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Create a Gingerbread Cookie Scene Using Smart Objects

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In this tutorial, we'll learn how to build a gingerbread cookie using copies of a single Smart Object. This technique will allow us to quickly update the shape of our cookie with very little effort in order to make multiple cookies for a more complex final scene. Let's get Started!


Tutorial Assets

The following asset was used during the production of this tutorial.


Step 1

Create a new document 2000 px x 1600 px. Fill this with a linear gradient. This will be the start of our baking sheet.


Step 2

Create a new layer named "Baking Sheet Texture" and Fill with white. Make sure your Foreground and Background Colors are set to Black and White (or simply press the D key) then go to Filter > Render > Fibers. Use the settings as shown:


Step 3

Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) this layer so that it appears to be in perspective.

Change the Blending Mode to Pin Light and the Opacity to 14%. This will give the baking sheet some nice variation.


Step 4

The next step is to draw the shape of a gingerbread man on a new layer. Select the Pen Tool and make sure it is set to Shape in the Top Menu. After drawing the shape, name the layer "Gingerbread Shape."


Step 5

Right click this layer and select Convert to Smart Object. This is very important as it will be the foundation on which we build the rest of our object.


Step 6

We will now begin to build the cookie in grayscale using only copies of our Smart Object. This will allow the cookie's shape to be fully editable at the very end.

Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) the Smart Object layer so that it appears in perspective.


Step 7

Make a copy of the "Gingerbread Shape" layer and place it below the original. Add the following Layer Styles (we will use this to give the cookie some dimension).

Place this layer inside a New Group (or simply press Command/Ctrl + G when the layer is selected). Name the group "Edges."

Use the arrow keys to nudge the "Edges" group down. This will add the illusion of thickness to our cookie.


Step 8

Our next step is to create some shading on the edges of the cookie. Make another copy of the "Gingerbread Shape" Smart Object and place it directly above the "Edges" group. Rename this layer "Shading "

Add the following Layer Style

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with a radius of 38.7 px.

Lastly, make this layer a clipping layer to the "Edges" group. This will clip the "Shading" layer so that the blur does not bleed past the edges of the cookie.


Step 9

As an optional step, you can create a second "Shading" layer that clips to the "Edges" group.


Step 10

To organize our Layer's Panel, select the "Edges" group and its clipping layers and press Command/Ctrl + G to make a new group out of these. Name this group "Edges & Shading."


Step 11

We will now focus on making some shadows for our cookie. Start by making three copies of the "Gingerbread Shape" Smart Object and place them below the "Edges & Shading" group. Name the layers as shown:


Step 12

We will start with the "Casted Shadow" layer—hide the other two.

Add the following Layer Style to that layer

Move the shadow slightly off center and Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) the layer slightly to distort the shadow.

Set the Blending Mode to Multiply and the Opacity to 34%.


Step 13

Unhide the "Base Shadow" layer move it down so that it is barely visible under the cookie. As an optional step, you can Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) this shape to make a better fit underneath the cookie.


Step 14

Next we are going to soften the "Base Shadow" using multiple Smart Filters. Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and apply the settings shown.

Now, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with the settings shown.

Lastly, set the Blending Mode to Multiply.


Step 15

Unhide the "Ambient Shadow" layer and move it underneath the cookie (just like we did with the previous shadow layer).

Next, apply the Motion Blur and Gaussian Blur Filters like we did in the previous step, except with different settings:

Lastly, set the Blending Mode to Multiply.


Step 16

Select the three "Shadow" layers and press Command/Ctrl + G to group them. Name this group "Shadows."


Step 17

We will now create the cookie's reflection; however, it will be more of a stylized reflection and less of a mirror-like reflection. To start, make another copy of the "Gingerbread Shape" Smart Object and place it below the "Shadows" group. Name this layer "Reflections."

We will make use of a Smart Objects ability to add multiple instance of the same Filter. Go ahead and add the Motion Blur Filter (Filter > Blur > Motion Blur) with the following settings.

Next, add another Motion Blur Filter with these settings:


Step 18

Position this layer so that it looks like the cookie's reflection. Set the Blending Mode to Multiply.


Step 19

To add more contrast to the cookie's shape, select the "Gingerbread Shape" layer and add the following Layer Style:

Next, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with the following settings:

Lastly, make this layer a clipping layer to the "Edges & Shading" group.


Step 20

As an optional step, add a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer and adjust the settings so the cookie appears brighter. Make this a clipping layer.


Step 21

We will now work on the cookie's texture. Open the Cookie.jpg file.


Step 22

Using any selection tool (I used the Lasso Tool), select the inside portion of the cookie and Copy (Command/Ctrl + C) and Paste (Command/Ctrl + V) it to a new layer.


Step 23

With the "Background" layer hidden, position the cutout in the top corner

Make a copy of the cutout and move it over as shown.

Use the Eraser Tool set to 0% Hardness and erase the copied layer so that it blends into the layer behind it.


Step 24

Make multiple copies of this layer and position them across the top.


Step 25

Select all of the cutout layers and Merge them together (Command/Ctrl + E).


Step 26

Copy the newly merged texture layer and move down.

Just like before, Erase the top of the new layer to blend, then Copy (Command/Ctrl + C) and Paste (Command/Ctrl + V) new layers to fill out the rest of the canvas.

Flatten the layers and save the file.


Step 27

Copy the texture to our Gingerbread scene and name this layer "Texture."


Step 28

Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) the "Texture" layer so that it follows the perspective of our scene. It is important that the texture covers the entire canvas.

Make this layer a clipping layer to the "Cookie" group.

Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light in order to make the object look more like a cookie.


Step 29

Currently, the cookie's texture appears flat. We will fix this in the next few steps. Start by making a copy of the "Texture" layer. Make sure this is also a clipping layer to "Cookie" group.

Set the Blending Mode back to Normal. This will allow us to see what we are doing to the layer. Rename this layer "Cracks."


Step 30)

Desaturate this layer by pressing Command/Ctrl + Shift + U.

Use Levels (Command/Ctrl + L) to increase the layer's contrast. The result should appear as follows:

Change the Blending Mode to Multiply and adjust the Opacity as you see fit (I have it set to 87%). The result should bring out the cracks in the texture.


Step 31

The last thing we can do to add more depth to the texture is to introduce highlights around the cracking. To do this, make a copy of the "Cracks" layer and make this a clipping layer as well. Press Command/Ctrl + I to invert the layer and rename it "Highlights."

Set the Blending Mode to Color Dodge and the Opacity to 37%.

Next, go to Filter > Blur Motion Blur and

Lastly, use the arrow keys to nudge the "Highlights" layer down until the highlights appear. This creates the illusion that there is a light source coming from behind our cookie.


Step 32

The next few steps will be focused on creating the decorative icing. So far, we've used multiple copies of a single Smart Object to create out cookie. This allows us to easily change the shape of our cookie (without any extra work) simply by changing the shape of the Smart Object. We will continue to use these techniques to create the icing so that, it too, will be updated automatically when we change the Smart Object's shape.

To start, make a copy of the "Gingerbread Shape" layer. Move this copy to the top of our layer stack and rename it "Icing." Make sure the clipping layers that we set up in the previous layers are still intact.


Step 33

Before we do anything to this layer, we'll need to remove the Layer Styles and Smart Filters. Just click and drag both to the trash icon in the Layer's Panel.

Here is what our scene should look like:


Step 34

To create the icing, set this layer's Fill to 0% and add the following Layer Style:


Step 35

Just like we did with the cookie, we need to give the icing some shadows. Make a copy of the "Icing" layer and place it directly beneath. Rename it "Icing Casted Shadow"

Double click the layer to access the Layer Styles and make the following changes on the Stroke Effect.

Set this Layer's Opacity to 58%. Move the layer down as shown. Keep in mind that our fictitious light source is coming from somewhere behind our cookie, as we decided in Step 31.


Step 36

Make a copy of the "Icing Casted Shadow" layer and rename it "Icing Base Shadow." Move this layer so that it is just visible under the icing, keeping in mind our light source.


Step 37

Go back to the "Icing" layer and Press Command/Ctrl + G to group this layer. Rename the group "Icing." The reason to group this layer is so we can apply a Layer Style that will affect the "Icing" layer's Layer Style.

Now, add the Bevel and Emboss Layer Style to the "Icing" group. This will give the icing a little texture.


Step 38

For organizational purposes, group the Icing layers together.


Step 39

Now that our cookie is complete, we can change the shape by changing the Smart Object. To do this, double click the thumbnail of any instance of the Smart Object. This will open up the Smart Object in another window.

Once inside the Smart Object document, hide the existing layer and create a new shape of a new layer. To save the changes, press Command/Ctrl + S. This will only save the Smart Object, not the working file.

Switching back to our gingerbread document, we can see the changes. It may be necessary to make small tweaks to the icing and shadow layers depending on your shape.


Step 40

We have just created a gingerbread cookie using Smart Objects, but we can take this even further. We can use the Smart Object cookie to quickly create multiple cookies to be used in a new scene.

Start by creating a new document with the same dimensions and same baking sheet effect for the background (refer to Steps 1–3).


Step 41

Using our original gingerbread document, select all layers that make up our gingerbread cookie and press Command/Ctrl + E to merge. Copy this to our new scene.


Step 42

Back in our gingerbread scene, press Command/Ctrl + Z to undo the Merged Layers . We can now go back to the Smart Object document and make a new shape. Continue these techniques to create multiple cookies and place them in our new scene. Here are the shapes that I have created and copied to my new document:

Here is what the new document looks like with all of our cookies.


Step 43

Position these cookies however you want, making sure to scale them appropriately. I have set them up to appear spread out on the baking sheet.


Step 44

Now that we have our scene laid out, we can add some finishing effects. Press Command/Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E to merge all layers to a new layer. Make sure the new layer is on top of the layer stack.


Step 45

Now that we have a flattened version of our scene, we can quickly add some basic effects to enhance the image. Go to Filter > Blur > Tilt-Shit to add some basic depth-of-field.


Step 46

Next, we can add some atmosphere to or scene. I picture these cookies being made during the holidays; with colored lights nearby that would reflect off our baking sheet. To start, use the Brush Tool to add spots of color on a new layer.

Set the Blending Mode to Linear Dodge (Add) and the Opacity to 16%


Step 47

Make a copy of this layer and change the Opacity to 72%

Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and set the angle to 90 degrees and the Distance to around 1000 px.

You can also Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) this layer to stretch this layer even more. This will give the appearance of a more diffuse light.

Lastly, adjust the Blend If sliders in the Layer Styles Panel to knock out the light in the darker areas.


Final Image