Happy 2013 to all! For the first tutorial of the new year, we’re going to be using the same principles from an earlier compositing tutorial, but with some added design flare. Being as how a new year many times represents new thinking, I thought a theme of “Flying Outside the Box” was a fitting one.
Below are the raw materials for our project.
In my opinion, the photo of the plane is already impressive. Sometimes a good photo and well-placed text is all you need to make a piece ad-worthy. We could have just slapped some text on the right side of the image and made this a simple tutorial about typography. But that’s no fun! To start off, we’ll need to isolate the plane so we can do some cool stuff to it. There are multiple ways of selecting the plane but for this tutorial, I’d recommend doing what your most comfortable with. Because there’s decent color contrast between the plane and the background, the wand tool might work for you. I personally opt for the pen /paths tool [P] which takes longer but it ensures a cleaner selection.
Once you have the plane selected, hit [control – J] which will send the selection to a new layer. Label the new layer “plane – iso”. Toss on a drop shadow using the settings to the right to give the plane a sense of depth.
Next, select the background layer and duplicate it. Select the duplicated layer and add a filter > blur > Gaussian blur of 4.9 and then set the layer to overlay. This will add some subtle highlights to the photo as well as add a soft blur around the edges. Although I try not to overuse the effect, many times I find myself doing it anyway since it can really make an image pop.
Our next step is to make what are called TV lines and add them to the plane. This will make it look like the plane was part of a television image and give it a more digital look. There are number of ways to make these lines, some taking longer than others depending on your speed with keyboard shortcuts. I’m going to make the lines using the “define pattern” option for the sake of reviewing the tool. At this point, open up a new document that’s 2 pixels wide and 1 pixel tall. Make a new layer and on the left side, make a single pixel box and fill it with white. Next, hide the background layer. Even with the background layer hidden, it will still look like just a solid white two pixel wide image. But rest assured that there is one pixel of white and one pixel of transparency.
Go to edit > define pattern and call it “TV lines”. By creating this pattern, you can easily reuse it for future projects by repeating the same next steps. Return to the airplane composition. Create a new layer above the “plane – iso” layer and call it “TV lines”. Go to edit > fill. In the content box select pattern and you’ll notice that the small 2 pixel by 1 pixel pattern you created is available for you to select (it’ll most likely be the last pattern option). Select the pattern and hit OK. Now you’ll see that the your canvas is now covered with these thin subtle white TV lines that are spaced a pixel apart.
Now for the clipping mask. Your “TV lines” layer should be just above your “plane – iso” layer. Right click the “TV Lines” layer and select create clipping mask [control – G]. This will confine the lines to cover just the plane and not the entire sky.
Next, we’ll bring in the television. I deliberately chose an antiquated set to better symbolize “old ways of thinking”. A high-definition 1080p flat screen tv might have taken away from the effect 🙂 Using the wand tool, I isolated the TV from its original background. I brought it into the composition, labeled the layer “TV”, shrunk it down some and positioned it behind the tail of the plane. Drag the “TV” layer just underneath the “plane – iso” layer. The lighting and contrast of the TV looked slightly out of place. To fix this, I added a curves adjustment layer to it to better blend it in with its surroundings. On the right are the settings I used. Make sure to turn the curves adjustment layer into a clipping mask so that it only applies to the television.
Right now, our goal is to make it look like the plane is flying out of the TV. To do this, we’ll need to cut off the part of the plane’s tail that overlaps the TV. On the “plane – iso” layer, isolate the part of the tail that extends just beyond the screen of the TV. Don’t worry about the part of the plane’s tail that still shows from the background layer. We’ll deal with that later. Rather than just erase the tail completely, I’d suggest just masking it out in the event that you’ll need it again. When working in Photoshop, you’ll want to avoid making permanent changes whenever possible. This gives you the flexibility to make changes later and also encourages exploration! You should now have something like this.
Our next step is creating ground for the TV to rest on and doing it in such a way that it covers up the plane’s right tail flap. Using the paths tool, I created an arched shape on a layer called “foreground” and colored it with a light gray to gray gradient. Gradients add a sense of realism and depth that flat colors lack. You can check out this previous tutorial on gradients for more information. To make the ground look even more realistic, I grabbed a leather texture and using a clipping mask, added it to the foreground. I know that leather seems like an odd texture choice for a foreground, but it ultimately ended up looking like cracked stone. So it all worked out in the end! To maintain perspective, I flattened the leather texture layer using the transform tool. As a final touch, I added a filter > render > lighting effect to the leather texture using the settings below. It now looks like the light from the television is shining on ground.
In furthering the realism, I put a shadow underneath the television set along with a reflection. We covered how to create reflection effects in this previous tutorial.
If the plane was really flying out of the television, we’d see the plane’s shadow on the foreground. To do this, I made a copy of the “plane – iso” layer calling it “plane shadow”, reduced the brightness to zero to make it completely dark, and then added a filter > blur > Gaussian blur at 4.9. (note:When you duplicate a layer that has other layers attached to it via clipping masks, it resets the masks. You’ll have to turn those layers back to clipping masks before moving forward.) Take this layer and flip it vertically and drag it down on top of the foreground. You’ll want to flatten the shadow using the transform tool to make it look realistic, similar to what was done with the leather texture in the foreground. Knock down the opacity to 44% and you’ve got yourself a subtle but realistic plane shadow.
While in the spirit of adding shiny effects, I threw in a ray of light emanating from the television. Label this layer “ray of light” and drag it underneath the plane layer. To do this, I used the lasso tool to create the proper shape and then added a filter > Gaussian blur to it. Truthfully, the exact shape of the ray and settings of the blur are up to you. This tutorial isn’t so much about copying everything “exactly” as it is although it’s an option. You might want the ray of light thinner or wider / clearer or blurrier than I have it. Play around with the settings and see what works for you. Finally, set the “ray of light” layer to Overlay.
I thought that a single ray of light wasn’t dramatic enough. After all, the digital plane is busting out of a television set and magically manifesting itself in the real world. Such an event warrants a little more attention. I created some white swooshes using the pen tool to accent the aerial exodus. One easy way to make this effect is to make a single swoosh, then duplicate it, flip it horizontally, and then reposition it. You can duplicate the swoosh again, and use the transform tool to adjust it as you like. After duplicating and tweaking the swooshes until I was happy with it, I grouped all of them into a folder called “group swooshes”. I then set that folder to Overlay. Grouping together like this is an easy to way to uniformly apply effects while keeping the individual layers. Your specific swoosh design may look different than mine. Here’s an example of my version with the light ray behind it.
Let’s take this one extra step on the visual drama scale. It’s been said why reach for the sky when you can reach for the stars! Sure this type of model plane isn’t technically suited for the cosmos, but then again, it’s already proven to not be your run-of-the-mill plane. For this, I grabbed an image of some stars against void of space and dropped it into the composition calling the layer “cosmos”. I only wanted the stars to show up in the top part of the canvas so I masked out everything below leaving just a sliver stars above the clouds.
Ever heard of the phrase less is more. In this case, the composition was feeling busy so I whited out the area to the left side of the plane. I also took this opportunity to conveniently white out the plane’s left tail flap. To do this, make a new layer called “white out” and grab a large brush set at the softest setting and proceed to cover up the area as you see fit. This layer should be positioned just above the duplicated background layer.
We’re just about there. The next step is to add some cool line effects to the sky. However, we don’t want it looking like the TV lines on the plane. These lines will actually be spaced further apart. To do this, we’ll follow the same procedure we used to make TV lines except define a pattern than leaves 4 pixels between lines. Basically, when you create your new document and define your pattern make it 1 pixel high but 5 pixels wide which will result in greater distance between lines. Define the pattern and then return to your plane composition. Fill your composition with these new lines and label the layer “radial lines”. Apply filter > distort > polarize coordinates [rectangular to polar]. This will apply a cool radial effect to all the lines. Next, position this layer so that all the lines look like they are emanating from the plane (I realize that’s the second time I used that word but I honestly couldn’t think of a better one at the time 🙂 ) . Set the layer to an opacity of 20% and Overlay. Also mask out any areas that are needed.
Next we’ll want add a “zoom” effect to the plane. Duplicate the “plane – iso” layer, remove the drop shadow effect on the copied layer, and then apply a filter > blur > motion blur. Use these settings to the right.
The plane looked like it could use a few more tweaks. I made a layer called “highlight” and drew a gray to white gradient over it from the bottom left to top right. Take this layer and place it just above the “plane – so” layer and set to be a clipping mask.
Set the “highlight” layer to Divide to see a digital accent on the plane.
I added some text in one of the clouds on the right. Of course, you’re free to put in whatever text you feel speaks to your heart at the time. The text layers should be placed at the very top of the document layers. I’d recommend for organization-sake to group all the text layers into their own folder.
Now comes time for the finishing touches which are incidentally the most dramatic. The final touch is to use some adjustment layers to change the entire look and feel of the composition. All of these layers should be added just underneath the text layers. This is where you can really explore and play around with different settings to achieve a look you like. For the sake of the tutorial, I’ll provide the exact settings of the Color Balance adjustment layers that I used to get this effect.
Once you’ve applied the proper settings to the Color Balance adjustment layer, duplicate it and set the copied layer to Lighten. This will enhance the overall effect. In this case, it was a little TOO much and so I masked out the areas that were overkill leaving a few accents around the plane. The last touch was to create a gradient fill layer from white at the top to gray at the bottom. This layer was placed above the copied Color Balance adjustment layer. I set the gradient layer to 58% opacity and Overlay.
And there it is. You’re journey outside of the confines of the matrix television world is complete 🙂 Hope you all enjoyed the tutorial and that it was of help. Keep in mind, that the effects and settings throughout this tutorial (and all of these tutorials for that matter) are never set in stone. I played around with them until I saw something I liked. I recommend that when designing, you do the same! Fly Outside the Box and Be Free…