Design, Techniques

Create a Cosmic XBOX using Custom Brushes

Space is one of the common environments used in design artworks.  It signifies futuristic, high-tech, unknown beauty, and provides an excellent canvas on which to design.  The contrast between light and dark is easily done against the void of space, and a variety of elements are available for design.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create some custom line brushes, and then apply them to a subject to create a cosmic design.  The line brushes, combined with some simple techniques in Photoshop, give the image a sense of motion and help bring the design together.

Hopefully you enjoy the tutorial, as always, we’re happy to take requests and we value your feedback!  Thanks for reading.

Tools Used:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Custom Brushes (Download)

Final Image Preview:

Step 1: Scene Setup

We will start the tutorial off by creating a new document in Photoshop; if Photoshop is already open you just need to press ‘CTRL N’ on the keyboard to bring up the new document dialog box. Once you have the new document dialog box up we can setup our scene at 1690*2535.

Now that we have a new document created we need to begin setting up the background. We can start by going to DA and getting a star field stock:
*note if you know how to make your own star field it is suggested to do so.
Once you have the above stock downloaded we just need to drop it into our document to continue on. The orientation of the stock doesn’t really matter, just move it around so none of the original white background layer is visible.

Once the star field stock has been moved into your current document we can start adding some color into the background. We can do this by pressing ‘CTRL SHIFT N’ on the keyboard to create a new layer. Once we have a new layer made we will press ‘B’ on the keyboard to bring up the brush tool, which we will set to the standard 300px soft brush. Once you have your brush equipped we can go ahead and grab a dark and a light green and just draw all over the canvas, once your doodling is complete we can apply a Gaussian blur with a radius of 125. Your screen should look similar to mine in the below screenshot once you have applied the blur.

We can now change the blending mode and layer opacity for our green layer. Set your layer as a soft light with opacity of 30-40%. You can repeat this step as many times as you like, each time will bring in more color depth, you can also just use plain black and white to add more atmosphere to the background, but it’s up to you.
Once all of that is done we can move on to the Xbox, we can get a stock image of an Xbox off of Microsoft’s web site:
Once you have the Xbox you can place it in your document just as we did before and we will begin isolating the Xbox out. Once you drag your Xbox into your document, you will need to free transform it by pressing ‘CTRL T’ on the keyboard; you want it to be a little bit smaller than the canvas. Since the Xbox is essentially a box, the isolation is extremely simple. We will start our isolation by pressing ‘E’ on the keyboard to bring up the eraser tool and then right clicking and setting our eraser up like the below screenshot.

With your eraser set up we can use it to go around the edges and eraser all of the white that we can, don’t get over zealous with this step however, we will be using the magic wand tool for everything close to the Xbox.

Once you have erased a significant portion of the Xbox we can then use the magic wand tool along with a layer mask to finish the isolation. To enable the wand tool press ‘W’ on your keyboard, then we can set the tolerance for 35 and click the white that remains. With the white selected we will then press ‘CTRL SHIFT I’ to select the inverse of what is selected. Now once only the Xbox is selected we can apply a layer mask by going to the layer menu and clicking the icon that looks like a square with a circle in it. The only thing that should remain after the mask is applied is the Xbox itself, If you are only seeing the white go ahead and press ‘CTRL I’ on the keyboard to invert the mask.

Now we can press ‘CTRL T’ on our keyboard to enable the free transform tool again, this time we will size it down to about half of its size so it looks like the below screenshot.

Once you have sized your Xbox you can apply some brushes to give the appearance is if the Xbox is fading away. This step is optional but I would suggest that you try and see if you like your result. So to start off you’re going to need some abstract shaped brushes or splatters, if you don’t have any or have the means of making them they can be easily found on the net. With your brush in hand you just need to select black as your color on the layer mask and apply the brush, its best to work in a low opacity at first before you erase out an entire chunk of the Xbox. My result looks like the below screenshot.

Now we need to darken the back end of our Xbox. To do this we could use the burn tool (‘R’ on your keyboard) but sense its effects are almost irreversible we will stick with just using a black brush. So we will start off by making a new layer, to do this press ‘CTRL SHIFT N’ on the keyboard. Once you have a new layer on top of your Xbox layer grab your brush tool and apply the below settings.

Set your brush color to black and set the opacity for your brush to about 35%; then just paint away. It’s should only take a few quick clicks, once you have clicked a few times your Xbox’s lighting should look similar to mine in the below screenshot.

Step 2: Layer Styles and Lighting

We can now repeat the previous step on a new layer however this time we will use green. The idea here is that the Xbox’s power display symbols is illuminating the green light out; so try and keep it the brightest on the front panel and fade it out as you go back.

Now we can create another new layer and increase the brightness of the Xbox symbol. To do this we will press ‘CTRL SHIFT N’ on the keyboard to create a new layer and then set up your brush (‘B’ on the keyboard) like mine in the below screenshot.

Once you have your soft and small brush we will just trace the Xbox power symbol with a neon green color. Once that is done we will click the F symbol on the layer menu and select “Outer Glow”. When the layer menu comes up set your outer glow up as mine is in the below screenshot. This will be the main layer style we use in the piece, so we will be applying the same outer glow to more layers as we go on.

Once you apply your layer style your layer should look similar to mine in the below screenshot. If your doesn’t look right or you don’t like the way it looks try applying a small Gaussian blur with a radius of about 4-7, you can also decrease your layers opacity of it doesn’t look right.

Now we can duplicate this layer and apply a Gaussian blur with a radius of 3. Once you have applied the filter you can press ‘CTRL SHIFT F’ on the keyboard and select screen at 100%.

Step 3: Custom Brush Creation

We can start off this section by pressing ‘CTRL N’ on the keyboard, once the new document dialog comes up set your width and height to 2500*2500. With the new document created we can press ‘G’ on the keyboard to enable the fill tool and fill the background layer with black. Now we can press ‘CTRL SHIFT N’ on the keyboard to create a new layer which will be our brush/light trail layer. So once the new layer has been created press ‘M’ on your keyboard to enable the marquee tool; with the marquee tool enabled create a very thin line and fill it with the neon green we used before.

Now we can press ‘CTRL SHIFT D’ to deselect the line we create and star using the shear filter. The shear filter is a very interesting and powerful filter that allows you to manipulate objects based on a symmetrical line. To apply a shear filter we will go to the layer tab and select “Filter”>”Distort”>”Shear”. Now a dialog box should appear with a vertical line. We will click the line to create points and then move the points around these points will in turn move our thin line around. So go ahead and create an S shape out of the line as I did in the below screenshot.

Once you click “OK” your line should be in the shape of an S. To finish it off we will grab the soft 300px standard eraser, which is ‘E’ on the keyboard, and lightly erase the edges of the S causing them to fade.

Now we can hide that layer and repeat the process of making a new layer along with a new line. We are going to hide the layer by clicking the eye icon on the layer menu; we are hiding the layer so that we can go back later and make brushes out of them or drag them straight into the Xbox document.
This time we will be creating a new shape for our line with the shear filter. So once you have the shear filter up go ahead and click “defaults”, this will remove all of our points from the previous shear session and allow us to start off fresh. Once you have set it back to default go ahead and set your shear filter up like mine is in the below screenshot.

Now you can press “Ok” and erase the edges/tips as we did before. And then just hide the layer so we can access it again later.

The next few steps are extremely similar we will just be making more lines and using different shear’s to produce new outcomes. Keep in mind when doing the next few steps that you need to erase the tips and hide your layers!

Now we repeat all of these steps again, this time with your shear filter set up like the below screenshot.

Your result should look like:

Now let’s change our line width to produce a thicker line.

Now we can try two lines side by side to produce a different effect.

Now just repeat what we have done in this section about 10 times or so to create your own brushes/lines that we can drag into the Xbox document. But be sure to experiment as much as possible to produce some different line effects. For example, the following screenshots are the last line we created I just used the perspective tool (“Edit”>”Transform”>”Perspective”) and then the twirl filter (“Filter”>”Distort”>”Twirl”).

Once you have create a nice stack of hidden layers it’s time to decide what to do next, do you want to convert these into brushes or do you want to drag and drop them into your Xbox document. I just dropped mine into the Xbox document however I will show you how to turn these into brushes in the next two short steps.

Step 3.2: Converting the curved lines into brushes.

To create a brush we need to first invert the original background layer to white rather than it being white. To invert the layer back to white we just need to press ‘CTRL I’ on the keyboard, but you must be on the background layer when you do this!
Once that is done unhide one of your lines and press ‘M’ on the keyboard to enable the marquee tool. With the marquee tool enabled all you need to do is make a selection going around our line like in the below screenshot.

Once you have made a selection around your line you need to go to the edit tab and select “Define brush preset” and you should see a dialog box appear. Once you name your brush and press “Ok” your done! Keep in mind thought that there is a size limit to how large your brushes can be (2500*2500).

Step 4: Applying our lines to the Xbox

Since in the previous step we did not create the exact same lines and you created your own, the next few steps will be only on how to apply these lines and bring them together with our Xbox.

Ok to start off we can drag (or brush) one of our lines in and immediately apply the outer glow from our previous steps. We can copy our previous outer glow style by simply dragging it onto the new line layer. Once that is done we just need to connect the line to the power symbol. The idea here is that the lines coming off the power symbol are actual beams of light similar to a high speed photograph. So simply press ‘V’ on the keyboard to enable the move tool and then just move your line until it goes over the power symbol or until it meets it.
Keep in mind that not every brush will have the exact orientation that you want; there may be times that you will need to free transform (‘CTRL T’) or only use a small section of your line.

It’s a good idea that once you have connected the brush to the power symbol that you go ahead and zoom in and delete any of the line that is intersecting the power symbol; any standard soft eraser will do fine, I used the 50px soft edged for this.

Now we can continue applying more and more lines. Keep in mind that while the bulk of the lines should be on our right side, some can stray off to the other side’s as well.

You will notice in the above screen shot that my lines seem to have a splinter effect, where it appears as if more lines are coming off the main line. This is an effect we are looking for and I will show you how to create in the next few short steps.

Step 4.2: Splintering the light lines

This is actually a very easy process that is achieved by taking one of our lines and sizing it down. So to start off choose a main line that we will be splintering off of as well as another line which will become the splinter. Once you have decided on your line choices we can free transform (‘CTRL T’ on your keyboard) the splinter line and place it so that it is intersecting the main line. Once that is done we can just erase out what we don’t want and repeat the process!

Now you just to continue doing this process, however keep in mind that we want these to be sporadic not uniform; so change your splinters up and experiment. Also keep in mind that if you want you can easily apply the layer style from the main line over to the splinter line.

Step 4.3: Continuing the lines and creating sparks

So now we can continue adding in new lines and new splinters.

Once you have added a significant amount of lines we can start on our sparks. We will be creating two different sparks, one being matted and the other brushed with a custom brush.
Custom brush
To start the custom brush method, just create a new layer and apply the main layer style to it. Once you done that press ‘B’ on the keyboard and set your brush up like the following screenshot.

Set your scatter up so it is set to scatter on both axes at 500% with the control set to fade.
Now just draw around your lines with a green color to create sparks! If you don’t like the way the sparks look now you can use the smudge tool (‘R’ on the keyboard) to give them what will appear as movement.

Matte paint a spark
To draw your sparks as I have done is fairly simple. All you need to do is create a new layer (‘CTRL SHIFT N’ on your keyboard) and then grab the standard size 3px hard brush. With this brush just make a sphere and then draw curved lines coming off it. You can of course apply the layer style to this layer as well as smudge it if you like. Just keep in mind that it should be relatively small and that the lines should look sporadic.

Now just finish adding all your lines, splinters and sparks and we are done with this step! If you want to add a little bit extra you can take the size 3px brush with the opacity set to 25% and just draw waves and splinters coming off your sparks/lines. My end result looks like the below screenshot.

Step 5: Extra bits: Drips and logo glow

This entire step is optional, I chose to do it because I wanted to add some extra stuff to mine before I finished it, but you don’t have to if you like the way it looks now then leave it!
The drips are easily painted the same way the sparks where done. So to start the drips off create a new layer and equip the size 3 brush yet again.

With the brush in hand just zoom in and begin drawing the drips as if they are coming off of the power symbol. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that the power symbol is indented into the Xbox so there will be a lip when our drips flow out.

Now if you want you can add more as if its leaking off the bottom of the Xbox as I have done in the below screenshot.

Xbox logo glow
To make our Xbox text/logo appear as if it’s glowing is almost identical to how we made the power symbol glow. We will create another new layer and then grab a small soft brush set to 75% opacity.

Now just trace the text that appears on the CD tray for the Xbox. Once you have done that apply our layer style and add a Gaussian blur with a radius of 4. Set the opacity for this layer at about 50% and set then blending mode to overlay.

Then duplicate it and set it at screen with an opacity of 100%.

I also decided to add in some space debris as well as add in some more star fields, if you don’t know how to create either you can find both on the net by searching on Google or the resource section of DA.

Step 6: Closing

We are done! Well not yet, we need to save our document and do some final adjustments. So once you have saved your document go ahead and merge all your layers down by pressing ‘CTRL SHIFT E’ on the keyboard. Once you have merged all the layers go ahead and duplicate our new layer and apply a Gaussian blue (“Filter”>”Blur”>”Gaussian blur”) with a radius of 2.5. Set this layer to soft light and set the opacity to 35%. Now duplicate your soft light layer and set its blending mode to lighten and its opacity to 100%. Now we can duplicate the soft light layer one more time this time set the opacity to 35% and set the blending mode to color dodge.

Now merge all your layers again (‘CTRL SHIFT E’ on the keyboard) and apply a sharpen filter twice. Once you have sharpened your document we can size it down by going to the image drop down and selecting “Image size”. Set your image size to 800*1200 and apply one last sharpen, now we are really done! My end result looks like the below screenshot. I hope you enjoyed the tutorial, learned something along the way and created an image you like!


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