Beyond Photoshop: Advanced techniques integrating Photoshop with Illustrator, Poser, Painter, Cinema 4D and ZBrush

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Derek Lea has been named one of the world's top 100 digital artists by Creative Arts, the graphic arts industry's bestselling magazine worldwide, and in this stunning book he shares his secrets for how he does it. Each chapter begins with a truly extraordinary piece of original artwork and is followed by precise step-by-step instructions that show the reader not only how to recreate the particular piece of featured art, but how to apply the method to their own works of creative genius. Each chapter focuses on using Photoshop in conjunction with other popular software applications such as Illustrator, Painter, and Poser. With it's unique approach to Photoshop integration with other software applications, this book fills a gap in the graphics market for all creatives working with digital art for business or simply for fun.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Derek Lea is well placed to bring various software applications together as he operates from a graphic background, teaching at the Centennial College in Toronto. In his introduction he makes a very telling case for avoiding the situation where the computer becomes the "safe haven" from really creative thought. He holds the view that the creatives can be guilty of retreating into the comfort of familiar software rather than allowing themselves the space for free thinking, unfettered by the mechanics of a computer program.. The truly innovative step, that marks out the movers and shakers of our world over the also-rans is the ability to think up new ideas and to execute them in particular ways. Certainly for competition entries which have ambitions to catch the judges' eyes, something new and innovative always goes quite a long way - software alone rarely does that though, you still need the inspiration, so doodle with the pencil first then turn on the computer! It might help to have Beyond Photoshop close to hand along with the tutorial images available at"—Professional Imagemaker Magazine

"Beyond Photoshop is a well-written guide for the artist who wishes to combine Photoshop with Illustrator, Poser, Painter, Cinema 4D or ZBrush. Author Derek Lea has created a much-needed addition to the digital artist's library by putting together a guide in which you can literally choose any chapter and work through his examples; one does not need to start at the beginning and read to the end to reap the benefits of this book."—-San Francisco Book Review

"A fine, award-winning survey of how to create stunning works of art using Photoshop and how to use it with other software packages such as Illustrator, Poser, or Painter. Digital artists who already have experience with the program will find this the perfect choice to move to the next level of experience, demonstrating the core features of each program and how they can interact. No serious Photoshop collection should be without this!"—Bookwatch

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780240811901
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 8/1/2010
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,539,745
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Award-winning digital illustrator, author and regular contributor of tutorials and articles on Photoshop and Illustrator techniques to leading magazines worldwide; professor of Graphic Design-Media at the Centennial College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Table of Contents




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

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First Chapter

Beyond Photoshop

Advanced Techniques Integrating Photoshop with Illustrator, Poser, Painter, Cinema 4D, and ZBrush
By Derek Lea

Focal Press

Copyright © 2010 Derek Lea
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-095689-3

Chapter One

Sharp Edges and Painterly Blends

Combining Illustrator with Photoshop

Photoshop contains some excellent vector tools and features. But when it comes to creating artwork, experienced digital artists, illustrators, and designers rarely limit themselves to a single software application. It is no secret that when it comes to drawing with vectors, there is no better choice than Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator has been the industry-standard vector art tool for as long as I can remember. I personally have been using it as an integral part of my digital toolset since 1991.

The features and functions within Illustrator are unparalleled indeed, but what do you do when you want all the superb vector creation possibilities offered within Illustrator, yet you also want the superb paint tool features in Photoshop? The answer is simple: You combine the two applications. And believe it or not, when it comes to creating a stunning Art Noveau masterpiece like the one you see here, you simply need to copy and paste. To put it simply: Photoshop and Illustrator play very well together.

In this chapter, we'll explore the advantages of bringing existing vector art from Illustrator into Photoshop and using it as vector building blocks to create the piece you see here. More specifically, we'll be pasting vector art into Photoshop, creating shape layers and paths as the Illustrator data makes its way into Photoshop. We'll use paths to create selection borders, and we'll duplicate and edit shape layers to suit a variety of purposes. Once the vectors are safely in place, we can employ Photoshop's marvelous paint and composition tools, resulting in a nostalgic piece of art that is a combination of both sharp vectors and soft painted elements.


Photoshop CS4 Illustrator CS4

Requirements and Recommendations

In addition to Photoshop, you'll need a copy of Illustrator. If you don't have a copy of Illustrator, you can download a trial version from

What you'll learn in this chapter

Creative Techniques and Working Methods

Constructing rather than outlining

The artwork in this illustration relies heavily on prominent outlines. Generally, when I witness inexperienced users of Illustrator attempting to create artwork in a similar style, they rely on stroke attributes to create the outline in the image. An unfortunate result of this method is that there is little or no expressive quality in the line-work. What makes line-work expressive in the context of an illustration is the variation in thickness and the way the ends of each line taper, are sharp, or are rounded. Granted, there are options within the Stroke palette that allow you to change the endpoints of the line; but again, like the uniform thickness of the stroke, those just aren't expressive enough. The best way to achieve the desired expressive quality is to pay attention to the sketch.

When we draw, something intuitive happens, and it becomes effortless or even a subconscious act to create expressive line-work. Within software it is a different story. We need to focus on preserving the innate, expressive quality of our drawing as we create the finished product. This goal cannot be achieved by using stroke attributes but by creating each element manually with the Pen tool. However, there is more to it than simple mastery over the Pen tool. There is a logical method of construction, which involves creating an exterior shape first. The next step is to subtract an interior. This will give you your expressive outline. After that, details are created as closed shapes, and the result is unified. The Pathfinder palette plays a central role in this systematic drawing process.

Deconstructing and inverting

When you paste your illustrated outlines into Photoshop, they will serve another purpose. By working with duplicates of the shapes, you will learn how to remove the outer regions, thus inverting the appearance of the fill. This might sound confusing, but it is a simple process that we'll go through repeatedly. It allows you to use your illustrations not only as outlines but also for creating instant solid color fills on separate layers.

Tools, Features, and Functions

Template layers

These Illustrator layers will allow you to fade the opacity of your sketch so that you can trace over it without visual distraction. Also, and perhaps more important, the imagery on the Template layer will remain visible in both Preview and Outline modes.

Outline Stroke

This nifty feature allows you to convert Illustrator's stroke attribute to an actual, editable vector object. This is helpful when you're pasting something into Photoshop. Not only do you preserve the stroke, but by converting it to an object, you can delete the exterior path on your resulting shape layer to invert the appearance as well.

An intricate illustration like this one requires quite a bit of prior planning. There is no better start than putting pencil to paper and sketching out those ideas. Here the main content is more or less worked out. Her face is looking good, but everything else requires some more refining.

Because the face itself was working already, I simply refined the other elements in this drawing. Don't fret because there is no face shown here; we'll make a composite template soon by combing the two drawings in Photoshop.

It is always a good idea to keep the components separate, even at the drawing stage. This allows you to digitally refine each component separately, affording you some flexibility when it comes time to assemble the finished composition.

PART ONE: Preparing sketches

1 Open the sketch-1.jpg file in Photoshop. Then open the sketch-2.jpg file. Use the Move tool to drag the image from the sketch-2.jpg file into the sketch1.jpg file as a new layer. Reduce the opacity of the layer so that you see the underlying layer. Use the underlying layer as a guide to position the top layer as accurately as possible. The important thing to concentrate on at this point is lining up her facial features within the outline of her face.

Project files

All the files needed to follow along with this chapter and create the featured image are available for download on the accompanying Website, in the project files section. Visit

2 When you're satisfied with the position of the top layer, click the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers palette to mask the layer. Ensure that the new mask is targeted in the Layers palette and select the Brush tool. In the Brushes palette, select a soft, round preset and disable any shape dynamics that are active. Your foreground color should be set to black at this point; if it isn't, press the X key to set it. Paint over her face area within the mask to reveal the underlying face. When you're satisfied with the result, return the opacity of the layer to 100%.

3 Click the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the Layers palette and select the Levels option from the menu to create a new Levels adjustment layer. In the Adjustments palette, drag the left and right input level sliders inward. Drag the left slider over a little further, and then drag the middle slider to the right a little. Basically, our goal is to create a sense of clarity in the image. Don't worry if there are still some unwanted artifacts; we'll simply use this as a template in Illustrator. Save the file as face template.psd.

Repeat the process

Perform similar adjustments to the two remaining sketches, creating a series of clear templates for Illustrator.

1 Now open the sketch-3.jpg file. Press Control-L (PC)/Command-L (Mac) to perform a Levels adjustment. When the Levels dialog box appears, drag the left and right input level sliders inward to increase the contrast. Adjust the midtones slider as necessary to minimize the midtones in the drawing.

2 Save the file as words template.psd. Then open the sketch-4. psd file. You can tell just by looking at the image that you'll need to increase the contrast overall to create a clear template to trace over in Illustrator. Press Control-L (PC)/Command-L (Mac) to open the Levels adjustment dialog box.

3 Perform a similar adjustment to the input level sliders as you've done previously. First, drag the left and right sliders inward, then adjust the midtones. When you're satisfied, save this file as flower template.psd.

PART TWO: Creating a pattern

4 Launch Illustrator and create a new file. The size of the artboard is unimportant since we're simply going to paste the completed art into Photoshop. You can leave the artboard size set to the default setting. Don't worry about the document's color space, either. Choose File > Place from the menu and navigate to the flower template.psd file. Click the Place button. When the placed artwork appears, Shift-click and drag a corner point outward to increase the size so that you have a larger space to work within.

Illustrator files and workaround

If you want to follow along with this chapter yet you find the idea of creating art in Illustrator daunting, worry not. All the Illustrator files that are created throughout this chapter are included in the downloadable project files. So, if you don't feel like meticulously creating the vector components, they are there for your perusal should you decide to open them in Illustrator. And for those of you who don't want to so much as open Illustrator, we've included a file called working.psd that contains all the art pasted from Illustrator throughout this chapter. Following along using that file is simply a matter of enabling the visibility of the included shape layers and generating selections from included paths as necessary.

5 In the Layers palette, double-click the layer to open the Layer Options. In the Layer Options, enable the Template function. This will hide all other options except the Dim option. By default, the Dim setting will be set to 50%. Go ahead and leave it set as it is. If you ever want to change the dimness of the image, you can simply double-click the layer and reset the value. Select the Pen tool and then click the Fill swatch in the Toolbar. When the Color palette appears, set the fill to Black. Then click the Stroke swatch in the Tool Options bar and set it to None in the Color palette or by clicking the None option beneath it in the Toolbar. You cannot draw on a template layer, so click the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers palette to create a layer that you can work on. Ensure that the new layer is targeted in the Layers palette.

6 Use the Pen tool to begin tracing the outer left edge of the shape. Start at the bottom and work your way upward, clicking and dragging as you go, to create a path made of Bezier curves that follows the edge of the sketch. At any point you can alter a point or the handles of a curve by using the Direct Selection tool. After editing a point, continuing from the last point is as simple as clicking and dragging on the point and then creating the next point, and so on. You might find that because the object has a solid black fill attribute applied to it, it is hard to view the underlying sketch as you work. To remedy this problem, switch to Outline viewing mode by typing Control-Y (or Command-Y). You can switch back to Preview viewing mode at any time by typing the same command.

Tracing the sketch

Using the underlying template as your guide, begin to trace the contour, creating your first closed shape.

1 When you get to the top, continue along toward the right. When you get to the top-right point of the first flower, move down the right side of this flower, tracing it. Do not worry about the other flower just yet; simply keep creating your path down the right side of the first flower.

2 When you get to the part where the line on the sketch intersects with the other flower, continue to draw your path by moving to the left and then tracing the inner edge. Continue to trace the inner edge as it moves up and down and meanders along. Do not cross over any thick, black lines. Just trace this inner line all the way back to your original starting point.

3 When you get back to your original point, click it to close the shape. Now that the shape is closed, press Control-Y (or Command-Y) to preview it. While you are previewing it, perform any necessary tweaks to the shape with the Direct Selection tool, creating smooth curves.

7 Press Control-Y (or Command-Y) again to switch to outline view. You will have noticed by now that in some areas the design looks outlined, as it was intended. However, regions at the top are solid black. To remedy this situation, the next step is to use some shapes to, one by one, subtract from these regions. Use the same methods you employed previously to draw a closed shape around the inner region of the flower's petals at the top. When you're finished, select the new shape with the Selection tool, and then select the previous shape as well by Shift-clicking on it. While both shapes are selected, click the Minus Front button in the Shape Modes section of the Pathfinder palette. This will subtract the new shape from the previous shape. Press Control-Y (or Command-Y) to preview the result.

Why doesn't it work?

If your Minus Front operations are producing unwanted or unpredictable results, you could be doing a few things incorrectly. First, ensure that you use the Selection tool rather than the Direct Selection tool. You need to select objects, not line segments or points. Also, ensure that the shape you're using as a tool resides above the shape you're subtracting from. You can check this in the hierarchy of the Layers palette. Finally, subtract only one shape at a time. If you select three shapes and perform the Minus Front operation, it will not work properly.

8 Press Control-Y (or Command-Y) to switch back to outline view. Draw another one of the shapes that you need to subtract from the solid black area. When you have closed the shape, select it and select the main shape with the selection tool. When both shapes are selected, perform the Minus Front operation in the pathfinder once again. Repeat this procedure as many times as required to stay true to the original drawing. Feel free to use the Direct Selection tool to modify points or Bezier handles at any point to refine the shape.

9 The only things missing from this side of the flower now are the small, black details. Carefully draw a series of closed objects to represent the missing details indicated by the underlying sketch. When you're finished, press Control-A (or Command-A) to select all the objects, and then press Control-G (or Command-G) to group them. Use the Selection tool to click the group and drag it to the right while holding down the Alt (PC)/Option (Mac) key to duplicate it.

10 While the duplicate group is selected, choose Object > Transform > Reflect from the menu. When the Reflect options appear, choose the Horizontal axis and click OK. After reflecting, Shift-drag to the right or left to adjust the horizontal position of the duplicate so that both groups are overlapping slightly in the middle. Now use the Pen tool to draw a closed shape that traces the outer edge of the central flower. Trace the entire flower and close the shape by clicking the original starting point when you've made your way back to it. It is important to bear in mind that we are using the sketch as a guide and, as is evident in the duplication procedure we just performed, alterations and/or improvements can be performed at your discretion. Never be afraid to clean up your art as you go.

Alphonse Mucha

The work of the Czechoslovakian painter and illustrator Alphonse Mucha was my inspiration for this chapter's opening illustration. His work frequently featured women in flowing robes with lavish and flowing hair surrounded by flowers. I borrowed the style of my illustration's hair, as well as the hand-rendered typography and flowers, from his work. Mucha was one of a kind, and if you like the gentle, flowing quality of my illustration, you should investigate the work of the real master at


Excerpted from Beyond Photoshop by Derek Lea Copyright © 2010 by Derek Lea. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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