24 January 2011

Creating the final glows (4 of 4)

For the glowing ring underneath the ten coils, make a circle on a new Shape layer with the Ellipse tool. I am using a bright blue with a Hue of 188. If you want a different color, adjust the hue of this shape and all of the associated Layer Styles. Hold down ALT/OPT to make an additional circle that cuts out the middle. Do this again for the little wires along the top of this wide ring. Refer to earlier posts of this tutorial if you need to remind yourself of the various ways to do this. In order to see the coils underneath this ring, load a selection from that Shape layer and may a new mask on this layer. Invert the mask so that it looks like the example shown here. You may wonder why this ring is above the coils, and we'll see why in a moment.

Add an Outer Glow of the same blue color. Adjust the Size and Opacity to your liking, but keep the Blend mode at Screen. For the Inner Glow, use the settings shown. The key element here is to change the Source to Center. You can keep it at the default light yellow; it may warm the interior a bit, but with Screen, it will be pretty much white anyway. Now you see why we have this shape on top of everything else. Luminous glows will always appear to be above solid items around or even above them. Make sure you don't check the Layer Mask Hides Effects option on Advance Blending. If you do, you can see what happens: the glows around the masked areas disappear completely. Here you can see the difference between having this option checked and unchecked. This is a great example of why this option is here. It is very powerful and can do a lot for you if you understand it.

The one possible negative effect of this technique is that because of how the mask affects the Inner Glows, it now looks like we have ten individual lights instead of one lighted ring. If this isn't what you want, duplicate this layer, turn off its Outer Glow, and check the Layer Mask Hides Effects option. You can see the bright central glow going all the way around the ring. Now one layer is giving you the Outer Glow you need, and another is giving the Inner Glow. Lower the Opacity if you would like to reduce this and delineate the ring sections somewhat; it's all a matter of personal taste. I won't judge.

For the central light, make a circle on a new Shape layer, using the same color and effects as on the ring. I added Photoshop's Herringbone pattern on this layer's mask to suggest a wire mesh or grill over the light, but it will probably get blown out after the final layers are added. To increase the amount of light wrap around the solid elements and extend the glow behind everything, make a new layer and add a foreground-to-transparent Radial gradient with your bright blue color. Give it the same Outer Glow as on the previous layers and add a layer mask based on a selection loaded from the solid interior elements. Make sure that Layer Mask Hides Effects is not checked and set the layer's Blend mode to Screen. Use this layer as a Clipping Mask  for a new layer above it and fill that with a Radial gradient of white to transparent. Now the center looks really luminous, with light spilling out in all directions and fading away from the center. The reflected glows we put on parts like the coils and brackets are finally starting to make sense.

It looks good and we could call it done at this point, but there is just a bit more to do that would really take the image to the next level. It might not be completely accurate, but to really show the effects of luminosity, we could lighten the black background. Go all the way down to the bottom layer and make a new one right above it. Use a dark grey of your choice and make a Radial foreground-to-transparent gradient from the center of the arc. I suggest using the next to the darkest slot from one of the PMS grey ramps. The one you choose depends on what color cast you want to give the background. Then go to the outer ring Shape layer and give it a Drop Shadow as shown. If the Distance is set to 0, the shadow extends out evenly from the shape, similar to an Outer Glow. This suggests that the ring is raised up a bit from the background and casts a small shadow from the reactor's lights.

That's it! Now you have a realistic and accurate depiction of Tony Stark's arc reactor to decorate any item or device you wish. If only it could power it as well...

21 January 2011

Making the coils (3 of 4)

This early version of the arc reactor has ten wrapped segments, or coils, around the light ring. That divides nicely into 360. Hold down SHIFT to make a square on a new Shape layer with the Rounded Rectangle tool. For the size of a 2" diameter reactor, a Radius of 5 px for the corners works. Make one of the vertical squares first and use PMS 4695 as the color. As in the earlier tutorials, select this shape with the Path Selection tool, Copy/Paste, then Transform. Move the reference point to the center of the design and enter 36 in the Set rotation field. Copy/Paste this new shape, then Transform Again eight more times. This should be the last time we need to do this. Add a Bevel and Emboss, similar to on the other pieces. You may need to adjust the colors.

Now for some fun. Use this Shape layer as a Clipping Mask for some new layers above it. Using PMS 175 and a small, hard-edged brush, draw some thin lines across the squares, pointing toward the center. These lines represent copper wire wrapped around these blocks, so they should look a little loose and wiggly. Add a bit of dark Outer Glow and a Bevel and Emboss as shown on this layer. Since if you draw lines too close together they just meld into a bigger blob, you will need two layers of hand-drawn lines to get enough. Make sure both are clipped to the Shape layer with the rounded rectangles. Notice how the highlight from this Clipping Mask layer transfers to and is 'inherited' by the wires. To suggest the corner where the shapes turn down and face the interior, make a new layer, clipped along with the rest, and paint some loose scribbles on it to suggest this edge.  The color we will use for the light has a Hue of 188, with Saturation and Value as bright as they can be. We are using HSV (Adobe calls it HSB) instead of Pantone colors is to get the greater saturation needed for luminosity. Change the Blend mode to Color Dodge and lower the Opacity. You can adjust this later depending on how it combines with the layers we have yet to make.

To get an intense specular highlight along these corners, we need to make a new Shape layer. Instead of using a circle as we did earlier on the three brackets, use the Polygon tool with Sides set to 20. Rotate it so that the straight sides line up with the rounded rectangles. Use our bright blue light color, set the Blend mode to Color Dodge, and lower the Fill to 50%. For a Layer Style, use the same Stroke as on the outer ring and the inner-facing portions of the three wide brackets. Use the bright blue with a Hue of 188 for the Inner Glow, and make an Outer Glow using the settings shown. Clip this layer along with the others to the rounded rectangle Shape layer and see how the the colors along this corner are starting to combine to increase specularity. If you do this successfully, the flat, two-dimensional squares will start to look like three-dimensional cubes that are turned slightly to show a hint of another side.

To increase the impression of luminosity toward the center, we should darken the far edges of these coils. Make a new vector circle on a Shape layer above the highlights, lower the Fill to 0%, and give it a dark Inner Glow in Multiply mode using the settings shown. Clip it down along with the other layers we have been working on. Adjust the Size to your liking.

As a final touch, add some blobs of solder on the wire-wrapped sections. These will be the connecting points for two thin wire circles joining them, so you may need to do this later in the process. to get everything to match up. But whenever you do it, paint them with a brush similar to what you used for the wires, but perhaps a bit larger. Use a golden brown color, PMS 464 or something similar. Use the Layer Style on the wires layer for this one. Adjust the Bevel and Emboss as needed; try the settings shown here. Notice how Color Dodge really makes them look like shiny metal. That's just about it. In the last step, we will add the glows that really make the reactor come to life (so to speak).

20 January 2011

Building the inner brackets (2 of 4)

If you hadn't guessed yet, we are apparently making Tony Stark's first arc reactor, built with scraps while he was imprisoned in the cave (in the movie version, anyway). I liked the rougher, handmade look of it and it makes for a more interesting image. It has a circular grate in the middle, one that might seem daunting to build at first, but with the trick we learned in the last tutorial, it should be easy. 

Use the Ellipse tool to make a new Shape layer with PMS 432. Pantone greys are really helpful here, because you can get nice different colors to represent different kinds of metal. What we want here is a dark, bluish grey. Cut out the inner circle, either by duplicating the outer path, Transforming it down, then pressing the Subtract from shape area (-) button; or by holding down ALT/OPT when you make the second circle. When you have the ring made, hold down ALT/OPT and use the Rounded Rectangle tool to cut out a little vertical shape that is actually known as a lozenge. Use a high value for its Radius so that the ends are really round. Based on my reference material, I counted 30 of these little holes, which divides nicely into 360. Select the lozenge with the Path Selection tool, Copy and Paste, then Transform. Move its reference point to the center of your design (guides are essential here), and type 12 in the Set rotation field. Now, you've got your second hole. Copy/Paste it again, then choose Edit> Transform Path> Again, or the keyboard shortcut of CTRL(PC)/CMD(Mac)+SHIFT+T. This might seem like a lot of keys, but if you already know the shortcut for Transform, just add a SHIFT to it and you're there. Do this 28 more times and you have all the holes, perfectly placed. Not so hard, huh? The last step is to add a Layer Style. Use a Bevel and Emboss and Inner Glow as on the previous pieces, but you could also give it a bit of texture with Pattern Overlay. I found that Photoshop's own Molecular pattern actually worked okay, with the settings shown.

There are three wider brackets on top of this ring, radiating out from the center. Use PMS 432 and the Rectangle tool to make them. Do the vertical one first. It has three different rectangles, all on the same Shape layer. To turn the middle one into a trapezoid, select it, then Transform it a little with Perspective. When you have this one complete, select all three rectangles with the Path Selection tool, and use our Transform Again trick to make the other two. See how handy this is? I'll bet you find all sorts of uses for it. Give it the same Layer Style as the ring below, but I don't think it needs the texture.

These brackets have three grooves embossed into them. This is easily taken care of with thick lines or thin rectangles on a new Shape layer clipped to the brackets layer. After making the first three vertical ones, you'll use our good ol' Transform Again trick for the others. A bit of Outer Bevel should do the trick for the embossing. You can use the same colors and Blend modes from other layers, then adjust the Size and Style of the Bevel and Emboss as needed. Even though there is no light source yet, we need to keep it in mind as all these pieces are being built. The trapezoidal parts of the brackets are facing inward, toward the light source, so they need to reflect some light. Make a new vector circle and clip this Shape layer, along with the grooves layer, to the main brackets. Use 431 as the color and set the Blend mode to Screen. Lower the Fill and give it a Layer Style as shown. The Stroke is the same bright blue we used on the outer ring in the first tutorial. Give this layer a raster Layer Mask, make a selection with the Elliptical Marquee, and fill it with black so that the vector circle is only visible where it intersects the trapezoid shapes. Go to the Blending Options for this layer and choose Layer Mask Hides Effects under the Advanced Blending section. This is why we used a raster mask instead of cutting this hole out with another vector path.

There are bolts attaching these brackets to the grated ring. Make a circle with the Ellipse tool using 431 as the color. This layer should not use the brackets layer as a Clipping Mask. Add Layer Styles as shown. The real trick here is that we are going to fake the side of the bolt head with a Drop Shadow. With the Spread all the way up to 100%, you can use any Size and still get a crisp edge. With a little adjustment, it can make the circle look like a short cylinder. Add the usual other effects. The Inner Shadow will be a bright blue in Color Dodge to simulate the light hitting it from above.

At this point, you may be tempted to make the other bolt heads on the same layer with Transform Again, but that won't work. Because of the view, each bolt is at a different angle and the sides need to point toward the center. Duplicate each layer, move the bolts into position, then adjust the Drop Shadow's and Inner Glow's Angles. Each layer here will need a different angle. For the hex openings on the tops, use the Polygon tool, set the Sides to 6, and make a little hexagon on a new Shape layer. Use PMS 432, set the Blend mode to Multiply, and lower the Fill a bit so it's not too dark. Unlike the bolt heads, the three hexagons can all be on the same Shape layer. Add the usual Layer Style, but on this layer, give it a small, dark Inner Shadow on the top left to make the hexagons look like recessed holes.

The last step in this tutorial is to make the innermost ring. It should look like glossy chrome, so use the Ellipse tool to make a little ring, connecting the inner edges of the three brackets. Use 425 as the color. The glossy look is achieved simply by Bevel and Emboss settings. The key here is the Ring Contour. Choose light and dark greys from the same ramp as 425 for the Highlight and Shadow. Color Dodge for the Highlight is also important in getting a shiny, metallic look. That's it for now; the inner structures are complete.

17 January 2011

Making the base rings (1 of 4)

The smooth lines and structural design of the arc reactor suggest that the best way to start is with vector Shape layers. Most of the final image will rely on these combined Layer Styles, so the final artwork will basically be resolution-independent. That is always a plus. I decided to make mine 2" at 300 ppi, so all my effects sizes will be based on this. It can easily be sized up or down later. 

Start with a black background larger than your final shapes. Pull down guides to create your center point and then measure out from there. This will become extremely important in getting accurate positions. Use the Ellipse tool to make a Shape layer with PMS 425. Position your cursor at the center of your design where the guides intersect. After you start making the circle (but not before), hold down ALT/OPT to build the shape out from the center and not the corner. Before you finish dragging, hold down SHIFT to constrain the ellipse into a circle. To create the inner circle, select the path with the Path Selection tool, Copy and Paste, then Transform this second path down proportionally to the width you want. Accept the transformation, make sure the inner path is selected, and then click the Subtract from shape area (-) button in the Options bar. Now you have a perfect ring. Add a Layer Effect. You should probably be able to guess by now which ones they should be: a dark Inner Glow in Multiply mode, a Bevel and Emboss with the Highlight in Color Dodge, and a Gradient Overlay. Use the settings shown. We'll be using Color Dodge a lot, because it creates intense, specular highlights indicative of shiny metal.

This outer ring represents the container for the reactor and it should like like brushed steel. On a new layer, make some thin, triangular selections with the Polygonal Lasso tool, emanating from the center point of the design. Fill them with 425 and clip this layer to the main ring Shape layer. Convert this new layer to a Smart Object. Double-click the layer thumbnail to edit the Smart Object, then make it a Smart Object again. Now we have two Smart Objects, one nested inside the other. Hopefully, you'll see why in a moment. Click on the layer of the first Smart Object and add a Radial Blur. Adjust the center and Amount as needed. Because we are doing this on a Smart Object inside of another Smart Object, the amount of blur can be adjusted if you don't like it at first. I had to keep reducing the Amount until it looked good. That's the beauty of Smart Filters. Save and close the Smart Object, then go back to the layer in the main PSD and change its Blend mode to Multiply. Lower the Opacity if you want.

Hold down ALT/OPT and click the Create a new layer button. With this modifier key, you get some nice layer options. Set the Blend mode to Overlay and check the Fill with Overlay-neutral color option. For this mode and all others in its section, this neutral color is 50% grey. That means that it's transparent on this layer.  You should also select Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. Convert the layer to a Smart Object and Add Noise... Use the settings shown. This noise will be the basis for the metal texture. Lots of textures start out this way. Then add a Radial Blur to blur the noise radially (obviously) around the ring. Because these are both Smart Filters, you can go back and make changes if they don't look right. Also, remember that the order of the filters is important to the final look. In this case, we want to add the noise, then blur it, not vice versa.

The view here is basically a 1-point perspective looking straight down the reactor, so we'll need to see a bit of the inside of the outer ring to help set up some depth. Make a new Shape layer with the Ellipse tool. Follow the previously mentioned steps to make it a circle, centered around the center point of the illustration. Use a dark grey. Clip this layer along with the others and change the Blend mode to Multiply. give it an Outer Glow of light grey in Color Dodge and a Stroke with the settings shown. This is to show a bit of highlight from the glowing elements that will be added in later.

For the inner rings, make a new Shape layer with the Ellipse tool. This layer should not be clipped along with the rest. These rings should look different, more like brass, so use PMS 450. Add a bit of Bevel and Emboss. They will need some glow on them eventually, so make a new vector circle on a new layer clipped to this one. Lower the Fill to 0% and give it an Outer Glow and a Drop Shadow as shown. The bright Drop Shadow is to counteract the Bevel and Emboss' Shadow.

There are three thin brackets underneath the inner rings. To make these, use the Line tool to make a  dark grey Shape layer under the rings. Make a thick vertical line right down the middle guide. Since there are three, each one should be 120º apart. Select the line with the Path Selection tool, then Copy and Paste. Now Free Transform. The first thing to do is move the reference point to the center of your design instead of the center of the shape. With one this thin, it may be a bit difficult, so hold down ALT/OPT and it will be easier to move the reference point. Now, type 120 in the Set rotation field. accept the transformation. With this line still selected, Copy and Paste again, then choose Edit> Transform> Again. This new line has new been rotated another 120º, using the same reference point.  This is a handy way to rotate, scale, or move shapes in specific increments. Illustrator has a simple key command to to this. In Photoshop, it takes a few more steps, but it's still pretty easy. A nice keyboard shortcut to Transform Again is CTRL(PC)/CMD(Mac) + SHIFT + T. Add a bit of Bevel and Emboss if you want and these little bits are done.

14 January 2011

Tony Stark's arc reactor tutorial

I watched Iron Man again recently and remembered what a fun movie it was. I had always thought that the soft glow of Tony Stark's arc reactor through his shirt was cool looking and would make a great t-shirt. Apparently, others had the same idea and after searching a bit on the web, I found some online stores selling the shirt I was looking for, even a design that glowed in the dark! It's a great idea, but I found the art a bit lacking and decided to make my own version of the Stark arc reactor. After scouring the web for source images, I opened up Photoshop and about four to five hours later, had my own arc reactor illustration. What do you think? For this month's tutorial, I'll show you how I did it.

13 January 2011

Download a PDF of all my 2010 tutorials

While working on my blog, I came across a link for Blog2print. The idea is that you can use it to print a booklet of your blog or even generate a PDF of it. It seemed like a good idea, so I used it to create a PDF of last year's tutorials. All other posts have been removed and the tutorials are presented in reverse chronological order (from start to finish), so you get a full dose of Photoshop goodness. The PDF came out looking pretty good, and since I don't have anything else to do with it, I'm making it available to any of my blog's visitors. You can download a screen-res version free by clicking here. I do have a high-res version and have considered getting it printed up and bound into an actual book, but that would involve some money, so if that interests you, let me know. But for now, the lower resolution version is free to anyone who would like it.

Download the free low-res PDF of the 2010 tutorials.