advanced photoshop

Blending mixed media

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Tips & Tutorials, by Adam Smith

Use Photoshop brushes, drawn elements and other tools to build an inspired editorial illustration

Over the next few steps, you’ll learn how to use different techniques to build this inspired digital collage using hand-made textures, the Lasso tool, brushes, gradients and masks.

Once the main elements have been created and set in place it’s only a matter of finishing the illustrations with typography and distressing the image slightly.

Photoshop enables us to build up colours and effects that would be near impossible to create rapidly with real-world media.

Transform the image

Draw a Path around the model using the Pen Path tool (P), then make this a selection (Cmd/Ctrl+Enter) and enhance highlights and shadows using a Curves layer (M). Duplicate the image twice (Cmd/Ctrl+J), change the layer mode to Multiply for the second copy, select the two bottom layers and merge them (Cmd/Ctrl+E). Next create a layer mask and on the first remaining layer fill the mask with a black Foreground colour to hide the image, then use a soft brush set to white (with an Opacity of around 40%) to reveal the darker skin beneath it.

Blending mixed media

Enhance colours

Select the top portrait image and create a new layer beneath it. Fill this with a gradient (G) and set it to Soft Light. Create a new layer beneath this (Ctrl-click the New Layer icon) and fill it with another gradient but reduce its Opacity to around 85%. Use the Eraser tool (E) to remove parts covering the face.

Blending mixed media

Add in new elements

On a new canvas, we’ll create a circle with the Ellipse tool (U+Shift-drag to constrain the circle) without a Stroke. Pick a tone, Ctrl/right-click and select Rasterize, then place a texture on top of the circle and create a clipping mask with the texture layer (Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+G). Set this layer to the Divide, bring down the Opacity to around 50% and then merge (Cmd/Ctrl+E). Create a copy of this and resize it accordingly. You can also add a circle filled with a pattern using the same method.

Blending mixed media

Import your elements

Now it’s time to bring the new elements into the original illustration. Drag them with the Selection tool (V) in the original document and place the elements behind the portrait layers. Experimenting is key to find balance, so keep adding further elements to further refine the distribution and don’t hesitate to move the elements around if needed. We’ll also add a new circle on another layer filled with an off-white colour behind the portrait.

Blending mixed media

Create make-up

On a layer above the portrait, we’ll use brushes from the Brush Preset palettes (B) made from scanned textures. Paint around the eyes to create some original make-up then softly erase the parts that aren’t needed with the Eraser tool at around 40%. Paint the lips in red on a new layer and set this to Linear Burn. We’ll also tone down the left and right side of the lips by softly removing the colour with the Eraser tool set at around 30%.

Blending mixed media

Apply coloured shapes.

On a new layer, we’ll roughly create different-sized blobs by hand with the Lasso tool. You can click on the Add icon to avoid holding Shift while making a few of them. We use the Gradient tool to fill them with different gradients of our choice. Two more layers can be added in this way, each time deselecting the previous selection with different-sized blobs that will be placed and resized (Edit>Transform/Scale) accordingly until we’re happy with the composition.

Blending mixed media

Layer on more make-up

You can draw additional elements using different brushes on a layer. Create different layers with a small brush (in this case we need to place them differently), then add swirling and black lines next to the eye. Next, draw two circles for the cheeks and a brushstroke next to the head set to Darken. We also add a few painted strokes with a brush (with varying opacity) to bring some blue make-up around the eyes.

Blending mixed media

Use brushstrokes

On a new layer, we’ll add a few coloured brushstrokes to bring more colours to the illustration. Pick different brushes, vary the size via the Brush Preset palette and choose vivid tones from the Color palette. A bit of trial and error is required, so it’s best to play around and see if something worth keeping appears.

Create blobs of vivid colour with the Lasso tool and fill these selections with a gradient. Layer on strokes over the model’s eyes with a few brushes to create the make-up and then add a few more hand-made doodles. Paint random brushstrokes with different-sized brushes. We’re not trying to be perfect here, but we need to find an interesting look for the illustration.

Blending mixed media

Bring in texture

Open the scanned watercolour texture, then drag and drop it on top of all the layers. Create a layer mask for the texture by clicking the icon at the bottom of the layer palette and then set this texture layer to Linear Burn. With a brush from the Brush Preset palette, we can mask select areas while varying its size and Opacity (between 80% and 30%). We’ll add splatters by selecting another brush and applying blues and oranges.

Blending mixed media

Include more media

We’ll now add other scanned elements into the illustration, such as a wing and plant shape. Select the shape of the wing, create a Gradient Fill set to Hard Light and then merge these layers. Next, select the shape of the plant, place it on top of a black-and-white scanned texture, Ctrl/right-click the layer mask and choose Apply Layer Mask.

Blending mixed media

Place the media

Add in the newly created elements to the illustration, then move them around to find places they’ll fit best. By rotating, reducing and using different blending modes such as Multiply, Lighten and Luminosity, we’ll experiment further and find the most interesting combinations. You can place these new additions behind already existing elements if needed. This is an intuitive process, so remain flexible and be careful not to overwhelm the result.

Blending mixed media

Inject small details

Create a line with the Line tool (U) and input a Weight of 2 pixels. Select a gradient then Ctrl/right-click and select Rasterize. We can create a small circle using the Ellipse tool and constrain it with Shift. Select a red Fill, but don’t add a stroke in the Ellipse tool palette, then Ctrl/right-click and rasterise this layer. Create three circles using the same method and fill them with a grey gradient. Once rasterised, we can reduce the Opacity to around 65%.

Blending mixed media