I have had many requests for tutorials over the past months, but given that they are quite time-consuming to create I have stayed away from them to continue with my poster designs and freelance work.
Last week I posted a few images entitled The O Series. The process behind the images is fairly simple and I thought it would make for a good first tutorial post. There is nothing advanced here, and all you will need is a basic knowledge of the layers palette, blending modes and masks.
So, if you were at all interested in the creation of these pieces, here you go.
Start by creating a white circle in the middle of the canvas, and apply a radial gradient layer mask so the center is faded out. Drop the opacity down to 15%.
Duplicate the circle layer we just made, and move it up and to the left. Bring the opacity up to 100% and set the layer Blending Mode to Overlay.
Duplicate the layer we just made and drop the opacity down to 25%. Set the Blending Mode of this new layer to Color Dodge. Move the circle a bit to the right on the canvas.
Duplicate the layer we just made, bring the opacity back up to 100% and set the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Shift the circle to the left a bit, and this time scale the circle down a little.
Make a straight duplicate of the layer we just made, and shift it a bit to the right. Keep all the layer settings the same.
Now that we have all of our circles in place, it’s now time to add some shadows and highlights to bring a bit more definition to the shapes. Create a new layer, and set its Blending Mode to Overlay. Using the Brush Tool set to black, proceed to paint in a few soft shadows concentrating more on the lower-left portion of the sphere. Then on the same layer, set your brush to white and paint in a few highlights. Try to keep in mind where a light source might hit our sphere, and paint the shadows and highlights accordingly. I lassoed where I painted for the sake of clarity in the example image.
To make the shading and highlights a bit more dramatic, duplicate the layer we just made and set its opacity to 50%. Keep the Blending Mode at Overlay.
Now we need to make the highlights really pop. Create a new layer and set the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Then using the Brush Tool with a soft setting, paint in a few focused highlight areas building on where you placed highlights in step 6.
Duplicate the layer we just made and set the Blending Mode to Overlay.
Once again, duplicate the layer we just made and this time drop the opacity to 50%.
Create a new Adjustment Layer and select Levels. When the levels dialogue box appears, set the white side to 145 and the dark side to 15, and click Okay. Keep this new layer above all of the layers we have created so the level setting will be applied to all.
Finally, we can now add some color to our sphere. Create a new layer, and remember to keep it below the Levels Adjustment Layer we just made. Using the Brush tool on a soft setting, paint in some color highlights on the sphere. Do this for a few colors to add some interest to the composition, in my case I chose red and purple.
Set the Blending Mode of our color layer to Overlay. You can continue to add some color on this layer until it feels right.
After placing so many overlays on top of gradients you will notice some fragmentation or banding. To solve this, switch the canvas to 16-bit and everything will smooth out. Simply go to Image > Mode > 16-Bits/Channel. After saving your PSD as 16-bit, you can then flatten your canvas and switch back to 8-bit to save your work as a jpeg.
Have some fun and try a few different color treatments using the Brush Tool or some gradients. Also shift the circle layers around a bit for more diversity.
I tried to keep this is simple and straight-forward as I could, so I hope this helps out those curious about my process. I do a great deal of adjusting and experimenting with my work, so be sure to try new things as you go to see how the slightest of alterations can change how color and overlays react with one another. But most of all, have fun.
Wow… really cool tutorial, simple yet very effective, well done… great result :)
Wow, wow, wow! I’ve been waiting a looong time for a tutorial from James White…thanks James. ;)
Fantastic! Thanks a lot James, you rock ;)
This is amazing. It’s so great to finally get an insight into your workflow. Thanks for sharing with us. Fabio is right. You rock!
My pleasure, gang. I appreciate the kind feedback.
Hey wow, very nice tutorial.
So effin excited to work through this today. Thanks so much.
Wow, cool tutorial. thanks so much!
Thanks James, always great to get insight into a designers process.
awesome, really interesting to read :)
super sick! thanks for the insight.
Nice use of the layers palette :)
Wow! Great tutorial.
I followed it, screwed it up, stopped it, shut the tutorial window and gave it my own twist:
Click here for my result (1440×900)
Thanks so much, everyone. Happy to hear you are enjoying the tutorial.
Interesting outcome/tutorial. Although when the light gets more intense the colors start to clash a little (if you know what I mean). You should also show the readers what it would look like with a different background.
Looks great James! Thanks for doing a tutorial! Hope to see more in the future!
Hey, nice tut! Thanks for putting the time in to do this.
Really great tutorial. Thanks!
I really like it..thanks James for the tuts..you rock!..hope to see more tut from you in the future..
Thanks! It’s great and easy tutorial!
unbelievable man. thanks for bringing us inside your head!
Eli, I’m a fan of amping up my highlights using multiple overlays, which does cause a high contrast in the overall range, if that is what you are referring to. The tutorial is built so you can nullify that on the layers palette according to your taste. Thanks a lot for the feedback.
Grant and Starlight, I have another tutorial on the way and will be sure to announce when it is available.
Finally one great tutorial from one of my favorite artist of the computer graphics century. You kick!
I love this. I am O so excited to do undertake it.
This was a long waited from you! MANY, MANY THANKS! ! ! !
Love your work!
This i sreally interesting, wat agreat result 4rm cul and chanllenging process.
keep it on my Lecturer.
yay! this is really cool
Ran across your website for the first time yesterday and enjoyed your articles very much. Nice to see fellow Canadians designing stuff at this level. Awesome tutorial!
I tried switching the mode to 16-bits/channel, though it didn’t seem to smooth out the banding problem… I’m new to Photoshop, would you care to explain why? I found some tutorials using noice to fix it, but don’t like grainy look…
Really inspirational! Great work as always.
gr8 tutorial :)
thanks for sharing your technique, it’s great. Always wonderful to see, that it’s absolutely possible to create something really outstanding with relatively simple methods.
When I make white circles I can’t make them transparent. I can set the gradient overlay to go black to white but not white to transparent.
Gaz, see step 1. You create a white circle then apply a radial layer mask to make the transparency.
very nice tut…i hope i’ll get the same result.
i have a question. do you use RGB or CMYK mode?
because i have problems with th first step.
thanks for answering
Eiche, I use RGB mode. You might have to apply the gradient a few times on the layer mask to get a more distinct fade.
Im such a noob, Im stumped on step 1 where it says “apply a radial gradient layer mask” I dont know how to get my layers palette the same way as yours (underneath the sphere folder in pic #1)
Anyways, epic artwork man!
Gus, select the layer with the circle and click the ‘Apply Layer Mask’ button on the bottom of the layers palette (should have an icon of a square with a circle in it). This will add your layer mask shown as a separate pane, like mine above. Simply add your gradient to that additional pane.
Hope that helps :)
very nice .
Thanks for the tips, I love finding out about new tricks
What a great way to use pretty simple shapes! Great job on the tut, very informative. Thank you!
Wow, awesome! I’ll try it!
Your explanation skills lack. I couldn’t get the same result as yours. I tried so many gradient styles with white gray and black, i kept editing the stops of the gradients and nothing. The result is this. God i was so pissed. Be more explicit next time, will ya!?
Great tutorial, I especially loved the shadow and hightlights parts, thanks for sharing.
Really good tutorial lighting effect is beautiful
u’ve got the midas touch…. this is wicked….. thanx man…
You have created something
i tried this tutorial a month couldnot finish it but now after some training and experience I DID IT perfectly am sooo happy the thing i was missing i guess when he shadowed the O drop the opacity of the brush to like 25 that will help u to shadow the O without printing on the sphere
thank you for ur effort of this tutorial hoping for something new interesting and tweaking like this one
OMG I am going to try this out. Supercool!
I finally got a chance to try this out. And experienced a few things:
1.) I was not able to get the radial gradient to be as soft as James’. I tried multiple passes with the gradient on the adjustment layer. In the end, I had to take a soft brush to punch out the middle
2.) I got the most odd effect on that 3rd layer when we set to Color Dodge. It looked like a big paint splotch in the middle of my circle, with hard edges. So I had to move that circle around till that funny effect dissipated
3.) When I did the adjustment layer, my whites really blew out so i got a not so nice end result
I think, as James says, it takes a lot more playing around with things to achieve the look. I loved this peek inside the work-flow to at least get a feel for the steps to take. I’m going to try again tomorrow to see what sort of magic (if any!) I can create with fiddling about a bit more.
Very kind of you to share your technique here with us James!
An amazing tutorial Good work! I have given it a go and got some very good results from it! Well done
You are a MASTER!
great tutorial…very simple but outstanding
Thank you. Simple yet dynamic design.
OMG great tutorial…very simple but outstanding Very helpful in designing
Amazing….thanks for sharing….
Fantastic tutorial, thanks a lot!
..I LIKE TO TRY THIS..BUT I DONT KNOW HOW TO MAKE THE RADIAL GRADIENT LAYER MASK. :(
Great tutorial. I had some issues but after playing with the highlights and shading got some great results!
Great tutorial! Really easy to follow :)
can you put more details about the RADIAL GRADIENT LAYER MASK
Thank you so much, James, for this. Learned and enjoyed : )
Found you today.
Great, thank you
Thanks for taking the time. Nice effect
Very nice . Great tutorial!
Hi! nice tutorial, but can you make a video tutorial? it´s easier then :P