In this week’s Deke’s Techniques video, Deke McClelland takes an Adobe Photoshop journey into the eye-bending world of op art, creating a ’60s-inspired twist and bulge of checkerboard contortion. You won’t need a sample file or unsuspecting model to follow along with this one—just Photoshop, some black and white pixels, and a love of (and visual tolerance for) optical illusion.
The project starts with a simple square document, created in the Grayscale color mode to keep the high-resolution file manageable. (You won’t need any colors, so no sense making room for them.)
Next, Deke creates a 2 x 2 checker pattern by using the Rectangular Marquee tool set to a fixed size that’s equal to one-quarter of the total image. Once the upper-left square is filled with black, you can drag a copy to the lower-right corner by pressing the Alt (Option) key while you drag.
With the basic unit of the pattern complete, you can turn it into a reusable Photoshop pattern by choosing Edit > Define Pattern. In this case, Deke aptly named it Checkers:
Deke then applies the Checkers pattern to a new blank 4800 x 3000 document. Click the black/white icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to make a new Adjustment Layer and choose Pattern. Then choose your Checkers pattern from the available patterns and set it to 50 percent to fill the document with small squares.
Saving the pattern layer as a Smart Object allows you to warp it nondestructively with the Transform command. Choose the Warp icon from the options bar and set it to Inflate from the Warp pop-up menu. Then set the Bend to -100. The checkerboard is pinched inward:
The pinching motion of the Inflate transformation has pulled the pattern away from the edges. Deke adds more checkers to the outer edges by opening the Smart Object and doubling its size.
Deke then creates the round, prominent part of the illusion by applying the Spherize filter to a circle selection in the middle of the image.
To achieve the final effect, Deke applies two more doses of the Spherize filter, and the result is a swirling, bulging, some might say hypnotizing bit of Photoshop-created op art.
For lynda.com members, Deke’s got another exclusive video called Op art experiment 1b: Rounded Windows, in which he turns a flat collection of rectangles into a curving wall of optical mystery.
Deke will be back next week with another mind-bending technique.
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