3D, Design, Illustration, Photomanipulation, Techniques

Create a Cosmic Space Girl 3D Photo Illustration

In this tutorial, we’ll be putting together a variety of techniques from previous tutorials, including a 3D wireframe from our Liquid Explosion artwork tutorial, custom brushes from our Wild Effects with Custom Brushes tutorial, as well as some new techniques involving photographs, textures and fractals.  Combining techniques is one of the best ways to achieve varied and interesting results in your digital art, and it really helps with your experimentation and creative process when you can rely on a variety of techniques.

This tutorial is jam-packed with techniques and tips for you to apply, so let’s get to it!

Tools Used:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • 3DS Max (not required)
  • Fractal stocks, you can supplement your own

Final Image Preview:

Step 1: Background creation

Ok so to start off we need to create our document. You will need to base this off of your stock image size. I will be using a 2000*3000 size canvas, but you can use whatever you like. Once you have your document open fill it with black and create a new layer. Fill the new layer with black just as we did the first layer.

Now we need to apply a noise filter which will be the base for our stars. To do this go to “Filter”>”Noise”>”Add Noise” and set yours up as mine is in the below screen shot.

Your star field should look something like the below screenshot now.

Our next step is to edit the levels for our star field. Doing this will get rid of the grey stars and help open up some negative space so they don’t look so clustered and awful. So go ahead and press “CTRL L” on your keyboard to open up your level editor and set yours up as mine is in the below screenshot. The three triangles are in order of right to left, black level, gray level and the white level. I have moved the grey level over closer to the black level. This will result in the grays becoming whiter. The white level was then moved to closer to the grey level which means the white spots have become even whiter.

Your star field should now look something like mine in the below screenshot.

Go ahead and click the layer mask button on your layer tab, it should look like a square with a circle in the middle. Now we can apply another filter, this time one called “Difference clouds”. Basically it will render some cloud like blobs in black and white causing our stars to only be seen where the white clouds are on the layer mask. To apply this filter click “Filter”>”Render”>”Difference clouds”. Your results should look something like the below screenshot, however keep in mind that the difference cloud filter is randomly generated.

Now you can adjust the levels and play with other filters to get something that suits you. I used a small 3px hard brush with white and painted some brighter stars to go with my noise stars. The stars I painted are the same size as my noise stars so it’s just basically putting a random dot on your canvas if you wanted to do this.

Now we can create a new layer above the star layers. Once you have done that grab any brush you like (a standard 100px hard brush will work fine) and select two colors. I went with pink and blue as they work very well together. Once you have done this use this brush with these colors and draw all over the canvas as I have done in the below screenshot.

Now we can apply a Gaussian blur with a radius of 250 twice. Then set the layer opacity to 15%. Now we can repeat this step on another layer.

Now we will repeat the above process again, this time rather than leaving the layer mode as normal we will change it to screen or color dodge with an opacity ranging from 50-100% depending upon how many additional layers you create. This can be applied as many times as you like, I did mine about 2 more times and also incorporated yellow into the my two colors. Also when doing this be sure that your layers are above the previously created normal layers otherwise this will not work!

Step 2: Figure Incorporation

Alright we need to grab a stock image. You can use whatever image you like. The image I’m using is from shutterstock, you can see it in the below screenshot.

Once you have your figure it’s time to start the isolation process. Now when isolating your figure, it’s incredibly important that you get all of the background off the figure. If you fail to do this properly your image will look terrible no matter what effects you apply. So its imperative that you get this right. This is why I will not demonstrate my isolation, you need to isolate out your stock the way you are most accustomed to do. But, in case you’re curious, I used a layer mask and painted over my figure.

Next we can apply a dust and scratches filter. This is not required but it’s something I thought helped the image. By applying the dust and scratch filter it smooth’s out the skin and gives it almost a painted look. If you want to apply this filter it is located in the noise section of your filter drop down.

The filter gives a result like the screen shot below.

Step 3: Wire frame integration

Ok, so now it’s time to get some wireframes! You could, painstakingly draw out the lines yourself or you could reference a previous tutorial and change a few of the settings. So, we will be referencing. If you have not read our tutorial located at http://design.creativefan.com/create-a-stunning-3d-liquid-explosion-artwork/ then I suggest you go ahead and read up on it!

Once your figure is dropped into 3DS and you have applied a material, try to line it up with your stock image. It doesn’t have to be perfect (see below image) but as long as the basic pose is somewhat close you should be fine.

Now we have two new options. Render the scene using the scanline setting with forced wireframe turned ON or apply a new wireframe material.

I went with the force wireframe since it gives you more control over the wires themselves but you can do whatever you like.
Now just render the scene and save it as a png!
My render came out looking like the below image.

Now depending on your pose you will want to incorporate this in different ways. But below I will describe how I approached and finished the incorporation.

Start off by dropping your wireframe in and placing it so it covers the figure (size it using the free transform tool if needed). Once that is done erase everything but the shoulder/neck area.

Now that we have the shoulders dropped in we can throw some on the neck and in various other places. You can vary the opacity if you like but that’s really the only major adjustment you should have to do. Once you have finished that we can move on to our eye. The eye will become one of two epicenters or dynamic spots for the piece. To create the base for our epicenter on the eye we can drop in a section of the wireframe. I used a section of the top of the head, a piece of the nose and of course the eye. Drop in sections that you like and that fit your scene and then we can continue on, keep in mind that you may want to reduce the opacity of some of the sections so it doesn’t get too cluttered.

Step 4: Fractal implementation and coloring

Ok so now we need to head out to DA to grab two wonderful and free fractal packs. Both created by Greentunic, so much props to him for creating such a wonderful pack and allowing the community to use it.
Pack #2
Pack #3

Once you have downloaded and extracted both packs it’s time to choose your first fractal. I went with a very nice one in pack #3 and would suggest you do the same.

Once you have opened up your fractal you can apply a quick auto color adjustment (CTRL + SHIFT + B) and place it on the eye. Set your blending mode to screen and then just erase anything you don’t like. I erased 90% of the original fractal, only leaving behind the cool hook looking shapes.

Next just grab a few of the curve like areas on the fractal and place them all over your image. I placed mine at the base of the neck and in her hair. Make sure that you don’t leave any hard edges when doing this thought!

Next we can go back to our eye and start building it up. Grab a splatter brush and drop in a few splats here and there in a color that you prefer, I went with yellow since it was so abundant on the eye and would meld well with the eye. Once you have applied the splat set this new layers opacity to 50% and the blending mode to overlay.

Next we can head over to CGtextures to grab a brush stroke. The brush stroke is located at: http://cgtextures.com/login.php?&texid=10476&destination=texview.php?id=10476&PHPSESSID=f33d4d18c63594dcdb4ca05c7dc1aef0
Once you have it go ahead and quickly make a brush out of it. If you don’t know how to do this you can reference a previous tutorial located at: http://design.creativefan.com/combining-custom-brushes-for-wild-effects-in-photoshop/

Once you have created your new brush you can apply one in blue and place it at the base of the eye. Then do it once more using yellow. Set this layer to overlay and we can continue on. Keep in mind you don’t have to use blue and yellow, you can choose whatever colors work best with your stock or colors you like the most.

Next we can another brush from a stock image at CGtextures, this time the stock link is: http://cgtextures.com/login.php?&texid=10916&destination=texview.php?id=10916&PHPSESSID=f33d4d18c63594dcdb4ca05c7dc1aef0

Once you have made a brush place it in black right underneath the eye. Then just grab a few of the far edges of the splatter to make your eyelashes for the opposite eye.

Next we can create a new layer and repeat the method we applied to color the BG to the eye in blue and yellow.
I then went on to use the 3px brush tool to paint in some details, for instance I connected the yellow fractal to the nose and painted a new eye. But these are not necessary.

Next we can create another new layer and grab our 3px brush (or larger if you like). Now you want to just to place a few random white dots where the wireframe intersects. Meaning, choose a few spots where the vertical lines hit horizontal lines and place a dot. You can do this as many times as you like but I would stay away from cluttering them together. This can (and should) be applied to the shoulder area as well as the neck.

Now we can move on to our additional coloring. To do this we will start off by choosing any color (I went with a darker blue) and painting over half of the canvas on a new layer, be sure not to cover the face though!

Next we can apply a Gaussian blur and set the layer to overlay, keep your opacity between 15-35% so it doesn’t appear oversaturated. Now we can create another new layer, use the same color and apply the effect to that side of the face. Why use two layers for this? Well really you could use one but using two allows you to control the opacity with much more ease. Say for instance at 20% opacity your BG looks great but the face is oversaturated, well this is why we use two layers!
I set my face overlays opacity to 20%.

Now do the same effect (on two layers) to the opposite side of the face using a new color. This time I went with a pinkish color, I really like the way pink and cyan complement one another, but you can use whatever color you like.

Step 5: Wireframe touchups and fractals continued

Now it’s time to start making pieces of our wireframe stand out more. To do this you could use the line tool/pen tool or the brush tool. The choice is up to you and what your more comfortable with. I went with the 3px brush as its easier for me then the pen tool. Once you have decided on your method go ahead and look at your wireframe. Look for shapes that sort of ‘pop out’, its more than likely going to look like squares or triangles. I went with the squares and lightly outlined these to make them more visible, this is exactly what you need to do. Just do it randomly all over. I started with the eye and then did the neck and shoulders.

Now go back over your shapes and brighten them up if you feel that they need to be brightened, you can use the shadows as a guideline here. Lines that are in the brighter areas of the face should obviously be much brighter then lines in the shadows. You can also add dots to your squares/triangles if you like now.

Now we can move on to the base of the neck, where I figure ends and space starts. This is where we will add in much more fractals. So open up your two packs and grab a few and start placing them around with a screen blending mode. I started off using two images from pack # 3.

Be sure to use a soft edged eraser when doing this so you don’t have any hard edges!
To finish off the neck I just added in a few more fractals with random color. Varying your color will bring a new dynamic to your piece and is something you should defiantly do.

Now we can grab a fractal from pack #2.

What you want to do here is grab a few of the glowing sparks that are not clustered. Once you have these selected with your marquee tool just copy and paste them all over your canvas. These will be the random super stars if you will. Be sure to vary their opacity as well thought!

Also double check that you have no hard edges!

Step 6: Constellation building and completion

Ok so now we can move on to our constellations. To create the constellations grab your line tool and set it up as mine is in the below screen shot.

Once you have done that create a new layer and look at your stars. Look for any random shapes and then just draw the lines using the line tool to connect these stars!

Once you have drawn the lines right click and select stroke, once the dialog appears select ‘brush’.

Be sure when doing this you have your brush set up the way you want (I used the 3px)!
Now hit ok and the lines will appear!
Repeat this process all over your BG. Be sure not to cluster them up too much though. Once you have all your constellations drown out and stroked set the layers opacity to about 45%.

And now we are done! I added in a few painted details to finish mine and you can as well or you can add anything you think would look cool for that matter. My final image looks like the below screen shot.

I hope you enjoyed reading my tutorial and wound up with an image you like! Or came out with knowing a few new tricks! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.
Also, if you have any ideas for future tutorials please say so!


  1. Great work! I was just wondering… how long does it take you to complete an art like this from scratch including conceptualization to finished outcome? Thanks for sharing a detailed tutorial, might try this one day :)

    1. This piece took about 4/5 days to create. I usually like to work longer on them but when im doing a tut i have around 4/5 days to create the image and then 2/3 days to write it up so it gets posted in time.

      Thank you! :)

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