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Chapter 4. Digital Imaging > Photo-Realistic Imaging Project

Photo-Realistic Imaging Project

Custom brushes and the advanced features inside the Brushes palette can be useful for any type of illustration or design work for Web or print. However, I find them particularly important when working to create photo-realistic art. In this project, you'll design a photo-realistic golf ball scene using custom brush features to give your image a lifelike appearance.

Project Brief: Photo-Realism from Scratch

Here's your chance to impress (and fool) your friends. Your goal when working with photo-realistic graphics in your design projects will be to make the viewer ask, “Is it a photograph or is it Photoshop?”

Figure 4.34. Fore! Tee up your Brush tool as you embark on a photo-realistic journey to re-create a golf ball in the rough.

Your client, a leading golf ball manufacturer, wants to showcase his product up-close-and-personal in a realistic situation.

Photoshop files for the golf ball and my golf scene are available at the online download site. You can use the golf ball in your illustration, but do not use the sample scene as your template file. Feel free to see how specific elements of the scene were created, but I strongly encourage you to create your own scene from scratch. Most of the layers are clearly labeled to help you explore the file further and see how I created it.

Figure 4.35. The golf ball from the online download site should be the only part of the image you don't create from scratch.

Project Summary
  • Brainstorm a scene for the golf ball, and create a sky relevant to the scene.



    Post this chapter's project online for feedback from professional designers.

    access code: STUDIOp

  • Consider how the lighting would affect the coloring of the grass, and set Color Dynamics accordingly.

  • Use a default and/or custom brush to create realistic grass in the foreground and background, blurring as necessary for a depth-of-field effect.

  • Expand the scene using a custom brush to create trees, birds, or other realistic features.

Project Steps

I created the example version using one of Photoshop's default brushes and a golf ball I extracted from another image. The effects used most prominently in creating this illustration were the Shape Dynamics, Scattering, and Color Dynamics sections of the advanced Brushes palette. Let's look at my steps.

Use the RGB color mode to create your image. The final dimensions of the file should be 500 by 375 pixels.

1. Background and Lighting

When you design your golf ball scene, think about the depth and lighting on the landscape. I included a blue gradient background behind my scene to establish that it is a bright, sunny day.

Try various gradients and shades of color to get the sky the way you like it for your version. It can be bright blue like mine, gray and overcast, or even a vivid sunrise or sunset. Don't worry about clouds just yet—you'll add those later.

When you consider your sky and how bright the lighting is, consider that the grass will need to display various green hues that represent this type of lighting. You'll want to use brighter, highly saturated greens for sunny daytime colors and slightly less saturated colors if it's overcast outside. Plus, not all golf courses are plush green all year round. (Mine are, of course, because I live in Florida.) This would be a great place to expand and come up with some autumn colors. And yes, nighttime golf does exist, glow-in-the-dark golf balls and all. In that case, the grass would need to be dark shades of blue, with a moonlit sky in the background, perhaps.

All of this translates to choosing an appropriate foreground and background color when working with the Color Dynamics section of the advanced Brushes palette.

Figure 4.36. I applied these custom Color Dynamics settings to Photoshop's default grass brush. Notice that I used the Jitter sliders to make my grass vary widely in brightness, somewhat in saturation, and just a bit in hue. Too much Hue jitter and my grass would have been multicolored!

Recall that the Color Dynamics settings apply variations of color between the current foreground and background shades, which in my case are a light green and dark green.

With the foreground and background colors chosen, you can begin creating your grass.

2. Foreground and Grass

I created my grass using a default brush, included with Photoshop, which you'll find in your menu of brushes. However, feel free to create your own grass brush for a more advanced application. Also, you may want to place some rough, longer grass in one part of the image using the default brush, and short, well-groomed grass in another with a custom brush—as on a real golf course.

To create a custom brush for the grass, make a handful of grass in a new document using any drawing or painting method you choose. Select the area of the image you'd like to use as a brush, and choose Edit > Define Brush Preset. Your new brush will now appear in the brush tip presets seen in the Brushes palette.

Figure 4.37. These are my Shape Dynamics and Scattering settings, but yours may differ depending on the effect you want.

Several grass layers were created to portray the illusion of depth, with some in front of the ball and some behind. The golf ball is not right up against our fictitious camera, so you can blur any grass in front of it to create a depth-of-field effect. The same goes for grass behind the golf ball. You can achieve these effects after you create the grass by applying a Gaussian Blur filter (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) to those layers. Your blurred areas may vary depending on where your ball is in the scene.

Figure 4.38. Notice that the closest and farthest layers have a slight blur.

Also, as objects recede into the distance, something known as atmospheric perspective takes place. This causes the colors to appear less saturated with color and more gray. Next time you're around a mountain range, see if you can notice it. This effect can be applied to the golf scene by adding a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the background layer(s) of grass (Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation) and reducing the saturation setting.

The image still needs a little something, don't you think? We'll add to it next.

3. Ideas for Expansion

With your pretty sky, lush grass, and ball sitting in the scene, your next task is to expand your image to include at least one other element that uses brushes. You can include nonbrushed elements too, but something created with the Brush tool should be your first priority.

In my example, I used clouds. I'll admit I extracted my clouds from a separate photograph. But you can create your own clouds with the Brush tool and some experimenting. You don't need to include clouds per se—I'd really like to see some creativity here.

Figure 4.39. Here's my final version with some clouds. What will you put in yours?

Here are some other ideas for expanding this project with brushes:

  • Create a custom brush of a tiny, faraway, flying bird, and populate the sky with some of them.

  • Design a forest in the far background of the scene. Use Color Dynamics and lots of jitters to achieve a random look.

Student Work

What have other designers done with their golf ball scene? Here are some work samples from Sessions.edu students:

Figure 4.40. Mareile Paley created a paradise of a golf course with brushes to create grass, waves, and distant bushes.

Figure 4.41. In addition to using brushes for the grass and clouds, Don Noray gave this scene a creative perspective and added a tee.

Figure 4.42. Sabine Welte used the single-blade tip and other brushes to create a truly stunning piece presenting the golf ball at dusk.

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