duplicating the layer on top of itself and using the same blending mode.We’ll also be using a layer mask to mask it out around the edges of the subject or however you’d like to give it a bit of variation from from the stiffness of our main subject (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All) Using layer masks can be very usful and is covered in a lot of tutorials but for those that don’t know it allows you to paint layers transparancy on using a black or white paintbrush (Black being fully transparent and white being fully opaque.) without deleting the image like the eraser tool does.
Great Work! Your composition is complete! This final part is optional but could be informative for anyone whos interested in learning about color work and Gradiant Maps to give your work some interesting colors. To explain Gradiant Maps are like a Black and White filter but insead of Black and White you can control the colors involved. Go ahead and play around with it! Gradiant Maps can be a great tool for adding some great and vibrant colors to your picture as a whole, as well as giving it a overall more cohesive look, which is very important in works like photomanipulations, not as important in something like this but still can add to the feel of it! I also added a levels layer for some added contrast. Below are the settings for my adjustment layers, with my gradiant maps I usually reduce the opacity down to below 10% to add subtle changes. I would encourage you to play around with these to get a hang of how they work and how to use them!
Tutorial by Jacob Pryor