I've had a lot of requests to write a tutorial on how I backlit the skunk in my Pixie Crossing entry. I thought I'd create something from scratch that's not quite as complicated and also incorporates adding colour.We'll be using these two images:
To create this:
[Edited by User on 6/22/2012 10:42:01 PM]
STEP 1: SELECT THE SKUNKOpen the image in Photoshop and using the 'Quick Selection' tool select the main part of the skunk.
If you have a version of Photohop that has the 'refine edge' feature all the better. I'm using CS5. Go to select/refine edge and play with all the settings until you get the best selection of his fur.
Play with changing the background to black, red, etc. by clicking the arrow to the right of thumbnail of your image in the 'view' section (you can click on the image below to see a larger version).
NOTE: If you don't have a version of Photoshop with the 'refine edge' feature just mask the skunk as best you can. The fur method in this tutorial can still be used, it'll just take a little longer![Edited by User on 6/21/2012 10:22:06 PM]
STEP 2: PREPARE THE BACKGROUND AND DRAG THE SKUNKNow open the background image. I've added a Depth Of Field blur to it so that the fur will 'pop'. Now drag your skunk selection onto your background.
[Edited by User on 6/21/2012 11:38:52 PM]
STEP 3: ADDING MORE TO THE STORYIt's a bit boring! So I decided to add a car for drama, not to mention some potentially very bad smells. To do this I...- used a flare brush (plenty available on the web for free. I used this one by LadyVictoire on DeviantArt) to create the headlights.NOTE TO BOOFHEAD: No kittens were harmed during the use of this flare :)- added some light on the road by painting with white, adding gaussian blur, set to overlay and reduced the opacity.- painted some black on a layer underneath to show just a hint of a car.Adding all these steps isn't necessary for this tutorial. You could simply add two white circles with a large soft brush to give the impression of an approaching car, that will totally work too. So here's where we are now:
[Edited by User on 6/22/2012 12:51:02 AM]
STEP 4: INITIAL LIGHTINGTo get the basic contrast of dark and light, duplicate your skunk layer twice and then hide the original layer (we'll save that as a backup). Call the top duplicated layer 'skunk dark' and the one under it 'skunk light'. Now go to your 'skunk dark' layer and turn the brightness / levels way down. On the 'skunk light' layer turn it way up. Like this:
Now with both layers turned on (again, make sure the 'skunk dark' layer is on top) use a soft eraser set at 100% opacity and erase away the 'skunk dark' layer around the edges where the light would hit the skunk. By doing this you'll reveal the 'skunk light' layer underneath. Reduce the opacity of your brush and erase away a bit more to make the transition more gradual. You should end up with something like this:
He's still a bit bright on the side facing us, so add a new layer above your 'skunk dark' layer and paint on him with black where he'd be darkest on the front, then reduce the opacity of that layer down to about 15%. Like this:
[Edited by User on 6/22/2012 1:03:42 AM]
STEP 5: FUR!Here's where the fun (and time consuming part) happens. Hide the 'skunk dark' layer as well as the dark layer you painted over top. We're going to be working now only with the 'skunk light' layer. Select the 'smudge' tool and set it to 3 pixels and 100% opacity. On the 'skunk light' layer start to pull / drag strands of the fur out from his tail, like I've done here:
Once you've done that reduce the smudge brush size to 2 pixels and the opacity to 85% or 90% and go over what you've just done, again pulling / dragging out the pixels, but with this smaller, lower opacity brush it will give the ends a softer feel, like I've done here on the right side of his tail:
Ok, this is where I go get a coffee while you do this all the way around the skunk. Changing the pixel size and opacity while you work, thicker and darker to start, then soften the ends. Long strands on the tail, short around the rest. Remember to make the fur go in the same direction as it is on the original skunk. At this point you can also clean up the masking around his feet. Knock yourself out![Edited by User on 6/21/2012 10:37:10 PM]
STEP 6: CLIPPING MASKSNow that you've done all that great fur work (!!!) on the 'skunk light' layer you can turn on the other two darker layers on top and see how it all looks. There's a bit too much black around the left side of his tail so let's get rid of that using a clipping mask. With the 'skunk light' layer selected go to layer/new layer and click the box next to 'use previous layer to create clipping mask'.
You'll see a new layer appear above your 'skunk light' layer:
Anything you apply to this new clipped layer will only effect where there are pixels in the layer beneath it. So you can colour and not have to worry about staying in the lines. Now using the 'colour sampler' tool choose a light orange that's very close to the sun from your background. With a soft brush paint over the outside edges of his tail on the clipping mask layer. See how it only covers the fur? Isn't that awesome?!?! I LOVE clipping masks!
[Edited by User on 6/21/2012 11:51:25 PM]
STEP 7: MORE FUR!Next we're going to do some fur work on the 'skunk dark' layer. So far we've got a white rim of fur but it's lacking depth. Adding some darker fur over the white will fix that. Go back to your smudge tool and set it to 2 pixels and about 85% opacity. Start pulling some of the darker fur from the ''skunk dark' layer out over the lighter fur that's on the layer underneath. This is all about experimenting, trial and error, and changing up your smudge tool settings. Do this all around your skunk, like this:
Zoom in really tight to do this. Go back and forth between your 'skunk dark' and 'skunk light' layers, pulling out the fur until you've got it looking the way you want it. Give him some whiskers using the same method.[Edited by User on 6/22/2012 1:10:31 AM]
STEP 8: GROUPING YOUR LAYERSGoing a bit off topic here, grouping your layers within your layers palette will help you stay organized when you're working with an image with tons of layers. To do that, with your top skunk layer selected, click on the file folder icon I've circled in the first panel below. You'll see a new Group layer appear above your skunk layers. You can now select all your skunk layers and drag them up under the Group layer (panel 2 below).You can now collapse this group by clicking on the arrow to the left of the Group heading. I did the same for the car layers and renamed the Group heading layers to keep things organized (panel 3 below).
Click on the arrow next to the group heading again and the layers within that group will re-appear.Once all your skunk layers are in a group you can collapse that layer and duplicate the whole group by doing a layer/duplicate group. On this duplicate layer you can now merge it into one single layer by doing a layer/merge groups. Now hide your original (collapsed) skunk group. By doing this you can work on your merged skunk but still keep your separated layers as a backup.Your layers palette will now look like this:
[Edited by User on 6/21/2012 11:20:40 PM]
STEP 9: ADDING COLOURWe're getting there but there are lots of colours in the sky and on the ground that would be reflected on the skunk.We're going to do the same kind of thing we did above with the 'skunk dark' and 'skunk light' layers, but this time we're working with colour.Duplicate your new 'skunk copy' merged layer twice. Call one 'orange' and the other 'green'. Make sure the orange layer is on top and hide the original layer (again, as a backup). Now select the 'orange' layer and turn it to a colour close to the orange in the sky. Then turn the 'green' layer to a green similar to that in the road. Like this:
Now using the same method as above, erase away the top (orange) layer on the bottom part of the skunk, revealing the green layer underneath. Use a soft eraser set at 100% opacity for his feet and directly under his belly, then reduce the opacity as you go up towards his middle so the two colours blend. I also reduced the saturation after I'd done this as it was a bit too much colour. Merge your 'orange' and 'green' layers and you'll end up with something like this:
[Edited by User on 6/22/2012 12:17:20 AM]
STEP 10: ADDING THE SHADOWThere are a couple of ways to add a shadow. One is to just paint it in. What we're going to do though is take your coloured, merged skunk layer and duplicate it. Turn this duplicated layer black and do an edit/transform/flip vertical, then position it under the skunk.
Because the light is behind him and low, the shadow will be very long, so take this shadow layer and using edit/free transform (or ctrl/t keyboard shortcut) stretch it vertically so it's reeeeeeeeally long. Now place that layer under your skunk layer. It also needs to be shifted a bit to the left to match the angle of the light behind him, use the edit/transform/skew function to do that.
Don't worry that it doesn't quite meet the skunk's feet, you can now paint that part in. Once you've got it positioned right and painted to meet his feet, reduce the opacity to about 80% and add some gaussian blur. Shadows fade as they move further away from the subject, so using a soft eraser set at about 10% opacity erase away the part at the bottom of the frame so it looks likes this:
[Edited by User on 6/22/2012 1:07:25 AM]
STEP 11: TWEAKINGAt this point I usually sit back and see what needs tweaking. His feet need to be darkened so do that using the 'burn' tool. I think he also needs some more fur work so go around again with the smudge tool, playing with different opacities and pixel sizes. I've added some more tufts behind the tail. To do this I added a new layer behind the skunk layer and painted in some white fur (brush size about 3 pixels) then went over them with the smudge tool:
[Edited by User on 6/22/2012 1:15:09 AM]
STEP 12: ADDING COLOURWe're almost done. He just needs a bit more colour. Merge your skunk layers and with that merged layer selected add another clipping mask layer on top. Paint around the outside of the skunk using colours selected from the sky and ground. I've also shown it here with a black background so you can better see what I'm talking about.
Now set that clipping mask layer mode to 'overlay' and reduce the opacity to about 40%. [Edited by User on 6/21/2012 11:32:51 PM]
STEP 13: FINISHING TOUCHESWe're pretty much done! This is where I sit back again and examine it, zoom in, tweak the fur, add some dodge and burn. You could also add a gradient layer on top. Use the orange from the sky and the green from the road, set that layer mode to "overlay" and bring the opacity way down... but this is optional.Another great trick is to flip your entire image horizontally (image/image rotation/flip canvas horizontal). After staring at your work for hours on end it helps to view it with new eyes. Flipping it will allow you to do that. And we're done! You can click and zoom on this final image to see details.
At least I think we're done. Probably. Maybe not. I'm an obsessive tweaker, the shadow could be longer, maybe some more tufts.... it's a sickness :PI really hope this tutorial helps. Please feel free to PM me if you have any questions![Edited by User on 6/22/2012 10:54:27 PM]
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