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By Lauren Harmon | Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Deke's Techniques: Animate wings with the Puppet Warp Tool

Are you ready for another Deke’s Techniques? This week Deke McClelland takes a still photograph of a majestic falcon and creates the appearance of motion by superimposing multiple copies of the wings and adjusting their positions with the Puppet Warp tool in Adobe Photoshop. Get started by watching the free video below and using the companion text to help you along.

Figure 1

  1. The first few steps extract the bird from the background. Select the Background layer and press Cmd+Option+J or Ctrl+Alt+J to make a duplicate layer. Name it original and click OK.
  2. Go to the Paths panel and select the falcon outline. Press A to switch to the Direct Selection tool and click the path in the image area.

  3. Switch to the Layers panel and Cmd- or Ctrl-click the original layer. This step converts the path outline into a layer mask attached to the original layer. Turn off the visibility of the layer and click the Background.

Figure 2

  1. Press Ctrl or Cmd and click the layer mask in the original layer to convert it to a selection outline. Choose Select > Modify > Expand. Dial in a value of 50 pixels and click OK to expand the selection outline, as shown in the image below.

Figure 3

  1. Now choose Edit > Fill. Make sure Use is set to Content-Aware and click OK.

Photoshop will fill the selection outline with its approximation of what the sky would look like behind the bird. It’s not perfect, though. Photoshop needs some help.

If you wanted, you could spend quite a bit of time manually correcting the background with the Healing Brush. But Deke offers a better solution: choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur to smooth out the already blurry background. Make sure to dial in a Radius of 50 pixels and click OK to apply the effect.

Figure 4

  1. Turn on the visibility of the original layer and make sure the mask is deselected. Choose Edit > Free Transform. Change the X value in the Options bar to 1283 and Y to 996.5 to move the bird to the correct position on the canvas. Press Enter or Return to commit your changes.
  2. Duplicate the original layer by pressing Cmd+Option+J or Ctrl+Alt+J. Name it wings and click OK.

  3. Press the M key to switch to the Marquee tool, right-click in the image window, and choose Convert to Smart Object. This places the wings layer and the attached vector mask inside a Smart Object.

  4. Choose Edit > Puppet Warp. Set pins on the inside and outside corners of the wings, as well as the two points along the bird’s shoulders, two points on the knees, two on the eyes, and one on the top of the head, as shown in the image below.

Figure 5

  1. Shift-click the two points on the left wing and drag them slightly down. Deselect the center wing pin and then drag the outside pin down further. Repeat this step for the other wing.

Figure 6

  1. Change the Mode to Rigid and the Expansion value to 12 to make sure all the feathers are visible. Press Enter or Return to commit your changes.
  2. Delete the filter mask on the wings layer to declutter your layer stack. Then duplicate the wings layer. Notice the Puppet Warp filter is also duplicated. Double-click it to edit the pins on your new layers.

  3. Drag the wings down again, using the instructions from step 10.

Figure 7

  1. Rotate the pins to give the wings a more natural appearance by Option- or Alt-dragging the pins. You can also change the Rotate values in the Options bar. Watch the video for more details.
  2. To add more wings, simply create duplicates of the wings layer and edit the pins on your new layers. Your results may appear slightly different than Deke’s, depending on where you move the pins.

  3. If the bird’s tail feather appears in front of the wings, select the top wings layer, double-click its Puppet Warp sublayer, and click the inside pin for either wing. Then go to the Options bar and select the Set pin forward option from the Pin Depth menu. Repeat for the opposite wing.

Figure 8

And that’s how to take a photograph of a bird in flight to new heights. Check out the follow-up video in the lynda.com library, where Deke shows you how to add “animated” text to the image. Not a member? Check out www.lynda.com/deke for a one-week free trial.

Figure 9

Check back next week for a free video that shows how to build a frame-by-frame animation using the bird, the type, and, of course, Adobe Photoshop. Stop by each week for more Deke’s Techniques.

Interested in more?

• Start your 7-day free trial to lynda.com today • The entire Deke’s Techniques collection

Adobe and Photoshop are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or countries.

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