The American 1950s were an influential time in pop culture. From Hot Cars to Fabulous Women, the 50s gave us a very recognizable style that is still celebrated today. Perhaps nothing encapsulates that nostalgic style more than the beloved film Grease. In that film, one of the most emotional and iconic scenes is a forlorn Danny signing in front of a glowing drive-in theater screen.
Adobe's latest release of Creative Cloud 2015 included an exciting new application called Adobe Fuse. This fun little application allows for easy character creation and customization. The fact that it works seamlessly with Photoshop through the use of the CC Libraries makes it an ideal candidate to help recreate one of the most emotional scenes in Grease.
1. Begin With Adobe Fuse
If you've updated your Adobe Creative Cloud to the latest 2015 updates, you've probably also installed a new app called Adobe Fuse. It's a 3D character creator that works seamlessly with Photoshop. We will use that as the primary means of creating our Danny figure.
Launch Adobe Fuse and use the Assemble tab to select the Male Fit A model for the Head, Torso, Arm, and Leg sections of the model.
Go to the Customize tab and open the FACE settings. Set the Cocky and Worried settings to 50 to reflect the state of mind of our Danny character.
Switch to the Clothing tab and scroll through the TOPS section to find the Open Jacket.
Open the BOTTOMS section and apply the Belted Straight Pant preset to give our Danny a pair of jeans.
Next look through the SHOES section to find Boots 1.
Danny's hair is very specific to his character, and the Fuse library doesn't have his exact hair style. So instead we will use a close approximation and make adjustments later. Open the HAIR section and apply the Alpha Short Bouffant style.
Danny's hair is jet black (and greased!) so the hair of our model needs to be changed to match. Switch to the Texture tab and click on the actual hair of the model. The parameters will change to reflect the settings for the hair. Open the Color portion of the parameters.
Click on the color chip to open the color picker and change the color to solid black. Press OK.
His jacket also needs to be solid black. Click on the jacket to reveal the individual fabric materials used to make up his jacket. Expand each Leather material and change its color to solid black.
Danny really needs to have a big square chin for that classic chiseled jaw. Switch to the Customize tab and open the Head parameters. Set the Chin Square/Round to -100 and the Chin Down/Up to -50.
Press the Save to CC Libraries button. Name the model "Danny" and select a library to save it in. This makes this model available in Photoshop CC 2015. After the file is saved, close Adobe Fuse.
2. Continue in Adobe Photoshop
Now that we have our 3D Danny model, it's time to place him into the drive-in scene. There are not too many drive-in theaters that are still operational today, but I happen to live near one and was able to get some shots of the facility before it closed for the season. It looked just like the type of place a love-struck Danny would croon over his failed date.
Launch Photoshop CC 2015. Then download and open the file attached to this tutorial, DriveInTheater.jpg.
Add a Curves Adjustment Layer and give the curve a deep downwards curve to darken the scene significantly while keeping the screen bright.
Use the Crop Tool (C) to crop the scene in tight so the background is mostly the movie screen.
The background composition should end up looking like this.
Open the Libraries panel through Window > Libraries. Be sure to look in the correct library for the model that was saved from Fuse. Simply drag the Danny model from the library onto the canvas to add it to the scene as a 3D object.
Open the 3D panel (Window > 3D) and click on the Tops_Skeleton object. The Properties panel will reveal a library of poses and animations that can be applied to the character. Type "reclined" in the search box.
Apply the Reclined Looking Downwards pose. Then use the Move Tool (V) to turn and position the model towards the edge of the frame. Be sure the position creates a strong profile for the character as the final version will be nearly silhouette.
Danny should be severely back-lit here as the primary light source should be that giant movie screen behind him. In the 3D panel select the Infinite Light 1. In the Properties panel set the Intensity to 15%. Then use the Move Tool (V) to adjust the direction of the light to match the position of the screen.
Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create a simple selection around the character and press the Render button at the base of the 3D panel so Photoshop will render out the lighting and textures more accurately.
Here's what the finished render should look like.
3. Illustrate the Swings
We can't have our distraught Danny sitting on thin air. I've never been certain why swing sets are a frequent installment at drive-in theaters, but they do tend to be pretty common. Let's use a bit of illustration skill to add them in here.
Use the Pen Tool (P) set to Shape with the Fill set to black and the Stroke set to null. Then draw out the basic shape of a tilted swing seat.
Add another shape to outline the vertical faces of the swing board. The shape can overshoot the outline of the swing base. This shape should have a lighter color
#2e2f36 as these faces will receive more light than the visible bottom of the swing.
Clip the new shape to the swing base by going to Layer > Create Clipping Mask (Alt-Control-G).
Group the swing layers together with Layer > Group Layers (Control-G) and position the swing beneath Danny so that he appears to be sitting on it.
Use the same technique to draw out the other swings in the scene.
Instead of illustrating each link in the chains for the swings, it's much easier to create a custom brush and use it instead. Start by using the Ellipse Tool (U) set to Shape to create a horizontal oval with a Fill of black and a Stroke of null.
Use the Path Selection Tool (A) to select the ellipse path. Copy (Control-C) the path and Paste (Control-V) it on top of itself. Then go to Edit > Free Transform Path (Control-T) and Scale the copied path down to about 67%. In the Path Operations, set the mode to Subtract Front Shape. This will hollow out the inside of the ellipse, forming a single chain link.
Switch to the Move Tool (V) and Control-click on the thumbnail of the chain link layer to create a selection around it. Then go to Edit > Define Brush Preset and call the new brush Chain Link. Then go to Select > Deselect (Control-D) to cancel the selection.
Hide the ellipse layer that was used to create the custom brush. Add a new layer with Layer > New > Layer (Control-Shift-N) and change to the Brush Tool (B). Open the Brush panel (Windows > Brush) and make the following settings under the Brush Tip Shape:
- Size: 35 px
- Spacing: 151%
Engage the Shape Dynamics and make the following settings:
- Angle Jitter: 1%
- Angle Jitter Control: Direction
Engage the Scattering and make the following settings:
- Check the Both Axes box
- Set the Scatter amount to 10%
Click on the Create New Brush button at the bottom right of the Brush panel. Name the new brush Chain Brush.
Use the new Chain Brush to create the chains for the swings. Hold down the Shift key to keep the lines straight.
The chain Danny is leaning against should be bowed from the weight against it. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create a selection around that chain. Then go to Edit > Transform > Warp and drag the lower warp intersection to the right to change the direction of the chain. Apply the warp and then cancel the selection with Select > Deselect (Control-D).
4. The Finish Effects
The major elements are in place, so now it's time to add in the final effects to give this piece that Grease personality.
The movie screen should have something playing on it. In the film, the screen shows an animated ad for the theater's concession stand. Instead of that, I opted to use a classic film countdown slide. This one is available on Envato Market for purchase.
Go to File > Place Linked and select the movie countdown card. Photoshop inserts the image as a Smart Object. Right-click on the object and choose Distort. Position the corners of the image to match the projection on the movie screen, and press Enter to apply the transformation.
Make sure the projected image layer is just above the curves adjustment layer and below the 3D model and swing layers. Then set the blending mode to Hard Light.
The figure doesn't really look like Danny without his signature hair. Use the Pen Tool (P) set to Shape and black Fill to draw out the curls in front of his forehead and include a shape for his sideburns in front of the ear as well.
Draw out another shape to create his arched hairline. Double-click the shape's thumbnail in the Layers panel to get the Color Picker. Sample a color from his face so the shape blends in seamlessly.
Add a Curves Adjustment Layer just over the 3D model layer. Clip it to the model with Layer > Create Clipping Mask (Alt-Control-G). Then use the Curves to create a very dark appearance for Danny's figure. It should be nearly silhouette.
Click on the mask thumbnail next to the Curves adjustment layer to make it the active selection. Then use the Brush Tool (B) with a Soft Round tip and black paint to gently paint away the effect of the curves along his face and shoulders. The idea is to create the appearance of the light subtly splashing over onto his face.
And there we have our distraught Danny!
If you would like some more Photoshop tutorials along with some photo-manipulation projects, custom brushes, and even more fun, check out my profile here at Envato Tuts+ for my other tutorials, quick tips, and courses.