Pixel Playground
Illustration by John Hersey

Oakland Theater: Creating neon


Pixel Playground

with Bert Monroy

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Video: Oakland Theater: Creating neon

So last week we looked at the Oakland theater and we saw how we created the wall. What we're going to do this week is look at the neons. We're getting a little close here and we start to see how all these neons, these intricate neons, are all just working all through here. There's dirt on them, there's glows, transparency. All kinds of effects happening here. So that's what we're going to do today. So let's go in here, and I got a cropped-in area here, where you can see I have a path. I have a path for that zigzag neon that's going to be going through there.
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16h 4m Intermediate Jun 07, 2013 Updated Jul 31, 2015

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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.

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Bert Monroy

Oakland Theater: Creating neon

So last week we looked at the Oakland theater and we saw how we created the wall. What we're going to do this week is look at the neons. We're getting a little close here and we start to see how all these neons, these intricate neons, are all just working all through here. There's dirt on them, there's glows, transparency. All kinds of effects happening here. So that's what we're going to do today. So let's go in here, and I got a cropped-in area here, where you can see I have a path. I have a path for that zigzag neon that's going to be going through there.

So now, there's our background, there. Now, this is made up of many layers, but, everything's been flattened just for the purposes of just seeing the neon itself. So I gotta get in a little closer here, and I'm going to take my paintbrush, and I'm going to set it up to a nice hard-edge, round brush and make it a little bigger. Let's say we make it about a little smaller. Let's go down. And bring it down to about, oh, about the size of the existing brushes right there. That's about what I want there, the existing neons.

So now, I'm going to go into my brush engine to make sure that my spacing is down to 1%. So it's going to be solid, no little bumps along the top, the spacing between the, the different circles. I want it to be pretty solid, so I bring it down to 1%. Okay, that's good. Everything else can stay off. Now, I've got that going right through there. That's going to be the size. Maybe we'll make it just a little bigger than the other ones. So we'll just go in there, and just make that a little bit bigger. So this is going to be a fat piece of neon going through there. Just so we can really see the effect of how this works.

And it can't be bigger than that hole, so let's just go right there. That's good. So now, in a new layer. We're going to call this the zig-zag tubes. And, I'm going to choose a different color now, I want it to be a kind of a soft yellowish kind of a tube. So we'll go in here and we'll get this kind of yellow right there. And I'm going to go ahead and with the brush, in the layer, I will take that path and stroke it. And, there's a big fat yellow tube. Which I'm now going to do a few things to.

First of all, I'm going to give a little highlights. So, in that layer, I'm going to go into my Bevel and Emboss, and I'm going to give a nIce little Bevel and Emboss like this, make it really strong. Soften it up so it gets really nice and round around the top there. And we'll have the light coming from it's a little see the shadows we'll move that light source over like this a little bit. So we start getting some nice shadows where they belong right, there on the edges and highlights a stronger right there on that side. Okay.

You can make those a little bit bigger. Right there. Now, this bottom one here, it's a little strong, so we'll just bring that down just a tad, like that. Okay. Now, on the opacities here, I'm going to, I want those highlights and stuff to remain strong, but I want the tube itself to become transparent. So I'm going to deal with the Fill Opacity, not the Opacity, which will bring everything down. I want to deal with just the Fill Opacity. See? So that's going to make the tube transparent, allowing those highlights to remain right where they belong.

Right there like that. So now, tube is rounded, it's glass. Right? So, that stuff behind it should be distorted a little bit. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to turn the tubes into a selection by Cmd+Clicking on the preview icon there and then I'm going to work on the background itself. The background. So let me just go in here and let's hide those marks again, so we can see what's going to happen next. I'm going to come in close. Now, you could make a duplicated background and trap it in there, make sure you don't mess anything up, but what I'm going to do right now is I'm simply going to take my Smudge tool.

And with my Smudge tool I'm just going to kind of move that red in there, a little bit, and move this one, just give it a little touch this way, just so that it starts to get a little more of a rounded kind of a look, so it's not totally straight, it's being kind of distorted by the roundness of the glass. See, right through there like that. This guy could even be like that, and we'll just kind of move this guy around. So I'm just kind of distorting it and it's only happening inside the tube because that's the area that's selected for my background there.

So I'm going to go in there and just kind of push these around. Just to start giving it that little, kind of a roundness to it. See, so I got a little distortion happening to my background, right in there like that. Now I could take my tube and just bring down that, that fill opacity a little more. So we see those things even more. There we go, now we're getting a little better there. Now, I'm going to create a new layer on top. And this layer, I'm going to clip with the tubes. And what's going to happen here is, like, for instance, right here, we've got this strong highlight. So what I want to do is, throw a couple of highlights here and there.

So I've got a nice soft edge brush now. Make it nice and soft. And make it a little bigger. And we'll just kind of throw a little highlight right down in here. This right into this little area of our little bulb, right in there. Okay, so we just drew a little, made a little higher, lighter color in there, like that. Okay? And we might want to throw a little, light right along this ledge here. So it's just very slightly getting lighter, right in there like that. If we, unclip that. We can see how bright those things are, but they're brought down in opacity because of the fill opacity of the layer that they're being painted into.

So there we've got just a little bit of lighting just to make it look right. So now, we're going to start adding little paint here. Now, they usually paint right there on that tube. So I'm going to create another layer right there. And, we're going to get a gray, gray and black. And with our paintbrush set to a spatter brush, like this one right here. We'll go in there and say, let's give it some spacing. Go into shape dynamics, and we got size jitter going. Little minimum set there. Angles at 100%. Let's bring that roundness back.

There we go, and we'll say, color dynamics. Go between the foreground and background. And we might want to to bring our spacing in just a little. There we go, a little tighter. And then those color dynamics apply to each tip and then right here, what I'm going to do is I'm going to start to paint right in there like that. And you see what's happening? It's just going to be right inside of our tube. Now, why is it right inside of our tube? Because remember, we still have the area selected. See. If we go in here and see those selection edges. There they are. If they weren't selected? Well, I could just paint.

And now, it's going all over the place, you see, like that. So what I could do at that point would be turn the tubes into a selection. Go into that little paint area. Let's call it paint. And give it a mask. Which it again will trap it inside of that area, right there. And there you see we have this nice little tube. If the tube was on, then there'd be other things going on there. There'd be glows, and stuff. But we want to just create these tubes That aren't lit, now the little connector here, that's a simple little thing. Let's go in there and create that.

So what I'm going to do is I'm going to create little elliptical selection, right here like that and then another one right inside. That's the hole, okay? So I can go and let's take this one and just put it right there, that's good shape we'll take them both and kind of rotate 'em a little bit, to follow the angle of what our image is. So now, in a layer right on top, I'm going to call this one the hole. And this middle one right there, we're going to go ahead and fill with that black. There it is. And I'm going to soften it up a little bit so we'll just give it a little bit of a, a Gaussian Blur, but not all the way around.

Watch what's going to happen. I'm going to give it a little, a little soft, soften it up a little bit, just a little softening. That's good, and then I'm going to soften it even more. So I'm going to take my lasso and I'm going to give it a feather. Give it a feather of about 20. Now, that is set to pixels, a little. I'm working at 72 DPI so 20's quite a bit. Now I'm just going to select this area right here, this area right here and then give it that feather again and a little more, just to soften that side a little bit more. There we go. There you're getting that sense that it's rounded on this glass area here, so I'm going to now create the glass area.

In the layer behind the tube, hold down my Cmd key, New Layer creates it behind. And we'll call this the Little Disk. And we'll fill it with ice blue color, let's say it's going to be a kind of a bluish disk like that. Take that path and fill it. There it is. So now, we want to make this look like it is made of glass. So, we're going to go in there and give it a little layer style. Let's move it out. A layer style of Bevel and Emboss. Light's coming from that direction as we have before, increase the size a bit Like that and let's give it a little, a little more size.

There we go. Push up that, so we get some really strong effects and there we have that. And I'll tell you what we're going to do. Let's click OK. It's not quite giving us the same roundness because it's, we have it at an angle. So, what I'm going to do at this point is I'm going to take that Bevel and Emboss and take em out of there. So, I come up here to Layer > Layer style > Create Layers. So there. Now they're separate layers. so I can take the two of 'em and kind of move them over. See, I'm moving 'em over with my Move Tool.

I'm just clicking away, right there like that. Moving them over. I'm going to take this guy right there and I'm just going to blur him. I'm going to blur him some more. So he gets even softer. See? Like that. Same thing with the white. Well the white we can leave like that. That's good. So now I'm going to go back to my disc again which now has a later style and I'm going to give it a drop shadow and we'll give it a little more distance. And we'll have it coming, let's turn off global light and say it's coming from right up above like that. And soften it up a little bit, a little more distance and a little softer.

And maybe bring down the opacity just a little bit. And one last thing is to make this really look like glass, like it's reflecting all the stuff around it, I'm going to give it a satin. And I'm going to choose a dark blue, a really nice dark blue like this. And I'll choose a more complex contour like this one, and then play around with the distance and the size until I get some nice kinds of patterns going on in there, which are going to give me the effect that I want, right through there. Increase that size, perhaps. And there we can see that we now have this, let's go a little bigger, and there we see that we now have all these nice little reflections that, if we go in there and Rasterize that.

Let's just go in there and say Layer > Layer Style > Create Layers again. There's our little guy. We can go in there and just do a couple little smears just to kind of soften those up. See, so we're going to go in there and just kind of pull these and pull this around. And just twist them around so they start to become a little more random than what we had before. And there you see that now we have this little glass connector. And now for that final touch, the hole. The hole needs a little more dimension. Gave it a little softness on that side so we know that this side has to be soft as well.

So we're going to do that with a layer style. Double click on it to bring up the layer styles and give it a Bevel and Emboss. That is we're going to keep it a little low, bring it down to about that size and bring it up a little higher and we're going to put it on a outer bevel. And now, since the light's coming from that direction, what we'll do, we will change direction of this particular style, without affecting the others. So we turn off the global light, and we change the light to come from this direction. And now we see that we have this nice soft shadow and highlight going all the way around. When we're getting close, we'll see that these are the little connectors right up in there, and there's the glass tubes with different colors of yellows and whites and clears.

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A: We publish a new tutorial or tutorials for this course on a regular basis. We are unable to offer a Certificate of Completion because it is an ever-evolving course that is not designed to be completed. Check back often for new movies.
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