In this tutorial, we will create a retro-styled space rocket in Photoshop. We learn about the importance of details in creating complex illustrations, including the creation of realistic surfaces.
We also learn about working with layer masks, and how effectively they can help with the creation of their artwork. You will also learn how to manage your design project when working with multiple layers, including many techniques that will save time. So let’s get started!
Create a new document in Photoshop, set the parameters shown in the screenshot below. Save your document as Retro Rocket.psd. (Translator’s Note: save your document in PSD format, you can give any document name). During the entire workflow, do not forget to save changes (Ctrl + S).
First, let’s look at the concept of the project of this lesson. This is a preliminary sketch, the main goal is to understand the basic idea. A source of bright light is located on the left. Therefore, light reflections will mainly be reflected on the rocket on the left. However, in the right-hand side, we will also add gentle light areas due to ambient light.
We return to our working paper Retro Rocket.psd. Choose a tool Polygon (Polygon tool). In settings Parties (Sides) specify 3. Next, draw a red triangle (RGB 255, 0, 0) using the following settings:
Choose a tool Arrow (Direct Selection Tool (White arrow), next, select the upper anchor point by holding the mouse + drag the anchor point upwards, making the triangle higher. Now we have to change the sides of the triangle, transforming them from straight lines into curves. We will do this with the tool Angle (Convert Anchor Point Tool).
Choose a tool Angle (Convert Anchor Point Tool) (the tool icon looks like an inverted “V”). Next, click on the upper anchor point at the top of the triangle and, holding down the anchor point with the mouse + pull aside Guide points (Direction Points). To move the reference lines (i.e. Guidelines) separately, hold down the (ALT) key + drag the Guide points. Guide points are black circles or dots at the ends of Guidelines. Thus, we will create the shape of a space rocket. Name this layer with the shape “upper part of the rocket body”.
Choose a tool Rectangular area (Rectangle Tool). Create a rectangle below the previous shape. A new layer with a rectangular shape will appear in the layers palette; place this layer below the “upper part of the rocket body” layer. Name this layer “rocket bottom”. Repeat the previous steps, select the tool Angle (Convert Anchor Point Tool), and then transform the rectangle to fit under the lower part of the rocket body, as shown in the screenshot below. We mainly divided the rocket body into two layers with figures, i.e. “Upper rocket body” and “lower rocket body”. Why are we building a rocket, thus, because, in the middle there will be a groove according to the design of our rocket. Note the three straight lines. One straight line is located at the base of the rocket body, the other two lines are at the bottom of the rocket body. Convert these lines to curves using the same technique. The main thing is that the curves are the same. This will give the rocket a 3d perspective.
Draw another triangle with the tool Polygon (Polygon Tool) on top of the “top of the rocket body” layer, name this layer “rocket nose”. The color of the shape will be black with a slight shade of red (RGB 25, 0, 0). Adjust the size of the triangle under the upper part of the rocket body using the reference points using the tool Arrow (Direct Selection tool). Next, create a bend at the base of a straight line with the tool. Angle (Convert Anchor Point Tool). The direction of the bulge of the arc should be directed upwards.
It’s time to add wings or three racks, on top of which is a rocket. These rocket parts are used to guide and balance the rocket during flight. We start with a rectangle, transforming its anchor points into a wing shape. For this we use all the same tools. Arrow (Direct Selection Tool) and Angle (Convert Anchor Point Tool). Let’s go through the process again.
We can create rocket parts using the shape tool, for example, Rectangle (rectangle) or using the tool Pen (Pen tool). Next, transform the pivot points with the tool Arrow (Direct Selection tool). To create curves, we change the type of control points from corner to smooth using the tool Angle (Convert Anchor Point Tool). Smooth points are those points with the help of which we draw lines (ie, guide points) on both sides of the control points. Guide points control the height and direction of the curve. To add an anchor point, simply click on any empty area with the tool. Pen (Pen Tool). To delete, click on any existing reference point with the tool. Pen (Pen Tool), i.e. Editing outlines is in itself a difficult task and is not included in the scope of this lesson. However, the description above should help you begin your journey by editing the outline. I hope that now the process of editing shapes, as well as the transformation of the reference points is clear to you.
See the screenshot below to understand the basic idea of how to transform a rectangular shape into a wing shape. By trial and error, expect to spend some time on it. Once you are satisfied with the shape of the wing, then change the name of the layer to “left wing” by double-clicking on the text of the figure layer.
Click on the “left wing” layer and in the window that appears, select the option Create duplicate layer(Duplicate Layer). Next, shift the duplicate image to the right side of the rocket, name this layer “right wing”. Next, select the tool Outline selection (Path Selection tool (black arrow) and then click on the shape contour to select it. Next, press the keys (Ctrl + T) to activate the free transformation. Now right-click inside the transformation frame and in the window that appears, select the option Flip horizontally (Flip Horizontal).
Layer “right wing” after we reflected it horizontally, placing it on the right side of the rocket.
Duplicate the “right wing” layer, name the duplicate layer “middle wing”. Next, transform the pivot points to create a middle wing, just like you did before. Give the wing the appropriate shape, as shown in the screenshot below.
Using the same technique, create a yellow rectangle (RGB 255, 242, 0) at the bottom of the rocket body. Layer with a yellow rectangle position below the layer “lower part of the body of the rocket”. Change the shape as shown in the screenshot below. Name this layer “middle part of the engine”. Let’s create two more engine parts.
Create another rectangle (RGB 0, 0, 0) whose top and bottom sides will be curved, as shown in the screenshot below. Place this part of the engine on top of the engine. Name this layer “top of the engine”. Place this layer on top of the “middle part of the engine” layer.
Duplicate the “top of the engine” layer. Slip the duplicate layer to the bottom of the engine. Name this layer “engine bottom”. What we did was create three engine parts. Imagine that the middle part of the engine is located between two rings. The top ring is the “top of the engine” and the bottom ring is the “bottom of the engine”. Both parts of the “upper part of the engine” and “lower part of the engine” are black, while the middle part is represented in yellow.
Next, we will create the left engine bar. In fact, this is a continuation of the rocket body. Therefore, create another red rectangle (RGB 255, 0, 0), arranging it as shown in the screenshot below. Name this layer “left engine bracket”. Place this layer below the “rocket bottom” layer in the layers palette. You can change the order of layers in the layers palette at any time by moving the layers up or down.
Set the foreground color to RGB (149, 149, 149). Choose a tool Ellipse (Ellipse Tool), and then create a circle, as in the screenshot below. You can create a perfect circle by holding down the (Shift) key while creating a circle.
Select a circle with the tool Outline selection (Path Selection Tool), next, we go Editing – Copy (Edit> Copy) and then Edit – Paste (Edit> Paste). So, now we have two figures on one layer. Select two circles with the tool Outline selection (Path Selection Tool) and using the (Shift) key, i.e. First select one contour, then hold down the (Shift) key and click on the other. When you select an outline, additional settings appear in the top toolbar. Select an option Subtract the area of intersection of the figures (Exclude Overlapping Shapes).
We created a ring shape. Name this layer “outer ring”.
Create another circle on top of the “outer ring” layer. Name this layer with the circle “Glass”. Choose the size of the circumference of the “glass” taking into account the inner line of the circumference of the layer “outer ring”.
The number of layers increases in the layers palette. Therefore, it is time to group the layers. A good sign for a good project is working with many layers. Select the “rocket nose”, “upper rocket body” and “lower rocket body” layers. Next, click the mouse in the upper right corner of the layers palette and in the window that appears, select the option New group of layers (New Group from Layers).
A new group will appear in the layers palette, containing the selected layers. Name the new group “Rocket Body”. In the group name field, type the name of the group and click OK.
In the same way, create three more groups, namely; “Rocket engine”, “rocket wings” and “rocket cabin”. Below is a list of layers for each group:
1. The group “Rocket engine” – “left engine bracket”, “lower part of the engine”, “upper part of the engine” and “middle part of the engine”.
2. The group “Wings of a rocket” – “left wing”, “right wing” and “middle wing”.
3. The group “Cabin of the rocket” – “outer ring” and “glass”.
Go to the “Rocket Cabin” layer. Move the image slightly to the left. This will additionally create a 3d perspective view.
Open the contents of the Rocket Body group by clicking the triangle to the left of the folder icon. Inside the group, create a new rectangle (RGB 25, 0, 0). Transform the shape of the rectangle as shown in the screenshot below. With this rocket detail, we have completely completed the rocket design. It’s time to create light and shade and add appearance to the surface of the rocket.
Before you start creating light and shade, let’s discuss the general workflow for creating light and shade for this lesson. Remember that the creation of light and shade is an iterative process, because we repeat the same steps over and over again.
Creating light highlights
The technique will be slightly different for users of the old and the new version of Photoshop. For users of older versions of Photoshop, where there is no Properties Panel (Properties Panel), also no option Feathering mask (Mask Feather), the process of creating light highlights will be as follows: create a circle, draw a light reflection using the tool Pen (pen tool); rasterize the layer, then apply the filter Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur filter) and finally, create a mask, and adjust the layer opacity to match the saturation of the effect.
For users of Photoshop CS6, the steps will look like this: create a circle, draw a highlight using the tool Pen (pen tool), everything, as in earlier versions; but instead of applying a filter Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur), go to the bookmark Window – Properties (Window> Properties). In the Properties tab, adjust the value Feathering (Feather), this option reproduces the same effect as Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur). The difference is that you can open the Properties tab again and adjust the value Feathering (Feather) that you applied earlier. And the final effect of the process is to set the layer opacity, as in earlier versions.
For those using Photoshop CS5, you should open a bookmark via Window – Mask (Window> Mask), being on a layer with a light patch. Next, you will add a mask to this layer (i.e., either it will be a rasterized layer or a layer with a light flare) to further adjust the opacity and appearance of the light flare.
Another simple technique is as follows: go to the Panel Contours (Path) (Translator’s Note: you can go through Window – Outlines (Window – Path), and then, create a new contour by clicking the button in the bottom toolbar Create a new contour (New Path). Then create a shape with the tool Pen (Pen Tool), then hold down the (Ctrl) key + click on the thumbnail of the layer with the outline to load the active selection. Without removing the active selection, return to the bookmark. Layers (Layers) and create a new layer. Next, fill the active selection with a color tint, and then cancel the selection. Next, apply the filter Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur) to soften the shape, and use the mask and layer transparency to control the shape’s visibility.
Yes I know. A lot of information here! However, what I want is for you to try all the ways and then choose the most suitable one for yourself. Next, repeat the whole process over and over again throughout the lesson to get your hand filled.
Creation of contour / edges of light highlights
The edges of the highlights are slightly different from the main highlights. These are narrow and thin edges of bright white light that are visible only at the edges. To do this, we create a contour (open rather than closed) along the edge with the tool Pen (Pen tool), and then add a stroke to the contour with a small diameter brush. Then use a mask to adjust the layer opacity.
Shadows are pretty simple here, compared to the light highlights, we do not have too many shadows to work with. First load the selection (Ctrl) + click on the layer thumbnail. Then create a new layer on top of the layer with the active selection, then paint over with a black brush within the outline of the active selection. After that, we reduce the layer opacity and, if necessary, add a mask to further control the saturation of the shadows.
So let’s go back to our rocket design where we left off. Expand the contents of the Rocket Body group, and then hold down (Ctrl) + click on the layer mask of the top part of the rocket body layer to load the shape selection.
Create a new layer on top of all other layers, name this layer “shadow of the upper part of the rocket”. Next, paint both sides of the active selection with a large soft black brush. The position of the brush when creating shadows should be such that more or less than half of the diameter of the brush is outside the outline of the selection. See the screenshot below. Next, move this layer with the shadow down, placing it between the Rocket Cabin group and the Rocket Wings group.
Next, with the tool Pen (Pen Tool), create a new layer with a white shape, as shown in the screenshot below. Rasterize the layer, apply Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur), blur radius 2-3 px. You should have it, as in the screenshot below.
Name this layer “Medium light flare on the top of the rocket body”, and then reduce the layer opacity to 70%. Next, add a layer mask through the bottom toolbar. Add layer mask (Add Layer Mask). Now, using a soft black brush, paint over the highlight on the layer mask of the layer. At the beginning, I painted the upper and lower parts with a soft brush with an opacity of 100%, and then reduced the opacity of the brush to 50% and repeated the brush, slightly reducing the white glare fragility at the top and bottom of the flare.
Create 7 more layers with light highlights on top of the layer “Medium light reflection on the upper part of the rocket body”. Next, apply to all layers. Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur), blur radius 6 px.
Six layers with names and their corresponding position in the layers palette.
Next, change the opacity of the layers, the degree of opacity of the layers is shown in the screenshot below. Also, pay attention to the number of masks that I applied to them. Mostly, I painted over the collapse and gradually reduced the opacity using a brush with a low opacity (30-50%). Remember that the exact position of the highlights and their appearance is not so important. The goal here is to create a series of light highlights with varying degrees of opacity to show the reflective properties of the painted surface of the rocket.
In the same way, create three more light highlights of white color for the nose of the rocket. Pay attention to the location of these layers and the degree of opacity in the screenshot below.
Let’s create our first light path or edge of the light flare on the rocket body. Create a new layer on top of the last layer that we created “the light flare on the right in the nose of the rocket.” (Translator’s Note: The author created this layer in Step 30). Name this layer “edge flare at the base of the upper part of the rocket body”. Now select a soft brush with a diameter of 1-2 px. Next, select the tool Pen (Pen Tool), and then create an open loop along the bottom edge of the upper part of the rocket body. Go to bookmark Contours (Paths), there you find the contour you just created, and then click Brush the contour (Stroke Path with Brush) (second button on the left) in the bottom toolbar. Click on an empty area in the palette. Contours (Paths) to deselect the outline. Return to the bookmark Layers (Layers) and add a layer mask to the “light glare on the right side of the nose of the rocket” layer. Using a soft black brush, paint over the edge of the light flare to hide part of the flare. Reduce the layer opacity to 70%.
Create a new layer on top of all layers, name this layer “lower edge of the highlight in the nose”. Repeating the process of adding light highlights, add a subtle flare at the lower edge of the nose of the rocket. To create this flare, I used 1px brush to stroke the outline. Further, reduced the layer opacity to 70%.
Next, we will draw two shadow lines on the rocket body. Later we will add a few bolts on top of these lines. First, let’s draw a shadow line at the top of the rocket body. Create a new layer on top of the “bottom edge of the flare in the nose” layer. Name the new layer “upper shading line”. Choose a tool Oval selection(Elliptical Marquee Tool), draw a large ellipse so that the ellipse curve coincides with the curve of the bow of the rocket.
Next, add a 2 px stroke, the stroke color is black, for this we go Editing –– perform stroke (Edit> Stroke).
Add a layer mask to the “upper shading line” layer, and then correct the line in the same way as with the light flare on the “lower edge of the flare at the nose” layer. Finally, reduce the layer opacity to 50%.
In the same way, add a shading line at the bottom of the rocket body. Name the bottom line layer “lower shading line”. Reduce the layer opacity to 50%.
Now, on top of two layers with shading lines, we will create two more highlights, using the shape of a small white oval. Select a white soft brush, then press the key (F5) to open the brush settings window (or go to Window – Brush (Window> Brush). Apply the settings for the brush, which are shown in the screenshot below.
Create two more layers, name them “middle flare at the upper edge of the upper part of the rocket body” and “lower flare at the lower edge of the lower part of the rocket body”, respectively. Basically, we will draw 2 small oval highlights at the top and bottom of the rocket cabin. The screenshot below shows the degree of opacity for the two layers.
Next, select all the layers with light highlights, and then merge them into one group, name the combined group “Light highlights”. Another thing you need to do is to select all the layers with highlights inside the group “Highlights”, and then change the blending mode to Lightening (Screen). Light highlights will look a little brighter.
Do the same for the layers with shadows, create a combined group, name this group “Shadows”. Change the blending mode for all layers with shadows to Multiplication (Multiply).
Go to the “lower part of the rocket body” layer, then double-click on the thumbnail of the shape layer (to the left of the mask thumbnail) to appear Select fill color (Pick a solid color). Then, change the color to RGB (25, 0, 0) and click OK. Now the color of the lower part of the rocket body is black with a shade of red.
Author: Ken Smith
Translator: Sadigaliyev Marat