advanced photoshop

Photoshop Tutorial: Advanced lighting effects part 1

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Tips & Tutorials, by Anna-lisa Saywell

How to create sci-fi inspired imagery using Photoshop and 3D assets, generating realism through pro colour and light treatment, part 2 goes up tomorrow!

Advanced lighting techniques

Click here to download the stock images for this tutorial (select ‘Advanced Lighting’ from the list)

Step 1

Open the iStockphoto model image ‘10728287’. Carefully cutout the girl from the background using the Pen tool (P). Create a selection (Cmd/Ctrl+Enter) and hit the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. It’s best to use masks for this stage as this way we can always hide/reveal any part of our image.

Step 2

Create a new document (235 x 302mm) with a dark brown (‘#040303’) background. Create a new layer, filling with a lighter brown (‘#3e2c1b’). Add a mask to the new layer and apply a Radial Gradient (G) to create spotlights. Now go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise and apply 2% to our gradient to avoid banding. Paste the model into a new layer.

Step 3


Open the 3D render ‘space_suit.tif’, and create a selection – Cmd/Ctrl-clicking on the alpha thumbnail in the Channels palette. Copy and paste it into the Layers palette. Make several copies (Cmd/Ctrl+J), hiding them for now. Rotate and place one behind the model. Make a selection of the helmet layer then apply a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer setting the Saturation to -40.

Step 4

Use copies of the render stock and using Free Transform (Cmd/Ctrl+T), rotate it by 177 degrees. Place it along the side of the neck. Make a selection of the layer and create two adjustment layers – Hue/Saturation with Saturation set to -46, and Curves with Output at 105 and Input at 155. Paint the mask so that the object gets darker closer to the face to add depth.

Step 5

Use the ‘space_suit.tif’ again – this time we’ll keep it in the original position and place it on the head. Add a mask to this layer, painting out the right side of the crown so it sits around the head. Add a Curves layer beneath with Output set to 102 and Input to166. Add a mask and use a soft brush to paint shadow over the head.

Step 6

Create a new layer with a Multiply blending mode, which will be used to add shadows to our model. Use a medium soft brush (151px, Hardness 25%) to paint shadows very close to the edges around the crown. Repeat the same process for the chin. Copy part of the crown and paste it around the cheek, setting Opacity to 10%; this creates a metallic reflection effect on the skin.

Step 7

Apply a Black & White adjustment layer, set it to the Blue channel and blend to Luminosity; this will affect only lights. Add a mask and paint around the right side of the renders. We want to imitate a light direction similar to our stock photo. Repeat the step with a second layer, but change the Opacity to 45%, adding more shading to the render.

Step 8

Add another Black & White adjustment layer, this time set to High Contrast on the Blue channel, Opacity at 20%; leave blending on Normal. Add another Black & White adjustment layer, set it to the Red channel and use a soft round brush, painting a dark mask around the face area to bring back the colour to the face and parts of the render.

Step 9

Add a Gradient Map set to Velvet (loc: 0%, #6b119e), Pink (loc: 37%, #cf2950), and Yellow (loc: 93%, #ffc15f). Add a circular gradient to its mask, set the blending to Lighten at 15% Opacity. Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and set Shadows to -26, 0, +18, Midtones to -24, +10, 0. Soften the mask around the edges of the image.

Step 10

Open the first hologram (‘earth.tif’), copy and paste to the project and add an Outer Glow layer style with a light pink (‘#ff5086’); set this to Screen at 58%. Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment with a clipping mask (Opt/Alt-click between the layers) with Hue at +147, Saturation at +84, and Lightness at -35. Repeat the same process for ‘moon.tif’ and ‘man.tif’ to add more holograms.

Step 11

Create a new layer, set to Light Color blend mode, and use a medium-sized soft brush in bright pink (‘#kolor’). Add glows on the intersections of the hologram lines. Add a new layer, set blending to Color Dodge, and paint pink shades on renders; focus on places with high specular to give the metal a pink shine.

Step 12

Using a small hard-edged brush at 20% Opacity, colour trace pink edges on the render, giving the impression of pink light bouncing off the metallic parts. Remember that the pink hologram will cast glow on edges around itself – think in 3D. Use a harder smaller brush to add subtle light beams that project the hologram image.