Tutorial: Creating Racing Snail with PixelSquid
Create a New Layer below the Sci-fi Engine Levels Adjustment Layer you just created, and set the Blend Mode to Soft Light. Now, take a Soft Brush and draw a light black shade below the snail shell with a Covering Power of 15%. The opacity of the layer should be around 78%. We also need a second engine shadow layer above the machine level.
Now we take a bigger Soft Brush with 15% opacity, and draw the shadow on the edge between the snail shell and the machine. Create a Mask and remove the superfluous black on the machine.
Now we can produce the smoke with a PixelSquid object called smoke thick volcano. Position it and create a Mask for this layer as well, and remove unnecessary spots as shown on the picture.
Create a Levels Adjustment Layer as a Clipping Mask for this object as well:
Now we create a New Layer, and fill it with a flame texture and a Mask, removing the superfluous flame parts.
Above that, we can help the Brightness/Contrast with another Adjustment Layer:
Merge Layers (all) again, and open the Oil Paint Filter. Set the properties as shown in the picture below. The opacity for this layer should not exceed 30%.
Post-processing the Merged Image
Now we need a light cloud texture. For this, I took a photo of a cloudy sky, placed it above the image and masked it, so that no hard transitions can be seen.
Now we copy the layer and mirror it vertically for the bottom half. The masking should be adjusted here. The transparency of the layers are as follows: top layer: 12% opacity, bottom layer: 21% opacity.
For the Dodge and Burn action, we need a New Layer in Overlay Mode and 57% opacity. For this, use the Dodge and Burn Tool and set the Exposure to 12%.
Now we will use the Dodge and Burn Tool to lighten the bright areas and darken the dark areas accordingly. Set the transparency for this layer to 55%.
Finally, we have to merge all layers and perform the RAW Development once again (shown earlier in the tutorial). The transparency for this layer, should only be 65%.
And there you have it: a perfectly surreal composition using PixelSquid and Photoshop!
Michael Wandrey is a Dusseldorf-based part-time photographer and digital image editor who started working with Photoshop roughly 20 years ago. Since discovering PixelSquid, he has used it in almost all of his subsequent compositions. His Racing Snail composition was recently featured in the 2019 edition of PhotoshopBIBEL.