Pixel Playground
Illustration by John Hersey

Creating realistic reflections and shadows


From:

Pixel Playground

with Bert Monroy

Video: Creating realistic reflections and shadows

Today, we're going to talk about reflections and shadows. Two things that are crucial, to make something look like it actually belongs in the environment we're putting them into. Like, this particular neon sign right here, which I created quite some time ago, let's zoom in. And we have a neon tube. That's being placed right on top of this piece of leucite. This piece of leucite right here. Now, leucite is reflective, so we see a reflection of the tube inside. And, we also see a shadow being cast by the tube. Now let's go in there and see how this was done.
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Watch the Online Video Course Pixel Playground
14h 21m Intermediate Jun 07, 2013 Updated May 01, 2015

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Take a 10-minute recess every week and join Bert Monroy in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, the playgrounds of digital artists. Every Friday Bert walks through a fun, self-contained project that tests your skills and challenges the imagination. These programs aren't just image editors; they are sandboxes for creativity and experimentation. Take a spin through a carousel of tools and get reinspired, each and every week.

Subjects:
Design Photography
Software:
Illustrator Photoshop
Author:
Bert Monroy

Creating realistic reflections and shadows

Today, we're going to talk about reflections and shadows. Two things that are crucial, to make something look like it actually belongs in the environment we're putting them into. Like, this particular neon sign right here, which I created quite some time ago, let's zoom in. And we have a neon tube. That's being placed right on top of this piece of leucite. This piece of leucite right here. Now, leucite is reflective, so we see a reflection of the tube inside. And, we also see a shadow being cast by the tube. Now let's go in there and see how this was done.

So I'm going to go, right here to where I have just the L and the apostrophe. Just those two letters, because it is one continuous tube. That's going up, and around, and back, and in. There you go. So, now when we look at the layers for this, we see that on top here we have the composite layer. That's the layer that's going to get brought over to the main file, where all the individual pieces are assembled. I turn that off and we see, that here we have, all the pieces that went into creating that neon. Now I'm going to start turning them on. You see the depths, a little grime, the shadows, the bottoms, the grime on that.

And there's the little orange edge. Am getting real close so you can see that. That orange. And then, this is the same file, but colorized differently and, sent over just a little bit to the side, which gave us that little edge of the leucite. Keep going, and we start seeing a little highlight, and then get into the grime, and a little shadow being cast by the leaves and there we see the reflection, I'm going to turn that one off for now. Then we see a little link reflection, and we can turn that one off also.

Now we have the, tubes, the shadows, we're going to turn that one off. There's some rust, there's some wire holder reflections right there, and there's the screws and some grim on the screws, and here's another group, which is the neon itself. The neon reflection the, the connectors reflection, that's right there, which is just a que, question of. Taking the actual connectors, which are right here, and I just skew them over a little bit, moved them over, and brought down their opacity, creating the effect of the reflection.

A little rust, this tube link. That's just the bottom parts of the tubes, the wire holders themselves, and you could see their reflection was there before, and the tube reflections that are reflected on to these little, plastic areas. There's the tubes themselves, and let's pull back, so that we can see that there's the paint on the tube, a little inner glow, and some dirt, the wire shadows, and finally the wires themselves. There they are. So now, we've got everything in place except the shadow and, the reflection.

So now, what I'm going to do is I'm going to come down here. And, I'm going to look at the list of places where I left them out. So, what I'm going to do is right here. Right above the trees here, I'm going to create a new layer, right? And I'm going to turn the tube, into a selection. So, I come up here to the tube, and I, command click on it, to make it a selection. Alright? And this right here is going to be the reflection. Alright? So, what I'm going to do, is I'm going to go ahead and fill that, with white. So I'll say, fill it, with the foreground color, 100%. Okay.

Now, on top of that, I'm going to create another layer, and this one is going to be the shadow. Now I want the shadow to be a little thinner. A little thinner. So what I'm going to do, is I'm going to come up to selection, and contract. Modify, contract. I'm going to contract it by say four pixels. Click Okay, and as you can see it got a little narrower. And, I'm going to go ahead, like switch to black for my foreground, I'm going to go in there and fill it with the foreground, click Okay. And now deselect. Now, I'm going to take that reflection, and move just this layer, and move it over in to position where I want it, right about here.

Okay, let's go a little further over. There, alright? That's looking good. Let's turn that off for now, and then, here is the shadow. I move the shadow over, and put that in position where I want it. Let's go down here, about like that. Okay, so now. What's going to happen here, is that I have to go in and modify this a little bit. I'm going to blur it a little bit. A little Gaussian blur. Soften it up. About four. That looks about good. There we go.

And I'm going to bring down its opacity a bit. Bring down its opacity, so it's just a little soft shadow back there. That's looking good. This little part right here, that's not looking right. So let's go in there and, simply erase that part that, we don't need to see, this little part in here. Or, it should continue all the way across, that's what it should be doing. So we get a little closer over here. Let's just see what we got here. What I could do is, just bring that opacity back up to 100% here. And I'm going to take a black paint brush, which is at the black right now, make it little bigger, and I got I soft the edge, so I'm just going to kind of throw some black in there, there we go, just to continue that shadow all the way across.

That's looking good. Alright, so, I come back. There's our shadow, let's bring that opacity back down to about a 50%, and that, there's my shadow. Now, what's wrong now is we need the reflection. So here's the reflection. Now, the reflection needs to be modified a bit. Now, we have it in a good place. That's, about where we want it. We're going to bring down its opacity a bit. Bring it down. Not the shadow, gotta be in the right. There we go, there's the reflection. Bring that down.

To about like that. There we go, that's looking good. And, we see it. Everything's looking good except right here. This does not look right. So, we're going to have to go in there and change this a bit. So now, the thing that happens here is that the reflection should be going straight across like this, and straight up. So, this part here, shouldn't even be there at all. This part should not be visible at all, except maybe a little hint of it, right in there like that. Now, looking at the reflection here, we can see that our reflections is a little off right now. So, lets take this reflection and move it over.

Let's move it over some more. About like that. That's looking better. Just like that. So now, we can see that this piece of it is off. So, what I'm going to do, is I'm going to take this, I'm going to take this section of our little reflection right, in here. I select it with lasso, and I'm going to give it a little flip horizontal. There we go, that's starting to look a little better. Starting to, but not quite right. So let's just go in here and put it where we want it. Right about here like this. That's where the reflection's going to go.

Right about there. Like that. And we turn to make that happen. Now we can deselect it, and now, I have to make this little curve here. So what I'm going to do here, I'm going to erase the parts I don't want. I don't want any of this stuff right here. And then I'm just going to kind of curve this out, just a bit like this. Just to give it that little curve that we're seeing along the top right there. So this can all go away. So there, that's starting to look good. Now it's still not quite right, so what I'm going to do, is with white, and a hard edge, because that's what we have, the tube. I'm going to go in there and just kind of round this out, and I need the white, I'm going to go in there and just kind of round this out.

There we go. So that's starts to look a little better. Now we got this little piece right here. Bring that opacity you back up. This little piece right here. We're going to have to go in here and connect that, but wait. That doesn't look right, because what's happening here, is that the tube is coming down and then it goes down, closer to the leucite or the, or the plexi, to go underneath this tube here. So the reflection should come down, and then come up. Seems like it's getting up, it's getting closer to itself. So this is off right here.

So what we're going to do, is we're going to take this. We're going to take this whole section right here, and we're going to send that to a new layer, via cut. Now it automatically broke our link here, so we're going to relink it, there we go, get everybody back in, in place, and that guy we just cut off, we're going to go in there and do a little Flip Vertical on him. There it is, and now that we've got that, we're going to rotate him. Rotate him into position, so he goes back to where he belongs. Right here, about like that. And maybe stretch it out a little bit. Stretch it out. And let's move it up a little bit.

You got this guy, and we just move it up, just so it matches that bottom part, right there. Now it's still a little off. So we're going to go in there, and stretch it out. We're going to stretch it out. So it starts to have more of the sense of what this thing really looks like. Move it down just a little, make that happen. So now, what we need to do here is, to eliminate some of this stuff here. Now, it's going all the way across, that's good, and we have to reclaim this little part that got broken off. So we're just going to go in there and fill that up, get in real close, real accurate and, get a small brush and just kind of fill that up, and fill this up right in there.

Make it all match up. There we go. Now, we need to go in there, and do a little erasing. So we're just going to, soften this up. Just, bring it off, about like that. There we go. Just like that. Now, this guy should be blocking most of the reflection so we could, theoretically, just erase the piece We'll just let it go for now. But there we go. So now we're starting to see the reflection. So that reflection, can now get a few things. Let's take this down. And, move it down, so that matched up to that bottom reflection. I did a merge.

I hit command E to merge it down. And there. So, we're going to give this an inner glow, just an inner glow. Now what we're going to do, is make it a dark tone. And change that to a, Multiply. See, now we got this little dark edge, right alongside. Make it a little bigger, because we're looking at the back side of these tubes. Right? And, bring down the capacity a bit, just so we get this little hint of a little tone back there. And then what we're going to do is bring down the opacity for that, and there we can see that now we have a shadow, and a reflection for our tube inside, that are trapped inside of the plexi glass area here.

Making it look like the tube is actually there. Now, these are things to consider when you're compositing images together. Are they going to be against a reflective surface? Are they themselves reflective? And, are they going to cast a shadow? These things are determined by what's in the current scene, and the lighting of the current scene. So, this is something you have to figure out, once you're putting an object into the current scene.

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