Designs dekeConstructed: Retro-Style Superhero
Illustration by John Hersey

Designs dekeConstructed: Retro-Style Superhero

with Deke McClelland

Video: Adjusting Puppet Warp and Expansion

In this movie, we're going to take the character and we're going to stretch him. All right, now let's go ahead and scroll down here to the feet.
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  1. 41s
    1. Welcome
  2. 13m 6s
    1. Masking a person from a white background
      8m 20s
    2. Smoothing out the edges of a jagged mask
      4m 46s
  3. 28m 52s
    1. Adding power and motion with Liquify
      8m 21s
    2. Puppet warping the legs closer together
      6m 36s
    3. Applying a perspective-style transformation
      5m 34s
    4. Smoothing and removing details with Liquify
      8m 21s
  4. 28m 34s
    1. Filling and stroking the silhouette
      3m 47s
    2. Drawing with the Pen and Brush tools
      7m 56s
    3. Hand-painting the face
      8m 56s
    4. Refining brushstrokes with Median and Minimum
      7m 55s
  5. 39m 2s
    1. Adding complementary colored clouds
      5m 28s
    2. Drawing a handful of spikes in Illustrator
      8m 34s
    3. Creating a burst pattern with Transform
      9m 36s
    4. Adjusting the spikes for a better effect
      7m 20s
    5. Bringing the burst pattern into Photoshop
      8m 4s
  6. 51m 4s
    1. Creating the extreme paths for the grill lines
      7m 31s
    2. Blending the grill lines in Illustrator
      9m 42s
    3. Correcting potential blending problems
      9m 58s
    4. Bringing the blended paths into Photoshop
      8m 27s
    5. Simulating pressure when stroking paths
      5m 35s
    6. Contouring the grill lines onto the face
      9m 51s
  7. 23m 47s
    1. Drawing a hand with the Pen tool
      9m 29s
    2. Converting the hand path to a shape layer
      6m 2s
    3. Finishing off the hands and gloves
      8m 16s
  8. 28m 49s
    1. Blend, scale, and rotate photographic flames
      6m 17s
    2. Filling in gaps with symmetrical flames
      7m 15s
    3. Shooting flames out of the hero's hands
      7m 34s
    4. Stroking the composite flames
      7m 43s
  9. 19m 13s
    1. Drawing cartoon flames as a shape layer
      5m 56s
    2. Enhancing the flames with layer effects
      5m 32s
    3. Adjusting Puppet Warp and Expansion
      7m 45s
  10. 16m 56s
    1. Installing a free comic-lettering font
      3m 59s
    2. Formatting the monologue text
      5m 43s
    3. Drawing the talk balloons (a.k.a. speech bubbles)
      7m 14s
  11. 43m 10s
    1. Selecting a font-creation software
      5m 17s
    2. Drawing consistently rendered letterforms
      9m 10s
    3. Pasting the letters into Glyphs Mini (Mac only)
      8m 11s
    4. Copying capitals into lowercase positions (Mac only)
      6m 45s
    5. Generating an OpenType font (Mac only)
      7m 56s
    6. Stylizing the custom font in Photoshop
      5m 51s
  12. 4m 24s
    1. Time lapse of the retro superhero
      3m 4s
    2. Until next time
      1m 20s

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Watch the Online Video Course Designs dekeConstructed: Retro-Style Superhero
4h 57m Intermediate Jun 30, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Learn what it takes to design and create your own custom silver-age superhero. Join Deke as he starts by tracing a photo to create the hero's body and then jumps into Illustrator for the creation of the final effects. Finally, Deke takes us through the steps to lay out our own custom type to complete the comic.

Want more of Designs dekeConstructed, the series that breaks down popular graphic designs so you can re-create them on your own? Check out Deke's page.

Topics include:
  • Turning a person into a silhouette
  • Adding power and motion with Liquify
  • Drawing with the Pen and Brush tools
  • Creating a dramatic background
  • Adding grill lines and flames
  • Inserting talk balloons
  • Creating a custom comic font
Illustrator Photoshop
Deke McClelland

Adjusting Puppet Warp and Expansion

In this movie, we're going to take the character and we're going to stretch him. And the idea's that I want to make the arms shorter and I want to raise the shoulders to extend the torso. I also want to point the toes and so forth. And because I'm working with these independent limbs. And this torso, in this basically, extracted man, so he is on, an independent layer from everything else. The best tool for the job is Puppet Warp. Now they great thing about puppet warp is that you can apply it as a smart filter, but of course we need a smart object to pull that off. So, I'm going to switch to my image in progress here, and because I have various incarnations of this file, and I want to keep the file sizes as small as possible. I'm going to go ahead and select the tiny flames layer and Shift-click on the merged BBQ layer to select all four of these layers. And then I'll go up to the Layer menu and choose Merge Layers, or you can press Ctrl+E, or Cmd+E on a Mac to merge them together, and now I'm going to rename this layer Blue BBQ. Because, after all, that's what he is. Now we want to convert this layer to a smart object. So go ahead and switch back to the rectangular marquee tool, which you can get by pressing the m key, then right click inside the image window and choose convert to smart object. And that way we can apply puppet warp as a non-destructive effect and we can make changes as we go which, as you'll see, is extremely useful. Now I'll go on to the edit menu and choose the puppet warp command. And that will go ahead and take us into the Puppet Work Mode. And you'll know you're in the mode because you can see the grid of triangles. Now go ahead and set pins by clicking inside of each one of the palms, of the hands that is to say. And then we're going to lock down the shoulders by clicking on either side of each one of the shoulders.

So, both the left and right sides of the right shoulder, for example. And then I'll set a pin down here and over here as well. So at the top of the shoulders and under the arms. Then you want to click to set pins along the hips, so right along that waistline. Then I'm going to go ahead and scroll down and I'll click to set a pin in each one of the knees that will help stabilize those legs. And I'll click to set pins at the top of each of the boots and then down here in the middle of the toe region like so. All right now I'm going to scroll back up here and the first thing I want to do is lift the shoulders. So I'll click in this pin in order to select it and Shift+click in each of the other three shoulder pins so in all you have four pins selected. And then I want to raise those pins and I figured out they want to go up 100 pixels, at least that's what I came up with. So I'm going to press Shift+up arrow. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten times and you can see that that raises the shoulders.

It stretches the torso, it raises the head as well, and it makes the arms a little bit shorter. Now we need to take the hands down, so click inside the pin for the right hand and then shift click on the pin for the left hand. And we want to lower them 40 pixels, so I'll press Shift+down arrow one, two, three, four times. All right, now let's go ahead and scroll down here to the feet. And select all four of the pins that are associated with the boots. So go ahead and click on this pin and then Shift+click on each of the other three, like so, in order to select them.

And you'll know they're selected because they have little dots inside of them. And then you want to lower them 60 pixels by pressing Shift+down arrow, one, two, three, four, five, six times. Now let's just go ahead and select the toes by clicking on one and the shifting clicking in another. So the act of clicking de-selects the other points. So with those two toe-pins selected, let's nudge them down 80 pixels by pressing Shift+down arrow, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight times like so. Now, let's go ahead and press the enter key, or the return key on the Mac in order to accept our changes.

And you can see that puppet warp is now expressed as an editable smart filter here inside the layers panel. We don't need this filter mask, you almost never do when you're working with puppet warp. So let's get rid of it by right clicking inside that white thumbnail and choosing delete filter mask. And now I'm going to go ahead and scroll up and I'm going to zoom in on this right hand because it's the best example of something bad that's going on here. Notice that we have this divot right here in the finger and that's not something that's at work in the original hand, if I were to turn off the smart filters, like so, by turning off the eye ball. There inside the layers panel. You can see that we have a nice rounded corner at that location. But thanks to the puppet warp, I'll go ahead and turn the smart filters back on, we're getting that clipped corner.

And we've got another clipped corner right there and then we have this bent flame. Well, that's a function of a feature known as Expansion. So what you want to do is double-click on puppet warp in order to once again enter the puppet warp mode, and you'll see your original pins, by the way, all moved to their new locations. But notice how closely that grid of triangles is cutting into the edges of the hand, as well as the edges of the flame up here. And that is a function of this option, right there, expansion. It's set to just two pixels by default, if I raise it to 12 pixels and press the tab key. You can see that I have a lot more room and the flame starts to stand up. But it's still a little cut off there at the top, so I'm going to increase the expansion value all the way to 20 pixels. I'll press the tab key and now we have a much better effect after which point I'll press the enter key or the Return key on the Mac a couple of times in order to accept that change. So, just to get a sense for the difference here, if I press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z on a Mac, that's before and if I press Ctrl or Cmd+Z again, that's after. All right. Now, I'm going to zoom out quite a bit actually by pressing Ctrl+0 or Cmd+0 on a Mac. And it seems to me, if I turn off the smart filters, and I turn 'em back on, you may see some problems. For example, in my case, his head is leaning a little bit over to the right, and it feels to me like this arm is bending too much as well. It's not as straight as it used to be. So this is the before version of the image with this nice straight arms, this is the after version with it's head, sort of going to the right as I say.

So, if you find that kind of stuff then you can answer so more pins and adjustments like double clicking them in pop up work here inside the layers panel. And, then I'll set a pin right there in the middle of his forehead, and I press Shift+left arrow in order to nudge his head to the left and you can see that that makes his head more upright. So this is the way it looked before and this is the way it looks now. Subtle but meaningful I think. And now I'm going to click on this elbow right there in the center of the elbow. And that kind of bends the forearm a little bit. After which I'll press Shift+left arrow to nudge that pin ten pixels to the left and then I'll press the enter key or the return key on the mac in order to accept that change.

And that, friends, is how you go about stretching an independent character, and by that I want to make this clear, if I alt-click, or option-click on the I in front of the Blue BBQ. You can see that he is set on an independent layer from everything inside the composition. Which is why we're seeing this transparent checkerboard in the background. And when that's the case you have all the flexibility in the world to go ahead and stretch your character as much as you like. So in our case, we shorten those arms and we stretch the torso. As well as pointing the toes using a dynamic application of the Puppet Work command here inside Photoshop.

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