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The surrealist art movement art movement began shortly after the end of First World War. Artists like Salvador Dali translated the subconscious mind into visual art. The belief that unconventional imagery could be used to unlock hidden motivations and tap into consumer's desires is a technique still used today in advertising.
In this in-depth tutorial, I'll show you how to create print-ready artwork for a "Chilli & Chocolate" flavored fictional ice cream brand. You'll discover how the concept was developed from an initial sketch, through to professional photography (thanks to John Wood) and finally, artwork for print.
You'll find most files in the "source" folder. I've also included the completed, InDesign artwork (fonts outlined). You'll also need these stock images and packaging template to complete this tutorial.
Before we dive in, I'll briefly run you through how the initial concept was developed.
Posing the Figure
For a project like this I use Poser. Here I used a basic, low-poly figure to quickly set up the pose and camera angle I wanted. I'll be use a render as a basis for a sketch, so at this stage I didn't waste time on unnecessary details.
This shows my rough layout (traced over the 3D render with a tablet) this was sent over to John the photographer for discussion, you'll also see I've placed some text and graphics. Remember, at this stage none of this is set in stone – in fact if you look at the final artwork, you'll see I chose a kneeling pose.
Here's the studio set-up – because our model had blond hair, an almost black to grey backdrop was used; making hair extraction a fairly painless process later.
After the photo shoot, I used Adobe Bridge to narrow down a handful of best images. These were very roughly pasted over my rough to make a final decision.
Extracting the Model
Open the "model.jpg" from the "source" folder. To isolate the figure precisely from the background we'll use a channel or density mask. If you're familiar with my tutorials it's a technique I often use.
Choose Image > Calculations, copy these settings in the following window and click OK. This will create a new channel with the most contrast between the subject and background.
Switch to the Channels tab and you'll see the new channel ("Alpha 1") sitting at the bottom. The idea is to produce a clean silhouette, so set the Dodge Tool (O) to: Exposure: 70% / Range: Highlights and use a medium soft-edged brush to bleach the inner pixels around the hair.
Now darken the outer edge around the hair using the Burn Tool (O) set to Exposure: 70% / Range: Midtones. You'll find this stage easier if you toggle the visibility of the top RGB composite channel – just make sure that "Alpha 1" is the target channel you're working on. You can also adjust the color and density of the channel by double-clicking its thumbnail to make things easier to see.
Open to the Paths tab, then set the Pen Tool (P) to Paths in the Options bar. Zoom in and carefully draw a closed paths around the model's body, keeping your path well within the already masked hair. You can also fine-tune your path at any time by pressing Cmd/Ctrl to access the Direct Selection Tool (A) to adjust individual direction/anchor points as required. My path is indicated in red for clarity.
Cmd/Ctrl-click your path thumbnail to load it as a selection, target your channel mask thumbnail and ensure white is your Foreground color. Now hit Opt/Alt + delete to fill the selection with white.
Cmd/Ctrl-click your channel mask thumbnail to generate a selection from the white area, then target the top RGB composite channel.
Switch to the Layers tab, choose any selection tool and click the Refine Edge button in the Options bar. In the next window choose On Layers (L) from the View Mode drop-down menu, copy these settings and click OK.
You'll now see a masked duplicate layer appear and the visibility of the original layer disabled. Target the mask, then grab the Brush Tool (B) and use a small black, soft-edged brush to hide the strands of hair around the model's face. Now use small white brush to re-instate the missing hair as indicated.
When you're happy, delete the original layer, then drag the mask thumbnail into the trash icon at the foot of the tab and click Apply in the following window.
Finally, use the Crop Tool (C) to trim away the majority of excess canvas. With our model successfully isolated, we'll now move onto the retouching stage.
Retouching the Model
First off we'll reduce the size of the band on the model's bikini top. Click on the create new path icon to make a new one and name it "Path 2". Now draw a closed path as indicated in yellow.
Load the path as a selection, then hit Shift + F5 to access the Feather window and enter 1px. Now press Cmd/Ctrl + J to copy the selection to a new layer.
Hit Cmd/Ctrl + T to access Transform and stretch the new layer down a little. Now use the Lasso Tool (L) to make a 3px feathered selection as indicated.
Target the top layer, then access Warp from the Transform menu and conform the selection to the bikini shape. Add a layer mask, then press Cmd/Ctrl + I to Invert the mask to black. Now use a medium, soft-edged white brush to paint back the areas as shown at the bottom of the screenshot.
When you're happy, press Cmd/Ctrl + E to merge the upper layer. Now repeat the process of making a feathered selection, warping and masking the model's left breast. When you're done, merge this layer as well.
Next, we'll reduce the shadow below the right side of the bikini top. Draw another new closed path as shown ("Path 3"), then make a 5px feathered selection.
Load the path as selection, then copy to a new layer. Move the layer content up slightly to cover the bikini. Add a mask, then load "Path 3" as a selection and Feather by 1px.
Paint on the mask within the selection to remove the overlapping skin, then deselect and blend the lower areas as shown. This layer can also be merged.
Now we'll tuck the model's left waistline. Use the same feathered selection and warping technique on a new layer. Don't overdo this part – remember the model must look lifelike! Now mask the lower layer to hide the original waist.
After repeating the previous step for the right side of the waist, you're image should look something like this. When you're happy with the model's new figure, merge all layers.
In this final stage we'll fix the blemishes and smooth out the skin. It's a good idea to carry this out on a duplicate layer, just in case you make any mistakes. First, use the Patch Tool (J) to blend out the skin creases around the model's tummy. Now repair any smaller flaws with a hard-edged, 10px Spot Healing Bush (J). This layer can also me merged.
There are numerous ways you can use Photoshop to smooth skin. Here's my preferred technique: Duplicate the model layer once more, then choose Filter > Noise > Median and enter 3px.
Reduce the blurred layer to around 45% to soften the effect. Add a mask, then use a medium, soft-edged brush to bring the hair, facial features, hands and bikini back into focus. When you're done, merge the blurred layer.
With the model now complete, we can concentrate on repairing the ice cream, which had deteriorated under the studio lights. Add a new layer, then set the Clone Tool (S) to Current & Below and remove the damaged areas. This layer can also be merged.
Next, we need to take a bite out of the product. Open the ice cream bar. Set the Magic Wand Tool (W) to Add to selection, Tolerance: 15 with Anti-alias, Contiguous checked, then select the white background.
Set the Lasso Tool (L) to Add to selection and include the bottom shadow within the selection as indicated.
Hit Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + I to Inverse the selection, then go to Select > Modify > Contract By 1px. Finally, Feather by 2px and copy to the Clipboard.
Paste the selection as a new layer and resize, rotate and position over the top of the existing ice cream. Now press Cmd/Ctrl + M and apply the following Curves adjustment directly to the layer.
Blend the hard edge with a mask, then merge the layer. Now use the Clone Stamp Tool (S) to remove any imperfections. With this stage completed be sure to save all your hard work.
Create a new InDesign document, select A4 from the Page Size pull-down menu, then uncheck the chain icon in the Margins box and enter 12mm for the Top, Left and Right fields and 15mm for the Bottom. We need an equal amount of bleed all round, so activate the chain icon in the Bleed and Slug box and enter 3mm.
Grab the Type Tool (T), snap a text container to the left margin and place it near the bottom. Choose a nice friendly-looking font (I used "American Typewriter Bold" at 46 pt), enter the ad title in black, then press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + L to align it left within the frame.
To adjust kerning, click between each character pair in turn with the Type Tool (T), then hold down Opt/Alt and tap the left or arrow key to tighten the space shown in the Character tab. You may wish to open InDesign's Units & Increments preferences and set the Keyboard Increments / Cursor Key to a lower value for smaller increment jumps. You'll see that I've tightened up the spacing between certain characters by eye for a pleasing result.
Add another text frame for the body copy below the heading and choose Type > Fill with Placeholder Text. Format this using a clear to read serif font (I used "Adobe Jensen Pro Regular at 10/13 pt"), then Justify (with last line aligned left) in the Options bar, or Paragraph tab as shown.
Snap a final text container to both vertical and bottom margins and enter the ad strap-line (I used "Adobe Jensen Pro Bold" at 10/13 pt with a Tracking value of 22). Now hit Cmd/Ctrl + B to open the
Text Frames Options window and set the Align option to Bottom.
We've yet to create our pack mock up, so for now select the Rectangle Tool (M) and place a small box filled with 50% black to represent its size and position. Now rotate in the Options bar to around 7 degrees and snap it to the right margin.
Next, we'll create a PDF that we can use as a Photoshop guide for the next stage. Press Cmd/Ctrl + E, then select Adobe PDF (Print) in the next window, choose a memorable location and click Save. Copy these settings in the following window, then hit the Export button.
Creating the Main Image
Back in Photoshop, create a new document using the following settings.
Remember, we need to add the 3mm bleed to match the Indesign artwork. The quickest way to do this is to first snap guides to all four edges of your canvas.
Next, press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + C to open the Canvas Size window. Add 6mm to both the Width and Height fields, highlight the centre Anchor point, set the Canvas extension color to White and hit OK.
Double-click the default layer, name it "Grey" and fill with # a1958d. Now go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and enter these settings to break up the solid color a little.
Open your InDesign PDF you created in Step 33 via Photoshop, copy these settings and click OK.
To make the template pin register accurately with your Photoshop file, use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to snap a top and bottom fill using any color, as these won't be permanent.
Hold Shift and drag the PDF thumbnail into your project file to create a new layer and name it "Guide". With this layer correctly in position, delete both temporary fills.
Drag over your model layer to create a new layer below the "Guide" and label it "Model". Resize and position centrally, then choose Layer > Matting > Defringe and enter 2px to eliminate any edge halos.
Change your Foreground color to # fffff5, then set the Gradient Tool (G) to Foreground to Transparent and Linear in the Options bar, then place a new layer called "Base grad" above the "Grey" layer. Now hold Shift and drag a gradient as indicated by the direction and length of the arrow. Reduce the layer Opacity to 35%, then Press Cmd/Ctrl + F to repeat the Noise filter (as Step 35).
Add a new layer called "Top grad" above your previous layer and change the Blend Mode to Multiply. Change your Foreground color to # 482810, then pull a second gradient as indicated and apply the Noise filter again.
Target the "Top grad" layer, then choose Color Balance from the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon situated at the foot of the Layers tab. Click the double-ring icon to unclip the adjustment (to affect all underlying layers) and copy these settings.
To keep your layers organized, highlight the "Color Balance" adjustment layer thumbnail, then hold Shift and highlight the "Grey" thumbnail (this will highlight all the in-between layers too) and choose New Group from Layers from the top-right fly-out menu in the Layers tab. Name the folder "BACKGROUND" and click OK.
Now to add some melting skin. These images were created using several bars of surfboard wax (candle wax proved too reflective), a blow-lamp and photographed to match the angle and lighting of the model.
Open "100_1132.JPG" from the "source" folder and use the Lasso Tool (L) to roughly select the pool if wax and Copy > Paste as a new layer beneath the "Model". Resize, position as shown and label it "Wax 1".
Add a mask, so only the left side remains behind the figure, then fill all the other areas with black (this is important because later we'll need to load white as a selection).
We now need to adjust the tonal range, as well as altering the wax color. First, clip a Levels Adjustment Layer with these settings, then click the double-ring icon to clip the adjustment to just the target layer.
Now clip a Color Balance adjustment to the same layer with the following settings.
To complete the wax coloring, clip a Photo Filter Adjustment layer and use the Orange preset at 53%.
We'll repeat this process to add several more wax layers. Here's "100_1141.JPG" resized and placed into position, this time stacked above the "Model". Name this layer "Wax 2"
Use the Patch Tool (J) to remove the large drip of wax on the right, but don't sweat over the edges – we'll sort that later.
Mask this second wax layer so just the right side remains visible. Now Cmd/Ctrl-click the "Model" layer thumbnail to generate a selection and modify the mask as shown.
Repeat steps 46-48 to add the same Adjustment Layers. You'll need to tweak these accordingly, as this pool of wax should be slightly darker. For specifics, refer to the "Melting_completed.psd" file which you'll find in the "source" folder.
Use the same workflow to place "100_1134.JPG" above the last adjustment. Name this layer "Wax 3".
Now mask the layer to reveal the small area below the model's calf.
Add the same set of adjustments as before and modify them to suit.
Import a final puddle of wax ("100_1128.JPG") and scale/position over the model's knees. Name this layer "Wax 4".
We only need to show a small area, so add a mask, Invert it (Cmd/Ctrl + I) and use white to paint reveal as shown.
Now clip the same three adjustments as previous.
All your wax layers should now blend as one. If not, revisit their adjustments and modify their masks to accordingly. When you're happy, place each wax layer and its accompanying adjustments within four separate folders.
Now mask the bottom of the "Model" to create a seamless blend between skin and wax.
Duplicate the "Model" layer and rename it "Model distorted". Now press Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + X to access the Liquify filter and use the Forward Warp (W) and Plucker (S) Tools sparingly to melt the model's elbows and leg.
Now use a small black brush to modify the "Model" mask around the liquified areas. You can also modify the "Model distorted" mask if you feel the effect is too much. When you're done, place both model layers into a folder called "MODEL".
Time now for some small drips of wax. I won't labour every detail how each drop was created, but basically I selected droplet areas from the source photography, used the Warp command, then applied the same tonal and coloring methods as used on the larger pools of wax. We'll be adding quite a few layers, so get into the habit of naming them as you work. Here's the first droplet with a Levels adjustment.
The same droplet shown with a Color Balance and Photo Filter applied.
Place some drips over the left hand and elbow as well as her chest and tummy. To keep your layers tidy add all the drips and their adjustments within a folder called "SMALL DRIPS".
In this step we'll add some subtle runs of melting skin. Grab the Lasso Tool (L) and roughly create a series of selections as indicated. Target the "Model" layer thumbnail and press Cmd/Ctrl + J to copy the selection to a new layer. Place this at the top of the stack within the "SMALL DRIPS" folder the apply the following Layer Style.
Change the Blend Mode to Screen and reduce the Opacity to 17%. Add a mask, then fill an inversed layer-based from the "Model" with black. Now use a soft-edged brush to hide areas that appear too prominent.
To finish off, clip a Levels adjustment to this layer and copy these settings.
With all the small droplets complete, you're image should look something like this.
Although he wax looks pretty realistic, it still need some subtle texturing. Target the "Model" layer and copy several feathered selections from the model's thighs to new layers. Reduce their opacities to to 30% and then merge them to a single layer. Position this layer below your "Guides", enlarge to cover the main pool of wax and name it "Skin patch 1"
Reduce the Opacity to 41%. Add a mask, then paint freehand and within a layer-based selection from the "Model" as shown.
Use the same workflow to place additional smaller skin patches, then adjust their opacities to taste. Add these layers into a new folder called "SKIN PATCHES".
Next we'll place some floor lighting to match that of the model. Drop a new layer called "Light" within the "BACKGROUND" folder. Now drag a series of Foreground (# f7f7f1) to transparent Radial gradients over the left side of the ground. Break up any gradient banding with the same amount of noise (2px) as used on the rest of the background layers, then mask if required with some black to transparent gradients.
In this step we'll cast a realistic ground shadow. For this to work, open the original model photography and use it as reference. Add a new layer called "Main shadow" above the "BACKGROUND" folder. Grab the Lasso Tool (L), make selection and fill with a chocolate brown (# 2e1206).
Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian, then use the same menu to select Motion Blur.
Set this layer Blend Mode to Multiply and reduce the Opacity to 35%. Now use a large soft-edged brush to mask as shown.
We'll now add a small shadow beneath the main puddle of wax. Place another layer called "Wax shadow" above your last layer. Cmd/Ctrl-click the "Wax 1" mask thumbnail and fill with the same brown this layer. Repeat the same fill command with a mask selection from "Wax 2".
Apply a 2px Gaussian Blur, then use the arrows on your keyboard to nudge the layer content twice down and left to offset the shadow slightly.
Change the Blend Mode to Multiply and lower the Opacity to 93%. Mask as indicated, then place both shadow layers into a folder called "SHADOWS".
To create the melting strands of skin I shot some microwaved cheese. Open "100_1149.jpg" from the "source" folder and use the same selection process as you did for the ice cream, then apply the same Refine Edge command as used on the model.
Import as a new layer below the "Guide" and name it "Cheese 1". Resize/position as shown, then use a mask to blend the top and bottom edges.
This time, we'll use some different adjustments. First, clip a Hue/Saturation layer and copy these settings.
Now apply a Levels Adjustment Layer.
Finally, clip a Color Balance adjustment. The cheese now blends with the wax and skin tones nicely.
Place "Cheese 1" and its adjustments into a folder called "CHEESE 1". Duplicate this folder, then rename it "CHEESE 2". Delete the layer mask on the duplicate cheese layer, then reposition under the left elbow and rename it "Cheese 2". Transform this layer, then re-mask as shown.
Next, we'll add a little shadow over the right side of the wax puddle. Duplicate your "Main shadow layer" and move it to the top of the layer stack. Reduce its Opacity to 15%, then paint within a layer-based selection from "Cheese 1" to hide some shadow. With the image nearing completion, you can now disregard your "Guide" layer.
Place an empty layer at the top, then go to Image > Apply Image. Set the Blending to Normal in the following window and hit OK. This command creates a composite from all visible layers. Name the merged layer "Retouch".
Use this layer to carry out any retouching. Use the Patch Tool (J) to fix larger areas and the Clone Stamp Tool (S), within either layer, or mask-based selections to make the blends more realistic.
Next, we'll apply a non-destructive dodge and burn technique to add highlight and shadow. First, add an uppermost layer and label it "Shadows / highlights", then press Shift + F5, then select 50% Gray from the Contents drop-down menu. Now if you change the layer's Blend Mode to Overlay the grey disappears.
Set the Brush Tool (B) to 10% Opacity and paint within layer, or mask-based selections to add shadows and highlights using black and white respectively.
Tip: If you make a mistake and need to reinstate 50% Gray, set the layer back to Normal Blend Mode and pick up the grey with the Eyedropper Tool (I), or use the Color Picker to set all three RGB fields to 128, then paint at 100% Opacity.
Next, we'll add some overall sharpening. Repeat the Apply Image command on another empty top layer, then choose Filter > Other > High Pass and enter 7px. Change the Blend Mode to Soft Light to render the grey invisible and reduce the Opacity slightly to 80%. Name this layer "Sharpened".
We only require the sharpening effect on the melting figure. Add a mask and fill layer and mask-based selections with black, then Invert the mask to negative.
To keep things organized, place all your floating top layers within a new folder called "ADJUSTMENTS". With the main composition finished, save a flattened TIFF version to a convenient location ready to import into InDesign.
Revisit your InDesign artwork and hit Cmd/Ctrl + D to navigate and Place your TIFF file. Now use the Reference Point Locator to position at the top left bleed, then hit Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + open bracket to Send to Back.
Now we'll create a quick pack mock-up. Open the the candy bar template, then deactivate the visibility of the layers as shown.
Double-click the "design" Smart Object layer thumbnail and click OK in the following window.
Select All (Cmd/Ctrl + A) and hit delete in the new child document.
Open the "wrapper.psd" from the "source" folder. Place the flames above "Layer 1", resize and change the Blend Mode to Screen. Now select (as Step 23) the same ice cream bar and copy > paste above the "Fire" layer. Resize, flip horizontally, then clip a Levels adjustment to boost the contrast and also apply the following Layer Style.
Your finished pack should now look something like this.
Add all your layers within a group folder, then Shift-drag them into the original child document and save.
The Smart Object will automatically update itself and your pack should now look like this.
Choose Image > Trim, copy these settings to eliminate the unwanted canvas area and save.
Back in your InDesign file set the grey box to a fill of none, then Place (Cmd/Ctrl + D) your pack design. Click the Fit content to frame button in the Options bar, then press Shift Cmd/Ctrl + M to access the Drop Shadow dialogue box and use these settings.
Large text set to InDesign's default black can sometimes appear pale in print, so use the top-right fly-out menu in the Swatches palette to select New Color Swatch. We want a warm black, so use the following four-color breakdown.
Color the main header with your new swatch, then choose Window > Output > Attributes and activate the Overprint Fill box. This means the text will not be knocked out from the underlying four-color inks, thus making it much denser.
Keep any smaller serif text such as the body copy and strap-line as default black to avoid any registration issues, but as it appears over a light background change them to Overprint Fill as well. That's the artwork completed!
Conclusion and Scope
Why don't you have a go at creating your own surreal advertising image – if you're stuck for ideas, here's a couple of articles that are sure to inspire: