advanced photoshop

Quick trick: Add mass and volume in your digital painting

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Tips & Tutorials, by Adam Smith

Learn to take a flat shape and quickly give it weight and physics

Here we will teach you how to take an otherwise flat shape or texture and quickly turn it into a fully 3D-looking object.

The easiest way to achieve this is to fully paint the object, adding texture and brushstrokes while keeping its local colour (in this case grey) very uniform.

We’ll start with our big shape, painted flat-grey, and then lock the layer. This enables us to paint freely within a shape without having to worry about coming too close to its edges. Once our shape is painted and finished, we implement the very simple strategy of adding a shadow and bounce light to our form.

This puts the form into the space and helps ground it in the entire image. Once our shadow is in place, we’ll select some colour from the ground plane and paint it softly into the lower half of our shadow, so as to show the ground being reflected into the shadow. We’ll also do the same for the upper half, reflecting the sky colour. To finish, we’ll polish the piece until completion.

Define the shape

Here we have created an enormous rock by painting a flat shape and locking it with the Lock Layer button. Using reference, we paint this shape to look like a very big rock until it fits our liking. Lock the layer so you can paint close to the edges of the piece without ruining the background.

Multiply the shadow

Now it’s time to add a shadow. After creating a new layer, hover your cursor in between the new layer and previous layer and press the Opt/Alt key, which ties the two layers together. Anything you paint will now only show up on what’s painted on the layer below. We now set the layer to Multiply and begin to paint in a nice solid shadow.

Pull it all together

Using the same method as before, we create a new layer that only affects our Multiply layer (Opt/Alt-click between the layers). Within our shadow, we carefully begin adding in sky colour near the top of our rock (while remembering to stay close to our shadow colour) and ground colour near the bottom.

  • Wow! This is really amazing! I like this! I would love to try this so soon! Thanks for sharing!

  • Wow! This is really amazing! I like this! I would love to try this so soon! Thanks for sharing