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Photoshop for Kids: Up, Up, and Away!

This post is part of a series called Adobe Photoshop for Kids!.
Adobe Photoshop for Kids: Funny Faces!
Adobe Photoshop for Kids: Mini-Me!
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

When I was a kid, I used to love to pretend that I had super powers. I'd imagine myself flying high over a city that was under my protection from villainy in all its forms! (OK, so sometimes I still do that.) But I found that my kids are no different. So my daughter was excited to be part of a project that made her look just like a heroine from her comic books.

This tutorial is intended to be done as a team effort between parent and child. As a parent you will help get the photos needed for the project, plus get everything set up in Photoshop. Then your super kid will learn how to use some filters and masking to bring this image to life! Finally, there's a bonus comic-book effect that you will both work on together.

1. Setting Up the Shots

It's important to have a good vision for how the final project should turn out before taking the photographs. It's easier to change positions, and take several photos, during a photo shoot than it is to try to force something in Photoshop later on.

Step 1

The city needs you! What city? Well, whichever one you can find a good picture of! The establishing city shot is what dictates the poses you will need, so be sure to sort that out first. You can download the one we used here: Aerial shot of city.

The city needs and deserves a hero

Step 2

Now it's time to put together a costume! Most kids have several different elements of a hero-type costumes readily available. Even if they don't, capes are easy to create with a length of fabric. Get them to use their imagination and help out in crafting the best look for their hero!

Put together a fun heroine outfit for the superkid

Step 3

Pay close attention to the angle of the city shot. The shot we are working with needs to have an overhead angle. I found climbing up on a stepladder and shooting down towards my little heroine worked just right!

Get a high angle shot Use a step ladder if needed

Step 4

Have fun with it! I find the kids to be much more agreeable to posing if I let them suggest other poses just for fun and giggles. Enjoy the time playing around and imagining super-powered battles!

Encourage the imaginative play You will all have more fun that way

2. Processing the Shots

Before setting your youngster loose on the digital project, spend a bit of time getting things prepared to make their portion of it go smoothly. If you can solve potential problems before they encounter them, they will have more fun and be more excited about the very idea of this project.

Step 1

Select an image to work with and open it in Photoshop. Begin by addressing any lighting or color issues with the image. One of the best ways to do this is with Image > Adjustments > Curves. Move the curve points to meet the edges of the histogram. Then give a slight S-shape to the curve to increase the contrast of the image.

Use Curves to increase contrast

The highlights should be sharp and the shadows deep

Step 2

Now use the Quick Selection Tool (W) to highlight the figure by painting just inside the edge. If the tool selects an area you don't want, hold down the Alt key and paint over that area to Deselect it.

Use the Quick Selection Tool to select the heroine

Step 3

Press the Refine Edge button and increase the Radius slider slightly, and push up on the Smooth slider and the Feather slider until the jagged areas around the selected edge disappear. Change the Output to Layer Mask and press OK.

Use the Refine Edge feature to get a smooth selection edge

Step 4

Drag the masked hero layer over onto the tab for the city image. When the program shows the city image, drop the layer onto it.

Place the heroine over the city

Step 5

Go to Edit > Free Transform (Control-T) and use the transformation cage to scale and rotate the heroine image into place. You want the image to line up with the lines formed by the buildings.

Rotate and Scale the superhero into place

Step 6

Duplicate the layer with Layer > Duplicate Layer. Double click on the name for the original layer and rename it "Blur".

Duplicate the heroine layer and rename the original as Blur

Step 7

Apply the layer mask of this Blur layer by going to Layer > Layer Mask > Apply. The mask thumbnail will disappear because the mask has now been applied to the layer.

Apply the layer mask

Step 8

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer over the City background layer. Pull down on the Saturation slider to -30. This reduces the color of the background and makes the bright color of our heroine stand out more.

Step 9

Now add a Curves adjustment layer on top of the stack and press the Auto button in the Curves Properties. This adjusts the curve to enhance the contrast of the entire image.

Use a Curves adjustment layer to enhance the contrast

OK, now it's time to call in the younger creative member of this team and release their real super power! Just be sure to be on hand just in case they need a bit of assistance from their older sidekick.

3. Hey Super Kids!

Thanks for being so helpful in this project. I bet your costume looks amazing! Are you ready to make yourself fly high over the city? Your parent has gotten things started here, but we really need your help to make this project look great!

Step 1

Towards the right side of the screen you will see a Layers panel. In that panel find the layer called Blur and click on it to make sure it is the active layer. You can tell it is active by the little white outline around the picture of you!

Make the Blur layer active

Step 2

Look at the menus at the top of the screen and go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. When the new window comes up, try to change the  angle to match the buildings in the background. We used -65 degrees. Then adjust the Amount to 600 pixels and press the OK button.

Use a Motion Blur on the Blur layer

Step 3

Press the V key to get the Move Tool. Then move the blur layer down and towards the right so it's all below your picture, and there's none of it showing above your head.

Move the blur below the flying heroine

Step 4

Now go to Edit > Transform > Warp and you will see a type of cage around the blur. Move the bottom corners in towards the center to make the blur look smaller at the bottom. Then press the Enter key to finish the warp. This makes it look as if you've flown up from those buildings really, really fast!

Use the Warp to narrow the base of the blur giving it some perspective

Step 5

Grab the Brush Tool (B) and look up at the top of the screen where it shows the brush options. Click on the the little brush tip icon to open the Brush Options Menu. Select the Soft Round brush from the list and set the Size to 150 px and the Hardness to 0%.

Grab the Soft Round Brush

Step 6

Now look back at the Layers panel and look for the little picture of you with a little black and white box next to it. This box is the Layer Mask. It controls what parts of that layer can be seen. Click on it to make it active. Then make sure the paint color is black and use your brush like a type of eraser to remove your feet. You want the blur to blend in with the rest of your hero costume.

Mask out the feet so the blur blends in to the rest of her

Step 7

Now click on the Background layer to make it active. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and enter a Radius of 7 pixels. This makes the background blurry so it really looks like a background!

Blur the background buildings

Nice work, Super Kid! You are saving the city in style now!

Let villians beware

In the next few steps you can add some special filters to make the picture look as if it's in a comic book. But you will probably need the help of your big sidekick, so make sure they are right here to help!

4. Add a Comic Book Effect

At this point the project should already look pretty impressive. In fact, stopping here is a good option. But if you want to push forward with some more filter work, you can get the image to look almost as if it was pulled right out of a comic book!

Step 1

Click on the topmost layer (it's the Curves adjustment layer.) Hold down the Alt key and go to Layer > Merge Visible. This creates a merged layer of all the layers in the project. Do this twice to create two merged layers.

Create two merged layers at the top of the stack

Step 2

Hide the top merged layer by clicking on the eyeball icon next to its thumbnail. Then click on the thumbnail of the second merged layer to make it the active layer.

Hide the top merged layer and make the second layer active

Step 3

Go to Filter > Filter Gallery. Open the Sketch folder and select the Halftone Pattern filter and make these settings:

  • Size: 5
  • Contrast: 15
  • Pattern Type: Dot
Use the Halftone Filter

Step 4

Then set the layer's Blend Mode to Overlay and reduce the Opacity to 30%.

Set the layer blend mode and opacity

Step 5

Now reveal the top merged layer and make it the active layer. Then go to Filter > Filter Gallery and choose the Photocopy filter from the Sketch folder, selecting the following settings:

  • Detail: 5
  • Darkness: 50
Add the Photocopy filter to the top merged layer

Step 6

Set this layer's Blend Mode to Multiply. This will render the white areas invisible while the black lines appear to be comic ink lines right from your favorite graphic novels!

Set to Multiply to reveal the full effect

You Are Done!

Here she comes to save the day! Nice work! We'd love to see your results too. Post them in the comments below so we can create our own league of Mighty Kids!

The final effect

Want More?

I hope you and your child had as much fun with this project as my daughter and I did! I've got more Photoshop for Kids! tutorials along with some photo manipulation projects, custom brushes, and even more Photoshop fun. Check out my profile here at Tuts+ for my other tutorials, quick tips, and courses.

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