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  #1  
Old 01-28-2009, 05:24 PM
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DoMiNo DoMiNo is offline
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Default DoMiNo's Photoshop Render Tutorial

Well guys, several of you have requested a Photoshop tutorial from me and I feel terrible that it has taken me this long to give it a go. I’ve been hesitant simply because (aside from the fact that there are people who know WAY more about this program than I do) I’ve always thought it would be too complicated to try and sort out my haphazard process and explain each step. So I apologize in advance if anything goes over your head; everyone has their own way of learning Photoshop and I’m simply trying to explain it in the best way I know how given my abilities. I will of course be happy to answer any questions or clarify any of the more confusing steps; I know this is very, very long-winded but I tried to go into as much detail as I could. Forgive me, I’ve never thought of myself as much of a teacher :) And all you PS whizzes out there, forgive my amateur process and knowledge of tools.

DISCLAIMER: This tutorial is intended for use with Photoshop CS3. Some features/menus may be different for earlier versions, but the tools are essentially the same.


Photoshop Tutorial – Basic rendering

It’s particularly hard for me to present a step-by-step process because I usually don’t follow a linear progression myself; I’ll start on one little thing and go on to something completely different without finishing it. Short attention span, I guess. For example, I usually focus on rendering one section of the car completely before moving on to another section, instead of doing things step by step uniformly across the entire sketch.

Step 1: Scanning your sketch and getting started

When you’re drawing something you want to render on the computer, try not to shade anything major as (in my process, at least) the sketch will remain partially visible in the final product. Adjust the brightness and contrast so that the lines are clearest/crispest and the drawing is not too dark. For output, I find that 300dpi is fine (that is standard print resolution); the resolution at which you scan your drawing will obviously affect its dimensions (in pixels) in Photoshop, which will in turn affect the size of the brushes you will need to use, so I will try to avoid referencing specifics in that regard.

Open your sketch in Photoshop. Looking in your “Layers” tab, you’ll notice that it is named “Background” and is locked. Double-click the layer to rename and unlock it (I’d call it “Sketch”; try to name all of your layers so that if you need to find something you can just look at the layer titles…trust me, it helps immensely). At the top of the layers tab there is a pull-down of blend modes; set the layer mode for the sketch to “Multiply.” This allows you to “see through” the sketch and work on layers below it. I also always make a copy of the sketch layer and set it to invisible, because I end up erasing spots on the sketch and like to have a backup in the event that I screw up.




IMPORTANT: The single most helpful thing to learn about rendering in Photoshop is the importance of layers. LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS! Every single step should be on its own layer (each reflection, etc.); this allows you to easily correct/redo any mistakes. You will flatten the layers at the end, but just know that you can never have too many layers, and as hard as it may be to keep track of them, it will be worth it in the end.

The second most helpful thing is the Path tool (aka “Pen tool,” it looks like the tip of a little fountain pen). ALWAYS use the path tool to make your selections. Try to not use magic wand tool if at all possible. This allows you much more control and will be much more exact, with cleaner curves and none of the pixilation that comes with magic wand or magnetic lasso selections. Play around with this tool to get comfortable with it (use Ctrl, Alt, and Shift buttons for alternate functions). Also try to save any path selections you may need to use in the future; for example, if you think you will be coming back to an area you just shaded to make some changes later on (or if you just want to be safe), just select the “Paths” tab (beside the “layers” tab) and rename the path in question from “Work Path” (i.e. the active path) to something else. This will ensure that you don’t lose that path and have to redo it…just makes things a little easier.

Step 2: Starting to Color

I learned this from HusseinDesign’s tutorial. Create a new layer (name it “Color”, or something) and place it under the sketch layer. As the sketch is set to “multiply”, you should now get what I mean by “seeing through it:” your sketch should overlay the red layer.



Now what I typically do at this point is create a basic background (usually in white). Using the path tool, trace around the shape of the sketch—make sure you select everything, and use care.



When you complete the path, right-click and choose “Make selection.” The line around your drawing should turn into “marching ants” ;) On the toolbar above, choose “Select” > “Inverse”; this reverses the selection, so instead of selecting what’s inside your path, you’ve selected what’s outside.



IN A NEW LAYER above the color layer, fill the selection (“Edit” > “Fill”) with a neutral color (i.e. white) as a background. Repeat this process (on the same layer) if you need to fill in spaces between the wheels under the car.



We have the beginnings of our render, time to start filling in some of the more obvious details.

Step 3: Filling in the basics

For now, hide the white layer so that you can see your sketch better. Using the path tool, make a selection that encompasses everything under the car (wheels, shadow, and any exposed parts of the underbody).



In a new layer (under the white layer, but over the “Color” layer; I called it “shadow”) fill this path (right-click > “Fill path”) with black. Notice that my selection was messy, but the background will hide it, so don’t worry about being too neat around the edges



Now hide the “shadow” layer so that the sketch is completely visible. On a new layer directly above your “Shadow,” use the path tool to select and fill both wheels with a light gray. In a separate layer, use the same color to select and fill in any silver/chrome trim pieces on the car with the same color (grilles, window surrounds, emblems, etc.).


New layer, above the wheel layer: select and fill in the holes in the wheels. Note: when you’re first starting PS rendering, try simple wheels, as rendering wheels can be time consuming and frustrating. Also, you can search for similarly-angled wheels on photo sites and import them into PS (AXIS’s works are a terrific example of how photographed wheels can fit nicely into a PS render). Make a new layer (also above the existing silver layers) and again use black (even if it is simply a place-holder) to select and fill in any deep holes/intakes/grilles on the body.



I have a process for creating the windows/windshield/interior area that requires three separate layers. Select the outline of the glass areas with the path tool (it may be helpful to rename and save this path). On one layer, fill in with a medium gray to act as our “interior”; for the next layer up, select the outlines of the far windows and backlight, and fill with white (this will help with the 3D effect and give the car more depth…bear with me). Finally, on the third layer (on top of the previous two), select the entire outline of the glass areas once more and fill with a dark navy blue. This will be our glass, but obviously we need to see through it, so on the “Layers” tab, select “opacity” and draw it back to about 85%. Now we can see “through” the interior



So here we have our foundations. Now it’s time to start the tough stuff. (CONTINUED BELOW...)
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Old 01-28-2009, 05:34 PM
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Step 4: Surfacing

This is the hardest step to get motivated for, because depending on how intricately-surfaced your design is, you will likely spend a lot of time just looking at it and contemplating how you will do it. I always use a relatively basic side reflection as my starting point. My renders are pretty simplistic in the sense that I don’t really use any “real” reflections (terrain, sky, etc.). Still, it’s helpful to look at actual photos of cars (especially in studio settings) to see how the reflections look on different body panels and at different angles.

Select the area you want to work in (in this case, along the side of the car); once you have the basic shape of your reflection drawn with the path tool, right click and choose “make selection”; this will allow you to work within those boundaries, no matter the layer.



The color of a car will never be “flat”, and it’s important to counter your light reflections with some dark spots as well. I select the base “color” layer, and then use the burn tool to darken this area before painting on a reflection; this just helps add a little more dimension in places. Note: when you’re using the burn and dodge tools, be aware that there are settings for “shadows, midtones, and highlights.” These options have a very big effect on the result of the burn tool, and depending on the color (with cool tones like blue it’s less of a problem) you’ll need to play around with these settings as well as the “exposure” which regulates the intensity of the burn or dodge. (I usually set exposure rather low, so I can use finer gradations).



Once you’re satisfied with your work on the base (“Color”) layer, retain the selection but open a new layer (just above the base layer) for your reflection. Using a large brush (set “hardness” to 0% and “opacity” to something low, like 15 or 20%), carefully paint in your reflection. The advantage of setting the opacity low is that it will allow you to make much subtler gradations by going over an area several times. Remember, you can always erase, as well.



Repeat this step for all surfaces. Like I said, it takes a while and chances are you will not always be satisfied with your work, so it’s extremely important that each reflection (i.e. each surface) have its OWN LAYER. Be mindful of convex/concave surfaces and the way light will hit them. My renders have pretty undefined light sources; you may want to be more accurate.

For reference, this is how my base “Color” layer looks after all of my shading.



And this is how it looks with the reflections overlaying the color.



Sorry if I had to simplify that particular step; feel free to let me know if it is unclear.



Step 5: Interior and Glass

Create a new layer above your “Glass” layer (the see-through layer). Using your path tool, draw out reflections over the glass areas.



Right-click > “Make selection”, then follow the same process you would use were you making a reflection on the body: use the burn tool on the glass layer and the paintbrush on its own layer. You can judge how bright you want the reflection, but remember that you can easily adjust the opacity and fill of each layer whenever you want to (i.e. to fade something that seems too bright) by drawing down opacity or fill on the “Layers” tab. Repeat process for side window.



Step 6: Detail work

Your car should really be coming together; by now it should look relatively 3D, and it’s time for the little details that will really make it pop.

Lines: (credit to Mr. Burns for turning me on to this method!) Using the path tool—on a NEW LAYER which should be above the sketch layer—draw out lines to accentuate certain surfaces, the way light would catch on a crease or the edge of a panel. With the path tool still selected, right-click and choose “stroke path”. There will be an option to “simulate pressure”, this is what allows you to make smoothly tapered lines. You will need to use a small brush at about 75-80% opacity, with hardness set low (I prefer maybe 25 or 30%); you can adjust the taper of the lines by selecting the brush properties, “shape dynamics,” and adjusting the “minimum diameter”. Play around with this to get the effect you like best; sometimes you’ll want thicker lines, other times you will want them very thin. It depends on the surface.



Silver/chrome surfaces: Remember, there are reflections on metal parts, too. Using a combination of the burn and dodge tools you can create a very easy metallic effect; you will need to be very careful in your selections. Chrome will have sharper reflections that will require selections with the path tool. Brushed metal will have softer reflections, which can be achieved simply by using the dodge and burn tools. You’re just trying to add a little bit of dimension and realism here; I typically don’t spend much time fussing with this step.



Lights: You’ve likely noticed that I tend to do LED/neon effect lights most often, so I’ll include that step in this tutorial. Create new layers for each type of light (i.e. headlights, tail lights, turn signals). Using the path tool, create the shape of the light you desire. For headlights, fill with white. For signals or rear lights, fill with a yellow or bright gold/orange. Then select “Layer” > “Layer Style” > “Outer Glow”. You can adjust the color of the glow, intensity of the glow, as well as the size/spread of the glow (too little and it won’t be noticeable, too much and the shape of the light will be too blurred). I typically prefer an ice blue color for the glow of the headlamps; for signals, an orange slightly darker than that of the fill color.

Using the eraser you can also create patterns in the lights (like the turn signal in the front intake on this render). Simply draw a line across it with the path tool, right-click > “Stroke path” using the eraser instead of the paintbrush (make sure it is a small, sharp eraser, only a few pixels wide with “hardness” and “opacity” set at 100% so it is very clear). Again, this is something fun to play around with, if not really necessary.



Mesh grilles: this is another little detail that adds realism and is very simple but not always necessary. I usually search photo sites like NetCarShow.com for hi-res pics of cars with Mesh grilles, which I copy and paste into a PS document. This particular example is taken from the Seat Bocanegra concept. I just copied the image, opened it in PS, clipped the mesh portion I wanted, and stuck it in my render. Pretty easy!



Now with these details in place, our car is looking a little more realistic. In fact, it’s just about finished. But there are a couple of little things you can do if you want to make it really polished.

Simply using the path tool I created some bars across the grille and shaded them a bit with the burn tool. Then I added a Silvia emblem (found it online) with a very slight shadow effect. Beveled “Nissan” text (“Layer” > “Layer Style” > “Bevel and Emboss”) was added to the front bumper as well as to the emblem/exit vent on the front quarter panel. And to set off the wheels I made a new layer, used the path tool to make crescent-shaped reflection above and below the wheels, then filled them with a low-flow brush (in white or light gray paint). Then I used the path tool and a small, sharp eraser to make a very basic “tread pattern.”



Finally, there are the dots. Another optional addition, and another that Mr. Burns suggested (thanks!). These are simply glints of light that impart a little more of a vibrant, lifelike appearance to the entire render. Just use a soft brush (“hardness” set to 0%) and set opacity fairly low. Dab a few times at spots where the light catches points or surface/panel intersections or simply where you feel there would be a particularly bright reflection (hard to explain, but you get the drift). It’s really easy to go overboard with these…I find I use them much more sparingly now, but when utilized appropriately the effect is terrific.



So technically, aside from the wheels (which I will get to in my next post), we’re finished! For my contest entry I simply duplicated the Background layer and filled it with gray, then went over it a bit with the burn and dodge tools for the effect you see below. Added some text and a logo and voila! The car is rendered!


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Old 01-28-2009, 05:46 PM
kid kid is offline
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Do you use a tablet at all? (Wacom)
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Old 01-28-2009, 06:04 PM
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Do you use a tablet at all? (Wacom)
I don't, though I'd like to. I've just never been serious enough to invest in one. So I just make do with a mouse and a steady hand While I hear there's a learning curve, the tablet would allow a much greater degree of control and fluidity, and with pressure sensitivity it would be easier to modulate the flow/density of your brush strokes. Maybe someday.
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Old 01-28-2009, 06:08 PM
Rob Rob is offline
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Brillaint - hats off to you. I can tell you've put a lot of time into it, and the clear, step-by-step approach is brilliant. Thanks so much - this is gonna be really helpful to everyone on CSS. :thumbsup:
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Old 01-28-2009, 06:38 PM
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DoMiNo DoMiNo is offline
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Originally Posted by Cosworth View Post
Brillaint - hats off to you. I can tell you've put a lot of time into it, and the clear, step-by-step approach is brilliant. Thanks so much - this is gonna be really helpful to everyone on CSS. :thumbsup:
Thank you, Cos :) I really hope it helps. I know that some of the steps might be a little confusing so I may fine-tune it if people have trouble. So it's kind of a work in progress, as it's the first time I've tried a tutorial.
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Old 01-28-2009, 07:00 PM
Steve Neill Steve Neill is offline
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What's the estimated time it takes for you to complete a drawing DoM?
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Old 01-28-2009, 07:50 PM
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Wow. DoM, you're just a !@#$ing Da Vinci. Seriously, this is wow.... i'm thinking of moving into the Photoshop realm myself, but I didn't have a tutorial as step-by-step as this one. You've made me a believer..... I have CS3 but i've never been good at shopping my sketches.

Can we sticky this?
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Old 01-28-2009, 07:52 PM
Rob Rob is offline
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Wow. DoM, you're just a !@#$ing Da Vinci.
LOL, nicely put.

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Can we sticky this?
I think we should...
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Old 01-28-2009, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve Neill View Post
What's the estimated time it takes for you to complete a drawing DoM?
Haha, I've had trouble answering this before, because in all honesty I don't know. This particular render, for example, I started near the beginning of the contest but only had the time to work on for a few minutes each day (plus, sometimes I get a little burned out...you know those times when you feel your eyes straining from staring at the screen for too long...so I just come back to it at a later time). I'd say, were I really focused and sat down to bang out an entire render at once I could probably do it in 4 hours or so, but that's just a rough estimate, especially since now that I have a sort of routine things go a little quicker than they used to. Normally it takes a long time because (as I mentioned in the tutorial) I will just sit there and stare at it to decide what I want to approach next and how. So it's less the actual render time and more just thinking ahead to next steps that makes these so time-intensive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kramer View Post
Wow. DoM, you're just a !@#$ing Da Vinci. Seriously, this is wow.... i'm thinking of moving into the Photoshop realm myself, but I didn't have a tutorial as step-by-step as this one. You've made me a believer..... I have CS3 but i've never been good at shopping my sketches.

Can we sticky this?
Thanks, Kramer! If this gives you the confidence to move into Photoshop rendering then I have indeed accomplished something with it I'm sure you will find that with a little bit of practice and the familiarization with tools and effects that comes with spending time in PS, it will be much easier than you thought.

I will sticky it for you guys.

Thanks for the comments, I'm glad it seems helpful, and again please let me know if there is any particular aspect I can explain more in-depth. I will get to the wheels, as well.
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