A Special Digital Art Tutorial

February 17, 2008 at 10:30 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Scotty Serenades

A Unique Experiment

Scotty is my classmate and friend. At school, one of our assignments is to work in a team of 3 (me, Scott and Alex). Our task is to contribute to a website that Scotty has been building, utilizing leading edge technology and trends. Scotty’s site will host a community forum where people can communicate and share knowledge and ideas. As part of our team project, I offered to contribute a Photoshop tutorial showing the process I use when creating digital art. We thought it would be more interesting if I did the tutorial from scratch, using a photograph that I’d take of Scotty, then afterwards explain the steps. This tutorial will be useful for people who already have a basic understanding of Photoshop’s interface and tools, however beginners might glean an interesting tip or two.

First Step

To begin this image, I took some photographs of Scotty and his cat at his apartment during a time of day when there was sufficient indirect lighting shining in through his balcony window. By the way, the amazing guitar he’s playing is my gorgeous Taylor acoustic. I took photos at the highest jpeg setting that my digital camera would allow, as it is essential to obtain a high amount of pixel data. I could have taken the photos in Tif or Raw, but those modes would have slowed down my camera’s response, so Scotty would have to sit longer between each photo. This would have been less spontaneous, so instead I used the jpeg setting. I made sure that the lighting in the room was neither too bright, nor too dim. The best lighting is solid indirect lighting. I begin each digital piece with a full range of highlights and shadows. Any moody or dramatic lighting is created using Photoshop. BTW … Scotty is actually playing the guitar, not merely posing. He is an amazing musician and singer.

Detail of Graffiti

Layer Palette

I’ve done a print screen of all 47 layers from the layered PSD Photoshop file. I’ve printed the Blending mode that I used beside its layer, and I’ve assigned a number next to each layer so that you can easily refer to it while reading this tutorial.


I gathered about 30 images and began dragging and arranging them, sometimes masking out portions of the images until a mood began to emerge. I generally spend a lot of time experimenting, looking for interesting textures, colors and a hint of lighting that I will afterwards carry throughout the entire image. I merged several images to come up with the background image, displayed below. During this process, it’s necessary to merge images in order to continue superimposing more images over top, rotating them, blending them together until I arrive at a background that carries a particular mood.


I then extract Scotty and his cat from photos I’ve taken. During this process I take my time, extracting in several stages. I first make a loose lasso selection, then afterwards use a soft brush to Mask the edges, using progressively smaller and smaller brushes and zooming in to a detailed view. Masking has always been my preferred method to extract because it allows the flexibility of using different edged brushes. On areas like hair or fur I use a soft-edged brush, whereas on architecture or sharp edged objects I use a harder brush. I’m never in a hurry to finish extracting. I find the process tedious so after doing a bit of extracting I go work on some of the more artistic aspects of the image, then later come back and continue extracting. Often I don’t finish fully extracting until I’m almost finished the piece.

Adding Graffiti

For the graffiti on the door I overlayed an image of graffiti art, cutting, Masking and using the Free Transform Tool to rotate, skew and resize it to fit an area on the door. For the graffiti on the left wall, I blended it into the wall by using one layer with reduced opacity, set to Normal. Then I duplicated this layer and set the second layer to Multiply Blending Mode. (These 2 layers are in a folder labeled Pass Through on the Layer Palette diagram above).

Graffiti Face

The face on the upper right is from an image of a statue. I superimposed this image using Multiply Blending Mode, which knocks out the white and light colors and only preserves dark tones. I then overlayed several other colors and images over top of this to make it appear to be graffiti.

Graffiti Maiden

It might be difficult to view from the photo below, but in the final version at the top of the page you will be able to see the ‘graffiti maiden’ who is looking lovingly down from the door towards Scotty. She was created from an image of foreign money that I found on a stock image website. I used Overlay Blending Mode along with the Smudge Tool, Liquify Filter and Clone Tool to change her features and make it appear as though she was painted on the door as part of the other graffiti.

Additional Color And Wall Texture

I then add extra bits of color, highlights, and more graffiti to the walls and beneath the stair railing, using portions of images that have been Masked, rotated with varying degrees of opacity. I choose Overlay Mode to burn in the midtones.I now add many different layers in Overlay Mode to create texture on the walls. This process takes several hours of tweaking, rotating, changing opacity, experimenting with various Blending Modes, and mixing these layers together.


I then begin overlaying random images that I’ve chosen only for their colors. It doesn’t matter what the images are because they will be blurred using the Gausian Blur Filter. This takes some experimentation, but results in amazing lighting highlights when superimposed over the image using Blending Modes. I then Mask portions of these images. For this image I used Color Dodge Mode, but for other images a different Blending Mode might work better. I try all of them to see which ones work best. I overlay these blurred images over Scotty and the scene I’ve created.

Dodge And Burn Tools

I also use the Dodge Tool to create highlights throughout the image. The Dodge and Burn Tool functions like a paint brush and has 3 modes. These 3 selections are available from the Options Palette at the top of the screen and becomes available once you click on either the Dodge or Burn brush in the Tools Palette. The 3 modes that you are able to burn or dodge are: highlights, midtones and shadows. I always experiment with all of them to see what ones work best on a particular portion of the image. This process requires patience and a lot of trial and error.

Final Result


I then begin to mold in a 3D appearance by burning in some shadows using the Burn Tool and by using Multiply Blending Mode.

Detail of Cat

Finishing Touches

I then add back the fine hair around Scotty’s head that was removed during the extraction process. I do this by taking a close up photograph of Scotty’s hair against a dark background. This allows me to use Screen Blending Mode with this layer, which knocks out all dark colors and preserves only the light colors, such as his blonde hair. I also add extra whiskers to the cat that I extract from an image of Scotty’s other cat which has black fur. Again this is perfect because I can apply Screen Mode to the layer which reveals only the white whiskers and knocks out the black fur. I then add intense highlights on Scotty’s clothing and on the cat’s fur to make it appear as though there is a light source casting a glimmer of light onto the scene. I do this with the Color Dodge Blending Mode.

Detail of Graffiti Maiden

I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful and that it provides you with some new ideas for using Photoshop with your images.


Gale Franey

Visit my website: The Graphic Groove
Or my gallery on Flickr

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Digital Diversions

February 5, 2008 at 12:48 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , )

Lady And The Fox

I was supposed to be doing homework, working on my Flash website. I was looking for an image to put as a background on one of the web pages. I began digging through my digital art folders. I couldn’t find an image that had the right mood and colors. Before I could stop myself I was suddenly immersed in making this new digital art piece. I began in the late afternoon and finished the following morning at 10:30 a.m. I then went to bed for 2 and a half hours. When I woke up I had to do the final touch ups, which took most of the afternoon. Although I am very happy with the results, I am feeling so guilty that I’ve barely done a stitch of homework. Well, I now have that web page background that I was looking for.

Right now I am walking around like a total zombie, from lack of sleep. I will now go grab a few hours then tackle PHP and MY SQL this evening.

Visit my website: The Graphic Groove
Or my gallery on Flickr

Return To Gale’s Home Page

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