This Photoshop tutorial will guide you through creating an effect in the vein of the most recent Coldplay iTunes commercial. The Coldplay commercial uses colorful backdrops, with various textures, smoke and lighting effects. For this tutorial, we’ll take a photo of Barack Obama, mask it, create a silhouet and create the colorful background. This tutorial includes a download to the PSD file so you can see how the layers are set up.
Download the Final PSD
Step 1: Obama I start out with a 1200 px x 800p x document with a black background. For the tutorial, I’ll use a photo of Barack Obama on Flickr. First, we’ll need to take the photo and strip Barack of the background. To do this, create a mask for the photo layer, and blacken out the mask layer with a hard brush around Obama. Once you’ve completely masked out Obama, bring the layer over the 1200 px by 800px document. Desaturate the layer by going to Image >> Adjustments >> Desaturate. Next you need to take a large soft black brush with a low opacity and darken his appearence. It’s up to you to decide how dark you want certain areas, but I wanted to make his hands and shirt appear lighter, so I made sure not to darken these areas too much. You’ll want to keep one side of Obama’s face brighter than the rest so that it appears light is hitting that area.
Step 2: Color Background The next step involves creating the lighting behind the person. While you may be tempted to use radial gradients, I found using a soft low opacity brush did the best job. You want to keep the hardness of the brush to 0% and the opacity between 5% and 15%. Don’t be afraid either to keep all colors on one layer. The colors were the basic CMYK colors of Cyan (#019CFA) Magenta (#EB00C0) and Yellow (#F5DC08).
Now that there is vibrant colors behind Obama, create a new layer above the colors layer. Take a white low opacity brush again, and lighten up the most vibrant part of the previous layer. This helps give a more realistic feel to the lights.
Take a white brush again and on a new layer paint softly the area above Obama’s shoulders. Then set the blending mode of this layer “Overlay” and duplicate the layer. What this does is create the appearance of a burst of light directly behind Obama. As a final measurement to liven up the background, create a new layer filled with white, and set the blending mode to Overlay. Set the opacity of layer to 45%.
Step 3: Background Texture For this next step, we’ll require the two free Watercolor Textures from GoMedia’s Arsenal website. You can find the watercolors under “Freebies”. Desaturate the red and yellow watercolor ( Image >> Adjustments >> Desaturate ) and invert ( Image >> Adjustment >> Invert ). Set the blending mode of this layer to “Screen” so only the light shows through. Reduce the size and place the texture at the bottom left of Obama. For the blue texture, desaturate the layer, and set the blending mode to “Multiply”. Rotate and place this layer at near the top portion of Obama.
Step 4: Background Dots First create a new layer above everything but the photo of the person. This step will deal with using the brush tool and it’s settings. Set the brush to a diameter of 9 and a hardness of 100%. In the Brushes palette, set the Size, Scattering and Opacity Jitters up to 100%. Also set the spacing to 1000%. This will change the settings of the brush to create non-uniform circles randomly around the document. Once you’ve create a decent amount of circles around the lights, set the layer to blending mode “Overlay” and duplicate the layer.
Step 5: Smoke
On a new layer, take a small semi-soft white brush and make a scribbled line. Apply the Wave filter (Filters >> Distort >> Wave); the settings below worked for me. The take the Smudge Tool at 60% Strength and begin to smudge the line in an upwards direction. You can move around a whole section, but a key to creating a more flame look, only smudge the upper half of and particular section the scribble.
I used the eraser tool to remove and darken some parts of the smoke. The next step is to give some color to the smoke via Hue / Saturation menu. Choose the colorize option, and move the saturation and Hue to the right, and the lightness to the left.
Another Way to do this by using stock photography of smoke. I took a stock photograph of smoke against a black background, and like the texture behind the Obama, you can set the blending mode to screen to get rid of the black background. I used a black brush to darken the smoke at the edges, and resized and changed the coloring.
Conclusion That’s all folks. If you give this tutorial try yourself, please feel free to leave a comment with a link to the image below. You can find the little Obama logo on his own download webpage. I’m including the PSD for this tutorial as well.