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July 21 2012


How to Get the Most out of Your Design Degree

Studying design might not be the hardest thing a person can do on Earth. Studying design is actually quite easy – it’s very practice-oriented, every piece of theory is applied and there is no wrong answer. If you have good reasons for everything you do, there is no way somebody will be able to tell you that you are wrong. Hey, it might actually be one of the funniest degrees possible.

However, getting the most out of your education is something not many are good at, and especially in our business where everybody thinks they know something, finishing high and then getting a good job is something only a handful of people from each class manage to do throughout their life. So you might ask yourself how do others manage to get that dream job of theirs when they have the same education as you – the same degree that hasn’t landed you anything more than poorly paid jobs and difficult clients to handle.

Like any other business, you only hear about the successful ones, but the majority of people in the web industry are the ones who don’t really make it anywhere. Focusing on education is the only way to avoid being one of them and to have a successful design career.

There are two kinds of education in the industry: a traditional one and a practice-oriented one.

Traditional Design Education

This is the kind of education that was really popular in the industry ten years ago. Since now we have the opportunity to get a hands-on experience right in school, it is not as popular anymore and many people prefer to go the route of a practice oriented education. The degree might not even be too helpful.

This kind of education is not similar to the real world environment. It is based on lectures and grades which are most of the time subjective. This kind of education is usually good for programmers, as it will offer them a rigid, serious education which will prepare them for the real world. But this won’t teach you how to deal with clients and it won’t tell you anything about running your own freelance business and other day-to-day aspects of a web design job.

Image by Abacus

This kind of education might make you a good designer with a very good eye for coding, but this is not your goal. A web designer needs much more than just knowing how to properly code. If coding is all you think about, you should go for a career in web development. Although many don’t think about this, web design and web development are two different careers. You’re not in for the geeky stuff.

Moreover, a university teacher might not even know much about the field. I bet there are hundreds of freelancers out there (without a degree) who know more than the tutors do. The things they teach are day-to-day routine for freelancers all over the world. The curriculum is usually updated once per year in the design field, but this is not enough. Everything moves and changes so fast that what you teach today might not be relevant at all to students next semester.

Having such an education is not a guarantee that you will get a job. In the end, people with the best portfolio get hired first. A very technical and book-based education might not give you enough free time to work on different projects. By taking this education you might be technically bright, but you are still at a clear disadvantage.

Practice-oriented Education

This is very popular today. It is what I did and what many other freelancers out there decided to do as well. The main difference between these two educations is that the books and theories are not as important here. Sure, marketing and communication theories have to be learned and Gestalt and design laws have to be considered all the time, but the education is more similar to art than to math. In the end, design is art.

This type of education allows your creativity to flow. It allows you to collaborate with different clients (on school projects) and it also gives you enough time after school to do some freelancing and build up an impressive portfolio.

When collaborating with clients from here, you have a huge advantage over the real world. You are allowed to make mistakes – this is unheard of out there in the real world. No mistakes are allowed when money is involved. When you are still in school you are allowed to make them – and the good thing is that you can learn a lot by looking back at all the mistakes you made.


This type of education can only be describes as Learning By Doing. However, this kind of degree has a disadvantage as well. Being generally more free than the other type, it also requires a lot of effort from the student. If the student lacks motivation, he will not achieve much. This kind of education usually gives you the basics and sends you out there to learn more on your own. This type of education is solely dependent on what the student puts into it. If you’re lazy and don’t work on many projects, you won’t have as good a skill set as someone from the same class who takes on a variety of projects and treats them like paying clients.

How to learn?

One of the main abilities you will need if you want to go through a design degree is the ability to learn. You need to be able to find yourself the best way to get work done and to soak up new information. Pushing yourself is a skill not many are able to learn – but if you do it, then design will not be a challenge for you. In this industry the only way to survive is to continuously improve and learn. Three years ago HTML5 was not even released. Now, together with CSS3, it is slowly replacing Flash. That’s how fast things change.

As mentioned earlier, in a practice-oriented education the school will only give you guidelines. It will offer you some structure to – but it is up to you if you will actually make your time there worth it.

Is the degree necessary?

Definitely yes. You don’t need school in order to perform freelance design gigs. You might even find work in a small advertising agency without a degree, but you’ll need an impressive portfolio. However, even with the most impressive portfolio out there, the education might be the one which will in the end make the difference between two outstanding candidates. Having the degree offers you some clear advantages. It will not replace the portfolio – these two need to work in collaboration.

In order to get an interview at many companies you need a degree. The portfolio usually never gets noticed before the “education” field. Your CV might end up tossed in a shredder because you don’t meet the minimum requirements, even if you have an outstanding portfolio.

Image by University of Denver

An education offers something else as well. It teaches you how to build a network and gives you the basics of design laws and theories. It allows you to fail without serious consequences, like losing a job. It gives you invaluable feedback through your tutors. It might not seem like it, but working in a school environment is more or less the same as working out there in the real world. So you will get that from school too.

Which is your career path?

Many people go to study something just because they are passionate about it – but do not really consider what exactly they want to become. This happens even more often in the design industry, where the limit between graphic designer and web designer is almost invisible. Moving from web to graphic is very common nowadays, so you could even say there really is no limit.

But starting a design education with a goal in mind will ensure that throughout the years you will stay focused. Spending years to take a design degree only to realize afterwards that you like graphic more than web is a shame. Instead of focusing on both, you could have used all the available opportunities to focus on graphic and become better at what you actually like.

Image by Jim in Times Square

Now don’t get me wrong. Switching careers or departments isn’t always bad. But knowing from the beginning what you really want to become might give better results in the end.

Sure, it is hard to pick a career when you are 18 and ready to go to study. But today we have a world of information only a click away. Doing a bit of research will usually lead you to the necessary conclusions.

Knowing that you want to be a motion designer for example will help you right from the start. You can make a list with all the things that are required for such a job and, during school, focus mostly on them. You don’t want to get out as a Jack of all trades and Master of none.


In some countries, especially Europe, this is not a concern for students. Education is free for everybody in countries like Denmark and free for the ones with good high school grades in other top European societies. But in the US you need to think of how much money you can afford to spend on education. A design degree can be pretty expensive, especially with the necessity for sudden changes in curriculums.

Student loans are something many people make use of in the US, but you need to seriously consider if you are ready to go into debt for a design career. In case this is not something you are 100% sure of, don’t spend too much money on it. Start with learning a bit from the internet and doing some freelancing for a period and if it is what you believed it would be, then go to school. Otherwise, try to find another career that suits you better.

Now I don’t know much about US schools, colleges and universities, but I am quite sure that there are junior colleges, state schools and probably more expensive private schools a student can attend. Do your research and make sure you pick the right one for your situation.

When thinking of finances, considering the software and hardware a designer needs to buy is something important too. If you are a freelancer, you will have to buy every piece of software yourself – on top of that expensive computer that can render a video or a 3D scene fast enough. If you are a student you can usually get huge discounts, but it is still a lot of money to be spent by somebody who doesn’t really make much.

As said earlier, the internet is the cheapest school you can attend. There is so much information out there that you don’t even need school to have a successful career – from a technical point of view. You can learn every programming language; every design law; Photoshop and Premiere Pro; literally everything. Many online courses do offer discounts for young people and are usually reasonably priced. This is the place to start from and get the basics if you can’t afford to pay for a degree.

Continue learning

I’ve mentioned earlier that the only way to have a long-time successful career in the design industry is to learn all the time. New technologies appear every year and the more you know, the better you will be rated by your employers. Thinking that once you got that so-much-wanted design degree you are done with learning is the biggest mistake you can make. The hard work only begins after you get out there on your own.

The degree is basically just a piece of paper, so normally you could do a lot without necessarily having it. But in my opinion, as stated earlier, a degree is required if you want to have a successful career in the design industry, especially in a company. The advantage over other educations is that the grades do not really matter. What matters is that you have a good portfolio. An employer will overlook your grades if you have delivered quality projects on the side.


Networking is also something very useful in the industry. If you work as a freelancer, many of the jobs you will get will be through recommendations. And I highly recommend you build a strong network. It will help you throughout your career.

Image by svilen001

Bottom line

Having a solid design degree is definitely an advantage, but it doesn’t mean everything for an individual working in the industry. At the same time you need a very good portfolio in order to impress the potential employers and prospects. If you are not sure about how much money you want to spend on a solid education, then the internet is the right place to start.

What do you think about this topic? Are you one of the ones with a successful career even if you have no degree? If yes, how did you manage and what tips do you have for the ones who wish to do the same?

May 01 2012


Adobe Illustrator Tutorial: Create a Semi-Realistic Oil Barrel Illustration


In the following Adobe Illustrator tutorial you will learn how to create a semi-realistic oil barrel illustration. First, we’ll use several rectangles along with some professional pixel perfect vector shape building techniques to create the starting shapes. Next, we’ll break some of the starting shapes apart as needed using a bunch of Pathfinder tools.

Once the overall illustration comes together, we’ll use some warp effects to add a three-dimensional look to the oil barrel. Finally, we’ll add a grungy texture using a simple radial gradient, some simple blending techniques and a Sponge effect. The final color used for the oil barrel is easily editable so it won’t be difficult for you to use the colors that you like.

Final Image

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Hit Control + N to create a new document. Enter 600 in the width and height box then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the "Align New Objects to Pixel Grid" box is unchecked before your click OK. Now, turn on the Grid (View > Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Next, you’ll need a grid every 5px. Go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid, enter 5 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box.

You can also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Unit > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

Step 2

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M) and create eight 130 by 225px shapes. Fill it with the linear gradient shown below then make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). The white numbers from the gradient image stand for location percentage.

Step 3

Again, use the Rectangle Tool(M) and create four, 140 by 5px shapes. Fill them with a simple red, and place them as shown in the following image. The Snap to Grid should ease your work. Select all four rectangles and turn them into a compound path (Object > Compound Path > Make).

Step 4

Select the compound path created in the previous step along with the copy of the rectangle created in the second step, then open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click on the Minus Front button. Move to the Layers panel and you will find a group with three simple rectangles. Ungroup them (Shift + Control + G), fill them with white then duplicate them (Control + C > Control + F).

Step 5

Pick the Ellipse Tool(L), create two, 180 by 65px shapes and a 180 by 75px shape. Fill them with a random color and place them as shown in the following image. Again, the Snap to Grid will ease your work.

Step 6

Focus on top shape created in the previous step. Select it along with the copy of the top, white rectangle and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Move to the Layers panel and you will find a group with four new shapes. Select the two, left shapes and lower their opacity to 35% then select the other two shapes and lower their opacity to 15%. Finally, fill them with the linear gradient shown below. The yellow zero from the gradient image stands for opacity percentage.

Step 7

Move to the other two shapes created in the fifth step and repeat the techniques mentioned in the previous step.

Step 8

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid) then go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set at 1px. Focus on the top, white rectangle, select it and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px to the left. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=35 G=31 B=32.

Step 9

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=35 G=31 B=32.

Step 10

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 2px to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=78 G=78 B=78.

Step 11

Move down to the other two white rectangles and repeat the techniques mentioned in the last three steps.

Step 12

Focus on the top, white rectangle, select it and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px down. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting with black and lower its opacity to 35%.

Step 13

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 3px down. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 5%.

Step 14

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 5px down. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 5%.


Step 15

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 15%.

Step 16

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 3px up. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 5%.

Step 17

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make only one copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Select it and move it 5px down. Select this copy along with the original white shape and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 5%.

Step 18

Move to the other two white rectangles and repeat the techniques mentioned in the last six steps.

More to Learn on Page Two

We are just over halfway through the tutorial, but don’t stop here. There is still some more to learn to finish up the oil barrels waiting for you over on page two.

November 05 2011


Graphic Design Basics Part 2: Design Principles

In the first part of the series we covered the basic elements of graphic design with shapes, lines, textures and color among others. Today we go a bit more in-depth and will take a look at the principles of design, which are very important to know because they’re what separate the good designers from the amazing designers. Some of the principles we’ll cover today are applied unconsciously, but they definitely exist and we will show you examples from the web to illustrate the concepts.

1. Balance

Balance is how the elements of a design are distributed throughout a layout. If the balance is good, then stability is assured, although lately many designers go for unbalanced designs because they are dynamic and offer a totally different perspective. The personal pages are the most suitable for slightly off-balanced layouts, and you will see some examples soon.

To be able to notice what kind of balance a website has, you need to know the three types of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical and radial. The first one takes place when both sides of a design are the same in shape, lines, texture and so on. Because this is the way we design today, this happens most of the time along a vertical axis, so when we talk about the two sides of a design, we talk about left and right. There are also examples along the horizontal axis and sometimes even along both of them, but these are rare. The symmetrical designs are pretty much most of the websites on the internet until 5 years ago.

The second type of balance occurs when the two sides of a website do not look like each other, but still have elements that are similar. Although it is called asymmetrical, they still provide some symmetry, like the first type of balance, only at a lower level. Asymmetrical websites are becomimg more and more popular nowadays (see WordPress layouts with content on one side and sidebar on the other).

The radius balance takes place when design elements are placed in a circular pattern. They give a sense of movement, dynamism, but it is not seen very often on the internet, because even the most experienced designers have problems laying out such a design.

As said earlier, balance is achieved through shapes, colors, textures, lines and the other elements we’ve talked about in the first episode.

Florida Flourish is a good example of a total symmetric website

Duplos uses an asymmetrical layout which works really well.

2. Dominance and Priority

These two principles are together because they are strongly linked. They both have a lot to do with the user experience because a lack of priority and element dominance can be confusing. The dominance level is the one which prioritizes the importance of different elements, such as menu, logo, content or footer. Sure, this is also done by playing with the font and size, but let’s go a bit deeper and see what dominance and priority mean.

There are three main levels of priority. We have the headline or call to action, which comes as a primary element; then we have the secondary elements like images needed to make a point or, most of the time, the navigation. They are obviously not the most important element of a website, but you can’t do it without them either. The tertiary elements are information like footer links, meta information on blogs or different elements, and a website can most of the time exist without them. However, they are used frquently because they complete the design in different ways, either by offering more information, or by completing the layout with some elements.

Area17 emphasizes the dominant element in the top left corner and the welcome message pulls you in as well because of the color.

3. Proportion

Proportion is important and represents the scale of elements compared to each other. They have a strong effect on the user and are also linked with the previous principle. It is no surprise that larger elements have a stronger impact on the user than the small ones. Dominance, priority and proportion work together to assure the user sees the information properly on a website. Having a larger font in the footer than in the content is a mistake because it does not respect these three principles.

Bluecated Interactive uses proportion to draw the attention on the image.

4. Contrast

This is another important principle not only of design, but also of photography and any other visual art. I don’t think we need to go too deep into this, because everybody knows what contrast means. Having enough contrast between elements makes sure that some of them stand out more than others. If designers wish to blend elements together, they do it by having minimal contrast between them. If the contrast is high, the elements are distinct from each other.

If balance is created through shapes and lines, the contrast can be created through color. However, lately the contrast has also been changed through typography and texture, so this becomes more and more popular. Having perfect typography can help you achieve not only the perfect contrast, but also proportion, dominance and priority. It is easy to see that the last three concepts we’ve talked about are slightly linked to each other in some ways. If we would talk a bit more general about this whole topic, we would be able to put all of them into the same paragraph.

eHarmony's "Find My Matches" button stands out because of a good use of contrast.

5. Rhythm

This might be a new one for you. The rhythm of the page is the principle that makes the human eye move from one element to another. It ensures the flow of the eye and in which order users should see the elements. Now this is a difficult one to make, because everybody has their own way of looking at a website and making all of them do it the same way might be too overwhelming.

There are two types of rhythms: the fluid and the progressive. The first one is a variation and the best example is the movement of water, which flows in the same direction basically, but has a lot of variation in how it moves. The progressive rhythm occurs when there is a clear sequence on how the eye should move between elements.

David Desandro's portfolio follows a very regular, progressive rhythm

6. Harmony and Unity

The last principle of design wants to ensure that even if all the principles above are used properly, it is still impossible to create a stunning design without harmony and unity, and this is quite often seen in real life. We often hear of rich people who have everything they want, but lack harmony and unity in their lives. It is the same rule in design. If all these elements work together properly, then you’ve achieved what we call unity. Only placing all these elements on a page without linking them to each other does not create a design, but a page with a bunch of elements. If the elements complement each other and the website is easy to the eye and offers a good user experience, then the work you’ve done is more or less finished.

There is no really need for an example here, we all know that websites with harmony and unity can be spotted all over the place; think of a website that you like a lot and that you always remember. That’s probably a website that has harmony and unity.


The second article of the series wraps up the process of analyzing the very basic principles of design you really need to know about. After reading the first two articles you pretty much have most of the knowledge you need to start designing your own layout, but wait a bit more. The third and last article of the series comes soon and will cover the basics of composition such as focal point, grid theory, gestalt laws and others which can also be used for products like magazines, flyers or brochures.

Read more in-depth

If this article only satisfied a bit of your curiosity, then I’ve gathered for you few other sources where you can read more about the basic principles of design.

Web Design Symmetry and Asymmetry on

How to Use Size, Scale and Proportion in Design on Van SEO Design

Unity in Design on Van SEO Design

Developing Visual Rhythm in Web Design on Tynpanus

Principles of Design: Contrast on Sitepoint

Dominance on Van SEO Design

March 01 2011


Graphic USA – An alternate guide to 25 US cities

Travel Guides. We’ve all seen them, there’s hundreds to choose from. All with some sort of pitch for the best places to go. But, will the places be good? Will I even like them? I am basing my entire exploring experience on what ‘some guy’ in this book says… Enter: Graphic USAAn alternate guide to 25 US cities.

GraphicUSA photo copy

Graphic USA is an alternative guide that offers a fresh perspective into the boring travel guide segment. Each of the 25 cities are reviewed, written and illustrated by designers living in their respective cities. Not only does this book contain great places to go it also includes cutting edge creative design which, is a heck of a way to chart your way across these fantastic cities and a lot more user friendly that travel-guides in the past. The book is arranged with beautiful full color spreads and no detail has been left untouched. The best part about the book is that since each section has been handcrafted by an illustrator, artist or designer each section feels unique and showcases the vibe of the current city being reviewed. It also gives unique insight into local places that are off the beaten path. The great dive-bars that offer the best views or the best fresh seafood. You will use it as a gallery of beautiful images or a directory of talented illustrators and designers and most importantly a great travel-guide for a weird and wonderful alternative road trip across America.


The content of the book includes:
Anchorage, Alaska | Laura Feraco
Atlanta, Georgia | Laurie Forehand
Austin, Texas | Bryan Keplesky
Baltimore, Maryland | Elizabeth Graeber
Boston, Massachusetts | Esther Uhl
Charleston, South Carolina | Jay Fletcher
Chicago, Illinois | Daniel Blackman
Denver, Colorado | Gwenda Kaczor
Detroit, Michigan | Angela Duncan
Kansas City, Missouri | Ramzy Masri & Morgan Ashley Allen
Los Angeles, California | Tal Rosner
Memphis Tennessee | Alex Harrison
Miami, Florida | Michelle Weinberg
Milwaukee, Wisconsin | Mike Krol
Minneapolis, Minnesota | Adam Turman
New Orleans, Louisiana | Tom Varisco
New York, New York | Camilla BenBassat
Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia | Katie Hatz
Phoenix, Arizona | Jon Ashcroft
Portland Oregon, | Briar Levit
Providence, Rhode Island | Adam Lucas
San Fransico, California | Cameron Ewing
Seattle, Washington | Björn Soneson
St. Louis, Missouri | Rachel Newborn
Washington, DC | Joshua Graham Guenther

Graphic USA also has an older brother Graphic Europe which which takes you through 31 European cities. These titles are released from cicada books based out of London. If you want more information on either of these titles check out Cicada for the full details and availability. This book has taken it’s place in my suitcase for my new definitive travel-guide. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re looking for travel inspiration, great places to eat, drink or stay or something fresh in the travel industry.

Sponsored by

Made By Tinder

Advertise on Fuel Brand Network.
Fuel Brand Network 2010 cc (creative commons license)

Graphic USA – An alternate guide to 25 US cities

March 15 2010


Create Surreal Photo Manipulation with A Man Without Face

Surreal Photo ManipulationFirst, I’d like to thank Joubert Quentin a.k.a hybrid-creation for allowing me to create this tutorial based on his image, Your Skull is Red. You can see his portofolio in DeviantArt or his personal site. Before we start, take at look at the image we are about to create below.

In this tutorial we will learn how to create selection, adjusting color, and adding depth to image.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Source Needed

For this tutorial, we will need these images:

Step 1: Selecting The Victorian Man

We’ll start by cutting this man from his background. For this type of selection, I prefer to use the manual way, path. From paths panel create new path then using pen tool draw path around the man. As you can see i don’t care much about his face because we will remove it later.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 2

Once we’re done creating path, hit ctrl+Enter to change it to a selection. Press ctrl+J to duplicate the selection to a new layer. You can also do this by selecting menu Layer > New > Layer via Copy. To help focus on the man, hide Background by clicking its eye icon.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 3: Removing Face

To remove his face we can just use an eraser.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 4: Fixing Floating Hat

Now, we need to create his bottom hat. To do this we must draw manually using clone tool. Activate clone tool and check Sample All Layers. This option allow us to clone on a separate layer and keep the original picture safe. Then create a new layer. With clone tool sample a similar color from his hat by alt+click it.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 5

With clone tool, draw his bottom hat. This might take a while, I spend 10-15 minutes for this. To keep it natural I suggest you to use different clone source every time you click.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 6

Using lasso tool, create ellipse selection underneath his hat and fill it with black.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 7

Add Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) to give it a soft realistic shadow.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 8: Fixing Collar

We need to manually draw his back collar. The step is a bit similar to what we do when creating bottom part of his hat. Create a selection in collar shape, sample color from his front collar, then draw it directly with brush tool. To avoid flat color we must use many color source from his front collar.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 9

Draw shadow inside his collar and add another Gaussian Blur.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 10: Import Man Without Face To New Background.

Now we’re done with this man. Select all (ctrl+A), click Edit > Copy Merged (ctrl+shift+C). In our new background paste the man (ctrl+V) and resize it (ctrl+T). See image below for reference.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 11: Dodge and Burn

We still need to fix lighting on the man. To do this, we will use non-destructive burning and dodging. First, alt+click New Layer icon. In the dialog box select Use Previous, Mode: Overlay, and Fill with Overlay.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 12

See picture below! The light source is behind the man so his back must be lighter than his front. To fix this, paint with burn tool to make it darker and dodge tool to make it lighter.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Here’s what we see if the layer is in Normal blend mode.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 13: Add Shadow

Off course this man must have shadow. We know that the light source is behind him, so the shadow must be in front of him. Duplicate the man layer and hit ctrl+T. Hold ctrl and move its corner until it lies on the ground.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 14

We don’t want to see his twin lying on the ground right? We want his shadow.

So, here’s the trick. Hit D, this will change foreground color to black. Then hit shift+alt+delete, this will fill layer with foreground color (in our case, black).

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 15

We still need to focus on the detail. As you can see below, cane’s shadow moves a little and there’s a hole between his feet. I fix this by doing minor transformation and painting with black.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 16

Add Gaussian blur to create a soft realistic shadow.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 17

Farthest shadow need to be more blurry. So, select those part, soften the selection with Feather (Select > Modify > Feather), and another Gaussian Blur. Here’s a tip: because we’ve just perform a Gaussian Blur we can just hit ctrl+F to repeat it again. If you want to use different radius use ctrl+alt+F.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 18

Add layer mask and add black to white linear gradient to make the shadow fades away.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 19: Add Water Tower

Selecting the water tower with path is not a good idea. You’ll get frustrated doing it. The easiest and smartest way is using color information in channel. Our image is in RGB, that’s Red, Green, and Blue. The water tower stands in front of a clear blue sky. So, the sky will be very visible in Blue channel. Now, I want you to duplicate Blue Channel by dragging it to the new channel icon.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 20

Add Levels (ctrl+L) with this setting.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

You can see that the sky has magically disappear. Try that with pen tool!

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 21

Some part of the water tower is turning white. We can fix it easily by painting it with black.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 22

Here’s the basic principle of masking: “White reveals, Black conceals.” We want to select the water tower, not the sky. So, the sky has to be black and the water tower has to be white. Wait! Our image is completely wrong. That’s easy, just hit ctrl+I to invert it.Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 23

Ctrl+click blue copy channel to convert it to a selection. Copy the image and paste it behind our faceless man.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 24

You might notice that the there’s a small part of the sky in the water tower. Here’s one easy way to fix it. Ctrl+click water tank layer. Contract selection by 1 px (Select > Modify > Contract). Click add layer mask icon.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Here’s the result.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 25

Fix the lighting with non-destructive dodging and burning. We have done this in step 11.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 26: Adding Depth of Field

It’s time add depth to this image. Cut one of the hat collection from old top hat set. Paste it and place it near the edge of the canvas. Hit ctrl+T and rotate it to give a more dynamic movement.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 27

Give it a Gaussian Blur. Because this hat is near us, we’ll give it a big radius.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 28

Add another hat and give each different radius depends on its position.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 29: Add shadow

Dont forget to give shadow to the water tower. The step here is similar to what we did when creating the man’s shadow. Duplicate water tower layer, fill it with black, transformation, add Gaussian blur, and fading it with gradient mask layer.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 30

Again, don’t forget to add shadow for those hats.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 31: Final Adjustment

I want to add more blue to the sky. For this, I add adjustment layer Channel Mixer on top of all layers with these settings.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 32

Paint everything with black except the bright sky in top right. Now, only that part is affected by the Channel Mixer.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 33

To add more contrast add adjustment layer Levels with this setting.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 34

Paint everything with black except the faceless man.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 35

Finally, I want to make this picture warmer. Add an adjustment Layer Photo Filter with Warming Filter (85), Density 25%.

Surreal Photo Manipulation


And here’s what we have now. I hope you like the final effect. If you have better tips about the technique used here I’d love to hear it.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Download FREE PSD File!!!

To help you learn this tutorial you can download the psd file here.

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