Deke’s Techniques: Creating volumetric forms from vector-based shape layers

Published by | Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

This week’s Deke’s Techniques is a very special episode, inspired by a drawing Deke completed with his son, Sam. Watch as Deke shows how he recreated the drawing in Adobe Photoshop as a series of vector-based shape layers (drawn with the Pen tool) and makes it even more ghoulish using layer effects. The end result? Some really cool volumetric artwork that pops off-screen. members have access to the exercise file, which includes a number of predrawn layer comps, or you can follow along and apply the lessons to your own artwork.

Figure 1

1. Start off with the Monstrosapalooza.psd file. Choose the Move tool and right-click on the monster’s incomplete eye. Choose eyelid R from the context menu that pops up to activate that layer.

This is a great shortcut to navigate a document with many layers.

2. Click the fx icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Gradient Overlay. Click the Gradient bar and select the first color stop in the Gradient Editor to open the Color Picker. Enter a Hue of 90%, a Saturation of 25%, and a Brightness of 100%. Click OK to return to the Gradient Editor, click the last color stop, and this time in the Color Picker, enter a Hue of 90%, a Saturation of 100%, and a Brightness of 50%. Click OK twice to return to the Layer Style dialog box. Change the Angle to -20%.

3. Stay inside the Layer Style dialog and select Inner Shadow. Click the color swatch and enter a Hue of 210%, a Saturation of 100%, and a Brightness of 15%. (You’ll see this dark blue color used many times in this tutorial.) Reduce the Opacity to 45% and change Distance and Size to 40. Click OK to close the Layer Style dialog.

Figure 2


4. Now you need to reveal the eyeball. Select the eyes layer to activate it and press Cmd+C or Ctrl+C to copy it. Return to the eyelid R layer and press Cmd+V or Ctrl+V to paste the shape. Then go to the Options bar and choose Subtract Front Shape from the Path operations menu and cut a hole from the eyelid through to the eyeball.

5. Now you need to delete the bottom eyelid to reveal the monster’s eye bags. Press the P key to switch to the Pen tool and draw a rectangular box around the lower eyelid as shown in the image below.

Figure 3


6. Press the A key to return to the Direct Selection tool, click the path you just drew, and then select Subtract Front Shape once again from the Path operations menu in the Options bar.

7. Select the bag 3 layer from the Layers panel (grouped under eye bags). Then press the Alt or Option key and click and drag the fx icon from the eyelid R layer to bag 3, to copy over the layer effects.

8. With bag 3 still selected, click the fx icon at the bottom of the panel and choose Drop Shadow. Click the color swatch in the Layer Style dialog; enter the values from step 3, a Hue of 210%, a Saturation of 100%, and a Brightness of 15%; and click OK. Turn off Global Light and change the Angle to 160 degrees. Increase Distance to 8 and Size to 12. Click OK to commit your changes and close the dialog box.

Figure 4


9. Now you can copy the effects over to the other eye bag layers. Opt-drag or Alt-drag the fx icon from bag 3 to bag 2 and also to bag 1.

10. Switch to the Move tool and right-click on the monster’s yellow torso. Select the body layer (the one listed below the body group).

11. Go to the eyelid R layer and right-click its fx icon. Choose Copy Layer Style, then scroll down to the body layer, right-click it, and choose Paste Layer Style. This adds the green gradient and other effects to the monster’s torso, but you need to make a few tweaks.

12. Double-click the Inner Shadow effect that now appears directly below the body layer to open the Layer Style dialog. Change the Inner Shadow‘s Distance value to 240 and Size to 200.

13. Select Inner Glow from the Styles panel, click the color swatch, and enter the dark blue color again, the Hue of 210%, a Saturation of 100%, and a Brightness of 15%, and click OK. Change the Blend Mode to Multiply, reduce the Opacity to 30%, increase Size to 56 pixels, and change Technique to Precise.

14. Select Stroke from the Styles panel and change Size to 5 pixels. Click OK to close the Layer Styles dialog and commit your changes.

Figure 5


15. Now you’ll lighten up the eye crease and give them more depth. Turn on the visibility of the lid creases layer and make sure it is selected. Change the Fill value at the top of the Layers panel to 0%.

16. Click the fx icon and choose Bevel & Emboss.

  • Change the Style to Pillow Emboss, reduce Depth to 50%, and increase Size to 35 pixels.
  • Click the color swatch for Highlight Mode and change Hue to 90% and Saturation to 20%, leaving a Brightness of 100%, and click OK.
  • Change the Highlight Mode to Linear Dodge to maximize the brightening effect. Increase its Opacity to 100%.
  • Click the color swatch for Shadow Mode and change Hue to 210%, Saturation to 100%, and Brightness to 15%, and click OK. Reduce the Shadow Mode’s Opacity to 35%.
  • Click OK to close the Layer Style dialog.

Figure 6


17. To mask the effect outside the eye area, click the Add layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel.

18. Switch to the Gradient tool by pressing the G key and make sure the Linear Gradient style is selected from the Options bar. Drag from the right corner of the upper eyelid about a quarter way into the eyeball. Pressing the Shift key as you drag will make sure you draw a precise horizontal line.

This step creates a highlight that runs vertically down the eyeball, and masks the Bevel & Emboss effect outside the eye.

Figure 7


19. Go back to the Options bar and change the gradient color to Foreground to Transparent. Then Shift-drag from the left-hand corner of the upper eyelid into the eyeball, to repeat the effect on the other side of the eye.

20. Then go to the Layers panel and click on an empty area of the lid crease layer. This will reopen the Layer Style dialog box, where you can turn on Layer Mask Hides Effects and then click OK.

21. Last, to add a softer look to the eye bags on the right eye, you need to add another layer mask. Select the eye bags group from the Layers panel and click Add layer mask. Choose the Brush tool and reduce Brush Hardness to 0. Paint around the outer edges of the eye bags.

Figure 8


22. Next, Ctrl-click or Cmd-click on the layer thumbnail for bag 2 to load it as a selection and then paint the edge of the second eye bag. Repeat for bag 3.

Deke’s pro tip: If you paint in too much, choose Edit > Fade Brush Tool to reduce the effect.

And that’s it. These steps take this monstrous drawing from flat to formidable. Explore the possibilities with your own kid’s artwork—or that of your inner child!

Figure 9 members can watch the follow-up movie and learn how to create the bloodshot crazing across Deke’s creature’s eyes. Then in next week’s video, make him more expressive by adding expressive lines around his mouth using the Photoshop shape layers and pixel-based layer masks.

Stay tuned for more Deke’s Techniques every week!

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