We study the structure of DNA in Photoshop

Today I will show you how to create an amazing picture of life under a microscope :), using only three source images! In this lesson, I will show you how to transform 3D into realistic DNA and create a whole picture of DNA cells. We will turn our attention to blending modes, as well as work with different tools and apply various effects.

I want to show you one of the creative solutions, both in the creation and in the choice of solutions. We will begin the creation of this pattern with DNA transformation. In this part of the lesson, you will learn about working with blending modes and corrective layers. Next, we will start creating photo manipulation. In this part of the lesson we will work with various tools, including the creation of the Bokeh brush. Finally, we will add adjustment layers and apply effects. To complete this lesson, you will need any version of Photoshop, as well as basic knowledge of working with this program.

Download the archive with materials for the lesson

Final result

Step 1

Create a new document. Navigate File – New (File> New) or press the keys (Ctrl + N). Set the following dimensions to 2000 px in width and 3000 px in height, resolution (resolution) 200 pixels / inch (px / inch).

Step 2

Before we start the manipulation, first, we will create a new kind of DNA, but at the very beginning we will create the background for our picture. Choose a tool Gradient ( Gradient Tool (G)). In the settings of this tool, set: gradient shape: From colors Front plan to bloom Rear plan(Foreground to Background), Method(Method): Radial(Radial) Opacity(Opacity): 40%, Colour front plan(Foreground color): # 3092bf and Colour rear plan(Background color) # 093554.

Step 3

Create a new layer, to do this, go Layer – New – Layer (Layer> New> Layer), or press keys (Ctrl + Shift + N), or click the corresponding icon at the bottom of the layers panel. Drag the gradient as shown in the screenshot below.

Step 4

Next, we go to the DNA itself. Let’s go File – Post (Post embedded) (File> Place (Place Embedded)) and in the window that appears, select the original image from the DNA.

Step 5

Using tool Rectangular area (Rectangular Marquee Tool (M)), select the large DNA image. Next, add a layer mask to remove the remaining small DNA.

Step 6

Using tool Free transformation (Free Transform tool) (press the key combination (Ctrl + T) or go to Editing – Free Transformation (Edit> Free Transform)), scale the DNA as shown in the screenshot below.

Step 7

We come to the most interesting part of the lesson. We take the usual 3D and turn it into a real and live macromolecule! To do this, we need to duplicate the DNA layer 4 times (press the key combination (Ctrl + J) or go to Layer – create duplicate layer (Layer> Duplicate Layer)).

Step 8

Next, we apply various effects, starting from the top DNA layer to the bottom DNA layer. Let’s start from the topmost layer, and then gradually get to the last layer (preferably not to change the sequence). For the first layer, apply several simulation filters from the filter gallery to create an outer DNA envelope. Let’s go Filter – Filter Gallery (Filter> Filter Gallery).

Step 9

So, first apply the filter Dry brush (Dry Brush). This filter is in the folder Imitation (Artistic). Set the settings that are shown in the screenshot below. This filter will add texture to the DNA.

Step 10

Next, apply the second filter. Edge emphasis (Accented Edges). This filter is in the folder Strokes (Brush Strokes). Set the settings that are shown in the screenshot below. This filter will add more detail and depth to the texture.

Step 11

And the last filter is Relief (Bass relief). This filter is in the folder Sketch (Sketch). Set the settings that are shown in the screenshot below and click OK to apply the filter. This filter will give the molecule a bas-relief shape, just don’t worry, we will not leave it like that.

Step 12

Next, change the blending mode to Linear dimmer (Linear Burn), and also reduce Opacity (Opacity) up to 46%. With overlay mode Linear dimmer (Linear Burn), the brightness of the original image will be reduced by the number of dark tones. From point of view Curves (curves) – the shift of the curve will affect the correction of dark tones.

Step 13

Since the image looks too dark, we will add an adjustment layer. Curves (Curves). To do this, go Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Curves (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Curves) or click the corresponding icon at the bottom of the layers panel. Set the control points of the curve, as shown in the screenshot below. Thus, we will brighten the image by retaining its texture.

Convert adjustment layer Curves (Curves) in clipping mask (for this, right-click on the adjustment layer and in the appeared window select the option Create clipping mask (Create Clipping Mask), or press the keys (Alt + Ctrl + G), or click the box icon with the arrow, which is highlighted in the screenshot above.

Step 14

Now go to the next layer with DNA. Change the blending mode for this layer to Darker (Darker Color). This mode is similar to the mode Blackout (Darken) (compares the colors of the upper and lower layers and mixes the pixels in places where the upper layer is darker than the lower one), except that it affects all layers at once instead of one. As a result of the application of the regime Darker (Darker Color) on the overlay layer, only those pixels that are darker than the pixels of the underlying layer remain visible. In our case, this layer will be the basis for the cores in each area of ​​DNA.

Step 15

Now, for the two remaining layers of DNA, change the blending mode to Glow (Luminosity), and also reduce Opacity (Opacity) for these layers up to 50%. This mode is opposite to the mode. Chromaticity (Color). Mode Glow (Luminosity) combines the brightness of the upper layer with the color tone and saturation of the lower layer. It turns out that the luminescence we received in the previous two layers intensified and created an almost transparent distance between the center of the molecule and the edge of the glow. Because of the blue background and the previous layer (which just strengthened the dark areas in the center), the center of our molecules became smoother and more pronounced.

Step 16

Next, we will slightly weaken the previous effect. Due to the strong contrast between the center and the edge, the image looks unrealistic. In addition, it is necessary to weaken the effect in the center. To do this, add an adjustment layer. Color tone / Saturation(Hue / Saturation) through section Layer – New corrective layer – Color tone / Saturation(Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Hue / Saturation). This adjustment layer should be placed on top of two DNA layers with blending modes Glow (Luminosity). And also reduce the opacity of this adjustment layer to 25%. Set the settings that are shown in the screenshot below.

Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B)). Set the following settings for the brush The size (Size): 80 px, Rigidity (Hardness): 100% Opacity (Opacity): 100%. Next, go to the adjustment layer mask. Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) to remove the effect of the correction from the DNA rods.

Look at my result. In my opinion, it looks good. Merge all the layers with DNA fragments into one group using the keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + G) or go to Layer – Group Layers (Layer> Group Layers).

Step 17

Next, we will add a texture to the DNA and work on its realism. First, we will make a small correction of the brightness and contrast of the entire molecule, as well as the dark parts of the DNA. First, add an adjustment layer. Brightness / Contrast (Brightness / Contrast), for this we go Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Brightness / Contrast (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Brightness / Contrast). Increase the brightness value, and also reduce the contrast value, as shown in the screenshot below. Remember to convert this layer to a clipping mask (Alt + Ctrl + G).

Next, add an adjustment layer. Selective color correction (Selective color). We need only black colors to lighten the center of the spheres a little.

Step 18

Next, we can apply the texture. We will do this using Photoshop. Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + N), press the ‘D’ key and then press the ‘X’ key to change the foreground color to black, then press the keys (Ctrl + Del) to fill the new layer with black.

To the created layer, apply the filter Clouds (Clouds), for this we go Filter – Rendering – Clouds (Filter> Render> Clouds). This will be the basis of our texture. Transform this layer for smart filters, let’s go Filter – Convert to Smart Filters (Filter> Convert for Smart Filters).

Step 19

Next, we apply the filter. Let’s go Filter – Gallery of filters(Filter> Filter Gallery). So first add a filter Dry brush (Dry Brush) which is in the folder Imitation (Artistic). This filter will help soften the texture, which will look great after applying the second filter. Set the settings that are shown in the screenshot below and do not forget to add another filter.

Select filter Edge emphasis (Accented Edges) in the folder Strokes (Brush Strokes). Set the settings that are shown in the screenshot below, and then click OK.

Change the blending mode for the rendering layer to Soft light (Soft Light), and also reduce Opacity (Opacity) layer up to 70%. Transform this layer into a clipping mask (Alt + Ctrl + G).

Step 20

Next, we will add brightening to dark areas of the molecule to balance the color a bit. Create a new layer, to do this, go Layer – New – Layer (Layer> New> Layer) or press keys (Ctrl + Shift + N) with the following settings: Blend mode (Mode): Overlap (Overlay), check the box Fill with neutral overlay color (50% gray) (Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray). To apply bleaching only to DNA, you need to load the active selection around the molecule (hold down (Ctrl) + click on any layer with DNA). Select the tool Clarifier (Dodge Tool (O)), set the following settings for this tool: The size (Size): 175 px, Exposition (Exposure): 30% Range (Range): Mid tones (Midtones).

Add light highlights as shown in the screenshot below. Try not to add too much glow to the edges to make the image look realistic. Just add some light effects. To cancel the active selection, press the keys (Ctrl + D) or go to Selection – Deselect Selection (Select> Deselect).

Step 21

DNA is ready, now we begin to create a common scene. First, we need to combine all the layers with DNA into one molecule, because if we change the background and then apply other effects, then the molecule will constantly change shape, and we need this particular shape. Select all the layers with DNA, as well as the layer with the background, then go Layer – Merge Layers (Layer> Merge Layers), or press the keys (Ctrl + E), or right-click on any of the selected layers and in the appeared window select the option Merge layers (Merge Layers).

Using tool Magic wand (Magic Wand Tool (W)), select the background. Holding the key (Shift) will help you add areas to the selected area. Next, invert the active selection (Shift + Ctrl + I), and then add a layer mask to the merged layer to remove the background.

Step 22

Next, we will create a new background. Let’s go File – Post (File> Place) and in the appeared window select the initial texture of the Rain. The rain texture layer must be below the combined DNA layer. Using tool Free transformation (Free Transform Tool) (Ctrl + T) apply scaling to the texture, as shown in the screenshot below.

Step 23

Next, we will create floating molecules. First we need to duplicate one fragment of the DNA chain. Using tool Oval area (Elliptical Marquee Tool (M)), select one molecule, as shown in the screenshot below. The red dot shows where you should start to select the molecule. Try not to hit areas of the background. Next, press the keys (Ctrl + J) or go Layer – create duplicate layer (Layer> Duplicate) to duplicate the fragment (do not forget to go to the layer with DNA during selection).

Step 24

Next, we will create the effect of molecules on the background. It will be a bit boring process, because you have to create duplicates of molecules, resize them, and arrange them all over the work area :). To quickly create a duplicate, use the tool Move (Move Tool (V)) + holding the (Alt) key, move the molecule to the right place. Using tool Free transformation (Free Transform tool) (press the key combination (Ctrl + T) or go to Editing – Free Transformation (Edit> Free Transform)), apply scaling to the molecules, turn the bright side of the molecules to the bright part of the texture, placing the molecules in unusual places. Thus, you can achieve realism, as well as add speakers to the image. Hold down the keys (Shift + Alt) to keep the proportions during transformation.

Next, merge all the layers with the molecules that you added to the background, to do this, go Layer – Merge Layers (Layer> Merge Layers) or press keys (Ctrl + E). The only thing left is one layer with the molecule intact, because this layer with the molecule will come in handy later.

Transform this layer for smart filters, let’s go Filter – convert for Smart-of filters(Filter> Convert for Smart Filters) and then apply the filter Blur by Gauss(Gaussian Blur). Let’s go Filter – Blur – Blur by Gauss(Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur). Install Radius (Radius) blur 25 px. Thus, we can add volume to the image.

Step 25

To add volume to the image, we need to add chiaroscuro. Since the molecules are blurred, they must be processed in accordance with the light. Create a new layer with a neutral gray fill and blending mode Overlap (Overlay). For this we go Layer – New – Layer (Layer> New> Layer) or press the keys (Ctrl + Shift + N). Using tools Clarifier (Dodge Tool (O)) and Dimmer (Burn Tool (O)) with the following settings: The size (Size): 175 px, Exposition (Exposure): 30% Range (Range): Mid tones (Midtones), add light and shade relative to the light area on the texture (light source). In the screenshot below: light effects are green, and shadows are red. Transform this layer into a clipping mask (Alt + Ctrl + G).

Create a new group (Ctrl + G), name the new group The background (Background). Next, move all layers with the molecules in the background into the created group, including a separate layer with the molecule.

Step 26

Next, we will add molecules to the fore. Repeat Steps 24-25, placing the molecules as shown in the screenshot below. Use the molecule we left untouched. For foreground molecules, apply filter Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur), install Radius (Radius) blur 9.0 px.

Step 27

Next, we will create a depth of field for the molecules. Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B)), set the following settings for the brush: The size (Size): 200 px, Rigidity (Hardness): 0%, Opacity (Opacity): 40%. Go to the blur filter mask to remove the blur effect on specified areas of the molecules, but not on all.

Next, we need to slightly darken the molecules that are located close to the edge of the image. Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + N) on top of the gray fill layer, convert this layer to a clipping mask (Alt + Ctrl + G). Using the brush that you used in the previous step, darken the molecules, as shown in the screenshot below. Reduce the opacity for this layer to 54%.

Step 28

At the moment, work with molecules is completed, we can return to creating the background. Next, we will add the original image ‘Chemistry’, for this we go File – Post (Post embedded) (File> Place (Place Embedded)). Place this image in a group The background (Background). Change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay) level Opacity (Opacity): 70%. To make the texture white, add an adjustment layer. Inversion (Invert), for this we go Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Invert (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Invert).

Duplicate the texture layer ‘Chemistry’ (Ctrl + J) twice, without duplicating the adjustment layer. Inversion (Invert). Move duplicate layers to the top, placing on top of the adjustment layer Inversion (Invert). Reduce the scale of both layers (Ctrl + T), and position them as shown in the screenshot below. Next, merge both layers into one (Ctrl + E), and then change the blending mode for the merged layer to Overlap (Overlay).

Step 29

Next, we will add a texture to the molecules to create the effect of movement and space. Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + N), fill it with black color (Ctrl + Del). Next, go Filter – Noise – Add Noise (Filter> Noise> Add Noise). Set the following values; amount (Amount): 25%, Distribution (Distribution): according to Gauss (Gaussian), and also put a tick in the box Monochrome (Monochromatic).

Scale the texture proportionally up to 200% (Ctrl + T) so that the noise particles become larger, and then convert them to smart filters.

Next, we add the motion effect to these particles. Let’s go Filter – Blur – Motion Blur (filter> Blur> Motion blur). Install Angle (Angle): 31, Bias (Distance): 19 px. Set the blending mode to Lightening (Screen) and also reduce Opacity (Opacity) up to 65%.

Step 30

Next, we will reduce the noise density of the particles, as well as change their color. First we change the color. Add a new adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation), for this we go Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Hue / Saturation (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Hue / Saturation). This correction will color the noise, and it will not stand out too much on the image, as well as reduce the brightness. Do not forget to put a tick in the box Toning (Colorize).

Next, add an adjustment layer. Levels (Levels), let’s go Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Levels (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Levels). With this correction, we will hide the black and gray shades of the texture, as well as amplify the amount of white noise to transform the noise into floating particles and get a clearer shape.

My result. You should get about the same.

Step 31

In the next steps we will apply the brush. First we create a bokeh brush. Go to the bookmark Brush (Brush), which is located in the bookmarks bar on the right. Set the following settings for the brush. As a base, we will use a hard brush. First, we need to increase the brush spacing to create the distance between the painted fragments. Next, set a value that allows you to vary the size of the brush.

Next, in the settings, we will adjust the brush spread so that the brush draws not a single line, but something similar to a small cloud. In the final setting, we will set a value that allows each drawn fragment to apply a different degree of opacity, thus adding a bit of volume. Save your customized brush by clicking the icon. Create a new brush (Create new brush) in the lower right corner.

Step 32

Create a new layer. Using the created Bokeh brush, draw a diagonal line in the lower right corner of the image. Brush color # 57d4f3. Do not create too high a bokeh effect density.

Next, we’ll add some effects. Convert the Bokeh layer to smart filters and then apply the filter Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur), Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur). Set the blur radius to 7.0 px.

Next, add a layer style. External glow (Outer Glow), go for it Layer – Layer Style – Outer Glow (Layer> Layer Style> Outer Glow) or add a layer style through the bottom toolbar. In the settings window of this layer style that appears, set the color to # 69c6ff, Opacity (Opacity): 61%, Swipe (Spread): 0%, The size (Size): 38 px. Change the blending mode to Soft light (Soft Light).

Step 33

Next, create two new layers. On two layers, draw bokeh in the center of the image. For the first layer, set the blending mode Soft light (Soft Light), here apply the brush you created in Step 31 with the following settings: The size (Size) brushes: 6 px, Opacity (Opacity) brushes: 40%; brush color: white. Paint over almost the entire image except for the edges.

For the second layer, set the blending mode Soft light (Soft Light), and also reduce Opacity (Opacity) layer up to 52%. Set the following settings for the brush: The size (Size) brushes: 20 px, Opacity (Opacity) brushes: 55%; brush color: white. Brush along the DNA and slightly in the center of the image.

Step 34

The picture is almost complete! We finished the work with the brush, now we just have to add only two adjustment layers to make the colors of the image richer, and also to make the visual effects more interesting. First add a correction layer. Color search (Color Lookup) to do this, go Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Color Search (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Color Lookup). In the settings window, select 3DLUT, and then select the “FoggyNight.3DL” option. Reduce the opacity for this adjustment layer to 70%. A small gray tint will appear on the image, but this is in our favor.

Using tool Brush (Brush tool (B)) (brush size: brush opacity: 100%, Rigidity (Hardness) of the brush: 0%), hide the effect on the mask of the adjustment layer in the center of the image, as well as on the light areas of the molecules.

Step 35

The next adjustment layer will be the same. Color search (Color Lookup), the only thing is in the 3DLUT setting, select the option “filmstock_50.3dl”. Decrease Opacity (Opacity) for this adjustment layer to 61%.

And this was the final step. Our picture is ready! You can experiment with color, as well as everything you want. Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Thank you for your attention and good luck!

Final result

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