Create a Surreal Sci-Fi Movie Poster with Photoshop CS5

Preview

Preview

Tutorial Resources

Step 1: Set Up the Canvas in Photoshop

Create a new canvas in Photoshop with Width at 1893px, Height at 2840px, and Resolution at 200px/inch.

Set Up the Canvas in Photoshop

Step 2: Place the Poster’s Subject in the Canvas

Download and place the image of our model onto the canvas.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Photoshop CS5 offers better edge detection, making masking and selecting objects on top of complex/rich backgrounds quicker and easier. It also lets us adjust values like feathering and contrast on the fly while previewing the result before committing to our settings. Smart Radius helps in detecting the complex edges for creating quick selections.

To begin, load a selection around the model using the Magic Wand Tool (W).

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Go to Select > Refine Edge (Ctrl/Cmd + Alt/Option + R). Use the Refine Radius Tool (E) to brush along the edges of the model to get a finer selection.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Set the Smart Radius option to 1.6px. Before finalizing the selection, set the Decontaminate Colors amount to 100%–this removes the background colors present in tricky areas like the subject’s hair.

Next, set the output to New Layer because we don’t require any further modifications on the model.

Tip: Setting output to New Layer with Layer Mask lets you modify the selection later on.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Step 3: Creating and Cleaning Up the City Backdrop

Download and open the Downtown Chicago stock image onto our canvas and transform it as needed with Free Transform (Ctrl/Cmd + T) to match the perspective and scale of our poster.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Let us remove some unwanted buildings using the Clone Stamp Tool by cloning portions of the sky and using those to cover the unwanted buildings.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Next, let’s remove pedestrians in the image so that they don’t take away from our sci-fi futuristic theme. We can leverage Photoshop CS5’s Content-Aware option to automatically fill target areas with surrounding content nearby. This makes it easy to hide the pedestrians in the city image. This option is also a wonderful upgrade to the Spot Healing Tool, making the tool much more powerful than ever before.

First, we must select the group of people in the image that we want to remove using the Lasso Tool (L). Then we can access the Fill dialog window by going to Edit > Fill (or pressing Shift + Backspace).  Set the Use option dropdown menu to Content-Aware and click OK; and poof, just like magic, our pedestrians are gone!

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Now select the Spot Healing Tool and set the Type option to Content-Aware in the Options Bar, then brush on the person that is at the bottom-right corner. Also, remove the end of the car on the bottom-left corner.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Step 4: Color Corrections on the Subject

In order to combine all the images perfectly, we need to correct the various images to the same color tones. We’ll start with our subject.

With the model layer selected in the Layers Panel, go to Image > Adjustments > Curves and set the RGB curves as shown below.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Now desaturate the image to -45 using Hue/Saturation image adjustment (Ctrl/Cmd + U).

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Give the subject a soft glow using Filter > Distort > Diffuse Glow, with Glow Amount set to 2 and Clear Amount to 20.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

After adding the glow effect, you will see that the subject of our poster is too smooth and blurry. Let’s correct that by sharpening the layer using Smart Sharpen (Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen); set the Amount to 124% and Radius to 1.5px.

Step 5: Enhancing the City Backdrop

Using a technique similar to the previous step for correcting the poster’s subject, go ahead and correct the color of the city background layer.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Generally, when we want to make an element of a composition attract the viewer’s focus, what we can do is slightly blur the other components within the composition. Since we want our subject (the model) to be the focal point, we can blur the city backdrop a tiny bit. Moving forward: With the city layer selected, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur (set the Radius to 3.7px).

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Step 6: Creating a Banner on a Building

Let’s accent the backdrop a little bit by adding a new element: A banner. Create the shape of the banner on one of the buildings in the cityscape backdrop using the Pen Tool (P) with the mode set to Shape layers and Color at #782726.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Switch your tool to the Lasso Tool, make jagged edges around banner to make it look worn and torn, then just press Delete to remove the selected areas.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Now we should give our solid-surfaced banner some folds to make it look more realistic. Locate a stock image of some sort of cloth or folds texture, preferably one that is smooth (like silk) and with creases and folds. Get creative with this! Here are some suggestions:

Place your chosen stock image over the banner and resize it to match the scale of our composition. Cut its edges by Ctrl/Cmd + clicking on the banner shape’s layer, going to Select > Inverse and pressing delete to remove the selected area.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

In this scene, we don’t want the banner to be bright because it might take away from our focal point too much (the model), hence, we need to desaturate and decrease the brightness of the folds layer in order to harmonize it with the scene and to make sure that our visual hierarchy is correct.

With the folds layer selected, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and decrease the Saturation level depending on the image you chose (with my stock image, I had to decrease the Saturation to -47).

Then use the Brightness/Contrast image adjustment to decrease the Brightness of the image (I used -40).

Now set the Blend Mode of the folds layer to Soft Light to let the red color we originally chose show through.

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

In order to blend the banner with the building better, give both the banner layer and folds layer a Gaussian Blur (Radius: 3.7px).

Place the Poster's Subject into the Canvas

Step 7: Save the Folds Layer as a PSD

Hide all the layers except the folds layer, and then save it as PSD file. I saved this file with the filename of banner folds.psd. Keep this file handy; we will be using it in a subsequent step.

Save the Folds Layer as a PSD

Step 8: Creating Artwork on the Banner

We should make some artwork on our banner to make it more interesting.

Create a new layer for the banner’s artwork. With the Pen Tool (P), create a shape as shown below and fill it with black.

Creating Artwork on the Banner

Duplicate the layer we just created, then use Transform > Flip Horizontal (or right-click on the shape in the canvas and choose Flip Horizontal from the contextual menu that appears); move the duplicate on the right side of the original.

Creating Artwork on the Banner

Now let’s add some letters towards the bottom of the banner. Use the Horizontal Type Tool (T) to type "A" and "P" with the Symbol font. Right-click on the text layer and choose Rasterize from the contextual menu that appears so that we can perform transformations on it and change its Blend Mode later on.

Creating Artwork on the Banner

Step 9: Blending the Artwork with the Banner

In the Layers Panel, select the artwork layers and the text layer, and merge them together (Ctrl/Cmd + E). Name this layer "Artwork" to keep our work tidy.

Make sure that the "Artwork" layer is the active layer, then go to Filter > Distort > Displace, set Horizontal Scale and Vertical Scale to 10, and then press OK, which will open up the Choose a displacement map dialog window where you should locate and choose the banner folds.psd file we saved in a previous step. This results in a better blending of the artwork with the folds of the banner.

Blending the Artwork with the Banner

Blending the Artwork with the Banner

Let’s further enhance the blending. Right now, the artwork is still too harsh. Let’s give it a Gaussian Blur (Radius: 3.7px). This will also improve our depth of field (i.e. since it’s farther away from the foreground, it’s blurrier).

Blending the Artwork with the Banner

Step 10: Give the Banner Dark Highlights and a Shadow

We will manually highlight portions of the banner, as well as give it a drop shadow. Create a new layer for the dark highlights and use the Brush Tool (B) to paint some soft highlights onto the left side of the banner–load a selection around the banner shape to keep yourself from painting outside the banner. Decrease the Opacity of the highlights layer to 30%.

Give the Banner Dark Highlights and a Shadow

For the shadow, create a new layer under the banner layer, then use the Brush Tool again to paint the drop shadow that is casted by the banner onto the building behind it.

Give the Banner Dark Highlights and a Shadow

Step 11: Give the Banner a Grungy Appearance

I really want to reinforce the worn-and-torn look of the banner, and as it stands, it can become a bit "dirtier". So let us use some grunge brushes to stylize our banner. Find your favorite grunge brush (make one of your own, use one of the brushes you already have installed, or download and install this Grunge brushes library).

Create a new layer, and then use the Brush Tool to paint the grunge brush strokes on the edges of the banner. Again, you could load a selection around the banner shape so that you don’t accidentally paint outside of the banner area.

Give the Banner a Grungy Appearance

Use the Gaussian Blur filter (Radius: 3.7px) on the grunge brush layer to soften it up a bit.

Give the Banner a Grungy Appearance

Step 12: Grunging Up the Buildings

Let’s give the buildings a worn-and-torn look; I think this is an interesting juxtaposition to the foreground and our focal point, which will be futuristic, new, and sci-fi themed.

Load a selection around the buildings, copy the selected area, and then place it on a new layer to isolate them (let’s call this layer "city buildings" to distinguish it from the "city" layer).

Grunging Up the Buildings

With the buildings still selected, create another new layer (let us call this layer "building grunge"). Make sure that your Foreground Color is still set to black (#000000) and paint on the new layer using some grunge brushes (you could use the one we used before, or you could try out the Ice Grunge Brush Set).

Grunging Up the Buildings

Now apply the Gaussian Blur filter (Radius: 3.7px) to the "building grunge" layer.

Grunging Up the Buildings

Step 13: Adding a New Building (Tower)

Let us create a building that is located behind the "city buildings" layer. Download and open the City Stock 5 image in Photoshop. Isolate one of the buildings from the stock image and copy it over to our main document (behind the "city buildings" layer).

Grunging Up the Buildings

Grunging Up the Buildings

Correct the colors of the tower using Curves image adjustment and Exposure image adjustment.

Grunging Up the Buildings

Grunging Up the Buildings

Step 14: Creating a Foggy Atmosphere

Generally, when buildings are seen from a distance, the base appears to be vanishing due to it being farther away from the viewer’s position, or because of fog. So, we are going to create the illusion that the base is slightly foggy by painting the base of the tower with a grayish blue color (#b3c9da) using a soft brush.

Creating a Foggy Atmosphere

The tower we added in the previous step must be blurred, but since it is farther away (compared to the other buildings behind it), it must appear more blurred than the buildings in the "city buildings" layer. Hence, let us use a slightly stronger Gaussian Blur filter (Radius: 4.0px) on the tower’s layer.

Creating a Foggy Atmosphere

Next, hold down Ctrl/Cmd and then (in the Layers Panel) click on the thumbnail of the tower layer to load a selection around the tower. Then, create a new layer and paint dark highlights around its edges.

Creating a Foggy Atmosphere

Step 15: Creating Sci-Fi Buildings from Scratch

Create a new layer behind the tower layer for some new buildings that we will be introducing to our poster. Draw futuristic-looking building shapes with the Pen Tool (P), right-click inside the paths you drew, and choose Make Selection in the contextual menu that appears.

Creating a Foggy Atmosphere

With a dark gray, bluish color (#678095), paint inside the selection.

Creating a Foggy Atmosphere

In our composition, we can see that the light source is coming from the right side, so we need to paint highlights on the right side of the buildings. Create a new layer, switch your Foreground Color to white (#ffffff), and then use the Brush Tool to paint along the right sides of the building.

Creating a Foggy Atmosphere

Make the "sci-fi buildings" layer active, then give it a Gaussian Blur (Radius: 4.8px).

Creating a Foggy Atmosphere

Step 16: Creating Fog Behind the Buildings

To create the fog behind the buildings, create a selection of parts of a building then copy the selected area on a new layer (let’s name this layer "building1").

Creating Fog Behind the Buildings

Create a new layer in between the "building1" layer and the "city buildings" layers for the fog. Then, for the Brush Tool, locate a fog-like or cloud-like brush tip (or use the fog-mist brushes listed under Tutorial Resources) and then paint some white fog. Since this layer is in between the "building1" layer and the "city buildings" layer, it is as if the fog is behind the building. Continue to use this technique to add as much fog behind the buildings as you would like.

Creating Fog Behind the Buildings

Step 17: Creating a Futuristic Headphone

Let us give our subject an interesting accessory: a headphone. Download this Textured Disk, place it above the right ear of the subject, and resize it as needed using Free Transform (Ctrl/Cmd + T).

Creating a Futuristic Headphone

We need to retouch this a bit to make it more seamless with our scene; in particular, the bottom part of the headphone should be below the jacket collar. Let us correct this by using the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select the unwanted parts and then deleting them.

Creating a Futuristic Headphone

Creating a Futuristic Headphone

Use the techniques we have used before to correct the colors of the headphone to match our color theme.

Creating a Futuristic Headphone

Let us create some artwork on the headphones. Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw some futuristic-looking shapes on the headphone, right-click inside your Pen path, choose Make Selection, copy the area underneath your selection, and paste it on a new layer.

Creating a Futuristic Headphone

Create a new layer under the artwork layer (and above the headphone layer), and use the Brush Tool (B) with a soft, black brush to paint some shadows behind the artwork.

Creating a Futuristic Headphone

Step 18: Adding Lens Flare

Since the headphone is close to the viewer’s focal point, we should take some time to accentuate its features as it will help develop our sci-fi theme. We will now add a sort of lens flare on it using stock images. Download Lens Flare-1, place it on top of the headphone such that the flare passes just beneath our subject’s eye, resize it as needed using Free Transform, then set the layer’s Blend Mode to Screen to remove the black background.

Adding Lens Flare

Download Lens Flare-2 and place it into our composition using the same technique as above.

Adding Lens Flare

Step 19: Creating a Ball of Light

Time to introduce another sci-fi element: a ball of light streaking up the sky. Make a new layer above the "city" layer for our ball of light. Use a soft brush with a bright blue color (#11f7fc) to paint a spot above the buildings, somewhere at the top-right of the poster.

Creating a Ball of Light

Reduce the Master Diameter of your Brush Tool, switch your Foreground Color to white (#ffffff), and click once at the center of the ball; this gives us a subtle glow effect.

Creating a Ball of Light

To create the trail, select a brush tip from the Light streak brushes brush library and paint with it using white.

Creating a Ball of Light

The trail must be fainter the closer it is to the surface, so use Free Transform to stretch the trail.

Creating a Ball of Light

Use the "lights4 glow" brush tip from the Light streak brushes to give the perfect glow to the ball of light.

Creating a Ball of Light

Step 20: Creating More Balls of Light

Duplicate (Ctrl/Cmd + J) the "light ball" layer we just created and then place them on various places in the canvas. Resize the duplicates to match the perspective of our poster; the smaller it is, the farther it is from our viewer’s focal point.

Creating More Balls of Light

Select the original "light ball" layer and give it a Gaussian Blur (Radius: 1.8px).

Creating More Balls of Light

The farther away a ball of light is, the more blurry it should be. So select a "light ball" layer that is farther away and use a stronger Gaussian Blur (Radius: 2.2px) so that it appears more distant.

Creating More Balls of Light

Continue applying varying levels of Gaussian Blur to other "light ball" layers.

Creating More Balls of Light

Step 21: Taking Advantage of Photoshop CS5’s Ruler Tool

The Ruler Tool has been revamped in CS5. For example, if you need to straighten up a photo, all you need to do is draw a horizontal line with the tool, then click the Straighten button, and your image will be re-angled.

We will use this tool to straighten up our poster. Choose the Ruler Tool (I) from the Tools Panel and draw a slightly-angled horizontal line (as shown below), and then click on the Straighten button. Just like magic, our scene’s angle is corrected.

Taking Advantage of Photoshop CS5's Ruler Tool

Step 22: Creating the Movie Title

Let us add some text to our poster. Choose a thick, bold font (I used Rockwell Extra Bold). Type out "NYC" in white, and place it somewhere towards the bottom of the canvas.

Taking Advantage of Photoshop CS5's Ruler Tool

We will now give this text block a grungy/metallic texture. Download this cool metal texture, and place it over our text (resize it with Free Transform as needed). Ctrl/Cmd + click on the thumbnail of our text to create a selection around it. Make sure you are on the "cool metal texture" layer, copy the selected area, paste it into a new layer, and then hide or delete the original texture layer.

Taking Advantage of Photoshop CS5's Ruler Tool

With the texture layer still selected, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and change the color of the texture to blue tones (Hue: 182, Saturation:73).

Taking Advantage of Photoshop CS5's Ruler Tool

Double-click on the texture layer to open the Layer Style dialog window, and choose the Bevel and Emboss layer effect. For the settings of Bevel and Emboss, use Depth: 1000% and Size: 24px (leave the other values alone).

Taking Advantage of Photoshop CS5's Ruler Tool

Step 23: Creating a Honeycomb Grid Effect

Let us accent our poster with a honeycomb effect that will further support our futuristic, sci-fi theme. Create a new layer on top of all layers for the honeycomb grid. Download and install Eltops Grid Set 2. Select a grid brush from the set, and use the Brush Tool (B) and a Foreground Color of white to paint some grids onto the poster.

Taking Advantage of Photoshop CS5's Ruler Tool

Step 24: Final Color Correction

It’s time to tie in our piece with an adjustment layer. For this, we nee to add a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of all the layers. Select blue and yellow colors for the gradient, set the Opacity of the adjustment layer to 35%, and switch the Blend Mode to Soft Light.

Taking Advantage of Photoshop CS5's Ruler Tool

Tutorial Summary

This tutorial went over many techniques for creating a sci-fi themed movie poster. We leveraged some great, new features in Adobe Photoshop CS5 that speeds up the creation of our graphics. We created banners, performed color corrections, used blurring techniques to create a depth of field, utilized several free resources to add elements in our work, and more.

Be sure to link to your version in the comments and please add it to our Flickr group to share it with the rest of the community.

Preview

Download Source Files

Create Stunning 3D Text in a Grungy Landscape

Preview

Click on the image to see the final result in full scale.

Tutorial Resources

Step 1: Setting Up in Illustrator

We are going to start by opening up Adobe Illustrator and creating a new 1200x1200px document.

Setting Up in Illustrator

Next, download this Grass stock image and bring it into our Illustrator artboard. We are going to be using this photo simply as a reference for the 3D text we will be producing, so you could lock this layer to prevent us from accidentally moving it around. We will reuse this image in Photoshop, so keep it in a handy location.

Step 2: Create the Front of the 3D Text

Use the Type Tool (T) to write out the word "DESIGN" using Myriad Pro Black Condensed or a similar bold sans-serif font. So that our text block is easier to work with, we are going to go to Type > Create Outlines (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + O) to convert the text layer to vector paths.

Create the Front of the 3D Text

Step 3: Create the Back of the 3D Text

Duplicate the "DESIGN" object–select it with the Selection Tool, press Ctrl/Cmd + C to copy, then press Ctrl/Cmd + F to paste in front. Move the duplicate up to the horizon line of the grass image. Hold down Shift + Alt/Option, then click and drag one of the corners inward to shrink it down, while keeping its position in place.

Create the Front of the 3D Text

Step 4: Developing the 3D Text

First let’s change the fill color of the text in front to a shade of yellow (#FEC719). Let us also change the fill color of the text in the back to a darker, more muted shade of yellow (#CC9933).

Now we are ready to build our 3D text. First, ungroup our two "DESIGN" text objects (select them, and then press Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + G or go to Object > Ungroup).

Let us start with the "D": Click on the Pen Tool (P) in the Tools Panel, and then create a rectangular shape. Change the color of the rectangular shape to a shade of yellow (#E8DC86).

Developing the 3D Text

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to drag the corner anchor points so the ones on the left side align with the left corners of the "D" (use View > Smart Guides to have the box snap to the corners of the "D"). Make another rectangular shape that covers the middle part of the "D" as well.

Developing the 3D Text

Select all the vector shapes associated with the "D" and go to Object > Group to make our work more manageable and organized.

We are going to go through each of the letters and create rectangular shapes that connect the front letter to its back letter, just like we did with the "D". To make the process easier, you can change the colors of the sides of the text to visually see them better (then we could just correct the colors later on).

Developing the 3D Text

Developing the 3D Text

Developing the 3D Text

Developing the 3D Text

Be sure to group the components of each letter together, just like with the letter "D", or else our Illustrator document can become unwieldy.

Step 5: Create Gradient Swatches

Now that our 3D text is starting to take shape, we can start working on the colors we will be using. To do the shading of our text, we are going to create gradient swatches, which we will later use on subsequent steps. If the Gradient Panel isn’t already open, go to Window > Gradient.

Set your Fill color to a shade of yellow (#EDB329), drag it to the left side of our gradient in the Gradient Panel, switch your Fill color to a brown (#7E4920), and, again, drag it to the right side of our gradient. Drag the Gradient Fill we created from the Gradient Panel into the Swatches Panel to add it as a swatch–this will make it easier for us to use this gradient in our work (we merely have to click on it to fill the target objects).

We are also going to create a gradient with brown color (#B97E2E) on the left of the gradient and a darker brown (#7E4920) on the right. Drag this into the Swatches Panel also.

Create Gradient Swatches

Step 6: Connecting the 3D Text

We want to finish the back end of our text, starting with the "D". Select the "D" group and then go to Object > Ungroup. Click on the top part of the text and, while holding Shift, click on the back "D" letter to select both of those vector objects. If you don’t already have the Pathfinder Panel open, go to Window > Pathfinder (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + F9). Alt/Option + click on the Unite Pathfinder icon, and then click on the Expand button.

Connecting the 3D Text

Select the "S", press Ctrl/Cmd + C to copy, and then press Ctrl/Cmd + F to paste in front so that we end up with two small "S" shapes. Click on one of the "S" shapes and the top part of the "S", Alt/Option + click on the Unite Pathfinder icon, and then click on the Expand button. This will add the two shapes together and add a little bump on the right side, which we need to get rid of. Click on the shape with the Selection Tool (V) and then switch to the Pen Tool (P). Click on the undesired anchor points to delete them. Take the other "S" shape and the darker bottom shape of the "S", Alt/Option + click on the Unite Pathfinder icon, and then click on the Expand button.

With the "G", just combine the two visible shapes by clicking on the Unite Pathfinder icon.

Connecting the 3D Text

Step 7: Adding Color Gradient

Next, we need to figure out where our light source is coming from so that we have consistent lighting. Let’s decide now that we are going to make the light come from the top of our composition.

So, with the light source in mind, we are going to start adding in our gradients by clicking each piece and adding in the light and dark gradients that we saved in our Swatches Panel. You can adjust the gradient with the Gradient Tool (G) in the Tools Panel after you have applied it. Afterwards, change the face of the letters to a muted yellow shade (#E8DC86).

Adding Color Gradient

Step 8: Creating the Second Line of Text

Use the Type Tool (T) to write out "INSTRUCT" with the font, Myriad Black Condensed (or your preferred bold, condensed, sans-serif font). Position it below our "DESIGN" text. Go to Type > Create Outlines. Then go to Effect > Warp > Arch and change the Vertical option to 10% to make the text appear as if it is laying on the ground.

Creating the Second Line of Text

Step 9: Enhancing the Grass in Photoshop

Open the Grass image again, but this time, in Photoshop. We are going to do some color adjustments to the grass so it looks a little greener.

Go to Image > Adjustment > Replace Color. Click on the green and brown/tan area (holding Shift and clicking on different areas of the image you want to sample from will add to the selection), and then adjust the hue to a stronger green color.

Enhancing the Grass in Photoshop

Step 10: Removing the Sky from the Grass Image

Open up Photoshop and create a new 1200x1200px document. This is the document where we will bring our composition together.

First, bring in the grass image that we just enhanced in the previous step, and then use Free Transform (Ctrl/Cmd + T) to resize the image so that it is the same width as the document.

We are going to chop off the sky of the image. To do that, we are going to use the Pen Tool (P) to create a path that surrounds the sky part of the grass image. Go to the Paths Panel (Window > Paths) and Ctrl/Cmd + click on the path we just made to load a selection around the sky. Go back to the Layers Panel, click on the grass layer in the Layers Panel to make it the active layer, and then press Delete to remove the sky.

Enhancing the Grass in Photoshop

Step 11: Bring in the 3D Text from Illustrator

Let’s go back to our Illustrator document and copy our "DESIGN" text, and then switch back to Photoshop and paste it on there. Do the same with our "INSTRUCT" text. Since we used the same document dimensions (and used the grass image as a reference for alignment), pasting it into Photoshop preserves the positions of our text. If this isn’t the case, just use the Move Tool (V) to move the text around so that they are positioned in the canvas properly.

Bring in the 3D Text from Illustrator

Step 12: Creating the Cliff

Let’s start working on the cliff that will be at the bottom of our composition. Go get the Cliff stock image I listed in the Tutorial Resources section above, and then bring it into our canvas. Rotate it 180o with Free Transform (Ctrl/Cmd + T) and scale it down so that it is the same size as our canvas. Move it behind the grass layer.

Creating the Cliff

Step 13: Create a Grassy Edge Using a Photoshop Brush

To give the edge where our grass and cliff meets a more organic look, we’ll need to do some retouching. Select the grass layer, then go to Layer > Add Layer Mask > Reveal All. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create a selection around the bottom part of the grass. I toggled off the visibility of my text layers temporarily so that I can focus on this part of the process.

Switch your Foreground Color to black (#000000), then hit Alt/Option + Backspace to fill the selected area with your Foreground Color. This should mask out the selected area (a refresher: When painting on layer masks–black hides, white reveals).

Now we are going to gradually fill back the hidden area using a Photoshop brush. First, switch to the Brush Tool (B). Then go to Window > Brushes (F5) and uncheck the Scattering, Color Dynamics, and Other Dynamics options.

Click on the Brush Tip Shape option, locate the Grass brush tip shape in the preview pane on the right, and change its angle to 180o.

Now we can start using our brush on the area we masked away. Select white (#FFFFFF) as our Foreground Color and drop the size of the brush down to around 60px Master Diameter. Start painting away some of the bottom edge of the grass to create a more natural boundary between the grass and the cliff.

Create a Grassy Edge Using a Photoshop Brush

Step 14: Enhancing the Cliff

Click on the cliff layer and go to Image > Adjustment > Levels to open up the Levels dialog window. Bring the left slider in a little bit to bring out more of the blacks and darken the image a little bit.

Enhancing the Cliff

Let’s add some shadows to the cliff. Pick a brownish greenish color (#1F1C09) for our Foreground Color. We choose this color because the green grass is going to cast a shadow on the brown cliff, so we want to show that in our color selections. Create a layer above the grass and the cliff. Use the Brush Tool (Hardness: 0%, Master Diameter: 20px) to paint on the top surfaces of the cliff. When finished, change the Blend Mode of the layer to Soft Light.

Create a new layer and use a bigger brush tip (Master Diameter: 100px) to paint just below the grass to give these areas a stronger shadow. Change the Blend Mode of the layer to Multiply and lower the Opacity to 50%.

Create another layer below the grass layer, and paint under the grass. Change the Blend Mode of this layer to Multiply.

Enhancing the Cliff

Step 15: Adding Highlights on the Grass

To give the grassy edge some nice highlighting, we are going to create a new layer and add a white-to-0%-opacity color gradient using the Gradient Tool. To do this, first, change your Foreground Color to white (#FFFFFF). Then switch to the Gradient Tool (G). In the Options Bar, click on the Gradient Editor and then choose the Foreground to Transparent gradient preset. Then create our gradient on the new layer, starting from the bottom of the canvas, and going towards the top.

Adding Highlights on the Grass

Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Use a black brush–with 0% Hardness and about 125px Master Diameter–to paint away the cliff and some of the bottom portions of the grass.

Adding Highlights on the Grass

Change the Blend Mode of the layer to Overlay and lower the Opacity to 30%. This will give the grass a highlight as well as a shadow effect on the front of the grass.

Adding Highlights on the Grass

Step 16: Adding the Cityscape

Let’s go grab our Cityscape stock image and open it up in Photoshop. Isolate the buildings by using your favorite method (such as using the Pen Tool to draw around them and then copying the selection) and bring them into our canvas. Shrink down the cityscape with Free Transform and locate it on the horizon of the grass with the Move Tool (V). Duplicate the cityscape layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer), then go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontally.

Adding the Cityscape

Using the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L), take off the big building on the right side of the duplicate to create some variance between the left and right sides of our cityscape.

Adding the Cityscape

Step 17: Adding the Sky

Grab this Sky stock image and place it into our canvas. This layer should be behind the cityscape layers.

Adding the Sky

Step 18: Enhancing the Realism of the Grass around the Text

Select the grass layer and the white-to-transparent highlight layer that’s on top of it, then combine them by going to Layer > Merge Layers.

To work on the grass in front of the "DESIGN" text block, use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to load a selection around the front of the text block, click on the grass layer in the Layers Panel to make sure it’s the active layer, then go to Layer > Duplicate Layer to place the selected area in a new layer.

Enhancing the Realism of the Grass around the Text

Move this layer above the 3D text, then go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All.

We need to make the grass blend better with our text. Let’s use our Grass brush again with the same settings as before. Brush away the bottom part of the "DESIGN" text block until you get a satisfactory result.

Step 19: Adding Shadows to the Text

Now we are going to create a drop shadow under the text. Ctrl/Cmd + click on the text layer’s preview thumbnail in the Layers Panel to make a selection around our text. Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer above the text layer and fill the area underneath the selection with black (#000000).

Go to Layer > Duplicate Layer so you have two black text layers. Click on the first black layer in the Layers Panel to make it the active layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur (set the Radius to 4px), and run the filter on it.

Adding Shadows to the Text

Run the Gaussian Blur filter again on the second black layer, but this time, set the Radius of the filter to 10px.

We will have some excess shadows that we don’t want, so we’ll use a layer mask to get rid of those. Go to Layer > Add Layer Mask > Reveal All to place a mask on the black text layers, and just start painting away the unwanted portions of the shadows.

Adding Shadows to the Text

Step 20: Adding Textures to the Scene

Time to "grungify" our piece, starting with our 3D text. To kick things off, download the Cracked Texture and the Experimental Texture, then open them in Photoshop.

Bring the Experimental texture into our main document and use Free Transform to size it so it fits over our text. Ctrl/Cmd + click on the text layer’s thumbnail in the Layers Panel to load a selection around it. You should still be on the Experimental texture layer (if not, switch back to it). Go to Select > Inverse and delete the selected area. Change the Blend Mode of the Experimental texture layer to Color Burn and lower its Opacity to 50%.

Adding Textures to the Scene

Now bring in the Cracked texture and do the same thing, except change the Blend Mode to Soft Light (instead of Color Burn).

Adding Textures to the Scene

Download this Film Texture and open it in Photoshop. Place it into our main document, making sure that it is covering the entire canvas. Change the Blend Mode of the Film texture layer to Soft Light.

Go to Image > Adjustments > Curves and perform adjustments so as to lighten up the layer a bit so that it’s not too harsh.

Adding Textures to the Scene

Adding Textures to the Scene

Step 21: Adjusting the Scene’s Colors

We are going to adjust the color of our scene now, just to try and tie everything together better.

First, we will use a Gradient Map adjustment layer; go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to add one on top of all the layers. Change the Blend Mode of the Gradient Map layer to Soft Light and reduce the Opacity to 40%.

Adjusting the Scene's Colors

We’ll add another adjustment layer; Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation. Change the Saturation option to about -70. This should dramatically change our composition’s colors so that it has this sort of faded, retro/vintage look to it.

Adjusting the Scene's Colors

Step 22: Softening the Edges of the Canvas

Let’s soften up the edges of the piece a bit so that we draw better attention to our centerpiece. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to place a selection around the canvas–but ever so slightly smaller than it–adjust the Feather option to 60px in the Options Bar, go to Select > Inverse (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + I), and fill the inverted selection with black. Change the Blend Mode to Overlay afterwards.

Softening the Edges of the Canvas

Step 23: Final Adjustments and Enhancements

It’s best to save your work before doing this step so that you can go back to your work and modify it later on.

Go to Layer > Flatten Image to combine all of our layers into one layer. Go to Layer > Duplicate Layer to duplicate our flattened layer, then Filter > Other > High Pass (set the Radius at about 4.3px before your execute the filter).

Final Adjustments and Enhancements

Change the Blend Mode of the layer to Soft Light.

Flatten the image again. Use the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) with Feather at 60px to make a circle in the middle of the canvas that covers the text. Go to Select > Inverse. Then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with the Radius set at about 1.8px.

Final Adjustments and Enhancements

This should slightly blur the areas around the text to give our centerpiece a better focal point as well as enhance our depth of field.

Tutorial Summary

In this tutorial, we used Illustrator to produce some interesting 3D text. We then built our composition in Photoshop using various techniques such as smooth-blending edges using layer masks and a Photoshop brush, applying image adjustments, using adjustment layers to control the scene’s colors, and more.

Here is what I came up with; make sure to link to your version in the comments (and add it to our Flickr group)!

Download Source Files

Rough Concrete: Texture Pack

Preview

Preview

Clicking on the download button or image will open up the texture, which you can then save or copy directly from your web browser to your graphics editor or desktop.

Concrete Texture 01

Concrete Texture 01

Download

Concrete Texture 02

Concrete Texture 02

Download

Concrete Texture 03

Concrete Texture 03

Download

Concrete Texture 04

Concrete Texture 04

Download

Concrete Texture 05

Concrete Texture 05

Download

Concrete Texture 06

Concrete Texture 06

Download

Concrete Texture 07

Concrete Texture 07

Download

Details

  • File format: JPG
  • Size: 2000x3008px
  • Licensing: Royalty-free, can be used for commercial and personal work
  • Limitation of use: Do not redistribute or sell files
  • Number of items: 7
  • Number of files: 7

Download Source Files

What the Heck is Bing Anyway?

Long story short: Bing is Microsoft’s old search engine plus some new features, rebranded and advertised aggressively to try and take search market share from Google.

No, it’s not some new Google-killer startup or a genius’s revolutionary breakthrough in search. It’s just Microsoft putting a new face on old products and distancing themselves from the branding to make it look new.

Before consolidating everything into Bing, Microsoft had two search engines and a bunch of web properties that searched for different things. They’ve now consolidated everything into one interface and renamed it Bing.

Is Microsoft looking to acquire both Yahoo! Search AND Facebook?

 

facebook_microsoft_070925_ms

The rumor floating around Silicon Valley today is that Microsoft not only wants to purchase Yahoo!’s Search technology, but also wants to acquire Facebook for $15 to $20 million.  This has, of course, created quite a stir among techies and has Robert Scoble claiming that the web is in peril.

So what does this really mean for the internet? Aside from the intrigue of a new search engine to optimize for, there are three major considerations.

A few things could happen.

  1. The disappearance of Yahoo! Search and nothing more. I’m assuming that Microsoft will roll Yahoo! Search into their own product, tossing out the name but keeping the technology.  Live Search would either cease to exist or would (somehow) come together with Yahoo!’s technology.  Nothing would change on the Facebook front.
  2. The disappearance of Yahoo! Search and the banishing of Facebook’s data portability initiatives. Microsoft will follow the steps in #1, but also decide they like the closed environment of Facebook and decide to abandon any data portability initiatives the company is currently involved in.  Great strides have been made lately in data portability and information sharing between different social networks.  Facebook’s walls, which have been sealed tight for so long, are finally starting to come down just a little bit.  Microsoft could wipe out that progress completely.
  3. The disappearance of Yahoo! Search, the banishing of Facebook’s data portability initiatives AND the ability for Microsoft’s search to crawl Facebook. The possibility of this taking place is really what has the tech community up in arms.  Microsoft could acquire Yahoo!’s search technology,  keep Facebook a closed off environment, and then allow only their search engine to crawl Facebook’s vast amount of information.  Google search users would be hung out to dry.  You can see some of the FriendFeed discussion on the issue here and here (what is FriendFeed?  Look for a post later today).

Understandably, this is a very big story in the making, though it is still only a rumor at this point.  If Microsoft follows through on even one of these acquisitions, the results will be game changing.  More on this as information becomes available.