Designs dekeConstructed: Retro-Style Superhero
Illustration by John Hersey

Refining brushstrokes with Median and Minimum


Designs dekeConstructed: Retro-Style Superhero

with Deke McClelland

Video: Refining brushstrokes with Median and Minimum

In this movie, I'll show you how to take your lumpy facial features and smooth All that's left to finish off the face is to brighten the eyes and the mouth.
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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

Refining brushstrokes with Median and Minimum

In this movie, I'll show you how to take your lumpy facial features and smooth them out as well as thicken them using a combination of the median and minimum filters. But first, I am missing a line. If I turn the template on, you can see that I failed to draw the jaw, which is a very important feature. So, I'm still armed with a brush. I'll just go ahead and press the right bracket key to take the brush size back up to 50 pixels and I'll go ahead and paint that jaw line in like so.

And again, it's a little bit lumpy but it's passable. Could work on it some more if I wanted to but I want to cut to the cool part here. So, here's what you do, you need to give your face a white background. So turn off the template if you've got one and then go ahead and click on the template to make it active. And drop down to the black and white circle at the bottom of the layers panel. Press the Alt key or the option key on the Mac, click on that circle and choose solid color from the top of the menu.

And you'll see that use previous layer to create clipping mask is turned on by default, and that's because you're sandwiching this layer between two layers that are already clipped, so it has to to be clipped. I'll go ahead and name this layer white and then I'll click okay. And now inside the color picker dialog box, I'll go ahead and drag this little circle to the upper left corner in order to create white, and then I'll click okay. And that white is now clipped inside of the silhouette. Now we need to take these two layers, so go ahead and shift click on hand drawn face.

Select both of them. We need to combine them both into a smart object. So press the M key to switch back to the rectangular marquee tool, up here at the top of the toolbox. And then right click inside the image window and choose Convert to Smart Object. And that way we can apply median and minimum as smart filters. Now having done that, go up to the filter menu, choose noise and choose median. In median is that command that is going to smooth things out inside of Photoshop.

So it's basically the antithesis of noise. And it's a much simpler filter than reduce noise and it does a better job for our purposes here. So I'll go ahead and choose median and then notice if I take this value up to say 12 pixels, that we are definitely smoothing things a little bit too much because we're losing some details here. And so what you want to do is take that value down, that radius value down, and I'm pressing the down arrow key to make that happen, until you have some nice smoothness but you're no longer loosing details. What you will lose, however, is corners. Notice that our sharp corners are going away. But we're going to bring those back in just a few seconds. So having set the radius value to six pixels, I'll go ahead and click okay. And the next thing you want to do is scoot over to this little double slider icon to the right of the word median and double click on it in order to bring up the blending options dialog box. And now change the mode from normal to screen and that goes ahead and brings all the corners back. And what this means is all the smoothing power is now being directed inward into your black strokes. So the white area is taking over the black area, which means that everything is slimming down. Now, at this point you want to click okay. What that means is we now need to thicken up the strokes, and you do that by going up to the filter menu, choosing other, and choosing minimum. Now, why minimum? The reason is that maximum, which is, of course, it's opposite, goes ahead and expands the maximum luminance level which is white. Whereas minimum expands the minimum luminance level, which is black. So go ahead and choose minimum. And you can see, notice if I set this to like ten pixels, something ridiculous, we get some very thick lines. Now those of you who are working in older versions of Photoshop, CS6 or earlier, you're not going to have this preserve option, you're just going to have squareness which is fine, actually because we're just going to take the radius value up to one. We just want a little bit of extra thickness. You can see that two is really too much. So, one pixel will do it. Squareness is fine, that's the way it works in CS6 and earlier, even though you don't see this option. If you're working in CC however, roundness is going to give you a slightly more desirable effect. So, go ahead and chose that if you can and then click okay, to apply that filter. Now again I don't need this filter mask, so I'm going to right click in this white thumbnail right here to the left of the words smart filters and I'll choose delete filter masks. You don't have to do that, I'm just tidying up my layers panel. What you do have to do is change the blend mode that's associated with this hand drawn face layer, because otherwise, you're obliterating that blue fill that identifies our particular superhero. So, I'm going to change the Blend Mode in the upper-left corner of the Layers panel to Multiply. And that way, we'll drop out all those whites while keeping the blacks and we end up with this effect here. Now you may run into a problem like I have here in the cheek. I'll go ahead and zoom in even farther, so we can see that we have a little bit of a mismatch at this location. And one solution is to assign a layer mask at this point. So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to click on the add layer mask icon down here at the bottom of the layers panel and then I'll select my brush tool once again. And I'll reduce the size of my brush a little bit because this time I am brushing with a mouse. And notice that my foreground color is black which is exactly what I want, because I want to paint this area away, like so. And I'm going to get a smoother result if I were to use a tablet, but this does give you a sense of the kind of refined brushing you can do with a mouse if you're patient and you take a little bit of time. All that's left to finish off the face is to brighten the eyes and the mouth. Now this is not something Kirby would've done, but of course I'm taking some creative liberties as I go here. So I'll click on the template layer to make it active. I'll press control shift N or command shift N on the Mac to bring up the new layer dialogue box. And I'm just going to call this layer lights because it's like he has lights coming out of his eyes and mouth. And now I'm going to dial in a new color up here in the color panel. You can see I still have my HSB values up. So I'll go ahead and change the hue value to 50, which gives us a shade of yellow as soon as we crank up the brightness value, which I'll take up to 100%, and then I'll take the saturation value up to 50%. So you can see, we have a kind of pale yellow at work. Now, I'll press the Enter key or the Return key on a Mac to accept that change. And again, I'm brushing with the mouse. This time I have a lot of latitude, because after all, I'm brushing behind the hand drawn face layer. So I can be pretty sloppy if I want to. And now, I need to paint right here inside of the mouth like this. And then I'll paint the rest of the mouth in. And Photoshop is tracking my brush stroke pretty slowly because of the 10% spacing value. It just doesn't seem to like that low of a value when you're painting with a mouse. Now, if you go a little bit too far, which I figure I have, like right there, then you can press the E key to switch back to the eraser tool and you can brush away just a little bit of that brightness like so. All right. Now I'll just go ahead and zoom out so that we can take in a little more of this image so we can contextualize the face. And that friends is at least one way to paint a grimacing angry superhero's face here inside Photoshop.

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