Create Stunning Geometric Light Effects in Pixelmator



Difficulty: Advanced



This week we set out to create a scene where we mix a photographic element with a imaginary environment surrounding it. Making a standard photo look a part of this world we create is a building block for great photo manipulation. Since this is a more advanced tutorial you'll need to know how to cut out people or objects in photos, how layer masks work, and be comfortable with Layers period. That said we'll break down the elements that make up this scene so you can take these techniques and ideas and apply them in your own projects!

geometric final

Step 1 - Cut out Image

First you'll need to find a subject to cut out, someone doing an action, jumping running, in this case this picture was taken by Elvert Barnes who allowed us to use the pic for this tutorial, thanks Elvert!


This isn't a tutorial on cutting out objects, but one tip is using the lasso tool stay to the inside of the subject when selecting this will take away the halo effect that many cut out photos have.


Make sure to refine or feather the edges of your selection so it doesn't look like you used scissors to cut him out!


Finally go to Edit > Invert Selection and delete the background.


Step 2 - Background

Before we move on, remember to put everything on it's own layer throughout the entire tutorial. Let's start building our backdrop by pulling a #373737 to Black radial gradient from the center of your canvas.


Next I wanted some cool, subtle clouds in the background so I found this picture of a burning car and positioned it where it would look best.


Next change the blending mode of the clouds to Soft Light so they are barely visible.


Step 3 - Pedestal

Now we'll make a neat focal point to our scene with a glowing pedestal. Start by making this oval with the Round Marquee tool and fill with white. (Option > CMD > F)


Give it a slight Zoom Blur to spread the pixels out a bit.


Finally add a Gaussian Blur as well to diffuse it in all directions.


We want some texture to our pedestal so go to Filter > Stylize > Noise and turn the noise up to about 56%.


Finally apply a Motion Blur of about 6 or 7px. I set the angle in this case to match closer to the wheels of the skateboard. Set it to what looks right for the subject you are working with.


Next using the Round Marquee tool again create this oval around the spot light we've just made and Hit SHIFT > CMD > O to apply a 2px white stroke.


Now duplicate this ring one time and apply a very slight Zoom blur to it. You'll notice on the original ring is brighter behind the skateboarder than in front. To achieve this effect simply add a layer mask to the original ring layer and fill it with black. This will cause the ring to totally disappear. Next use a white to transparent radial gradient to reveal it again, setting the gradient start point where you want the brightest effect and pull out till you get what you want.


To make it look like the skateboard is touching the surface we'll need to use a small soft round brush and paint a black drop shadow under the wheels. Finally turn down the opacity till it looks real.


Add a second, larger Drop Shadow using the same brush, then apply a slight gaussian blur to it and turn down the opacity.


Step 4 - Silloutte Effect

Now let's Command click on the thumbnail of the skateboarder layer to get it's shape and create two separate white and black fill layers behind the skateboarder layer.


Move the white fill layer up a pixel or two to create a highlighted edge on our guy here.


Now duplicate the skateboarder layer and move it behind the other two white and black fill layers. Then add a Zoom Blur to it, placing the targeting rope as shown.


Since we don't want the Zoom Blur everywhere, add a layer mask to it and fill with black.


To reveal the Zoom Blur again use your white to transparent radial gradient and pull from the center. This tones down and centralizes the effect a bit.


Finally with a soft brush erase the areas of the Zoom Blur as shown below.


Now add a new layer above all of the rest and change it's blending mode to "Overlay". Next take a 100px soft round brush, and using white brush over the areas shown below to lighten the clouds and portions of the pedestal and the Zoom Blur. Since we don't need to lighten the skateboarder, when your done click on the skateboarder's thumbnail to get the shape and delete this from the Lighten Layer we just brushed.


On a new layer above all of the rest pull a #36B8EF to #003E57 to transparent radial gradient from the very center and cover the entire canvas.


Change the gradient layers blending mode to Soft Light and you'll get a nice dramatic blue tint to our scene.


Now because this is a very dark scene we want the figure to be a silhouette but still have a three dimensional look to him. Here's how to achieve this. First go the original skateboarder layer and add a layer mask and fill the mask with black, causing it to disappear and reveal the black layer underneath.


Now for the cool part, with the black mask selected on the skateboarder layer, take a white 20-30px brush with the opacity set to about 55px. I'm using the Speckled Brushset you can download at the top of this tutorial, which have a nice grungy, airbrush quality to them. Start painting over the mask to begin slowly revealing the skateboarder layer again right along the edges of the figure.


Keep doing this until you've got the effect of light creeping around from behind the figure all around. Imagine how and where the light would show thru from behind. This allows us to have a silhouette effect but maintain the fact that this is a real 3D character.