Combine Renders and Light Effects

Abstract artworks often combine renders, stock photos and simple techniques in Photoshop to create professional results.  However, understanding symmetry, composition, lighting and the tools in Photoshop can take awhile to learn, and practice is required.
In this tutorial, we are going to extract the ability of Photoshop tools to make an epic piece of digital art.  We’ll look at how to manipulate a pre-made render into the composition, as well as how to utilize blending modes, gradients and the liquify tool to achieve a brilliant abstract result.
You’ll learn a variety of techniques and useful tips to use in your own compositions, so let’s get started!

Tools Required:

  • Adobe Photoshop

Final Image Preview:

Step 1:

To start, create new canvas sized at 994×1312 pixels, and fill it with black.  Next, create a new layer, and go to Filter->Render->Clouds.  Duplicate this layer, and then merge the two layers.  Set your blending options to Luminosity and reduce the opacity to 21% and the fill to 13%.

Next, we need our subject.  For this piece, I’ll be using this mask, located here:
Extract it from the background, in this case I just rendered it with the pen tool.  Paste it into your document and arrange it where you want.  There are a few rough edges, so I decided to do some enhancements to make it look better.

First, I applied smart blur to the mask.  Go to Filter->Blur-> Smart Blur, and apply the following settings: Radius: 3, Threshold 34.7, Quality: Medium, Mode: Normal.

After applying this blur, I also adjusted the brightness and contrast.  To do this, go to Layers->New Adjustment Layer, and apply the following settings: Brightness: 61, Contrast: -28
Resize it and erase the upper part using soft brush, to create a fading effect (see before and after below).

Here you can see the before and after, and how our effects helped bring out the image.

So, now you should have what I have below:

Step 2:

The ‘hair’ part of this mask is a render from Cinema4D.  I only used one C4D for this tutorial, and manipulated it to get the result.  You can get it here. Grab the rendered C4D and put it in to our canvas.

Next, I desaturated the render.
After desaturating the c4d, I applied some technique to make it flow around.  To do this, I used the liquify tool.  Open the liquify shortcut command (ctrl+shift+x) or go to Filter>Liquify.
In applying liquify, first you must have concept of what are going to make. Just play around  liquify preset.  I only used the forward warp tool, set the brush size to 150 and leave all the rest to default.
I came up with this and I’m comfortable of this outcome.  So I duplicated and flip it horizontally for a symmetric effect.
I decided to add more hair volume, so grab the render again and open again the liquify preset.  Just be creative and be patient, be willing to undo your changes if you don’t like the result.  Erase some unwanted parts according to your liking.  Resize it to be a bit smaller, which will help with the effect.   Again, just experiment.
To add some more visual impact again, I used the same process but this time I didn’t apply desaturate to the C4D.  This allowed the image to be colorful. I put the colored C4D layers in the middle, under the smaller render.

Step 3:

We are on to the coloring process, so first I used a nebula stock shown below:
Grab the nebula stock to our canvas, and set the blending option to ‘linear dodge’.
After I erased the unwanted parts, I just duplicated it and flipped horizontally to place it on the other side.
Now, we will add soft lights.  Create a new layer under the colored c4d layers.  Fill it with black and set the blending options to linear dodge.  With the soft brush 400px size, I chose three colors to blend. ( #ff9c00)( #00e4ff)( #ff00fc)  Next, I blurred it, by going to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur with a radius to 10px.  Be sure to follow this process to make it like mine.

Step 4:

Create new layer again under the c4d layers. Fill it with black and set the blending options to linear dodge again.  Grab the rectangular marquee tool put some gradient on it of color ( #00fff6) to transparent.  Duplicate it and place it diagonally, erasing the hard edges using soft brush.  Follow the image below to duplicate it and place it on the other side.
Using pen tool we will draw an illustration then stroke it with simulated pressure with 3px brush. Just like what we did before,  again the rectangular marquee tool follow the same process but we will using this color ( #fc00ff).  After that duplicate again and flip it horizontally.

Step 5:

We will add more lights. Create new layer again, fill it with black and set it to linear dodge. Using the rectangular marquee tool again we will make a selection like this:
Grab the gradient tool and set to this color (# 0000ff) to transparent.
After that, erase some parts using a soft brush, duplicate it, resize and place it to the desired position.  I also added a pen tool stroke below it.
Add more effects, this time using elliptical marquee tool and gradients, just like our previous layers set it to linear dodge.
After erasing erase some parts and after adding more by duplicating and resizing it, make some small particles using a brush, and use an Outer Glow blending mode to give it a nice glow.  Duplicate it and flip it to the other side to continue the symmetrical appearance.

Step 6:

We are almost finished. We will add small particles splashing around.  To do that, we’ll use a nebula stock, which you can get from or
Paste it onto our canvas and set the blending mode to linear dodge.  Just play around in placing the stock.
I added some of this color ( #ff7200) to make it more dramatic.  Create new layer, fill with black and set to linear dodge and paint the color using a soft brush.


Try to check your layer arrangements, as it is important in order to make it more realistic.  When making light effects, the blending option linear dodge is our main weapon here as well as the stock photos.  The symmetrical appearance helps the visual appeal, and creativity and patience leads to a successful artwork.  After a few minor adjustments, I came up with this.  Thanks for reading and drop some comments below.  Hope you learned something new in this tutorial.


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