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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Hey Gang! This is Deke Mcclelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques. This week I am going to show you how to create synthetic woodgrain inside of Photoshop. Now, you may be looking at this output here and thinking that it looks like an orange piece of paper. Well, this effect looks great onscreen. This one here looks a little better in print. You can actually see the detail. And you can make this woodgrain as smooth or grainy as you like. It's ultimately another one of the Smart Filter collections. This time it's a matter of combining clouds along with Motion Blur, Posterize, High Pass, Add Noise, another pass of Motion Blur, Emboss, and then Color Overlay. So simple! Why go to the lumber store and pay outrageous real lumber prices when you can create your own synthetic wood grain right here inside Photoshop? Here, let me show you. All right! So here's this overall composition that I will be creating over the course of a few movies, but we're going to take this one discrete technique at a time, starting with how you create synthetic woodgrain inside of Photoshop.
Now, I am going to zoom in, so you can see this woodgrain up close in personal. Notice that it spreads horizontally, and that's going to become important as we work our way through the Smart Filters. I also want you to see that we have independent panels of wood, and each one of those panels has its own unique woodgrain texture and in order to do that, we are going to have to work with Smart Objects and Smart Filters. You can't achieve that effect using static Layers inside Photoshop. All right! So I am going to switch over to this base composition that I have assembled. It's got all the text ready to go.
And normally, if I were working with static Layers, I just start piling on Layers at this point inside the Layers panel; however, because we are going to be working with Smart Objects, we are going to need absolute control over the size of our images, so we are better off starting things inside of a new document. But before I do that, I need to figure out how big this image is, so I'll go up to the Image menu, and choose the Image Size command. And I can see that I have got a width of 3,000 pixels and a height of 1,200 pixels. So that information obviously will vary for you as you work through your own projects, but what this tells me is a couple of things.
First of all, I want this panel, the single panel of wood that I will be creating, to be slightly wider than my larger composition because I am going to be working with the Motion Blur filter, which creates ratty edges. So I figure about 200 extra pixels of width will do the trick. Then, because the panel doesn't have to be as tall as the overall document, I am going to make it about half this height, that is to say 600 pixels. All right! So I will cancel out of here. With that in mind, I will go up to the File menu and choose the New command, or press Ctrl+N, Command+N on the Mac. And I have already dialed in the Width and Height values, as you can see.
Resolution really doesn't matter. We are working inside of the RGB Color mode. And then finally, the background contents need to be transparent for this effect to work. I will go ahead and call this guy woodmaker and then click OK to create this document. Now, I am going to go ahead and zoom in so that we can see what we are doing and press Shift+Tab to bring up the Layers panel. I will rename this layer 'blank' because that's what it's going to be. It's not going to contain anything. And then, quite bizarrely I think, I'm going to go up here to the Layers panel flyout menu and choose Convert to Smart Object. So having done nothing to that layer whatsoever, I am going to save it as a Smart Object.
That way, I can pile on Smart Filters. All right! So I will choose that command. Next, you need to make sure your foreground and background colors are set to black and white respectively. If they're not, press D for default colors. Now go up to the Filter menu and choose the foremost fractal noise generator inside the software, which is here in the Render submenu, and it's the Clouds filter. And you will end up getting an effect like this. It won't be exactly like this because it is a random filter. Next, I want you to go up to the Filter menu, choose Blur, and then choose Motion Blur.
Now, I was telling you that the angle of our woodgrain is absolutely horizontal, so the Angle inside of this dialog box should be 0 degrees. I am going to crank up the Distance to 200 pixels, so we have a ton of blur going on. Click OK. Next, I am going to do a little housekeeping by right-clicking on that filter mask thumbnail, that white thumbnail there in the Layers panel, and I am going to choose Delete Filter Mask. All right! At this point, I think we can all agree that this doesn't look anything like woodgrain. We are going to make a big major step forward here by pressing the Alt or Option key and then clicking and holding on this Black/White icon and choosing Posterize, which allows you to simplify the number of colors inside of an image.
Because you have Alt or Option down, that will bring up the New Layer dialog box. I am going to call this guy once again 'woodmaker' because that's essentially what it's doing. I will turn on this check box so that we affect this one layer and nothing else. Click OK, and then I will dial up the number of levels here inside the Adjustments panel to 24, and that's it. That's all we're doing inside of this image. Now, this still doesn't look a lot like woodgrain, but we do now have established the basic ingredients. If I switch back over to the final version of the composition, you can see that it includes these little blocks right here, and that's what we've managed to create so far.
All right! So having done that, I need to go ahead and take everything I've done and put it inside of yet another Smart Object. So I will click on one of the Layers, Shift+Click on the other so they're both selected, go up to the Layers panel flyout menu and choose Convert to Smart Object once again. All right! Now, at this point, I want to better see what I am doing, so I'm going to apply another adjustment layer by dropping down here to this Black/White icon, pressing and holding the Alt or Option key, and then choosing Levels. And then I will go ahead and call this new layer contrast.
You don't want to turn on Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask this time around. Leave it off. Click OK. And I am going to go ahead and take this first value, the black point value, up to 30, and I will tab over to the white point value, take it down to 215 so you can see we are enhancing the contrast, Shift+Tab back to the Gamma value, press Shift+Down-arrow to lower it to 0.9. So first value 30, second value 0.9, last value 215, and then go ahead and close the panel. All right! Now, I am going to drop back down to this woodmaker Smart Object layer and we are going to toss in a few more Smart Filters by going up to the Filter menu, choosing Other, and this time around choosing High Pass, which is going to allow us to basically create these kind of shadows behind each one of these lumps of color.
So I will go ahead and choose High Pass. Notice we have these halos going on now and I set the Radius value to 5 pixels. Now, you can, by the way, you can modify these settings to taste. All these numbers are adjustable. These just happen to be ones that I came up with that I think work really well. I will click OK to apply that filter, right-click on that new filter mask, get rid of it once again by choosing Delete Filter Mask. Again, that's optional--just a little bit of housekeeping. I will go up to the Filter menu. We need to add some traditional noise now to rough things up. Go down here to Noise, and choose the Add Noise filter, and these are the settings I applied: an Amount value of 2%, which just rough things up slightly; set Distribution to Gaussian so we have more contrast; and definitely turn on the Monochromatic check box so you don't end up creating weird colors. Click OK.
The next step is to basically smooth out that noise a little bit, so we are going to go up to the Filter menu, choose Blur, and again choose Motion Blur. Again we want the Angle value to be 0 degrees, but I am going to take the Distance value this time down to 10 pixels. Click OK to accept that. Next, we want a little bit of relief, so that it feels like this wood here actually has grain associated with it. So I am going to go up to the Filter menu, and I am going to choose Stylize, and I am going to choose Emboss. These are the values I came up with.
Once we establish the Bevel text and the other ingredients inside the larger composition, I am going to set the global light to 15 degrees, so I want to go ahead and match that light source with the Emboss filter. So 15 degrees for the Angle value; Height, leave it set to 1 pixel, just a little bit of edge; and I'm cranking up the Amount value to its maximum, which is 500%. Click OK. Now, this looks like garbage at this point, which is why we now need to turn around and adjust the Blend mode for this one filter, just for Emboss, by double-clicking on little slider icon to the right of Emboss here inside the Layers panel.
That brings up the Blending Options dialog box. Change the mode from Normal to the strongest of the contrast modes, which is Linear Light, and that will go ahead and punch up the effect in the background. Click OK. Now, you may look at this and say, gosh! It's still awfully gray. And yes, it is, which is why we need to add some color, for one thing, but if you were to increase the contrast too much so that you have true whites and true blacks, then you are going to overwhelm everything else in your composition. And if you take a look at woodgrain in the real world, you'll see that it's fairly uniform. It's fairly light.
Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and add a Color Overlay effect by dropping down to the fx icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, choosing Color Overlay, and the color I will be going with--I will click this color swatch right here-- the color I am dialing in has a Hue of 35 degrees, and the Saturation, again, this is what I'm using is 85%, and then the Brightness is 50%. Click OK once you establish those values. Then make sure your Blend mode is set to Color. That's not the default setting. It's Normal by default, but you want it to be Color in this case.
Then click OK to colorize the overall woodgrain. Now, it may appear a little ratty up close like this, but once you zoom out--and bear in mind, it's going to look more like it does when it's zoomed out when you print the document--it ends up looking pretty darn great. And that, my friends, is how you create synthetic woodgrain inside of Photoshop.
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