Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design > Adobe Creative Suite

Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers: Playing with Photographs

📄 Contents

  1. Going Down in Flames
  2. A Hollywood Parody
In this chapter from Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers, Volume 2, Corey Barker takes photos from some of well known photographers and runs them through the creative ringer to see what comes out.
This chapter is from the book

A Photographer/Designer Collaboration

During my time at KelbyOne, I have developed numerous relationships with prominent photographers around the world, and often find myself asking them to use their images for ideas I get when I look at their work. So, I thought it would make a good chapter in the book to use photos from some of these fantastic photographers, run them through the creative ringer, and see what comes out. The photographers who have so kindly agreed to allow us to use their images here are Glyn Dewis, Dave Clayton, and Moose Peterson. So, if you don’t do much shooting, then become friends with people that do. Most of the time, they are all too eager to give you images, or even sell them cheap, to see something cool done with them.

Going Down in Flames

My friend, and fellow Photoshop World instructor, Moose Peterson is most well known for his wildlife photography, but he also does some amazing aviation photography, especially with vintage war planes. Well, after seeing a couple of his images, I was inspired to make something interesting with them. It really gives you a good idea of how to look at a simple photo a little differently. Thanks, Moose!


Start by pressing Command-N (PC: Ctrl-N) and creating a new document measuring 1000 pixels wide by 1500 pixels tall at 125 ppi. Then, press Shift-Delete (PC: Shift-Backsapce) to open the Fill dialog, choose Black from the Use pop-up menu, and click OK to fill the background with black.


Once the main file is created, open the cloud movie file. (Yes, you can actually snag workable stills from video files here in Photoshop.) In the Timeline panel (under the Window menu), click on the playhead and scrub through the video until you find a frame you like, and then stop. All you need to do now is copy-and-paste or click-and-drag the image into the main layout.


Click to view larger image



Now, in some cases, video files may be small in dimensions like this one. In this case, it is merely an abstract sky background, so I do not mind greatly resizing the image to fit. Just press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T) to bring up Free Transform. Notice, here, I also slightly rotated and positioned the clouds for the best composition. When you’re done, press Return (PC: Enter) to commit the change. Now we have a nice sky backdrop, but it needs a couple quick tweaks. These next couple steps aren’t entirely necessary, but since I am all about detail, why not?


Press-and-hold the Command (PC: Ctrl) key and click on the Create a New Layer icon at bottom of the Layers panel. This will place the new blank layer under the current layer.


Click on the Foreground color swatch at the bottom of the Toolbox and, in the Color Picker, set the RGB settings to R: 86, G: 112, B: 138. Click OK. Then, press Option-Delete (PC: Alt-Backspace) to fill the blank layer with this new color. Then, click back on the cloud layer and drop its Opacity to 75%.


Click on the blue-filled layer again, then click on the Add a Layer Style icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Gradient Overlay. Set the Blend Mode to Overlay and make sure the Style is set to Linear. Click OK. The enhancements here are subtle, but this lessens the contrast while maintaining a subtle coolness in the sky.


Click back on the cloud layer and make a duplicate of it by pressing Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J). Press Command-Shift-U (PC: Ctrl-Shift-U) to remove the color from the duplicate layer, then change its layer blend mode to Overlay and drop its Opacity to 50%.


Double-click on the layer to open the Blending Options. In the Blend If section at the bottom, Option-click (PC: Alt-click) on the black Underlying Layer slider knob and drag it to the right to split the knob. This will allow some of the darker areas of the layer below to show through a little more. Click OK.


Click on the original cloud layer in the Layers panel, make another duplicate of it, and move it to the top of the layer stack. Press Command-Shift-U (PC: Ctrl-U) to remove the color, then change its layer blend mode to Soft Light and drop its Opacity to 50%. Now, go under the Image menu, under Adjustments, and choose Hue/Saturation. Turn on the Colorize checkbox, set the Hue to 360 and the Saturation to 30, then click OK. This will place a red cast over the image and will warm up the overall feel of the background sky. Now let’s add a plane.

STEP 10:

Here’s where we make it interesting. We have a shot here taken by Moose. When I saw this image, it just hit me what I wanted to do with it. First, we need to extract the plane from this background. So, start by pressing Command-A (PC: Ctrl-A) to select the entire canvas area.


Click to view larger image


STEP 11:

Now, get the Quick Selection tool (W) from the Toolbox. Here’s yet another approach to selecting, in some cases, I have found a little easier: Since the entire canvas is already selected, we are going to select by subtraction. So, press-and-hold the Option (PC: Alt) key and then start painting over the plane. You will see the selection appear to conform to the plane, but we are actually subtracting the plane from the selection. (Trust me, it will work.) Continue until the entire plane is deselected.

STEP 12:

Go under the Select menu and choose Inverse. This will flip the selection from the sky to the plane, but we’re not done yet.

STEP 13:

Get the Lasso tool (L) from the Toolbox, press-and-hold the Shift key, and draw selections around the areas of the blurred propeller (the Shift key lets you add to the existing selection). Don’t worry about being super-precise, but get as close as you can. Once you have all of the propeller areas selected, click on the Refine Edge button up in the Options Bar.

STEP 14:

Set the View pop-up menu to On Layers, which will show the transparency grid behind the selection. Then, with the Refine Radius tool (press the Left Bracket or Right Bracket key to change the size of the brush, if needed), paint over all the blue area around the propeller. Try to avoid getting in the area of the plane too much. When you’re done, you’ll see that Photoshop has magically erased the sky, leaving just the dark blur of the prop. Be sure to also paint in the area of the cockpit and any other areas where there might be some residual sky elements. Now, in the Adjust Edge section, increase the Contrast to 15, then, in the Output section, turn on the Decontaminate Colors checkbox, and choose New Layer from the Output To pop-up menu. Click OK when you’re done.

STEP 15:

Press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) a couple times to make a couple duplicates of this layer. This will fill in any subtle transparent edges that might have been created with Refine Edge. Then, Command-click (PC: Ctrl-click) to select all three layers and, from the Layers panel’s flyout menu, choose Merge Layers.

STEP 16:

You can now copy-and-paste or click-and-drag this image layer into the main file. Press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T) to bring up Free Transform and scale it to fit in the canvas, as you see here. I also rotated it slightly to the left. Press Return (PC: Enter) when you’re done.

STEP 17:

Let’s take care of any anti-alias noise that we might have picked up by going under the Layer menu to the very bottom, under Matting, and choosing Defringe. Set the Width to 1 pixel and click OK.

STEP 18:

Make a duplicate of this layer, press Command-Shift-U (PC: Ctrl-Shift-U) to remove the color, and then change the layer’s blend mode to Soft Light. Click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a white layer mask to this layer.

STEP 19:

Get the Gradient tool (G) from the Toolbox, then, in the Options Bar, choose the Foreground to Transparent gradient from the Gradient Picker and click on the Radial Gradient icon (the second icon to the right of the gradient thumbnail). Since the blend mode makes dark areas darker, with your Foreground color set to black, just add some random gradients in the areas on the plane that got too dark to lighten the effect.

STEP 20:

Press-and-hold the Command (PC: Ctrl) key and click on the top layer’s thumbnail to generate a selection in the shape of the plane. Create a new blank layer and press Shift-Delete (PC: Shift-Backspace) to open the Fill dialog. Choose 50% Gray from the Use pop-up menu and click OK. Press Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D) to Deselect.

STEP 21:

Change this layer’s blend mode to Hard Light and then get the Burn tool (press Shift-O until you have it) from the Toolbox. In the Options Bar, set the Range to Midtones and then set the Exposure to 25%. Now, paint in areas of the plane that should be darker to help adjust the contrast, so it seems to fit in with the lighting in the sky more.

STEP 22:

With the same gray layer active, click on the Add a Layer Style icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Inner Shadow. Set the Blend Mode to Vivid Light, then click on the color swatch and choose a hot orange color from the Color Picker, and click OK. Drop the Opacity to 25%, increase the Distance to 34 px and the Size to around 18 px, and then click on the image and drag to position the shadow manually. This will create a glow effect that will enhance the fire effects we’ll be adding in a minute.

STEP 23:

Now, get the Brush tool (B) from the Toolbox. For the fire effect, I am going to use a brush I created from a picture of a cloud. You can download this brush from the book’s companion webpage (mentioned in the book’s introduction) or use one that is similar. It just needs to be abstract with varying tones. With the brush selected, open the Brush panel (under the Window menu), click on Shape Dynamics on the left and set the Size Jitter to 100%. Then, choose Fade from the first Control pop-up menu, and set the Fade to 40. Also, set the Angle Jitter to 100%.

STEP 24:

Create a new document measuring 1500 pixels wide by 350 pixels tall at 125 ppi, and then create a new blank layer and turn off the Background layer (by clicking on the Eye icon to the left of it). Click on the Add a Layer Style icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Inner Glow. Set the Blend Mode to Hard Light, then click on the color swatch and choose a hot orange color from the Color Picker, and drop the Opacity to 75%.

STEP 25:

Now, click on Outer Glow in the Styles section on the left to turn it on. Here, set the Blend Mode to Screen, and then click on the color swatch and choose a bright red color from the Color Picker. Click OK.

STEP 26:

Press D, then X to set your Foreground color to white. Then, press-and-hold the Shift key (to paint in a straight line) and, starting on the left side of the canvas, click-and-drag to the right. You will instantly see a fire trail. Pretty cool, huh? Do this two or three times to build the effect, as seen here.

STEP 27:

Go back to the Brush panel and, in the Shape Dynamics options, choose Off from the first Control pop-up menu. Then, click on Transfer on the left to turn it on. Choose Pen Pressure from the first Control pop-up menu, if you’re using a pressure tablet. You can also choose Fade here and even adjust the Opacity Jitter amount above.

STEP 28:

Create a new blank layer and then press D, again, to set your Foreground color to black this time. Now, start painting in the smoke effect trailing off the fire effect. Just a few passes should do.

STEP 29:

Now, let’s blend these two elements. With the smoke layer still selected, double-click on it to open the Blending Options. In the Blend If section, Option-click on the white Underlying Layer slider knob and drag it to the left to split it. This will allow the lighter areas below to peek through, making the fire and smoke appear to blend naturally.

STEP 30:

Command-click on the fire layer to select both it and the smoke layer, then Right-click on one and choose Convert to Smart Object from the pop-up menu.

STEP 31:

Now, bring this fire trail over to the main design file (copy-and-paste or drag-and-drop it). Press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T) to bring up Free Transform, then click inside the bounding box, and choose Distort. Using the corner handles, reshape the object, so that the fire appears to be emerging from the exhaust vents and trails to the back. Notice how the smoke appears to whip around the tail wing, here?

STEP 32:

With Free Transform still active, Right-click inside the bounding box again, and choose Warp. Click inside the grid and drag down just a bit to give the fire trail a subtle curve, so it looks less straight and linear. Press Return (PC: Enter) to commit your transformation.

STEP 33:

Now, here is another layer style trick: Click on the Add a Layer Style icon and choose Outer Glow. Choose Overlay from the Blend Mode pop-up menu, then click on the color swatch and choose a hot orange color once again. Leave the Opacity set to 75% and increase the size to around 100 px. This will create a nice warm glow around the fire element.

STEP 34:

Next, let’s add some other special effects. Remember that particle brush we created in Chapter 1? If you didn’t create it, you can go and do that now, or you can use any particle brush you’d like. We are going to use this to create flying debris around the plane. Once the brush is selected, click on Brush Tip Shape on the left side of the Brush panel and set the size to around 175 px (this may vary depending on your document). Then, increase the Spacing to around 65%.

STEP 35:

Click on Shape Dynamics on the left, and set the Size Jitter and Angle Jitter to 100%. Then, click on Transfer on the left. Here, just increase the Opacity Jitter to 100%.

STEP 36:

Now, create a new blank layer at the top of the layer stack and then just use this brush to dab particles on different parts of the plane. Press X to toggle between the black and white colors to randomize the tones. Notice that I added some particles around the engine where the flames are coming out, and here, I’m adding some to the wing.

STEP 37:

Create another new blank layer and, from the Add a Layer Style icon’s pop-up menu, choose Inner Glow. Again, we want a hot orange color and set the blend mode to Hard Light. Also, lower the Opacity to around 60%.

STEP 38:

Now, click on Outer Glow on the left and, this time, choose a deeper orange, but set the Blend Mode to Hard Light. Also, drop the Opacity here to around 50%.

STEP 39:

We’re going to add some gun effects (they’re on the wings), so with the Brush tool selected, choose a standard round, soft-edged brush from the Brush Picker and set the size to be just a bit bigger than the guns themselves. With your Foreground color set to white, just dab in the three spots where the guns are located on the wing on the right. The layer style will add a hot glow around them.

STEP 40:

Get the Smudge tool from the Toolbox (it’s nested beneath the Blur tool) and then, in the Brush Picker in the Options Bar, click on the gear icon in the top right, choose Natural Brushes from the flyout menu, and just append this brush set. Choose the brush called Spray 56 Pixels. Set the Strength to 95% and turn on the Finger Painting checkbox.

STEP 41:

Now, click on each burst and drag in the direction they would be firing to create a muzzle flash. Again, the layer style will update the glow.

STEP 42:

Next, we’ll add some bullets. So, select a standard round, hard-edged brush from the Brush Picker. Then, in the Brush Tip Shape section of the Brush panel, drop the Roundness to 24% to make it more of an extreme oval. Then, increase the spacing all the way to 1000% and set the Size to around 15 px. Click on Shape Dynamics on the left and, under Angle Jitter, set the Control pop-up menu to Direction, so the dots will follow the direction of the brush.

STEP 43:

Create a new blank layer, click-and-drag it beneath the muzzle flash layer in the Layers panel, and change its blend mode to Overlay. Press D to set your Foreground and Background colors to their defaults of black and white, respectively. Press-and-hold the Shift key and click on the first burst, and then, using the flash line as guide, position the cursor at the edge of the image and click to paint the line. Do this for each flash to create an array of bullets.

STEP 44:

Get the Smudge tool, again. You can use the same brush tip we did a moment ago, but drop the Strength to around 50% and also turn off the Finger Painting checkbox in the Options Bar. Then, do the same as you did painting the bullets—press-and-hold the Shift key, click on one end, and then click on the other end. This will smear the bullets, creating a motion blur effect. I went ahead and made two passes on each line here.

STEP 45:

Now, let’s adjust the fire smart object. Double-click on the smart object thumbnail in the Layers panel to open the fire file. Using the same Smudge tool, smear the fire from left to right. Increase the brush size, so you can get it all, and do this to both layers. Save and close the file when you’re done and you will see the effect updated. Aren’t smart objects cool?!

To finish my overall design, I added a second plane with other smoke and fire effects. To see this how this part was created, watch an exclusive video tutorial over on the book’s companion webpage, mentioned in the book’s introduction.

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020