Jul 2011

Create Sparks in 5 Simple Steps

Last blog post I showed a piece painted to showcase a product’s manufacturing process which included a lot of dramatic sparks flying all over the place. Not only do the sparks have a nice glow, they flair out, curve, and even vary in size as they arc out into space.

The sparks were created in Photoshop using five simple steps. By the way, I did not invent this method. I first saw it demoed by Corey Baker on Bert Monroy’s now defunct PixelPerfect podcast. I merely made a few extra adjustments to better fit my particular project. I did all the work on two new layers in PS floated over the original image art. The lower one is filled with black. It acts as nothing more than a backdrop to allow me to see what comes next. All the actual work takes place on the layer above. Here’s how I did it.



1. I start by painting in some blotchy spots. Use white as your paint color. You want the brush to make some nice random, solid marks so select a brush with the appropriate settings to yield a similar result with 100% opacity.



2. Select the white blotches then Edit >Free Transform>Warp.



3. I needed to show sparks that not only had directional movement but also a nice arcing curve as they flew out of the welding machine. So with the Warp edit function selected, I “grabbed” the lower left hand portion of the white marks and pulled them across the image toward the upper right. That gave me the nice motion look. Now I created the curve by grabbing and pushing the white marks in the middle and pushed them toward the upper left, bending the selection. The transformation was finished by pinching the white marks at the upper right to add some taper.



4. The result of the transformation. To soften thing a bit I did a Gaussian blur and then did a little bit of additional editing by using a soft eraser to ease a few of the spark’s edges. In Corey Baker’s demo he smeared some of the edges with the Smudge tool which works well too.




5. I finished off the sparks by adding some color with an effects layer. The yellow is an inner glow layer set to Multiply and the orange color was an outer glow set to Overlay style. These may vary depending on your image and the effects you are trying to create. I turned off the black layer and adjusted the sparks as needed for placement, etc.

Shooting Out Sparks

shooting sparks

Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to create several images for Wheatland Tube. The projects started off with a couple of illustrations of product application done in a multiple situation layout and then moved into images with singular environments. The latest paintings I’ve worked on depict some of the manufacturing processes involved in making tubing. The piece above, showcases a machine which takes in raw steel ribbons on one end and spits out completed steel tubing on the other. A real miracle of manufacturing. Part of the process involves sealing the two edges of the steel band, as it is curled around to form a tube, with a continuous weld. That’s where all the sparks come from. It’s a pretty impressive bit of engineering and the flying sparks were loads of fun to paint.

Website Revamp (Updated)

Visitors to my website will see a new, revamped version up and running. Hopefully without any glitches. I’ve tried to give it a pretty good shakedown. The new design follows a similar reworking of my Blog page, and incorporates comments and suggestions from art directors and buyers.

While retaining the same Homepage design, the interior has been simplified to enable faster load times for images and takes advantage of a richer Mediabox presentation. I’ve also added a Client List page, with a subpage for downloads of pre-selected image portfolios. There is now a page devoted to Sketches, comps and experimental pieces, which will be fully stocked with images over the next several days.

In addition to illustration projects, I’ve been creating a lot of non commercial work. I maintain a separate website for that work, although I have included entries about several pieces here on this blog from time to time. Although not painted for a specific usage as illustrations are, I believe these paintings show another aspect of my artistic approach and thought, and are a valid compliment to the illustration portfolio. Some images may even have direct application as commercially related images. So I have included a Personal Work page with a few examples that will be updated from time to time and a link to my fine art site, www.WalkerBrushWorks.com.

As always, comments are welcome. I consider myself fortunate to have heard from so many people with so many positive things to say, thanks. That’s why, to make it easy to connect with me, every page of my site has at least one direct link to send email. In addition you can go to the Contact Info page to fill out a contact form. And finally, you can follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/johnwalkerillustration.