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The Supercharged Beetle of Doom!


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Elaborate visual effects are easily achievable when you combine a little bit of creativity with some fundamental Photoshop techniques. In this tutorial, we walk you through transforming this drab insect into the Supercharged Beetle of Doom!

Step 1

Let's get started. First, open up an image of an insect you'd like to turbo charge! I found this wonderful image of a horned beetle on Getty, but if you are disinclined to purchase it there are plenty available on Stock.Xchng. Now, Zoom in to around 300% (CMD+).

There are a handful of images used in this tutorial. One of them is a 3D render available within the download pack. Also, the stock images used in this tutorial can be found following these links: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Step 2

Get out the Pen tool (P) and start tracing around the beetle. Take your time, use as many anchor points as you need to, and click and drag to create curved sections of the path. Trim your paths by Option+clicking on the anchor point to begin again. When you have completed your path, right click in the middle of the path and hit Make Selection. Ensure the Feather radius is set to '0' and hit OK to complete the etching.

Step 3

Hit (CMD+J) to duplicate your selection into a new layer; name it 'Beetle.' Repeat the tracing process on the shadow. Once you have an accurate sketch, create a new layer. Then fill it with a sampled color from the original layer. Then create another new layer. Fill it with white, and position it beneath the 'Beetle' & 'Shadow.' layers


Step 4

Duplicate the shadow layer, and apply a Gaussian Blur of around 20-30 pixels. Return to the original layer, and apply another Gaussian Blur using only around 4 pixels. Now add a layer mask, and stretch a black to white gradient from top to bottom. To complete the detailed shadow effect, duplicate the original layer, and add monochromatic Noise of around 10%. Then set the layer mode to lighten.

Step 5

Open up abstract.psd from the included files. These are some 3D shapes I've put together, but you can feel free to use your own if these aren't to your taste. Anything will suffice, but something with a bit of depth and detail will work best. Duplicate the 'Main' layer into our main composition, and position it behind the Beetle.

Step 6

Add a layer mask to the abstract, and brush out the area beneath the Beetle. Duplicate the layer. Then clear the layer mask and add a long spike that follows the line of the leg out to the left of the composition. Free Transform (CMD+T) the layer so that it compliments the photograph well. There's no set amount here - use your creative discretion!

Step 7

Hit (CMD+L) to bring up the Levels interface. Then drag the middle slider to the right of the histogram. This will increase the overall contrast of the piece. Now bring out the Burn tool, and set the range to Highlights. Then burn around all edges of the Beetle. Don't overdo it, but make sure that the halo of the edges is eliminated.

Step 8

The next step in our process is to integrate the illustration with the beetle. To create this effect, zoom in close and etch out the front and rear 'panels' of the beetle. As always, your number one objective is to take your time and be precise. Duplicate each etch to its own individual layer, and label them 'Front' and 'Rear.'

Step 9

Duplicate the 'Main' abstract layer. Then position it at the top of the layer palette. Ctrl+Click the 'front' panel to get its selection. Then add a Layer Mask to the duplicated abstract to constrain it to the front shell. Unlink the layer mask from the layer; this allows you to move the abstract around until you get a pleasing result. Repeat this process with the 'Rear' shell.

Step 10

Once you're happy with the placement of the abstract illustration, bring the original 'Front' & 'Rear' etchings to the top of the palette. Then set their Layer Modes to Lighten. This will bring the highlights present in the actual insect to the forefront and smoothly integrate the abstract into the piece. Add a layer mask and refine where necessary.

Step 11

Bring in the 'Main 2' layer of abstract, and position it behind the Beetle. Now that we have the main structure built, it's time to start having fun by adding peripherals! I've chosen to start working with this wicked cog shaped object, image found here. So etch it out and duplicate it into the main composition.

Step 12

Repeat the burning process we applied to the beetle. Make sure the range is set to 'highlights' to remove the haloes around the edge of the cogs. Rotate and resize them, placing them around the composition. Once again, there's no set formula to success here; It's just a matter of accentuating the image.

Step 13

The fun continues here. I've chosen to work in some engine and exhaust parts that I sourced from Getty, but there are some more than adequate shots available from sites like Stock.Xchng. Just remember to burn the haloes where necessary. Remember the adage - less is more! Etch carefully, and balance levels as you go. Nearly every new element will require you to do this.

Step 14

Once you finish adding your elements, it's time to wrap up! Add a Color Balance adjustment layer. Then drag the Shadow towards Blue, the Midtones towards Cyan, and the Highlights towards Yellow.

Step 15

Duplicate the Color Balance adjustment layer, and set the Layer Mode to Linear Dodge.

Finishing Touches

Add a Hue / Saturation adjustment layer, and reduce saturation by 20%. Voila, image complete!