Designing a Retro-Style Superhero
Illustration by John Hersey

Blend, scale, and rotate photographic flames


Designing a Retro-Style Superhero

with Deke McClelland

Video: Blend, scale, and rotate photographic flames

In this movie, we are going to take our relatively mild mannered super hero. Who appears hot of course, but he doesn't exactly look like his is on fire. And we are going to set him on fire like so, using what almost appears to be a Xerography technique. And I'll press Shift + Tab to hide the right side panel, so you can see this entire length of flame.
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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 Designing a 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.

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

Blend, scale, and rotate photographic flames

In this movie, we are going to take our relatively mild mannered super hero. Who appears hot of course, but he doesn't exactly look like his is on fire. And we are going to set him on fire like so, using what almost appears to be a Xerography technique. In other words, it looks like the fire has being Xeroxed, as opposed to hand painted. And we are going to be applying all kinds of flame patterns, starting with this one right here. And I'll press Shift + Tab to hide the right side panel, so you can see this entire length of flame. It comes to us, once again, from the Fotolia image library. And I think this is one of the best demonstrations for why stock imagery exists. Especially for those of us who are designers.

Because we can find this kind of material created in advance. And we don't have to go out and photograph fire, for example, on our own. And of course, you can find out more, if you like, at I'm going to duplicate my fire. By right clicking inside the Image window using the rectangular Marquee tool, that's very important. And I'll go ahead and choose the Duplicate Layer command, and I'll change the document to Brand New Hands which is my image at hand, and then I'll click OK. Alright, now I'll press Shift + Tab to bring back my right side panels and I'll switch back to that image in progress.

I don't want the fire to be this high in front of my super hero, so I'm going to drag it down to just in front of the spikes. And notice that it comes in as background, because we start with a flat image. I'm going to switch back to that image, and I want to grab this image name, right here, because it contains the file number. And the easiest way to do that is to go up to the File menu, and choose the Save As command. And that way I can just select that file name like so and then I'll press Ctrl+C, or Cmd + C on a Mac, and cancel out, switch back to my image.

Double-click on his current name and press Ctrl+V or Cmd+V on a Mac in order to paste that name. All right, now I want to be able to transform this fire as much as I like, totally dynamically. I want to be able to change my mind any old time, which means I need to be working with the smart object. So, I'll right click inside the Image window, again with the rectangular Marquee tool. And I'll choose Convert to Smart Object. And we now have a smart object as indicated by that little Page icon in the bottom right hand corner of the Thumbnail. Next we want to drop out the black and keep the light. So just as if we're trying to create a shadow we want just to keep the dark stuff.

We would chose Multiply, which is exactly the way things work with highlights and flame patterns and so forth. Then you want to chose the second of the Light Modes, this guy right here Screen, and we'll end up with this effect. All right, now I want to transform the flame, that is to say I want to scale and rotate it specifically. So I'll go up to the Edit Menu and choose Free Transform, or you can press Ctrl + T or Cmd + T on the Mac. And now I'll just go ahead and drag outside of my transformation boundary, in order to rotate this flame to somewhere in this neighborhood right here, the high 97 degrees.

That is to say, and I'm not talking about degrees Farenheit or Centigrade, for that matter, but rather degrees of rotation. And the actual numerical value, that I came up with, is 97.66. You don't have to enter it exactly that way if you don't want to but, that is the way I'm going. And then I'm going to lock down my width and height values so I can scale the flame proportionally, and then I'll go and drag this guy down a little bit so I can better see what I'm doing. And I want it to be aligned more or less like this. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to move that alignment point where I want it, and then I'll drag this target right there. Make sure your cursor has a little sort of four way thing next to it.

See that, because otherwise you won't grab the transformation target. And then drag it to this location, like so. And now, I'll change either the width or height value because they are linked together. I'll change the width value to 152, 152%. Then I'll press the Enter key or the Return key on a Mac a couple of times in order to apply that change. And now I'm pressing the Ctrl key along with the Arrow keys on my Keyboard in order to nudge the flame into a more desirable position. And I want to see just a little bit of this bright highlight on the left hand side of the right arm.

Now we want to create a copy of that flame pattern and transform it because I also want to flip a copy. Normally, when you want to do that, you press Ctrl+Alt+T or Cmd+Opt+T on a Mac. Unfortunately, that keyboard shortcut doesn't work with smart objects. So, what we've gotta do is press Ctrl+J or Cmd+J on the Mac in order to make a copy of the flame. And notice my flame comes in with the exact same name. In other words it jumps and it doesn't say the word copy afterwards. And if you like to work that way as well, then you go to the Layers panel fly-out menu and you choose Panel Options.

A lot of you know this already but I just want to make sure those of you who don't, are aware that this is an option. And you turn off this check box down here at the bottom, Add Copy to Copied Layers and Groups. I also recommend you turn off this one, Use Default Masks on Fill Layers because otherwise you get these layer masks on your fills such as solid fills, and gradient fills, and so forth but that's up to you. I'm just going to cancel out because I already have things set up the way I want them. And now I'm going to flip this flame by pressing Ctrl+T, or Cmd+T on a Mac in order to enter that Free Transform mode.

That's the same as choosing Free Transform from the Edit menu. And then I'll go ahead and grab this little target, once again, drag up here to right at that middle line on his chin, so that we're flipping the flame around the center of our character. And then right-click inside the image window and chose Flip Horizontal, in order to produce this effect here. And then press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac to accept that change. And now scroll down, and what we're looking for is to keep the feet centered inside the flame pattern. So, I'm going to press Ctrl+Shift+Left Arrow as Cmd + Shift + Left Arrow on a Mac, in order to nudge our reflected flame ten pixels to the left.

And we end up with this effect here, but friends this is only the beginning. It continues to get more and more interesting over the course of this chapter beginning in the very next movie

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