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I'm going to show you how you can create an animated Daft Punk helmet GIF using Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. This tutorial requires a bit of time but it will all be worth it when you see your helmet come to life, so lets get popping.
The actual example of the Daft Punk graphic is just for training purposes and is not to be used in a final personal project without permission from the original creators.
Tutorial Timelapse Video
As part of this tutorial, you can check out the sped up time lapse of the tutorial by checking out the video below! If you're wanting further detail on the whole process, scroll to find out more.
1. Set Up Your Document
Launch Adobe Illustrator, and create a New document (Command + N) and place (File > Place) the Daft Punk artwork from "Random Access Memories" onto your art board. I've choosen this image as you can clearly see half of a helmet. This can be traced to create our helmet base.
To begin with, you want to create five layers on top of the layer that contains the album artwork. Select the "Photo" layer and set the Opacity to around 50% so you'll be able to see your strokes more clearly. Make sure your reference is aligned to the center of your art board.
I suggest you Lock all the layers you will not be using at this moment. Just to make sure all your strokes will be placed on the correct layer.
2. Create the Outlines
Create a Guide on the center of your image and Lock the guide (Command + Alt + ; ). It is very important that this Guide will not move and is centered at all times of the process. This guide will be dividing the two sides of the helmet. Start tracing the photo with the Pen Tool (P) onto the "Outlines" layer. I prefer to work in a bright color (pink) to distinguish my outlines from the reference. Keep your strokes thin and clear so you can see the curves you need to create. At this point it's not a problem if your strokes are overlapping each other, this will be corrected later.
Clean up your overlapping strokes and turn off the "Photo" layer to see the result of your tracing. Your outlines should look something like the screenshot below.
You created the base of the helmet, it's as simple as that. Add some more weight to the strokes in the Strokes panel (around 10pt Stroke Weight) to make them pop a bit more. Now you are ready to reflect the outlines you just created. Select the outlines and open the Reflect options (O + Enter) drag the cross hair over to the center guide. Press Alt and select Copy.
This is beginning to look like an actual helmet. Now you need to join the two parts that you created. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), drag over the first two points (1) and Join them (Command + J). You can only join two open paths at the same time. Repeat this step for the other three points to complete the designs outlines.
You're going to select all the outlines and Object > Expand them to transform them into filled shapes. Now you can loose the pink color and give the outlines a darker color. Go ahead and Unlock the "Color" layer.
Your outlines are no longer strokes but filled shapes. Now you'll merge all the outlines in to one single path via the Pathfinder panel. Again, select the "Outlines" layer and Unite.
3. Add Color to Your Daft Punk Helmet
You want to create a clean path to add color. With both your "Outline" and "Color" layer unlocked we'll be adding color in a quick and easy way. Select the "Outline" layer and triple click on the helmet shapes to enter Isolation Mode. You want to select the inside of the path (check the green smart guide defining the inside of the path). Select all the areas like this that you want to add color to and Copy them.
You just copied the transparent insides of the "Outlines". Go ahead and Lock the "Outlines" layer and select the "Color" layer that was already Unlocked. Now Paste (Command + Alt + Shift + V) what you just copied from the "Outlines" layer onto the "Color" layer. If you turn off the "Outline" layer you should get something like the screenshot below.
Your color paths are now fitting perfectly in your outlines. Turn on the "Outline" layer and you'll see Illustrator can't handle this awesomeness and will display a tiny gap in between your color and outline paths. Let's get rid of that.
Select the "Color" paths you created earlier and create an Object > Offset to expand those paths a bit. Since they are laying underneath the outlines your gap will disappear. The Offset creates a new path on the previous path, so Unite them back to one piece.
Select the path you just created and Ungroup (Command + Shift + G). Select the curve of the helmet and give it a gold look like you see in the picture below. I suggest you fill the glass of the helmet with the same color you used in the outlines.
Now you can add some shadow to your gold bezel. Unlock your "Shadow" layer and work within that layer. You can just improvise on how these should look or you can turn off the "Color" layer and turn on the "Photo" layer to just trace the shadow areas you see in the reference. Just like the shadow areas, make sure you do the same for highlighted areas while working on your "Highlight" layer.
Then Create New Layer on top of the "Shadow" layer and underneath the "Outline" layer. Name it whatever you want, I named it "100% shadow" because it will be used to add heavy shadow to add the effect of gold and reflection. As you can see in the Layers panel your "100% shadow" layer is covered by the "Outline" layer, so don't worry if your paths look sloppy, your outlines are covering that up.
And just like we did earlier, you are going to select the "Color", "Highlight", "Shadow" and "100% shadow" and Reflect (O + Enter) those paths over the y-axis to complete the other half of your helmet.
4. Create Heavy Strokes Around the Helmet
Create New Layer underneath the "Color" layer and name it "Offset", since this will be your heavy stroke outlining the helmet. Unlock the "Outline" layer and select all your outlines and Copy them. Once you have done this, Lock this layer again.
Paste the outlines you just copied on the exact same location (Command + Alt + Shift + V) onto the "Offset" layer you created earlier. Seems like they disappeared because they are laying underneath all your other paths. With the "Offset" layer selected go ahead and add a stroke to the "Offset" layer. You want to up the Stroke Weight of that outline stroke to around 20pt. Your helmet now is outlined by a heavy weight stroke. Your helmet looks great!
5. Create the LED Screen Inside the Helmet
Create New Layer underneath the "Outline" layer and name it "LED". On the center of the helmet (the same guide we created earlier) create a white Ellipse (L) that is has a diameter of 10px. So your LED screen will be build with these 10px diameter ellipses. With the ellipse you just created still selected open the Move options (V + Enter). We know the ellipse is exactly 10px in diameter so we are going to move it 15px to the right, creating a gap of 5px in between each LED. Make sure you press Copy. Keep the ellipse you just created by copying it and Object > Transform Again (Command + D) to repeat the process of copying the ellipse until the screen is covered with LED lights.
This should be your result. Make sure you copy the ellipse a few times more like in the photo below because we will be needing those extra ellipses later on.
Now select all the ellipses you just created. You're now going to do the exact same thing, but in a different direction. Copy the row of LED lights 15px over to right until they overlap the complete screen of the helmet.
Again, copy a few extra rows of LED lights. It doesn't matter that they are overlapping the helmet, we'll deal with that when we need to. Your LED screen should now look something like the photo below.
Once again, we are going to copy the one side of the LED screen you just created over to the other side of the helmet by Reflecting (O + Enter) it horizontally over the center guide we created earlier. Notice that I didn't select the first row of LED lights that are placed on the center guide. We will not be copying these because you will have overlapping paths.
To illustrate it once again, it is exactly the same as you did a few times before. Selecting the LED lights, Open the Reflect options (O + Enter), dragging the blue cross hair to the center guide with Alt pressed down on your keyboard and Copy it Vertical.
This is your result, an awesome LED screen created on the "LED" layer. Every single LED light has the exact same diameter and is spaced 5px in between each other. Let's wrap these LED lights to the shape of the helmet.
Select the LED lights and create a wrap Object > Envelope Distort > Create with Wrap. Use the settings I used in the photo below to get the LED screen to the correct shape and press OK.
You want to Expand the Envelope Distort you just created. This will release your paths from the wrap so you're able to transform them again. This is what your helmet and LED screen should look like at this point of the tutorial.
Select the LED lights and create a wrap Object > Envelope Distort > Create with Wrap. Use the settings I used in the photo below to get the LED screen to the correct shape and press OK.
Expand the Envelope Distort you just created again. Select your LED screen again and now you want to make another Envelope Distort for the last time, using the settings in the photo below. To summarize, you just created three different Envelope Distort effects and Expanded.
Go ahead and Unlock your "Color" layer and select the path of the screen. With that path selected Copy (Command + C) and Paste (Command +V) onto the "LED" layer and Arrange > Send To Back. Don't deselect that path you just pasted and give it a color that makes a clear for you to see the difference between the different paths overlapping each other.
Make sure you Lock the "Color" layer again. Head back over to the "LED" layer and select both the pink LED lights and the yellow path of the screen in the back. With those both selected you can go to the Pathfinder panel and Divide these two paths. Delete all the LED lights that are falling outside the yellow path.
Once you're done with that we want to get rid of that ugly yellow, we just used this to make the dividing more clear. Select the Magic Wand Tool (Y) and click on the yellow path (make sure all your other layers are locked since you may have used that same yellow on an other layer). Now Illustrator selected all the yellow areas in between those pink LED lights. Delete the yellow. The result is a wrapped LED screen like the one on the right bottom of the photo below.
Now you want to select your complete LED screen and Ungroup (Command + Shift + G) it. Once Ungrouped delete one side of your LED screen. I deleted the half to the right of the center guide we made in the begin of the tutorial. Select the left side of your LED screen, but once again, not the row on the center guide and Reflect (O + Enter) this side vertically by Copying it.
Your LED screen is almost ready. Give it a different color via the Color panel to give it the impression of being a LED screen, by making it a bit light then the color of your outlines and screen shape. Now your LED screen consists of one solid color, so the ones that are supposed to be the closest to our point of view (on the center guide) are the exact same color as the ones that are on the sides of the helmet. We want to give the impression of perspective by letting the LED lights slowly fading away to the sides of the screen. With your LED screen selected make a Compound Path (Command + 8). We are going to use a Gradient in a few moments to create this effect, that is why we created a Compound Path to stretch the gradient over the whole path and not just apply it to every single LED light individually.
First we are going to add some light to the helmet to manipulate a glass effect on the screen. Create New Layer underneath the "Outline" layer and name it "Top Highlight". Unlock your "Color" layer and select the path of the screen again and Copy (Command + C) (like we did a few steps back). Once copied Lock your "Color" layer and select your "Top Highlight" layer. Paste (Command + V) this path one time and on top of that path you just pasted Paste (Command + V) another one again.
You now have two exact same paths overlapping each other. Select the top path and drag it down a bit. Select both paths and Divide them in the Pathfinder panel. Your path should look like the path that is highlight in the screenshot below. Now we want to add a Gradient (G) to this path that is fading out to the bottom. Use the settings you see in the screenshot below.
Lock your "Top Highlight" layer and Unlock your "LED" layer. In step 14 we already created a compound path so we just select this and add a Gradient (G) to it like in the screenshot below. The two color markers in the Gradient panel are the exact same color as the color used in the outlines and the screen that we made in the "Color" layer. The center color marker should be a bit lighter (the color we used earlier in step 14) than the two on the outside creating the effect of perspective.
Select all the LED lights in the "LED" layer and Ungroup (Command + Shift + G). We're going to now work on splitting the LEDs to make it easier when it comes to creating the animation.
You just cut out eight lines of LED lights. For this tutorial I'm going to create seven different colors of LED lights that we will animate later on. We still didn't paste the LED lines we just cut away. First you should create seven new layers that will each contain a different section of the LED screen. This makes it easier to animate, and since we're dealing with a compound path, it makes more sense. With LED layer 1 to 7 created, Paste (Command + V) the eight lines you cut out in the previous step on the "LED 1" layer. Repeat this step another six times.
Go back to the "LED" layer and enter Isolation Mode by triple clicking a random LED light and select another batch of LED lights, Cut (Command + X) them and paste them on the "LED 2" layer. Keep doing this until all the LED lights from the LED layer are divided over the seven LED layers you just created. I started in the middle with a batch of eight rows. When I moved up to the top of the LED screen I each time selected fewer rows of lights to boost the perspective.
You now have seven layers filled with LED lights. Now it's time to give all of these different batches a different color by filling them with a gradient like the ones we used before. Only this time the center color market in the Gradient panel can be any bright color your wish. Below I show you my color combinations for the different LED layers. So to break it down for you. Select the "LED 1" layer and apply gradient one starting on the left corner of the image below. Up next, select the "LED 2" layer and apply the second gradient to it, you get the point.
Once you're done adding all that color to your LED layers your helmet is finally done and should look something like this. Awesome, now lets animate this thing!
6. Prepare for the Animation
Let Illustrator take a breath right now and launch Adobe Photoshop. Create New Document (Command + N) and use the settings I used in the screenshot below (1000 x 1000px and RGB color).
With that new document created go back to Adobe Illustrator and select the "Offset", "Color", "Highlight", "Shadow", the "100% shadow" and the "Outlines" layers and Copy (Command + C) them. Now we switch back to Adobe Photoshop again an we Paste (Command + V) the paths we just selected in Adobe Illustrator on our blank canvas. A window will pop up asking you how you want to paste these objects. Choose Smart Object. Now your helmet is pasted as a Smart Object in Adobe Photoshop linked to Adobe Illustrator.
Rename the layer your just pasted in Adobe Photoshop to "Helmet" (this is layer one). Now you want to go to Layer > New > Group and create a new Group on top of the "Helmet" layer. Name this group "LED", since this will be containing your frames for animation. Now you go back to Adobe Illustrator again and copy the "Top highlight" layer. Switch back to Adobe Photoshop and Paste (Command + V) this as a Smart Object on top of the LED group you just created (this is layer 2). The image below is illustration the division of layers in Adobe Photoshop.
Go back to Adobe Illustrator. The dividing of the LED lights onto different layers is handy to quickly add different color to another section of LED lights. You need to create seven different 'frames' of color that we can use in the animation. So, the first helmet on the photo below is your first 'frame'. Lock all your layers expect your seven LED layers. Now select all the seven LED layers like in my first helmet and Copy (Command + C) them (your first frame is now added to your Clipboard).
Now we need to paste this first frame in our LED map in Adobe Photoshop. So paste this and don't select Smart Object, but Pixels. Drag and drop the layer you pasted to the "LED" group and rename it to "1". Your first frame is created. Great job!
Now we go back to Adobe Illustrator and we make the second frame. It's really simple. As you can see the bottom row of LED lights in the first frame is red, we want that to move up. So in our second frame we move every single color a row of LED lights up. As you can see the second row of LED lights in the second frame is now red and every single color moved one row up. Once every color is shifted, again select all the seven LED light layers, Copy (Command + C) them. Go back to Adobe Photoshop and Paste (Command + V) them in the "LED" group on top of the first LED layer. Rename it to "2". You repeat this step until you have seven frames and every single LED light group shifted from color. The screenshot below shows you how your frames should look.
Eventually you will also end up with seven different frames in the LED map in Photoshop. This is what it should look like. The placement of the LED layers frames is off in Photoshop. Select all the seven LED layers in the Layers panel and move them up a bit until the fit on the screen of the helmet.
The LED screen is overlapping the bezel of the helmet, so go back to Illustrator and Unlock the "Outline" layer. Select the bezel in this layer and Copy (Command + C) it. Lock the "Outline" layer again.
Switch back to Photoshop. Paste the layer on top of the LED screen to cover up LED lights we don't need to see. Rename the layer to "Frame".
7. Create the Animation
In Photoshop make sure you are using the Motion workspace. If you're not sure which workspace you are using, on the top right there's a drop down menu you can choose from. Your workspace will transform and the Video Timeline panel will pop up. If you don't see this window go to Window > Timeline. In the previous section we created all the files we need to make a simple animation.
So lets's get to animation. Press Create Video Timeline. If you are not working in Photoshop CS6, you will get a standard frame view. For those working in CS6 a motion timeline will appear, we don't need that, so click the little frame symbol in the bottom left corner of the Video Timeline Window.
In the Video Timeline panel create six new frames. For each Frame in the Video Timeline panel turn on the correct layer in the Layer panel. What do I mean? On frame one in the Timeline panel layer 1 in the Layer Panel should be turned on, all the other LED layers must be turned off. On frame two in the Timeline Window layer 2 in the Layer Panel should be turned on, all the other LED layers must be turned off. Repeat this step until you did this for every single frame.
Now you're going to make the animation a bit more dynamic by Tweening the frames. Select the first two frames in the Video Timeline panel. Now click the Tween icon in the timeline and use the settings in the screenshot below.
The tween option will create three frames in between the frames you selected merging them from one to another. This means that your color will not skip from one color to another, but it will fade from one color to another. As you can see in the screenshot below, the first time line shows the two frames you selected before tweening. The second photo shows you the three frames that were added by the tween option. You just did this for the first two frames, now repeat this step for the other six frames.
So what you do now is select frame 5 and 6, press tween and apply it to those two frames. Next you will apply the same to frames 9 and 10, 13 and 14, 17 and 18, 21 and 22. Make sure the timing on your frames is set to 0 to give you a smooth transition in the animation. If it is not set to 0 go to frame one and select it. With that frame selected, got to the last frame, hold down Shift + click on the last frame. You now selected all your frames.
Your GIF is almost ready to be posted on the world wide web. First you need to save it by Save for Web & Devices (Command + Alt + Shift + S). A window will pop up giving you a bunch of options. First make sure you select GIF from the drop down menu and use the settings I used in the screenshot below. Don't forget to set the Looping Option to forever. Why on earth would you not make this awesome GIF loop? Save and you're done.
Whoa... that GIF is Awesome! Well Done!
Congratulations! It's been a long process, but it is definitely worth it to see the end result. Why not try a similar process to create other GIFs which start life in Adobe Illustrator?