Touch screen interfaces are everywhere these days. You can see them on television, in movies, on the web, and especially on your mobile device. In this tutorial we will explain how to create a touch screen interface for a futuristic spacecraft. In the process we will show the digital illustration process from sketch to vector tracing to Photoshop rendering. Let's get started!
First lets start by making a quick concept sketch of our spacecraft. Grab a pen/pencil and paper and roughly sketch out your idea. Take a Hi Res scan or photo of the drawing. For those of you who use a tablet, you can simply sketch out your idea directly in Photoshop.
Now we are going to start vectoring your lines. Open your sketch jpeg in Illustrator. With the Pen tool (P) start tracing one part of your drawing. Use the converter tool (Shift + C) and click and drag the anchor points to follow any curves you may have.
With the path selected go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. This converts your path into a shape. With the direct selection tool (A) you can now shift the new anchor points to thin out or thicken your line work at various spots. This should provide more of a "comic book inking" aesthetic.
Continue this process for the rest of the drawing. Don't be afraid to add extra details to really flesh out the idea.
Next we are going to fill our illustration with some shades. First, get rid of your sketch since we won't be needing it anymore. Select all the lines and go to your Pathfinder tab (Shift + Command/Ctrl + F9). Option + Click on the Unite tool and click Expand. With the Group Select Tool (Shift + A) select the path at the outer most perimeter and paths surrounding any negative space in your illustration. Copy your selection.
Paste your selection and you should have a silhouette of your drawing and a few other shapes. Option + Click on the Minus Front tool in your Pathfinder tab to create any pockets of negative space you have in your illustration, then click Expand. (Make sure your cutting shapes are above your larger silhouette. Next we'll make the fill color a light grey.
Place the shading within your lines. Use the pen tool to add some more shading and shadows throughout your illustration, using various shades of grey.
Now let's move all of our vector elements into Photoshop. Open a new file in Photoshop. Set the background to black. Copy and paste all of your illustrator elements in Photoshop starting with a layer that has your line work and base color combined, then bring in your line work, shadows, and any other forms of shading individually. It's recommended that you be very organized during this tutorial as things could get a little messy. It'll get easy to lose track of where everything is, so name all your layers and place them into groups whenever necessary!
For our shadows, set the Master Fill to 0% and a Color Overlay, #005064. Set the Blend mode to Multiply.
Now add dark blue, #180055, color overlays to your outlines and any other shading you may have. Here we can also start to layer mask with a soft air brush. For those who don't use a tablet, be sure to play around with brush opacity and flow settings to have various brush strengths.
Let's start giving our vehicle a metallic look. We will provide a series of Gradient Maps that will be clip masked to our "base color + lines" layer (Or however you named your layer that has both the base color and outlines combined). Go to your Adjustment Layers icon and click on Gradient Map. To clip mask your gradient map just press Alt + Command/Ctrl + G. Below is a series of images that include the number of gradient maps and the hex color codes for this particular illustration. Layer masking was also applied whenever necessary.
Duplicate your line work layer and give it an outer glow, #fc67f7 and color overlay, #dbf0fe, and add some layer masking. Use the image below to as guide for the overall settings.
Repeat step 12 but with no color overlay this time.
Create a new layer and add some highlights with a soft white brush. Tablet users should vary the amount of pressure they use and keep it fairly light. Non-tablet users should remember to use your brush flow and opacity settings for various strengths.
Let's give our illustration a nice reflective surface. Hide your background layer and save your illustration as a NON-Interlaced PNG. Open and paste the PNG into your PSD. With the PNG layer selected, open the Liquify Filter (Filters > Liquify or Shift + Command/Ctrl + X) and begin to manipulate the PNG, as shown below, along the surface of the ship. Play with your brush widths for different strengths. Once done, hit OK and clip mask it to your main illustration. If you clip masked your airbrushing earlier, make sure you place the reflection layer below it so that we don't visually obstruct the airbrushing that's been done. Follow the Layer Style Parameters indicated below and layer mask at your own discretion.
Now we'll start creating the interface. Place everything that you have do so far into a group if you have not done so already and name it "ship". Now create a new group folder and name it "interface". Find your line work layer and duplicate it, Command/Ctrl + J and move the copy into the "interface" folder. Repeat Step 12 to give it some layer styling and layer masking.
Let's integrate our illustration into the background a bit more. To do this, we simply add a layer mask to our "ship" group and mask away with a soft black brush.
For here on, we'll be going back and forth between illustrator and Photoshop to create our futuristic interface. Save your illustration as a jpeg and open it in Illustrator. Lower its opacity to about 40% or less so that we can clearly see what we are doing. Let's create a grid that overlaps our spaceship. With the pen tool (P) we will create two lines and then use the Blend Tool (W) to blend create the lines in between. Make sure your two end lines are NOT joined otherwise the blend wont work. Double click on Blend tool icon to bring up its options tab. Here you can specify steps or the distance between lines.
Repeat the previous step in the other direction. Once done, we go to Object > Expand and hit OK in the dialogue box. Now we can go through and clean up the edges with scissors.
Take we did in the last two steps and make more grid overlays on other parts of the illustration.
Copy and paste our grid into Photoshop as two separate axes. Add Layers Styling and masking as indicated in the image below.
ILLUSTRATOR: Now lets Select our grid. Click on the live paint tool (K) and make the fill color black. Click on various parts of the grid to make some square fills and then Go to Object > Expand. With the Group Selection Tool select all the black fills to copy and paste in Photoshop.
PHOTOSHOP: Lets add some layer styling to our square fills. Once done, duplicate them (Command/Ctrl + J) and change the Style parameters as indicated below. Mask away most of it to bring back some of the coloring in the original. This should give it a little more luminance.
ILLUSTRATOR: Use the Pen Tool (P), Line Tool (/), Ellipse and/or Rectangle tool (M) to create more lines, circles and other shapes.
PHOTOSHOP: Copy and past your new forms and give it some layer styling and masking.
ILLUSTRATOR: Use the rectangle tool to make a series of aligned squares. Make two shapes directly vertical to each other with some distance apart. Select both shapes and press Command/Ctrl + C to copy and then press Command/Ctrl + F a few times to paste the copies directly above the original. With the Align Tab (Shift + F7), we can use the distribution tools to spread the copies evenly. Follow the steps indicated below until you achieve a pattern. At the end, delete some squares here and there and make some of them outlines to stylize them a little bit.
PHOTOSHOP: Copy and paste your pattern in your illustration and follow the image indicated below with some Layer styling and masking, basically repeating what was done in step 23.
ILLUSTRATOR: Let's create an axonometric cube with the line tool (/). First, bring up your grid (Command/Ctrl + " or View > Show Grid) and enable snapping to the grid (Shift + Command/Ctrl + "). Press Command/Ctrl + K to bring up our preferences and go to Guides and Grid in the top drop menu to change the parameters to your liking. Try to have fun with it and create a cube that's starting to break apart or come together as show below. Create some other other shapes around it if you wish. You can also repeat what was done in step 22 to fill in some parts of the cube.
PHOTOSHOP: Bring your cube into your illustration and add some layer styles.
ILLUSTRATOR: Bring up your grid again and use it to create a series of rectangles and squares in any arrangement and size. Apply some color fills as indicated below. Then well use the Transform tool (E) to shear the shapes to an isometric angle. To do this, Click + Hold on any anchor point on the Bounding Box and then hold Command/Ctrl + Drag with your mouse or tablet pen.
PHOTOSHOP: Set our isometric planes to Screen for the Master Blend Mode. Now we'll add an outline around our objects. Command/Ctrl + Click on the layer. Make a new layer and select the marquee tool (M). Right click and select Stroke to make an outline around our objects. Follow the layer style parameters below and mask away if needed.
ILLUSTRATOR: Repeat Step 18 to create an isometric line graph over the planes that were just created.
PHOTOSHOP: Repeat step 23 and follow the parameters indicated below.
PHOTOSHOP: Let's stylize our lines a bit with some glow points along the graph. Use the brush tool at 100% Hardness and follow the parameters below. Next, create a new layer set its Blend Mode to Screen. Set the brush to 0% hardness and add some airbrushing to enhance the glow effect with some purple, red, and yellow hues.
Keeping in mind what we've been doing since step 18, this tutorial will be a bit more concise to allow you more freedom and experimentation. Use the images as a guide but feel free to experiment with layer styles parameters, colors, and shape-making in illustrator to create the following effects. By now you should very familiar with the process. Remember to have fun with it!
In the image below, the font used is called "LCD" and it is a royalty free font that can be found on dafont.com. Also to further enhance the digital clock look, we created an outline around the text to created the effect.
Repeat what you did in step 33.
In Photoshop, create a new group called "interface bg" and place it underneath the ship group. We'll now start creating a few more interface elements that will appear in the background of our illustration. Repeat what was done in step 25 to create more small shapes and patterns. Bring them into Photoshop and manipulate them with layer styles as we have done before.
Repeat what was done in steps 29, 30, and 32 to create some more isometric panels with outlines and some soft airbrushing.
Let's have the interface reflect on the metal surface of the ship. In Photoshop, hide the "ship" group and background so that all that remains are the elements of the interface. Repeat step 15 to liquify your PNG file. Place this liquified shape in its own group called "reflection" and place it above the ship group. Command/Ctrl + Click on the base ship illustration to bring up a marquee border. With the reflections group folder selected, create a layer mask. This creates a similar effect to clip masking but we want the reflection to be above all the ship layers so that it's easier to see. On the reflection layer itself, layer mask it and give a Blend Mode to Screen.
Let's add reflections to our isometric panels using previous techniques. This time however, liquify isn't necessary.
Now we'll tag our illustration with some text. This could say whatever you wish. Here we used Japanese text - "ケツァルコアトル" which stands for "Quetzalcoatl". Make the text red, ff0000, and add some highlights and layer masking.
We are nearly there! All that remains is enhancing the atmosphere. Add a new folder called "atmosphere" in Photoshop and apply a Gradient Fill adjustment layer to create a transparent rainbow gradient and follow the parameters indicated below. Go to Layer > Rasterize > Fill Content. Set the Blend Mode to Overlay @ 65% and mask away. Repeat this process a few times thoughout the illustration.
Create a red outline around our illustration with a red glow and layer mask.
Lastly, let's continue tweaking the atmosphere with some airbrushing and subtle gradient fills. Check out the reference PSD that is provided so that you can see any other subtle nuances that were added to tweak the atmosphere and depth.
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