Photoshop Process – April & Mikey


1. Original Photo
So Nica Stone and I set out to do an homage to the original April O’Neil from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons of the early 90’s. Of course we couldn’t find the exact yellow jumpsuit she wore in the cartoons, so I asked Nica to wear something in similar style, and as long as it was a lighter color, I could colorize it and edit it to how I wanted it to look like. The board she is holding is of course a stand-in for a pizza box I would create later.

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2. Rough colors
First thing I do, as with most of my images, is quickly mask out the background and roughly sketch overtop my idea for the layout, style, and colors. At this point I’m just trying to give myself a general preview of how the ideas I have in mind will come together.

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3. Base Painting
Now I start painting in the turtle more carefully, as well as painting in the new hairstyle for Nica that more resembles the classic April O’Neil look.

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4. Fine Tuning
More detail is added to the Ninja Turtle, as well as more paint-over on Nica. I knew going in that I wouldn’t be able to achieve a photo-realistic look to the Ninja Turtle, so I decided to give Nica more of an illustrated look. My hope was that if I could make the Turtle look as believable as possible, while making Nica look more ‘painted’, then the look of the two characters would meet somewhere in the middle to mesh together more effectively.

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5. More Detail
I spent even longer at this stage, adding more and more detail to Michelangelo. It was actually my first time painting a ninja turtle, so I opened up lots of other Ninja Turtle artwork from other mind-blowing artists, and used that as guide for how ‘good’ I should make it. Every time I had the thought “ok done good enough”, I would get inspired from all this other artwork I was seeing, which made me keep going. Eventually I did have to say “ok enough” or I would be doing this part forever.

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6. Background
For the background, I start with a really rough sketch. I imagined a dark scene outside of a storm-drain, as if April O’Neil was triying to coax out the Ninja Turtles for an interview using pizza. Once I nail down the general idea for the background, I start painting in the general shapes and adding the photographic elements.

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7. Finalizing
More elements are added as well as more shading. When overlaying textures, I typically grab a texture photo (brick, concrete, etc), drop it in to the document, grayscale it, set the layer properties to ‘Overlay’, the adjust the opacity settings. I’ll then add extra depth to it by going to the color layer underneath it and painting more shadows and highlights. For photo elements such as the debris on the ground and the foliage, Ill set my brush properties to either multiply or soft light, and paint right on the image to manipulate the shadows and highlights.

One of the last things I do to help blend all the elements together, is I will create a new layer, set the layer property to ‘Soft Light’, and fill it with a particular color tone. (Before this I will typically adjust the levels and color balance of the various photo elements to color match as well.)

Next I’ll take fog and smoke images, set their layer properties to Screen, and drop them in as well. I’ll use Warp, Distort, and the Eraser Tool to manipulate the look of them as well. I’ll also create a few new layers and paint in additional fog or dust.

Lastly, I add a new layer, again set its properties to ‘Soft Light’, and paint different shades of color – blues around the shadows, and oranges/yellows in the lighter areas. Adding a soft light layer with different color tones is typically a great way to unite all the elements together.

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