In this tutorial you will learn to create a beautiful composition stock images and custom build shapes in Illustrator. It demonstrates effective usage of Photoshop’s shape layers, Smart Objects, and masks. By the end of the tutorial you will know more about these techniques. Parts of this tutorial require Adobe Illustrator.
Preview of Final Results
- Paper Texture – Bashcorpo
- Main Model – xxslavaxx stock
- Model 2 – xxslavaxx stock
- Halftone Pattern – Vecteezy
- Water Color Texture – Mediamilitia
- Drips and Spray Paint – Qbrushes
- Patterned Spheres – Media Militia
- Hot air Balloons – Media Militia
- Brush Stroke – Mediamilitia
- Grunge Brushes – Qbrushes
Wing Stock – Shoofly-Stock(Alternative) Planet – SXC(Alternative)
We need a blank canvas to start working. Create a new file something similar to the one here. Whenever you are not sure about the dimensions just start with something and later you can always increase or decrease the canvas size.
Here we will create some basic shapes around which we will build our design. Select the Polygon Tool from the from the tool bar. We can edit the number of sides of the polygon. Since we need to draw a triangle, set the sides count to 3. Same time select the shape layers option and draw. This will create a new layer with an editable vector path. We can use the path for several different things.
We have the triangle here which is a shape layer. It has a vector path associated with it. We can use to perform path operations like adding, subtracting, excluding and so on. So here you can see how to use the path of the shape layer to cut a hole in the shape. First copy and paste the path. Then scale it down and position it. Once the path is in desired position and select Subtract From Shape Area option.
Here I am going to add more elements that will define the outline. Use the Rectangle Tool to create the shape.
Press Ctrl + T to enter transform mode. Right click on the shape and choose Skew. Click and move the pointer across shape.
After you skewed the shape, duplicate it by simply pressing Ctrl + J. That will create a copy of the shape. Select the shape and press Ctrl + T. Choose Flip Horizontal from the menu.
Now position the slanted shapes over the triangle. Press Ctrl + T and rotate the shape by -60 degrees. Use the Info palette (F8) to view the coordinates.
Rotate and reposition the other shape as well. Place both the shapes underneath the triangle layer.
Open up the paper texture. Drag and drop the texture in to the design. Place it at very bottom in the layer stack.
Flip the texture first vertically then horizontally.
Take off the color from the texture. The simple shortcut is Ctrl + Shift + U. You can achieve the same result by using the Hue/Saturation dialog box and reducing the saturation to -100.
Increase the lightness of the texture using the Curves dialog box (Ctrl + M). Adjust the black point, white point and mid tones of the texture.
Open up the half tone textures in Illustrator. Copy the texture you see here!
Head back to Photoshop. Press Ctrl + V to paste the texture. Place it below the shape layers and above the texture layer. Resize it accordingly.
There is a part of the texture I want to hide. Use the layer mask to do this. Add layer mask to the texture, select the part using Lasso Tool. Click on the layer mask and fill the selection with black.
Now bring in the paint texture (Watercolors pack, 030.jpg). Place it above the halftone pattern. Resize the texture.
Hide unwanted areas using a mask.
Add and Curves adjustment layer to the water color texture. At the bottom of the Layers palette you can see a small black and white circle. Click on it and select Curves. This will create an adjustment layer of curves just above the texture. Adjustment layers lets you work in a non destructive manner. You can adjust them, disable them or just remove them at any time. After you edited the curve, there is a tiny button on the adjustments panel at the bottom. Click it to clip the adjustment layer to the texture below.
The texture has a white background and we need to remove it somehow. So at this point we can take advantage of the Photoshop’s advanced blending feature. To access it double click on the layer. Layer Styles dialog box will pop up. In the Blending Options category you can locate the “Blend if” section at the bottom. This is where everything is going to happen. All you need to do is press down “Alt” key, click on the little white handle and move your pointer across the little gradient ramp towards your left. You can see the result in the background. When you feel it is looking good click OK
I drew a line using the Line Tool. Then Rotated it by -60 degrees to match the other elements of the design.
Open up the paint splatter (drips and spray paint pack, 2.png).
Drag it into the composition. Place it above the water color texture
We are going to bring several images into our composition procedurally. Let’s start with the main model stock image. She is photographed against a black background. Same time her outfit and cap are also black. So instead of using other selection tools I used the Pen Tool to draw selection around her. You can just leave off those fine strands of hair. It won’t have much effect in this case.
When finished drawing path turn it into a selection. You can simply hit Ctrl + Enter to do this. Or just right click on the path and choose Make Selection.
Now hit Ctrl + J (Layer via copy) to create a new layer of the isolated model. Right click on the layer and choose Convert to Smart Object. Smart objects are really smart in many ways. You can apply smart filters to them which are completely editable reversible. You can scale them up and down without losing the actual pixel information of the image.
Bring the model into the composition. Resize it and place above all the shape layers.
Add curves adjustment layer. Adjust the mid tones slightly.
I want to hide parts of the image that falling outside the main shape layers. We can use the vector paths from the shape layers vector mask to load selection. Hold “Ctrl” key and click on the Vector Mask thumbnail. that will simply load the selection.
While the selection is active, click back on the model layer and click on the Add Layer Mask button.
The mask we just applied has blocked anything that is outside of the triangle including the face. So we need to get it back. Take the Lasso Tool and roughly select the region we need to uncover.
When you selected, click on the Layer Mask thumbnail and fill the selection with white of #ffffff.
We still have some areas needed to be uncovered. Load selection from the slanted shapes just we did earlier. You can combine selections by holding “Shift” key along with “Ctrl” when loading a second selection.
We have the perfect selection that we can use to reveal the blocked area. Click on the model’s Layer Mask and fill the selection with white.
And here is the result of it! So we pretty much finished with this lady!
We are going to add another model to the comp. Select her using the Pen Tool.
Press Ctrl + J to create a new layer from the selected area. Convert it into a smart object
Drag and drop it into the main comp.
Flip the image horizontally. Press Ctrl + T, right click and choose the flip option.
Send her back to the main model. Scale down it.
We need to perform some color operations to match the main model. First add a Curves adjustment layer, adjust the curve to pump up the contrast and also to brighten up the mid tones. Clip the layer to the model layer.
Add Vibrance adjustment layer. Adjust the values using the sliders to get the tone and mood right.
We need the model to fit inside the triangle. Follow the same procedure as we did with the other model. Load selection from the triangle’s vector path.
Add Layer Mask using the selection.
Unhide the head part of the model.
Create a new layer just above the model layer. Paint shadow using a round soft brush
Define a new gradient in using the gradient palette. Make one side of the gradient transparent.
Load selection from the triangle in the middle.
Before you apply the gradient, create a new layer above both the model layers. Take the Gradient Tool and draw from the left corner to downwards at an angle.
Change the Layer Blending mode to Lighten. Hide if you have any hard edges using a soft brush.
I created another layer and this time I applied gradient on the bottom part of the selection.
Open the black raven image with Photoshop. We need to cut out the bird. There are a couple of ways to achieve this. We will employ the Color Range command to do this since we have a plain background. You can find the Color Range command under Select > Color Range. Hover your mouse over the thumbnail box and pick the white color using the color picker.
Press Ok. Now we have all the white are is selected, press Ctrl + Shift + I to invert the selection.
We will fine tune the selection using the Refine Edge command. It is located under Select > Refine Edge (Ctrl + Alt + R). Refine Edges is a great feature to work with selections. We can modify the selections in many different ways. We can contract or expand, apply feather and smooth the selection and so on. Adjust the sliders to fine tune the selection. When it’s good press OK.
Press Ctrl + J to separate the bird into a new layer. Now we can drag this into the main composition! But first convert it into a Smart Object.
Finally bring it into the composition. Adjust the rotation and size. Place it above all other layers.
Adjust the brightness of the bird by applying a Curves adjustment layer.
Open up the splatter from the pack you downloaded (drips and spray paint, 1.png). Place it below the shape layers. Then scale it down.
Here we have some unwanted data. Block them using a Layer Mask.
Add a sphere from the patterned spheres pack.
Create the shapes using the Rectangle Tool.
Open up the brush stroke image (Design Resources Pack, 028.png). Convert the image mode from Index to RGB (Image > Mode > RGB). Now drag it into the composition. Flip the brush stroke vertically and then horizontally.
Apply Color Overlay using the Layer Style dialog box. There are different ways to achieve the same result. You can use the Hue/Saturation command to take off the lighting from the image. Or lock down the transparent pixels of the layer and fill the layer with a color. It’s really a matter of choice at a given time. You can see me using some of those methods in this tutorial.
Open up the feather stock image. Select the white background using the Color Range command.
Below is the job color range command did for us. Not perfect but we can use it. Invert the selection and press Ctrl + J to separate the feather.
Now take off the lightness from it by using the Hue/Saturation command. Set the lightness value to -100 and it will creates the silhouette of our feather.
You can still see some holes i.e., transparent areas in the feather. Select the using the Lasso Tool. Fill the area with black.
Bring the feather into the main file. Place it below the model layers.
Here I am going to create something from scratch in Photoshop. To do it, create a new document. Take the Pen Tool, Select the Paths mode on the options bar. Draw a curvy shape. Hit Ctrl + Enter to convert it into a selection. Fill the selection with a solid color. You may like to create a shape layer instead of creating a path and turning it into a selection. Anyway, get the shape created.
We are going to rotate this shape several times. To do that, duplicate the layer and press Ctrl + T, set the registration point to the bottom left corner and rotate it. Press enter to confirm the transformation.
Duplicate the second layer and go to Edit > Transform > Again. This will rotate the current layer with the previous transformation settings.
Repeat the process until you have something like this.
Once you done, select all the layers and press Ctrl + E to merge down all the layers together.
Now convert it into a smart object.
Finally make the way into Photoshop.
Apply Color Overlay using the Layer Styles box.
Add a balloon from the pack.
Now switch back to Illustrator. Well don’t get turned off! Photoshop and Illustrator are really meant to work together. You can get more productive incorporating Illustrator into your design flow. We can use Illustrator to produce custom graphic elements like line drawings, shapes, blends and many different vector elements for our designs. Then we can combine them with our Photoshop compositions. It doesn’t take much time once get used to it.
Here we are trying to create a cloud using the Illustrator’s Ellipse Tool. Draw some ovals and circles. Select them all and combine them using the Pathfinder palette (Window > Pathfinder)
Add swirls using the Swirl Tool. Click anywhere on the document. This will present a dialog box. Enter the below values. Finally draw some swirls. Align the swirls to the outline we created in the previous step. Rotate, resize according to the need. But make the edges meet perfectly with the outline shape.
Select the Scissors Tool and cut out the overlapping parts. Locate spot and click to cut it out. Then select the cut part and hit Delete.
Do the same with remaining pieces.
Fill the remaining gaps.
Select the outline shape and copy it (Ctrl + C). Press Ctrl + F (Paste Front). Select the Gradient Mesh Tool and click inside the cloud shape. This will add mesh lines.
Select the mesh points using the Mesh Tool and select a color from the color palette. After adding color send the shape backward ( Ctrl + Shift + [ )
Select all the shapes and copy them. Head back to Photoshop and paste it as a vector smart object.
Add dripping paint (drips and spray paint, 33.png)
Place it beneath the triangle shape layer.
Apply color overlay.
Switch back to Illustrator for one last time. Create the pattern in the following image. Use the Rectangle Tool to create the shape.
Select all the boxes and skew them using the Transform palette. (Window > Transform)
Copy and paste the shape in the main file.
Rotate the pattern by -60 degrees.
Place it beneath the base shapes. Resize it.
Add layer mask to the pattern. Set the foreground color to black. Load the grunge brushes set into the brushes palette. Select a grunge brush and place it over the pattern, and click to apply the brush. Make sure you apply the brush in the Layer Mask.
Open the Auto shapes palette. And choose the pattern below. Draw the pattern.
Make a circular selection above the pattern. Use the selection to add Layer Mask.
Here I applied a brush stroke using a grunge brush (Download link provided in resources).
Place this layer Just above the shape layer. Press Ctrl + Alt + G to clip it to the shape layer.
Add some nice highlights using a round soft brush. Then set the blending mode to Screen.
Let’s create a light streak using the Brush Tool. Create a new layer. Click on the edge of the canvas.
Press Ctrl + T and stretch it vertically.
Lock the transparent pixels of the layer. Pick a nice foreground color and press Alt + Backspace to fill the color.
Rotate it by -60 degrees.
Place it above all layers. Change the blend mode to Screen.
Now open up the planet stock image. Drag it into the main file. Press Ctrl + T. And enter the values in the Options bar. What we are trying to achieve is to use the glow of the planet and combine it with the model below.
Adjust lighting using the Curves command.
Slightly reduce the saturation.
And now hide all those hard edges of the image using Layer Mask.
Change the blend mode to Screen.
If still there are any hard edges just hide the using a soft round brush by painting inside the mask.
Add a new Curves adjustment layer at the very top in the layers palette. Adjust the mid tone values slightly.
And finally sharpen up the image. But we can’t apply sharpness filter to all layers at once. We will use the Apply Image command to achieve this. First create a new layer above all layers in the layers palette. Go to Image > Apply Image. Make sure the “Merged” option is selected in the dialog box. Press OK. This creates merged copy of the composition in our new layer.
Now we can apply unsharp mask filter to this layer. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. Enter the value and press OK. And there is the final image.
Preview of Final Results