Zombie Hand: Photoshop Tutorial

I have been asked several times over the years, “how do you do it?” and I never really had an answer for people. A friend of mine had suggested that I start documenting my creation process so that I can offer tutorials… Well, here goes!

Step 1: The Concept!

Without a concept to start, there is no direction. I knew what the overall image would look like and what it’s final purpose would be before I even jumped in to photoshop.

Step 2: The Settings

It is very rare that I will use any tool in photoshop without changing or tweeking the settings for it. This is no exception!

brush settings

pen pressure settings

As you can see, I adjusted the Angle, Roundness, Hardness, Spacing and set the Size Jitter and Angle Jitter to “pen pressure”.

I know what you’re thinking… “why change the angle and size in the main brush settings if it will be controlled by the pen?”

Good question! The answer is simple. So my mouse will behave in the same way should I choose to use it.

Brush Shape Dynamics On

Here you can see the difference from the standard brush to our custom settings.

Our new settings give the brush a more natural feel with different weights and angles depending on how we move our pen.
Play with your settings to get a look and feel that you like.

Step 3: The Sketch

Now that we have our settings under control, let’s sketch.

I start by creating a new layer labeled “ROUGH SKETCH” and setting the main opacity to 75%. This will allow me the freedom of not being too committed to lines that I put down. Kind of like doing a light sketch on paper.

At this point, we are not concerned with getting any details in to the sketch since we are only blocking in the shapes.

Once we are happy with the overall feel of the sketch, it’s time to clean it all up. I begin by creating a new layer above my “rough sketch” called “OUTLINE” and keeping the opacity set to 100%.

Begin to “trace” over the initial sketch with some tighter, finer lines and details will start to emerge in our image.

At this point, it is a good idea to get the eraser tool out (hardness set to 100%) and clean up as you go. When all is good, turn off the “rough sketch” layer and view only the final “outline”.

Step 4: Coloring

Create a new layer called “hand base” and move it under the “outline” layer. Now we simply choose a color to start with (I went with a greenish, dead like thing) and start coloring in the between the lines, just like in the 1st grade!

Next we go to the HSB Color Slider (Window > Color or F6 on a pc) and adjust the slides until we have a nice lighter version of our original color.

Create a new layer above the “hand base” layer and name it “hand highlights”.

[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”theR3AP3R” quotestyle=”style04″] Pro Tip: CTRL+CLICK on the base skin layer to create a selection from it. This will keep your shading limited to the selected area of the hand only! [/sws_blockquote_endquote]

Begin filling in the light areas of the hand. I generally block them in with a hard brush and kind of just “sketch in” where they would fall in large chunks. Once again, don’t get too bogged down with details.. we’ll get to those later!

Keep your light source in mind and make sure you stick to it! If you haven’t thought about lighting yet, now is the time!

The lighting for this image would be in the top left corner, slightly behind the hand. This will cause shadows to fall to the bottom right in front of the hand.

Using the same methods as above, I select a darker color for our shadows and fill those in on a layer called “hand shadows”.

For this image, I am going with more of a cartoon feel, so I don’t want my darks to get “too dark!”

[singlepic id=251 w=320 h=240 float=center]
[singlepic id=252 w=320 h=240 float=center]
Step 5: Smudging Darkness

Not bad so far!

But our image is missing that visual “punch” we need to get our shadows to pop a little more.

Create a new layer above the “hand highlights”, call it “Hand darkest shade” and eye drop our darkest color. Go to the HSB color slider and bring it down to a very dark shade of green… NOT BLACK! Shadows are not black, they are darker shades of the original color.

Now with a brush set to 50% hardness, start fleshing out the darkest parts of the hand (the deep creases that will begin to give us some volume).

Once you are happy with the new shading, select the Blur tool and start blurring the edges of where the highlights, shadow and darkest shadows meet. This will give our lighting a more natural feel.

Enter The Smudge!

The smudge tool will be your new best friend.

Use it to push and pull your highlights and shadows in to fine lines and points. This method of blending is often easier then trying to achieve finer details with the brush.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat…

After achieving a state of happiness with the skin tones for the hand, we simply repeat all of the steps for the next part of the image which will be the sleeve.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="100" caption="Base Color"]Base Color[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="100" caption="Base Shadow"]Sleeve Shadow[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="100" caption="Darkest shadows"]sleeve darkest shadows[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="100" caption="Cast Shadow"]sleeve cast shadow[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="100" caption="Sleeve Highlights"]Sleeve Highlights[/caption]

The Final Image

Zombie Hand Final

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