Technique Thursday - Making Realistic shapes with Dodge & Burn Tool

Thursday, November 11, 2010
Welcome to our next Free addition of Technique Thursday!
Today I’m going to show how I created a flower with the life and depth of a 3D object with some simple and useful techniques.  Thank you Sue for requesting this!  I love making these!
So everyone knows, I put the shortcut keys I use in (brackets) and red here and I tell you the looong way too.  
The first thing I do is draw my flower shape, or you can use one of the standard shapes from your Photoshop shapes also.  
Little Designer Tip: 
Now, I USUALLY hand draw in Illustrator using the pencil tool to draw my basic shape (just because I like the way it feels and works), and then use the smoothing tool (found in the same tool box as the pencil), to smooth out anything that I got a little jerky on.  But, you can do the same in CS using the  free form pen tool and stroking or the pencil tool or the brush tool, which ever you are most comfortable with.  PSE can use the brush or pencil  tool also.  OR take the easy road and use one of the several flower shapes in your standard shape tools.
I always draw in Black, but you can use what you like.

Flowers are not perfect, and neither are we, so don't worry so much about your lines.  Practice will give you better control drawing on the computer.  Just ask my team… it was less than a year ago that I gave up the paper sketching and scanning and extracting and started drawing 100% with my Wacom Pad.  I LOVE my Wacom!
If you use Illustrator, fill your outline using the live paint tool.  Then just drag the shape onto your Photoshop canvas and it will come in as a smart object that you can now size up without quality loss.  (great for when you want to create multiple flowers).

So let’s create a  new 4”x4” 300 ppi new photoshop file.  (cmd N)
Draw your flower outline or shape.  
To fill in:
    NOW, to do this, you can not just simply use your paint bucket tool or you will have a little line around the edge.   See to the right here a close up showing.
What I do:  I select the empty area around my shape with the magic wand, (make sure “continuous” is checked), then go to your Menu  Select>Inverse.  (shft cmd I)
Fill your outline.  or menu again Edit>Fill (Foreground color, and make sure “Preserve Transparency” is NOT checked.)
Deselect.  (Ctrl D)

Now you have your flower’s Mask.
Find a paper you’d like to use for your flower, place over your flower shape layer and “clip” to your flower layer.  

This is what you should have now as if you just cut this shape out of paper.  Pretty flat huh?  No worries, because now it gets fun!

First decision to make is where you want your “light source” to be coming from.
I’m going to decide the top right for this lesson.
OH, before we move on!  COPY this paper layer (Cmd J) and turn it off.  
Why?  Because if you don’t like the end result, you can start over without having to drag it in again.  No one likes their first one. 

Now grab your Burn tool.  (O) (Shft O) to cycle the tools for CS & O again for PSE.
Select a soft round brush from your brush palette.
Set your “exposure” to about 15%., midtones and make sure Protect Tones is checked as shown here.

Zoom into your flower shape so it fills your window.
Sizing your brush is just an eyeing up and as your use this tool, you will learn how it will act and will adjust.  For my 3” wide flower, my brush is 45px. 
Now, this is easiest for me is using my Wacom, because I can sketch like I would on paper, but you can do with a mouse also with no problems.
I want you to visualize where the pretend light source is casting a shadow and how your paper flower will be “bending”. 

It really helps to study a real life one in front of you to learn these realistic shadows.  If you have a real one, try to mimic the shadow areas, this will teach your eye to see it and soon you won’t need to look at a real one to do.  OR refer to the flower I did and study where the darker areas are if that helps.

I start with the center and imagine this “down” as if I pushed the center of the flower downward.   See to the right.  Just light touches in the center.  And because we are set at 15%, you can go over and darken little by little without the fear of stroking too dark with one stroke.

Now I envision the tips of the flower folding downward and keeping in mind my light source, I try to shadow where it would not be exposed to the light.

So first I stroke over all the edges first, then bring in my strokes where I think the shadows will fall. I do tend to size my brush up and down as I go depending on where I’m stroking.   Here’s a shot with only the left half of the outside edges burned.  See how they are starting to look like they are slightly curled under?

My stokes are like sketching sweeping movements, nothing precise.  But I try to stroke the way I imagine the paper bending in real life.  Following it’s curves, because that is how the shadows will shape your flower.
So I continue around all my edges and then pull in my imaginary shadows where I want a little bend or pucker down in my paper.
Here’s what we have now so far.  Nice, but not there yet.
But you see it’s taking on a life now, showing signs of an actual shape. 

Now switch to your Dodge Tool.  Same place as your Burn tool. 
And instead of thinking about your shadow areas, think about where the light is going to hit your flower and highlight the tops and tips.
Now I set my “exposure” to slightly lower like 7-10% because this tool is a little stronger.  I also sized it up a little to around 60-70px.
First I will sketch or stroke the top of my bent flower, which is close to the center of my petals.  These areas will have the most light casted on them first.  
I use small sweeping semi circles with the centers being towards my light source.
To the right, I’ve drawn red lines to show what I mean and how I stroked to give you a better idea.

From here I lower the “exposure” and alternate between the burn and Dodge tools and just lightly sketch to “shape” my petals of my flowers.
This is what I have now.  
And here’s what we stated with... a flat paper flower to THIS!  

Amazing huh?  Well… I thought so the first time I did it! :)

All that is left for me to do is add a button to the center, and a shadow under the flower.  And of course, I had to add some ink to my flower edges too. 
That’s another painting tutorial for another time. :) 
Here’s my finished flower. and a second one just to show you different results.  And just like Mother Nature herself, mine never turn out the same twice. ;)     

Hope you enjoyed today’s Technique and if you did, how about leaving me a comment what you enjoyed the most, or maybe something you learned new.  
Love hearing back from my “students”.
And be sure to visit the forum in our Artist Studio for your free PDF of this lesson and both flowers created here today too.  I will have them there before the day is done.  
Remember, you have to be registered and logged into the forum to see it.  Click on the Categories tab at the top and scroll down to see the forum. 
And by request also, I will be scheduling a DimDim and/or Skype session and doing this little art lesson live soon. So be sure you check in the Artist Studio for days and times and make your request for a Technique Thursday Tutorial.  We also will have some exclusive tutorials in our Artist Studio so be sure to visit. ;)
And for our last week’s winner from our comments?  

#3 Debi Putnam!  YEAH!  Your shop account will have a little gift certificate monies for you Debi the next time you log in. :)

See you again soon!


  1. Jocelyn said...:

    C I loved this tutorial. You make it look so easy :) Flowers are one of my favourite elements to use, but so often they don't look quite right. Hopefully with a little practice I can start making my own. Thanks!

  1. farabee said...:

    I have died and gone to heaven! A skype or dimdim session! Learning under your tutelage! I am truly in the Promised Land!

  1. Debi Putnam said...:

    You make it look so easy!! Love the music paper you used. Thanks Cilenia! Another fantabulous technique.

  1. Cilenia said...:

    Thanks ladies! So glad you enjoyed this one because I had have so much fun making it :D

  1. Lisa said...:

    Thank you so much for this!!

  1. Miss Renee said...:

    That was so step by step, and totally logical and laymens without being patronizing or over-complicated. I love how much of your own designer skills you share in this tutorial, it is both fascinating and really valuable, so I appreciate it. I hope you do more but from this quality, I assume you must be a paid tutorial person.
    First time reader and visitor, but have you bookmarked - goodness, this was so good!!!

  1. Miss Renee said...:

    oooh I see there is eleven technique thursdays to catch up on! Yay! Really good part is that you include screen captures of exact settings, it is so nice to know you are using the same settings as the masters! Hee hee xxx

  1. Cilenia said...:

    Wow Miss Renee! You have made my day!
    No I am not a paid tutorial person. :) But how wonderful you think so. I just like to teach. Been teaching Computer Aided Graphics for over 20 years in my work field of Architectural and Engineering, just have transferred my interests to art.
    Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! going to wear a smile the rest of the day here! Whoo Hoo!

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