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Chapter 4. Digital Imaging > Abstract Imaging

Abstract Imaging

Given all of the great photo-retouching and correction tools in Photoshop, it's easy to forget that you can create amazing digital art from scratch for use in any graphic design project.

Figure 4.23. Renowned imaging specialist Colin Smith created this abstract design from scratch in Photoshop with filters and various other effects.

Follow along with me to create some high-tech, abstract art and learn a lot about Photoshop Blend Modes and Filters along the way.

First, you'll need some abstract elements to work with. Gradients, the Clouds filter (Filter > Render > Clouds), the Lighting Effects filter (Filter > Render > Lighting Effects), and the Gaussian Blur filter (Filter > Render > Gaussian Blur) will become your best friends here.

Start off by creating a new, 800-by-600-pixel canvas in Photoshop. Fill the background layer with black.

Use the Elliptical Marquee tool to draw a circle in the center of the canvas (on the background layer). Press D to set your foreground and background colors to the defaults, and then choose Filter > Render > Clouds. Deselect, and you should have something like my example. Alternatively, why not experiment with your own shapes?

Figure 4.24. In a few short steps, we'll turn this cloudy circle into a high-tech, abstract design.

Now choose Filter > Stylize > Extrude. Choose Pyramids as the Type, 30 pixels in Size and with a Depth setting of 255, Random. Or try your own settings in the Extrude dialog box. This filter, with my settings, will give you a three-dimensional, spiky-looking object.

Figure 4.25. The Extrude filter is one of the quickest ways to go 3D in Photoshop.

Color the object by choosing Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. You can give it an orange color like mine, or experiment and choose your own. Be sure the Colorize box is checked.

Figure 4.26. These settings will turn your spiky design bright orange, but you can use the sliders to choose any color you like.

Duplicate the Background layer (Ctrl+J/Command+J) so you have two layers. Select the top copy and change the Blend Mode to Color Dodge using the menu in the Layers palette.

Figure 4.27. The Color Dodge mode should be applied to the duplicated layer, above your background layer.

Duplicate the top layer and choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with a Radius setting of 6 pixels. Change the Blend Mode on this layer to Pin Light. You won't see the blur until you apply this new Blend Mode.

Duplicate the topmost layer again and change the Blend Mode to Overlay. Then link all the layers together and choose Merge Linked from the Layers palette options menu. Change the name of the Background layer to Layer 0 by Alt-double-clicking/Option-double-clicking the layer name. It will change to Layer 0 automatically.

Create a new layer below the orange spiky ball layer and fill it with black. Then change the Blend Mode of the layer above it to Screen. This shouldn't change anything yet; don't worry.

Duplicate the topmost layer five to ten times, positioning each copy randomly toward the left side of the canvas. Changing the Blend Mode to Screen in the last step allowed the black areas of the layers to be hidden so we can see through to each layer below it.

Figure 4.28. Abstract digital art from scratch!

In just a few simple steps, you turned a blank canvas into an abstract digital image perfect for a high-tech magazine article, a software box, or another graphic design project. You saw that filters don't just adjust existing imagery but, in the case of the Clouds filter, also create imagery to work with. Blend Modes added to the high-tech effect we were going for, and you can see how each affects a layer in a different way.

Figure 4.29. Add text, a grid, or other design elements to make an abstract piece work in a graphic design project.

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