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  1. Design & Illustration
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Create a Mixed Martial Arts Event Flyer in Photoshop

Read Time: 23 mins

Most of you have probably seen event posters displayed in your area promoting a boxing, mixed martial arts (MMA), Ultimate Fighter, or wrestling match. In this tutorial, I will show you how to create a similar event poster in Photoshop using several techniques including photo manipulation, retouching, and typography. Let's get started!

Tutorial Assets

You will need the following assets to complete this tutorial. Please download them before you begin. If they are not available, or if you do not wish to purchase some of them, please find alternatives.

1. Preparing the Fighters

Step 1

For the size of this concept we will take A3 as our base. So create new Photoshop document of 3508px by 4961px with a resolution of 300 px/inch. These pixel values are equal to 29,7cm x 42cm. You can go bigger if the poster is meant to be printed in large format.

Grab Paint Bucket Tool (G) and fill the canvas with very dark purple (#08080a). Then open first image of our fighters and use Pen Tool to extract it. When you're done, simply drag it to our dark purple canvas. Name this layer Back Fighter.

Because the fighter is partially naked, make sure to erase the bottom portion of his body. Simply use the Eraser Tool (E) to blend him nicely with the background.

Step 2

Repeat the same process with another fighter. It's good to place the main characters before doing any retouching, as now you're actually able to see where the retouch is really necessary.

Step 3

Now because our fighter from the background is certainly a boxer and cage fights have sort of different gloves, we need to make his glove look a little bit less boxing. Grab Lasso Tool (L), draw selection around the smooth red over red glove, then copy/paste that part to cover the white spot above.

Step 4

Use Clone Stamp Tool (S), then touch up the fabric and stitches. We don't need to make it perfect, but make sure it looks at least decent enough from distance. Merge this piece with fighter layer (Command/Ctrl-E).

Step 5

Go back to Lasso Tool (L) again and this time draw selection around the whole glove. Make sure you're not including fighter's arm in it.

Step 6

Hit Command/Ctrl-Shift-U (Hue/Saturation) and adjust it as shown below. You should get a nice, warm black tone on your glove.

Step 7

Repeat previous step but without doing any selections, simply apply Hue/Saturation to the fighter and this time adjust Reds and Yellows as shown below. This will reduce the oversatured look of his skin.

Step 8

This fighter image is way too contrasted, before doing any retouch it's good to make it a bit more neutral. So go to Image > Adjustments > Selective Color and adjust Whites, Neutrals and Blacks as shown below.

Step 9

Now create new layer above the fighter hit Command/Ctrl-Alt-G (clipping mask) and change layer's Blending Mode to Overlay. Then use soft white brush and paint as indicated below. Try to bring out that highlights a bit.

It should look something like this:

Step 10

While you're on the same layer, switch to black color and darken the shadows a bit. Follow the indicated spots from image below.

Step 11

Create new layer, use Command/Ctrl-Alt-G for clipping mask. Change its Blending Mode to Soft Light and again use soft white brush to paint the highlights. This time enhance the current, existing ones, as well as add some edge light to the body.

Step 12

Create another new layer, use Command/Ctrl-Alt-G for clipping mask. Change its Blending Mode to Soft Light again and use soft brush. Change the color to brown #583325 and add just a touch of it to the indicated area. Try to go easy on this, I wanted to make his back just a touch warmer. If it's not working use more or less saturated tone or just simply skip it.

Step 13

Go to Layers Palette, add new adjustment layer Gradient Map. Pick the Violet, Orange preset and reduce layer Opacity to 10%. Make sure you use Clipping Mask for this layer and for the new upcoming ones that we will be adding soon to this fighter.

Step 14

As mentioned, add next Adjustment Layer - Color Balance. Set it as shown below.

Next Hue/Saturation. Bring up a bit of light to the fighter.

Then Gradient Map (Black, White). Set this layer's Blending Mode to Soft Light and reduce the Opacity to 30-40%.

Step 15

All right, let's move to the second fighter and call him front fighter. Create new layer above him, stick it using Clipping Mask (Command/Ctrl-Alt-G). Change this layer's Blending Mode to Overlay and grab soft white brush (0% Hardness and around 5% Flow). Paint as the green color indicates to enhance all the existing lights on the fighter. Try to emphasize his eyes too.

Make sure you're using clipping masks for all the upcoming layers that we will be adding to this fighter.

Step 16

Some lights and highlights over human body don't respond very well to overlay blending mode, that's why now we will use the same technique and process as in previous step but we're going to use Soft Light Blending Mode on new layer instead of Overlay.

Also on the same layer, using the same white brush, try to add some edge light (as we did with the other fighter).

Now it doesn't really make much of a sense, but when you add a light source right behind those fighters you will immediately notice a huge difference. We're going to do it a little bit later.

Step 17

Go to Layers Palette, add new Adjustment Layer to our fighter - Selective Color. Set it as shown below.

Step 18

Selective Color has balanced the contrast a bit now, but if you see that some areas of your fighter are way too bright, you should reduce the effects of Selective Color while painting on its layer mask or simply reducing the opacity.

Step 19

Next create another new adjustment layer - Curves, use clipping mask again. Drag the curve to bottom right and invert the layer mask (select it and hit Command/Ctrl-I).

Grab soft white brush and paint on the Curves layer mask to enhance the shadows now. Not everything needs to be enhanced. Try to emphasize some key areas, especially the ones that are near highlights.

I've indicated with blue color the areas that I painted on. I also give a touch of edge shadow to the right side of the fighter (to blend it with the background a bit)

The result should look something like the one below.

Step 20

Moving further, add new adjustment layer to the front fighter - Gradient Map (Violet, Orange). Reduce the Opacity to 10%.

Next color up the fighter a bit, add Color Balance, use following values:

And adjust the contrast using Hue/Saturation:

Finally add Gradient Map (Black, White gradient), set its Blending Mode to Soft Light and bring the Opacity down to 30-40%. Make sure you balance both these fighters, so they look pretty much like coming from one photo shoot.

2. Casting Background and Reflected Lights

Step 1

Create new layer in the bottom of your Layers Palette. Use very soft brush and paint with dark blue #0a1331 exactly behind the fighters, in the center. This will be barely visible.

Next create new layer above, change its Blending Mode to Overlay and this time use soft white brush to paint in the same spot. You can duplicate that layer to enhance that light.

Sample this dark blue color from the background, create new layer and using soft brush spread that light around the canvas.

Step 2

Now simply paint over those lights with white color. Keep it narrow and centered.

Step 3

Create another new layer above, change its Blending Mode to Soft Light and use bright, saturated green #d4ff27 to give a touch of tonal variety.

Correct the colors using Color Balance adjustment layer.

Then create new layer above, use Soft Light as Blending Mode and paint around the strongest areas of light with blue #5089a6. This is not necessary, but I felt like adjusting that color of the center.

Try to achieve similar result to the one below. If something is not there in the background, you can always touch it up by sampling colors and simple brushing.

Step 4

All right, let's move the back fighter and blend him with that back light. First go to Layers Palette and add Color Balance (remember to use clipping masks).

Select the Color Balance layer mask and hit Command/Ctrl-I to invert it. Then grab soft white brush and paint on the mask to reveal it as indicated below. Make sure you're revealing this blue light only to the highlights over this fighter's body.

Now create new layer above, hit Command/Ctrl-Alt-G for clipping mask again. Change its Blending Mode to Vivid Light, grab soft brush and use #0ea494 color. Paint over the same spots as previously. This will give an intense blue highlight color.

Then add a Gradient Map to the fighter, use the values shown below and change layer's Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Step 5

In order to make this look more blended you need to strengthen the edge light. To do this use two new layers, first should be with Normal Blending Mode and the next one with Overlay. Paint on both of these layers in the same spots (as indicated below) and use soft white brush to do this.

The layer with Normal Blending Mode will respond with direct white light, so you need to add just a touch of it to the edge. Now painting on the layer with Overlay Blending Mode will result with a very strong transition between light and skin, so you might add a little more of that light and even spread it a bit.

When you zoom out you should get something similar to this:

Step 6

Now switch to the front fighter and repeat the process shown in step 4 and 5. Apply everything to the new fighter in the same order as we just did with the previous one. Start with Color Balance adjustment layer set as in step 4 and reveal its mask. Paint as indicated.

Create new layer above, hit Command/Ctrl-Alt-G for clipping mask again. Change its Blending Mode to Vivid Light, grab soft brush and use #0ea494 color. Paint over the same spots as previously. This will give an intense blue highlight color.

Then add a Gradient Map to the fighter, use the values shown below and change layer's Blending Mode to Soft Light. Lower its Opacity if the effect is too strong.

Step 7

Now select all layers of front fighter (all the clipping masks and the layer itself) and duplicate them using Command/Ctrl-J. While having the duplicated layers selected, immediately hit Command/Ctrl-E to merge them. This should create an exact copy of our fighter. Desaturate it using Command/Ctrl-Shift-U and add Levels (Command/Ctrl-L).

Try to achieve similar result to the one below:

Then change that layer's Blending Mode to Screen and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. Now that you have that mask hidden, grab soft white brush and reveal it over indicated areas.

You should receive a nice highlight effect, something that looks almost wet.

I wanted to make that fighter look as close as possible to the other fighter. The one in the back has very strong highlights and I believe his skin was sort of wet for the photo shoot. So it's good to make similar effect to the fighter in front.

Step 8

Next create new layer above both these fighters in Layers Palette. Change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and use bright saturated blue #2bd1f5. Paint around the light source and make sure it affects both of them.

If you're done with the lights, you should get similar result:

3. Creating Cage and Environment

Step 1

Open image of the fence. The pattern is tiled, so once you extract it (using Magic Wand) you can duplicate it (Command/Ctrl-J) and create a nice big fence.

Duplicate it many times and try to build up a nice fence. Merge it (Command/Ctrl-E) when you're done.

Then make another two copies of the fence and using Command/Ctrl-T (pick Distort) create a partially visible octagon cage in the background.

Step 2

Merge all the copies of the fence and name it cage.

Now take a look at the image below. It's a fast general guide on how to cast the lights (direction indicated with green arrows) and how to put the shadows (direction indicated with red arrows).

First create new layer and use clipping mask. Change its Blending Mode to Overlay. Then any technique that you use here is fine, you can either do this with soft white color and simply brush over the edges as indicated or use tablet to paint more accurate highlights.

Then invert the process. By that I mean create new layer, this time make it Multiply. Use black brush to create the shadows as indicated.

This is an element of the background so don't be too picky with this, try to do it as fast as you can. It doesn't need to look perfect.

Next create some overall shading (sort of vignette effect). Simply use black brush on normal layer and paint softly around the canvas (as indicated).

Step 3

As a final touch to the cage, let's add a band on the top. Use Pen Tool (P), switch the option to create shape layers. Then draw a partially visible octagon shape, with the same direction as the top of the fence. Use some dark gray to fill up the shape layer.

Then go to Layers Palette, right-click on the band layer and select Blending Options. Adjust the layer style as shown below.

Then create new layer above, use clipping mask. Grab Brush Tool (B) and now while holding Alt you are able to switch to Eyedropper. So sample the color from the background light and gently paint it over the band to create a nice edge light.

Step 4

Next open the Concert Hall image, drag it to our main document above all layers and change the Blending Mode to Screen.

Use layer mask or Eraser Tool (E) to get rid of the top part. Make sure all the concert hall lights end below the fighter's abdomen.

Now adjust the hall lights, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and set it at shown below. We basically need to match all these lights in this image. The reason I'm not going with colorize option is that it gives you 100% monochrome effect and I wanted to make those lights more natural.

Moving further go to Image > Adjustments > Color Balance and give it a better color depth.

So you can see we ended up with nice blue/green lights that match our illustration.

Step 5

Now use very soft brush (no Hardness and very low Flow). Sample the color from blue lights and add more breath to the hall. Extend the light rays as indicated and try to make it look like there is a little bit more room.

Step 6

All right, moving further open image of fireworks and drop it in our main document.

We want to focus mostly on the smoke itself rather than sparkles. So simply mask out everything that's outside the red circle (indicated below).

Drag that firework layer somewhere to the bottom of Layers Palette to make it appear on the background. Change its Blending Mode to Screen. Then go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and adjust the color as shown below.

Duplicate (Command/Ctrl-J) that smoke and fill the canvas with it (especially sides), so there is a bit more of the atmosphere. You can simply apply the same process to any fireworks image from this set on cgtextures.com. Be creative, you don't need to go with one image only. On the other hand don't over this effect, try to maintain a good balance.

Step 7

Now that we have added that smoke, the background light became stronger, mostly because of the blending mode used. So move back to the band and give it more light.

Add new layer to the band, use soft brush and gently paint with light blue #c4fcfd as indicated.

Add another new layer, use Overlay as Blending Mode and paint a thin light using white color.

Step 8

Now grab Pen Tool (P), make sure it's set to create shape layers. Draw a triangle shaped layer and for color use #dfffff.

Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light and adjust Properties (Window > Properties) as shown below. This will create a nice light ray effect.

Duplicate that light ray few times and use Free Transform (Command/Ctrl-T) to rotate. Make sure they're creating sort of circle shape.

Step 9

Next, we're goin to create particles. So create new layer above all, fill it with neutral gray #7e7e7e. Then go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Adjust it as shown.

Change layer's Blending Mode to Screen, then hit Command/Ctrl-L for Levels. Try to achieve very high contrast with black, so most of the background disappears.

Duplicate that layer 2 times (Command/Ctrl-J) so you have 3 layers of particles now. Merge them (Command/Ctrl-E) and again set the Blending Mode to Screen. This will make the particles a bit stronger and thicker.

Now use Lasso Tool (L), draw random shape and hit Command/Ctrl-T, use Warp. Then bend and twist that selection as you like. You can even resize it (make it bigger). Don't bother about the look, this is even supposed to lose a bit of quality.

You can do it few times around the canvas. Make it look like the particles are flying in different direction and there is some variation in their size.

Then go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. Try to remember where you did some twists before and now use hard white brush with small diameter to bring back random parts of the particles.

If you want achieve a better depth, you can duplicate the layer with particles, delete its layer mask and give it some lens blur. To do this, go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. Adjust it as shown.

Then again using the same technique as previously (Layer Mask > Hide All), reveal the particles randomly to create nicer depth. Again go easy on this, you don't want to make unnecessary mess in your illustration. Try to maintain a good balance.

4. Adding Typography

Step 1

Finally let's move to the typography. As you probably noticed I've left some space on the top and bottom of the canvas for a reason. This is the place planned for some event information. It's good to start with a nice font, for regular info text I used Eagle Light font.

Simple white letters often look good enough but a gentle emphasis makes it more professional. So adjust the layer style as shown, the effect is already visible in the previous image above.

If your text doesn't look like mine, it might be wrong size. The result of layer styles strictly depends on the size of the font. Mine was around 77pt for the clearence.

Step 2

For the numbers I used Helvetica Neue Pro.

And a gentle refinement to the number with Layer Style.

Step 3

If there are any logos it's good to vary them from the regular text. Try to color them similar way as the numbers are, but without playing around with layer styles. All the additional small text (that's less important) should be treated with darker brown #b5a879.

Switch to the top text. Type fighters' names (yes I intentionally twisted their names for tutorial purpose). Here is exact same principle. To save you some time simply copy layer styles from the previous text layers. You can do this in Layers Palette after right-click on text layer (Copy Layer Style).

5. Create the Logo

Step 1

Ok, so we finally got to the logo. Use nice sport font (I used SFS Sports Night font). Put that type in the center and make sure the logo is big enough for the canvas. Go to Layers Palette, right-click on the logo text layer and select Convert to Shape. Once it's converted to shape, change its color to #8e7c32. Name that layer logo mid.

Duplicate logo mid layer, put it in the background and resize it down a little bit (Command/Ctrl-T). Name that layer logo back.

Now change logo back layer's color to #372e07. Then use Pen Tool (set it to create shape layers) and connect all the corners from both layers with the same color. This will create a fake 3d effect. When you're done, simply merge the connectors your created with logo back, to make it one layer (don't touch logo mid).

Now hold Command/Ctrl and left-click on the logo mid layer's thumbnail to recall its selection. Go to Select > Modify > Contract, and contract the selection around 10 pixels (depending on the size of your text). Then create new layer above and fill that selection with some visible color. Deselect (Command/Ctrl-D). Name that layers logo front.

Next, use Move Tool (V), then hit Down and Right arrow on keyboard few times, just to make that text move a bit in bottom right direction. Now grab hard, rounded brush (everything set to 100%), create layer mask and round the corners on every letter just a touch (as indicated).

It should look something like the image below. After you're done with that, turn off logo front layer visibility. We won't be using that at this moment.

Step 2

Move to the logo back layer. Create new layer above it and use clipping mask. Change your brush to very soft (0% Hardness, 2-5% Flow). Now follow the green straight lines and lighten the back of the letters in this direction. Then pay attention to red arrows and cast some light as they indicate. Use #8e7c32 color.

I've tried to cast these lights from 2 angles - back and left, so we have more then one light source here.

To strengthen the effect create another new layer, this time set it to Overlay (use clipping mask again) and paint with soft white brush. Create a very strong and narrow highlight over the light areas previously created.

Step 3

To create gold effect I tried to find something glossy with nice slippery texture. Then I came across image of a gauge that seemed perfect for the job.

Open that image bring it to your main document. Place it between logo mid and logo back layers. Desaturate it (Command/Ctrl-Shift-U) and turn up the blacks on Levels (Command/Ctrl-L).

Change the gauge's layer Blending Mode to Overlay and use clipping mask. Then add layer mask and using soft black brush erase indicated areas.

Simply pick whatever spots you want to erase. You can also rotate that image before you do any erasing, just to see if other parts can create better effect. The main purpose is to pick a good part of the gauge fit it with the back of the letter.

Erase only parts that look totally unreal or oversaturate the color.

I erased almost 70% of the gauge image and it still looks great. Remember about the balance. Sometimes less is more.

Now to make the effect a bit more realistic and glossy I've rotated that gauge many times to find best, suitable parts. Try to find a part that has few straight lines going along with the direction of the letter. This will create an awesome glossy effect.

If you're having problems with this try to open the gauge image again, straight as it is and rotate it around -80 degrees. This should be a good angle to search those lines.

Use a little bit of Gaussian Blur (or Motion Blur) to make that effect kind of hazy. Also duplicate that layer as many times as you want and make sure you fill up every letter the same way. This lines needs to go one and the same direction through every letter.

Warm up that back of the logo adding Color Balance adjustment layer (use clipping mask).

Step 4

Now move to the logo mid layer. Go to Layers Palette, open its Blending Options and apply a nice edge effect.

Step 5

Finally turn the visibility of front logo layer on. Go to Layers Palette and add new adjustment layer Solid Color. Pick #937539 color and hit Command/Ctrl-Alt-G for clipping mask.

Keep all further layers as clipping masks now.

Create new layer, set it to Overlay and paint with soft white brush as indicated.

Repeat the same process - new layer, Overlay mode, soft white brush. But this time hold Shift key to create straight brush lines.

The dots indicate where u should click to start and end single line while holding Shift key. This will allow you to create perfect straight lines with brush.

Next add Curves adjustment layer. Adjust it as shown below. Then select its layer mask and hit Command/Ctrl-I to invert the colors. Now that you have your mask black, paint with soft white brush as the red arrows indicate to shade the bottom parts a bit.

Step 6

Now, open image of the wooden box and rotate it as shown. The angle should match the highlights direction that we added in previous step.

The opacity is taken down just to show you the angle.

Change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and adjust it as shown.

Finally merge all of the logo layers (back, front and middle, everything) and now add few adjustment layers to it (use clipping masks).

  • 1st Gradient Map from #4c3606 to #efd16b - Normal mode.
  • 2nd Gradient Map from Black to White - Overlay mode.
  • 3rd Gradient Map from Black to White - Overlay mode (Opacity around 30-40%).

Step 7

This should look something like that:

The logo is almost good to go, but just to make it more suitable to our illustartion let's add few more adjustments to it:

  • Hue/Saturation, adjust the Yellows to bring back some of the white tones.
  • Selective Color, correct the overall color

And another two adjustment layers for final mastering:

  • Brightness/Contrast, nice sparkling effect
  • Color Balance, final color correction

Step 8

All right, and as for the very final step, create new layer above all layers (don't use clipping mask), change its Blending Mode to Linear Dodge. Grab soft brush with pale green color #a1a575 and add a little bit of shine to the corners. This will not only give a nice effect but will also blend the logo with illustration properly.


In this tutorial, I showed you how to use Photoshop to create a flyer for a mixed martial arts (MMA) event in Photoshop. Similar techniques can be used to create artwork for other fight-related designs. In the process, I showed you how to prep your photography, add typography, and even create a metallic logo. I hope that you learned something from this tutorial and can use these techniques to create you own awesome print designs.

Still want to learn more about how to make a flyer? Try our free course with Melody Nieves to learn how to make a music festival flyer from scratch.

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