Use Stock Photography and 3D Objects to Create a Robotic Woman


In Photoshop, sometimes we need to combine several types of elements to complete our compositions. In today’s tutorial, my good friend Bram Vanhaeren and I will demonstrate how to combine stock photography, 3D objects, patterns, and digital painting techniques to create a robotic woman in Photoshop.


Step 1

Once you have some idea of what you want to do with your illustration, the next step is to choose your stock. My original idea was to have a female model standing while I paint and reveal robotic parts under her skin. That was all I had at that point, and while you work back and forth with someone or by yourself your idea will evolve and take shape.

Now I definitely wanted a full body model just to stretch the piece out so it would be more vertical than horizontal, so I looked around and found this model. Most of the time, to get the highest quality stocks, you will have to purchase them; that is what we did in this case.

Step 2

For our background, Bram searched and found this great
. It was then brought into Photoshop, desaturated and tweaked with some brightness/contrast. All of this has to be done according to how your environment looks because no two pictures will be the same. Our next step was to make a new document and place our environment into it, this will be our main canvas. Now our final image only uses 17% of the original size, so you can see how big you have to make it; we started off with a 3000 x 4250 pixel document.

Step 3

Once our environment was placed into the canvas Bram used this paper texture to add some grunge to the background. The texture was desaturated, inverted, and then placed on Screen.

Step 4

Our next task was to cut our stock and bring it into our environment. This is probably the most tedious and un-fun part of the tutorial so try and do this perfectly the first time so you don’t have to do it again. For the main body, the pen tool or Polygonal Lasso tool will help you cut out your stock. But then, there is the extremely annoying hair, if you really want a clean cut I suggest that you download or buy Vertus Fluid Mask which is a great program that works in unison with Photoshop to help deal with situations like this.

Step 5

But as you can see, even with this program, I wasn't able to get a 100% clean cut, so I had to rely on painting the rest of the hair onto the model. If you have a tablet I suggest you download this brush pack by Digital Painter Daniel LuVisi, it has come in handy many times while painting, so everyone should have it. If you need to paint on some extra hairs go ahead and select the hair brush in this pack, size it down to something that will fit your photo’s size and use hotkeys "I" and "B" to switch between the eye drop tool and the brush tool, just keep selecting shades around that area and then paint. Below is what the stock looked like after I painted some hair on it.

Step 6

What I did next was find stocks that would help give the illusion of our stock being robotic. So I went to and found a few pieces of computer chips and wires that
I imagined would look great for this piece. This stock was the first one I found and I loved its shape and visuals, it gave off an Iron Man feel to me so I decided it would go somewhere near her chest in the middle as a power source. The second stock
I found was just another computer chip. Lastly I found this motor stock which had some great wires that I placed in the models neck. You could probably substitute them with other metallic objects if you feel you don’t like them, but these were the stocks I selected.

My next step was to cut them out and place them over where I wanted them to be seen through all the ripped skin. Once you have good placement and have sized them down to a realistic size, go ahead and place them in a folder under your model. Organization is very important, so make labeled folders of everything because there will be a lot of layers when you are done.

Now go ahead and pick one of the computer chips and zoom into that spot on the model, find the layer that has that computer chip and Cmd+Click on it. This will get you an outline of your chip, which should not be seen at this moment since it’s under the model. Once you have your outline, select your pen tool and make an outline of that outline but just a little bit bigger and a little rougher, with sharper edges. Deselect the original outline and right click on the pen tool outline and select Make Selection. Once you have that just press delete on your models layer. Also make sure you have more that one duplicate of the original model layer just in case you mess up and need to go back.

Step 7

At this point you should have a hole in your stock showing your computer chip, this is where the painting begins. If you have downloaded the brush pack I suggested then select the normal brush, bring it down to about 3px and make a new folder over the model, in that folder make a new layer. Now zoom into that hole you have and start painting your skin. Remember to use hotkeys "I" and "B" to go from eyedropper to brush, select a color and use that color then repeat.

Try to get the effect of ripped skin, make sure to use a lot of different shades of the skin tone to make it more realistic. Once you have your skin painted make a new layer in the same folder under the skin; we will now make some shadows.

Keep the same brush and choose the color black or something close to black. Then under your skin draw shadows to give it some realism. Once you have done this zoom out and work out any kinks you see in this painting until it’s perfect. After that go ahead and repeat the process with the second computer chip and so on.

Step 8

You might also want to paint over your computer chips and wires, if you want to add some more color to the chips then just make a new layer over the computer chips and use a small brush to paint some designs over it. I added glowing orbs to mine just to make it look less ordinary. And with the wires I painted them green to go with the color scheme of the whole piece.

Step 9

Next, add some neon green veins on her neck to go with the whole robotic idea, In my case I lowered their Fill to get them to a realistic point. So once again just mess with the settings until it looks right.

Once that was done, for some more realism, I painted some falling skin by taking a small 2px brush and brushing small dots around the parts with the ripped skin.

Lastly I changed her eye color by painting some green over them and setting that layer to Overlay. All of this just adds to the idea and adds detail to the illustration. So think of your own details while making your own piece.

Step 10

Now that we have most of the painting down, its time for the 3D portion of this tutorial. Originally I was inspired by this great CgTuts tutorial to create some orbs in Cinema 4D. So if you are more into that idea than what I did, go ahead and follow that tutorial. But I will give a short rundown in Cinema 4D on how I made this. So if you are familiar with Cinema 4D then fire it up, if not you can always try it anyways, or download some orbs on the net.

Since it would be pointless to repeat the steps of that tutorial here I am just going to skip to the point where I added the coloring and lighting of my Orb. Since the orb should have several armored layers, there should be 2 or more different materials to give it a nice look. Now at this point you should have established the primary color scheme of the illustration. I wanted to go with something green, so I first made a simple base green material which you can see below. After that I wanted something darker covering parts of the bright green, so I made a darker green-ish material.

After putting those together to get a glossy look I added a Sky along with some direct lights onto the orb.

Step 11

Once you have your orbs rendered, bring them onto your canvas. Remember to keep a duplicate of the original. To give it a glow, take a round soft brush that is a little bit bigger in diameter than your orb and on a new layer, press once. Then set it to Screen, or anything else that looks good. Remember to mess with it so it looks good on your piece so don’t just leave it on screen just because its written here. Now merge those layers and scatter these orbs around your piece.

Step 12

Now at this point the piece was just too green, so I decided to add some grayish orbs around the illustration. I used the same technique as in the tutorial only I put my own twist on things which is what you should do as well.

Step 13

The grey orbs seemed a little too simple for me at this point, so I decided first to paint some green goo falling off one of them. I did this by making a new layer and by making a 3-color palette with some light green colors.

My palette consisted of a very bright green, a mid neon green, and something dark for shadowing purposes. I then took a 3px brush and painted this goo dripping down the contours of the orb. After that I decided to make these gray orbs into factories that create the main green orbs. So using the same approach I zoomed in and painted a conveyer belt on one of them by opening the other to let the green orbs come out. Since you have an original of your main green orb all you have to do is Duplicate > Size Down > Rotate to give it some variation.

Step 14

Once that was done I decided to give the larger grey orb a force field. This was made using the Elliptical Marquee Tool with a nice bright green stroke. I then Duplicated it several times and moved each down a bit. Then, I zoomed in and erased some of the lines to make it look like it was in front and behind the orb. Last thing I did was paint a green earring on her so I could then later add some reflective glow on her face.

Step 15

At this point I felt the stock could use a little more excitement, so I decided to paint a hole in her elbow with those orbs coming out of it. The first thing you have to do is visualize how it will look like because painting it is somewhat confusing at first, at least it was for me. Once you have that down remember to keep it as realistic as possible. Paint the correct lighting and shadows on the skin.

Step 16

Once you have your hole finished, fill it with some orbs and paint in some glow as well because the orbs will be glowing inside the models body. Keep duplicating them until you have a steady flow going out of her body and into the environment.

Also, while painting, make sure to select colors from around the elbow to give it a seamless realistic look. This part is pretty much all painting so if you aren't able to do this then just find alternatives.

Step 17

At this point Bram took over and filled up the empty bland spots of the illustration with some very simple creative shapes. All of them fit the color scheme so make sure that your shapes also do that.

Step 18

He then created his own simple pattern, colored it green, and cut out a portion of it into a circle. After that he took a simple brush and faded out the pattern a little bit. This was put behind our model, below you can see the pattern as well as what we had after we added all the small shapes and patterns.

Step 20

The first time I saw the stock, I initially imaged some wire frame on her black stockings because the colors would work so well together, and in the end they did. You might not have the same situation in your stock but look around and be creative you might find something that works.

This was probably the 2nd most tedious thing to do, but in the end it definitely paid off. If you are going to do a wire frame you will have to make a new layer of course and select the pen tool. After that get a 2px hard brush with your main color on it, and start outlining whatever part of the body you want to be wire framed with the Pen tool.

Just outline one vertical line then right click and press stroke; repeat that all on one layer and then make another layer with just horizontal lines. When you are done zoom back out and play with the settings to see what goes good with your stock. In my case Color Dodge looked the best.

Step 21

Once that was done I felt it needed a bit more color, so I made a new layer and grabbed a 3px brush, I then went over random parts of the wire frame with it to give the look of information being transmitted through the wires. Once that was done I added a slight outer glow to that new layer and that gave me what you see below. I also decided not to do the whole 2nd leg because it would have probably been very overpowering.

Step 22

Now with all these glowing orbs around the model she is bound to have some of that glow on her, so one of the last things you need to do is look over your piece and find spots where your stock should have glow on it. Once you know all the spots, just make a new layer over everything and slightly brush over the parts then set them to Overlay. Once again overlay just worked for us it might not for you.

Final Image

Lastly we just felt a Color Balance adjustment was in order so we did that and adjusted the Blue Midtones to +10 and that was it. You should have an eye for correct color by now so use all the filters you need to give it just the right look, make sure you don’t go overboard. The final result is below, I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, thanks for reading.

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