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By Colleen Wheeler |

Deke's Techniques: How to make a hand turkey in Photoshop

Here in America we have a long-standing tradition of giving thanks every November by tracing around our hands and decorating the drawing like a turkey. In this free video, Deke shows you how to release your inner artistic child by creating a hand turkey in Adobe Photoshop.

Although many of us learn this technique in kindergarten, the Internet provides galleries of evidence that the practice is not limited to youngsters. In fact, since many of us learned this skill when we were fearless children, the act of decorating a hand tracing for Thanksgiving can be quite liberating!

The first step is to trace your hand. Since this will be a Photoshop project, it’s preferable that your tracing yields a result that looks like an electronic outline. There are as many options for accomplishing this as there are recipes for Thanksgiving turkey. Deke traces around his hand on a Wacom tablet. I shot a picture of my hand with Photo Booth, opened it in Photoshop, and used the Pen tool to trace a path around it. Because wiggly lines add to the nostalgia of the project, my ineptitude with the Pen tool has a benefit for once! Regardless of which method you choose, you’ll need to end up with the outline on an otherwise transparent layer and a white background layer:

An outline of a hand

Deke notes that you should be sure to trace your wrist as well, since those lines are great for establishing the feet. (They didn’t teach me that in kindergarten!) On separate layers, he adds some feathers, a handsome face with beak and waddle, and feet:

The hand outline with turkey-like features

After setting up a layer-based barrier to ensure the colors stay within their respective coloring book–style lines, it’s safe to fill in the feathers, beak, and waddle with the Paint Bucket tool. To ensure that the colors fill their entire areas, Deke uses the Minimize filter to expand the colors just past the inner edge of the outline. (The Minimize filter reduces transparent areas, so the colored areas actually grow.)

Different color fills in Adobe Photoshop

After coloring the body a decidedly human flesh color, Deke adds an Inner Shadow effect to the hand area to give it some volume. He duplicates and adjusts the Inner Shadow for each area of the hand:

The colored turkey drawing with an inner shadow effect

After inexplicably deciding his turkey needed underwear (except that it’s a chance to show you how to paint carefully, erase judiciously, and tweak the inner shadow to the appropriate color so that it looks correct against white), it’s time to give the “flesh” some texture. By applying several filters to a smart Smart Object layer filled with nothing but black, Deke sets that layer blend mode to Overlay and clips it to the Body layer below.

Drawing with texture added

Aside from letting you recall the joys of one of your earliest art projects, much of the whimsy of this technique comes from the fact that there is a lot of room for personal expression. I mean, you’re beginning with your own distinct handprint, and then you can modify the colors, embellishments, and textures as you wish. Here are my observations from creating my own hand turkey (as seen on the left below):

  1. Unlike Deke, I’m right-handed, which of course means my turkey is facing the other way. While this may seem trivial, it actually means I had to flip my Inner Shadow effect to the mirror image of Deke’s. So Deke used an angle of -125 degrees, and I had to change mine to -55 degrees to give volume to the analogous areas of my turkey.
  2. Tracing an image of your hand with the Pen tool is great practice for learning how it works since there are lots of subtle curves required to create a hand outline. Plus, if you mess up it just adds to the homespun nature of your turkey.

  3. I made different decisions on colors, textures (I actually used the Stained Glass filter instead of Grain), wrinkles, and of course wardrobe.

Two final Turkey hand drawings made using Adobe Photoshop

But clearly, Jenny and Jake—as I’ve affectionately named our turkey friends—are personal expressions of the same general approach. It’s a great way to have nostalgic fun while learning useful features of Photoshop.

Meanwhile, lynda.com members can give thanks for an exclusive movie this week called Creating a depth-of-field cast shadow, in which Deke gives his turkey a realistic shadow.

Deke will be back with another technique next week. Happy Hand Turkey Day!

• The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on lynda.com • Courses by Deke McClelland on lynda.com • All Photoshop courses on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:• Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals• Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: IntermediateEd Emberly, Children’s Book Illustrator

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