advanced photoshop

How I Made: Numbers Man

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Tips & Tutorials, by Rebecca Greig

Integrate 3D assets with intuitive Photoshop colour adjustment options to create depth-of-field effects

How I Made: Numbers ManHaving seen many science, physics and maths-related videos, Tariq Yousef believes that you can not perceive “numbers as [solely] a study of algorithms”, but also as art elements that can be visually appealing and meaningful. He approached this design topic with a perception of “light versus dark”, and ideas that would only be possible to realise in 3D space.

He continues: “Had there not been 3D software, Numbers Man wouldn’t be floating in space. Full XYZ controls made it possible to experiment with varied options, [as I applied] adjustments and random effects, bringing flat objects into this 3D world.”

Yousef applied many renders to achieve varied samples during his experimentation, which were then explored further in Photoshop through its layer options and other toolsets. Lighting effects, depth of field and colour correction all took place extensively. “Photoshop made all the difference – combining 3D renders, transferring 3D files, and [getting] these concepts to work by manipulating, texturing and [working up] exposure using the relevant tools,” he explains.

The Brush tool also made digital application quick and easy, as Yousef created a custom example from 3D assets, which he set to Scattering in the Brushes panel. This was applied carefully in muted tones – such as grey, white and black – on separate layers to enhance the sense of perspective.

Grouped assets

How I Made: Numbers ManI worked with a rough idea of what effect I intended to apply, experimenting with renders and importing these into Photoshop. I made duplicates and scattered the digits then tweaked various light and shadow, using Curves. By gathering them into group layers, I could reuse these and make any necessary adjustments easily.


The techniques applied in Photoshop were dependent on the arrangements I made trying to create How I Made: Numbers Mandepth. The positioning, scaling, shading and distance were all treated attentively. The Dodge tool made a huge difference to manual exposure. Each group layer played its part in achieving the illusion of this floating effect.

Colour adjustments

How I Made: Numbers ManThe background photo was my main reference when altering the Color Balance layer. I desaturated the overall colour by 50% then created a bluish cold look by melding all the image layers – setting the blend mode to Multiply. I also made considerable changes with a Levels adjustment layer to achieve a more 3D look.