Create a Photoshop Sci-fi poster with blending modes

With the help of the techniques described in this lesson, very detailed work is obtained. Some of the described actions / steps can be repeated as many times as you like. The more time you spend on certain steps, the more detailed the final result will be.

Mart, the author of the lesson, says that he always starts with the mood board, which helps him get inspiration for the final result. His mindboard can be found here.

Step 1

The key at this stage is preparation. Before starting work, we need to make sure that we have the most necessary materials. When working with a commercial project, this can save a lot of time, and this is important if you have tight deadlines.

I bought two photos on Shutterstock, which – if they are combined – convey the main concept of the picture – a person trapped in the digital world. However, the style that we are going to apply will work with any subjects, from animals to people and buildings — everything that has a precise focal point or central subject.

Step 2

The size of my document is 5,120 x 2,880 px (twice the screen resolution), since I love working with large images and planned to use the final work as wallpaper for the desktop.

To create images in this style, I often mix several stock photos, creating a digital “sketch.” This can significantly speed up the work process.

The perfect mixing of different images is not so important, but since I am a perfectionist, I spend a lot of time at this stage. I made sure that the size of the virtual reality glasses perfectly fit the model’s face and removed the fingers that held them. I also lengthened the tape so that it was wrapped around the head.

It is very important for me to have a suitable original image, even if the photo is not noticeable in the final work.

Step 3

Open the project files and locate the Assets folder. Drag bg.psd into the document. This file contains two layers with my abstract backgrounds. Resize them, if necessary, by filling in the entire workspace.

On the panel Layers (Layers Panel) place these backgrounds under the stock images and set them Opacity (Opacity) within 15-20%.

Fill the layer under them with a solid black color. Hide stock photos to quickly look at the result. Perhaps we will return to these layers depending on what the next steps will be.

Step 4

Turn on photo visibility. Now it’s time to make sketches.

This step is very important, as it will determine the overall composition, from which we will build on later when we start placing elements in the document.

I wanted to make art look like the model was stuck in the digital world (something like the universe Matrices) and trying to find a way out. At the same time, it concerns pieces that look like futuristic touch screens.

Do not spend a lot of time at this stage, this is just a basic outline that you will use as a basis.

Step 5

Hide the draft layer by focusing on applying the work style to the model. Our task is to make it seem as if the viewer is also in our digital world. Therefore, we do not want the stock photo to be visible at the final stage.

To give our “digital” computer-like model, build its (or its) silhouette with the help of figures and pixels. Create a new layer called “white strokes” and very roughly sketch the glare of our model using a square white brush. Be sure to get a variety of settings by playing around with the tools. Size fluctuation (Size Jitter), Interval (Spacing), Scattering (Scattering), etc.

Since you may have a completely different document size, it is important to play around with the settings to see what works best. When you achieve a similar effect, you can go on. (A pressure-sensitive Wacom graphic tablet helps a lot!)

Step 6

Create a layer above the “white strokes” and paint over the darker areas (such as shadows) with a black brush.

Tip: If you cannot see black during hatching because the original image contains too many dark areas and it is impossible to distinguish your strokes from the image under them, try using the red / blue hatching color and then change it to black.

Step 7

At this stage, we’ll add a digital “shine” around our model. Create a new layer above all the others and paint over the silhouette of the model with white using the same brush.

This time hatch casually and do not worry if you “go beyond”. As we achieve the computer-digital effect, a certain randomness of strokes will look even better.

Step 8

Change the layer blending mode above the strokes that we drew in steps 5-6 to Overlap (Overlay) and ta-dam – we have a shine.

Step 9

Repeat steps 5 and 6 several times, using a smaller brush to create a more detailed image. Do not forget to constantly create new layers – this will allow you to edit or remove all unnecessary in the later stages.

You may notice that at this stage the background is very flat.

Select both layers, then go to menu Editing> Transforming> Perspective (Edit> Transform> Distort / Perspective), making sure that the result suits your work.

Step 10

Blue is often associated with futuristic images. Fill the new layer with cute blue color, placed above all the others. Change its blending mode to Chromaticity (Color) and cut Opacity (Opacity) up to 20%.

Step 11

It’s time to add more color. Open the square_shapes.psd file from the project files.

All this is based on my past experiments (they can be seen in the file unedited_shapes.psd). That’s how I changed one form to another.

Step 12

Copy and paste these shapes into the document — we are unlikely to have to use them all, but we can see which ones fit, and remove all the others.

Make sure that the entire silhouette of the model is covered with these shapes, and the blending mode is set to Chromaticity (Color) with 70% opacity. Also make sure there are particles flying around the model. Give yourself a go!

Step 13

Now do the same, but this time with other and lighter figures – apply them only in light areas of the photo. Set the blending mode Light replacement (Lighten) with an opacity of about 65%.

Step 14

Repeat the previous step, filling the dark areas with dark shapes. Leave Normal (Normal) blend mode with opacity of 35%.

Step 15

Now add a linear gradient from light to dark to make sure that these colors are in your work. A brighter color should be in the place of the intended light source.

Save Normal The (Normal) blend mode, but make the effect very light, leaving the opacity somewhere between 7 and 10%.

Step 16

If you look at the picture from a distance, everything looks pretty good. However, if you bring it closer, it still looks rude.

Use the brushes from steps 5-6 and start painting all small details of our model with black and white (depending on which area). This time also create two layers for white and black.

The screenshot shows that I painted over the black strokes layer in red to see where I’m drawing.

Step 17

Change the blending mode of both layers to Overlap (Overlay) with opacity of 70%.

Step 18

I want some parts of the image to stand out a bit, so I decided to paint my hair, virtual reality glasses, skin, lips and T-shirt with different colors.

I also added some random square shapes behind the model, as well as around the arms, adding a sense of movement.

I put all these layers in a group and set its blending mode to Overlap (Overlay) with an opacity of 25%.

Step 19

Take the same brush, this time in white, and draw random square figures behind the model’s back, simulating the effect of movement. Duplicate this layer and set the blend mode of both to Overlap (Overlay) – set the first opacity to 100%, the second to 70%.

Step 20

Hands and face are the most important parts of the drawing, so I decided to work a little on shading these areas.

Step 21

Select several long shapes from the square_shapes.psd file and randomly place them in the document.

Create another layer with these shapes, make them a bit larger and apply a blur to those in the foreground. This will add depth to the work.

Do not forget that the colors of the figures should be combined with the color scheme of the work.

Step 22

I thought that it would be nice to add a binary code, since it fits the style perfectly and doesn’t look silly. I used the System font and randomly added numbers around the model.

Group the text layers, duplicate the group and change its blending mode to Overlap (Overlay), and set the opacity to 50%.

Step 23

The drawing starts to look good, and I am pleased with what we have at this stage. I want to add more movement, so I’ll draw some more squares behind the model’s back. Hide this layer and then add another one.

On the new layer go to menu Image> External channel (Image> Apply Image) and click OK. Now create a clipping mask of this layer to squares. As you can see in the screenshot, I made the applied image much larger.

Step 24

Since each work is different, there is no golden rule for adding elements and effects. In my drawing, I decided to add more deformation behind the model using different colors and shapes. I also decided to work on shading.

At this stage, it is important to add to your work the necessary final touches so that you can move on to creating an interface design that we quickly sketched at the very beginning.

Step 25

Select several vertical sections of the document, copy and paste them, then transform them so that they fit the perspective of the rest of the background.

Add an effect to these shapes. Shadow (Drop Shadow), making them seem to hover in the air.

Step 26

It’s time to do some work on the light source. If you look at the original snapshot of the model, it is obvious that the light falls from above. It also seems that part of the lighting is on the left.

Using a standard round brush of 4,000 pixels in blue, I drew a little light at the top and – a little smaller – on the right. I set the blending mode to Replacementbright (Lighten) and adjusted the opacity so that the effect looks correct.

Step 27

I did the same with the dark purple brush in the lower right corner, adding a bit of shadow. I set the layer blending mode to Overlap (Overlay) with 40% opacity. Although the effect is barely noticeable, I like the way it looks.

Step 28

Create a new layer and go to Image> External channel (Image> Apply Image). Click OK.

Now go to the menu Filter> Filter Gallery> Applique (Filter> Filter Gallery> Cutout).

Step 29

On the same layer go to menu Filter> Styling> Edge selection (Filter> Stylize> Find Edges).

Create a new layer above it, fill it with white and set the blending mode Difference (Difference). Merge layers, then set the blending mode of the resulting layer to Screen (Screen) with 70% opacity.

Step 30

Using a round hard brush, remove excess areas, for example, the part that covers the mouth.

Step 31

For the next step, we will need Adobe Illustrator (or you can use interface designs from the project files and proceed to the next step), where we will create a design of touch screens that our model will touch.

For inspiration, I recommend to look at the work of Ash Thorp. I can say with confidence that he is one of the best in this subject.

Step 32

Add an interface to the document and transform it to fit the perspective of the surrounding elements. Make them blue, group and set the group’s blending mode to Replacementbright (Lighten) with 50% opacity.

Duplicate the group and set the blending mode to Lightening Basics (Color Dodge) with 35% opacity.

Step 33

Now let’s add blurry, stretched versions of the interface around the ready-made panels, creating the effect of interaction between the model and the screens.

Add the interface again – this time use the file without numbers, as we will rotate them, and also use the same image for the left and right side.

Make them so much more this time. Group panels, set the group overlay mode to Linear Dodge (Linear Dodge). Blur both layers and reduce opacity for organic results.

Step 34

To enhance the illusion of touch, I made the areas where her fingers are on the screen, lighter.

Using a soft brush, I painted my fingertips in blue and set the layer blending mode to Linear Dodge (Linear Dodge), and the opacity reduced to 50%.

Step 35

To better illuminate both screens, I chose a very large soft blue brush, then made a couple of strokes and eventually set the blending mode to Lightening Basics (Color Dodge), and opacity – 60%.

Step 36

Now create a new layer and use the red brush to draw round dots around the interface, giving them a contrast and visual interest.

Step 37

Connect some dots with thin light blue lines. Duplicate the layer for further use.

Step 38

Select the vertical sections of the layer and adjust the perspective so that it fits the entire image.

Step 39

Select the vertical parts again, then press Ctrl + Shift + C.

Step 40

Paste this layer, set the blending mode to Screen (Screen) 100% Opacity, then add Motion blur (Motion blur).

Step 41

At this stage, it seemed to me as if it was still not clear that it was touching the screens, so I added a large square and filled it with blue.

Then erased most Eraser (Eraser Tool).

I set the layer blending mode to Lightening Basics (Color Dodge), and opacity reduced to 10%. You can also make the layer slightly blurry.

Step 42

Select the opposite part from the selected part and add motion blur. Set the layer blending mode to Replacing dark (Darken) and reduce the opacity.

Step 43

We have come a long way, and from now on I will allow you to complete it on your own.

In the following steps, I created several adjustment layers to change colors, added more light and a few final touches, and also slightly edited the perspective, making it more dynamic.

Step 44

The last thing I realized – why does this always happen when you already think that you have finished? – if our model can read the numbers on the screens, we should not disassemble them.

Therefore, I mirrored the image (and cut it a little for a more pleasant composition).

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