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Design a Futuristic Athlete Graphic

Final Image

This is the final image that we’ll be creating:


After previously publishing the tutorial Create a Swirly Masterpiece I got a lot of interest in a more detailed tutorial, with a more complete result. This original tutorial showed off a great technique, but today I’m going to expand on that technique.

Images + Brushes Used

Here is a list of images and brushes used in the making of this tutorial:

Runner Photo

Abstract Brush Set

Swirly Brush Set

Spiral Halftone Brush Set

Dirty Spray

Step 1

Create a new document (600X500px). Create a new layer called ‘background’ and fill your entire canvas with black.

Step 2

Now grab a photo of an athlete (I went with a sprinter) and cut/paste him into the center of your document. Cut out the athlete from their original background using either the path tool or lasso selection tool (I used the lasso tool).

Be sure to select a photo exposing a lot of skin, as this is what we’re going to be manipulating.

Step 3

Now duplicate your runner layer and change the blend mode of the duplicate to ‘hard light’ and the layer opacity to 30%. Then duplicate this layer and change the blend mode from hard light to ‘soft light’ and reduce the layer opacity to 10%. Then merge down these two layers, so that you’re left with just one ‘runner’ layer.

Step 4

Now select around your clothes and shoes and copy them to a new top layer called ‘clothes’. You can see the data of this layer below:

Step 5

Now hide your background layers, leaving just your runner on a transparent background. Go to edit>define pattern and call pattern ‘runner pattern’.

Step 6

Grab an abstract brush set. Give your brush a nice bright color, and then paint over your runner very roughly, using a variety of brush sizes. You should be really free and rough at this stage, and don’t worry about crossing over into your background or over your runner’s clothes.

Now go to your layers palette and option+click on your original runner photo layer to select all the data on this layer (in this case just your runner). Then return to your brush marks layer and go to layer>add layer mask>reveal selection. This will hide all parts of your brush strokes that go past your runner into your background.

Step 7

Now on your brush marks layer go to blending options>pattern overlay and apply your ‘runnerpattern’ pattern. This will effectively make your rough brush marks go from being green, to taking on the data of your runner photo.

Then hide your original runner photo. This will leave a patchy version of your runner. Note also how the clothes/shoes are still in tact, because we isolated these on a top layer earlier.

Step 8

Now duplicate your brush marks layer and go to blending options again. Remove your pattern overlay, and instead apply a black color overlay. This should turn your once green brush marks totally black. Now reduce this layer’s opacity to 50%. What this does is darken your brush strokes area. I’m doing this because I want to build up brighter layers on a more shadowed base layer of skin.

Step 9

Now grab a Swirly Brush Set. Repeat the same technique that you used for your previous brush strokes, but this time don’t use a black layer, just leave it with a regular pattern overlay effect.

Step 10

Now go to blending options for this layer and apply a drop shadow, outer glow, and stroke effect (settings shown below). This is done to give the impression that your 2nd layer of skin is in fact above the first, and to give your piece better overall lighting and shadowing.

Step 11

Now create a new layer called ‘path lines’. Draw out a path line ranging down the runners thigh. Then with a 2px blue (18BEA8) brush selected, right click on your path with your path tool and click ‘stroke path’. This should stroke your path with a 2px blue line.

Then right click on your path again and click ‘delete path’. This will just leave your blue line as a regular shape.

Step 12

Now apply many many more path lines, all on this same layer. Be sure to vary your brush thickness and color, and try to follow the contours of the runners body. Also, bear in mind which limbs are in front of which and don’t let your path lines ruin this effect.

Step 13

Go to blending options for your ‘path lines’ layer, and apply a 1px, black stroke effect at 50% opacity. This will give clean borders to your path lines, and bring out their detail.

Step 14

Now create a new layer called ‘red path lines’. Start by creating a path line down your runner’s arm, and stroke it with a 6px red brush. Then go to edit>transform>perspective and drag in the bottom corners of your shape, and drag out the top corners. Play around with the perspective until your line is not a consistent thickness, but gets thinner at the bottom.

Step 15

Now apply some more red lines using the same technique.

Step 16

Now go to blending options and apply your ‘runnerpattern’ as a pattern overlay. Set the blend mode of your pattern overlay to ‘luminosity’. This will give your blue lines the shadows/lighting of your runner.

Step 17

Now if you remember, we left our original photo as a bottom layer earlier in the tutorial. Copy this layer and make the copy a top layer. Then, use your lasso tool to go in and delete parts of the runner’s skin, exposing the lines and layers beneath it.

Step 18

Now go to blending options for this top layer, and apply a drop shadow effect (settings below). Also, reduce the opacity of your second skin layer from 100% to 70%. Finally, move your top cutout layer beneath your clothes layer, so that your clothes remain completely in tact.

Step 19

If you notice, the runners left foot is cut off due to the detail in the original photo. I want to give it a crazy edge, as this will fit in with the detailed background I also have planned. I use my lasso tool to cut away shards of the foot, creating a more interesting edge.

Step 20

Now take a 1px black brush and draw rough lines over parts of your runner’s skin on a new layer called ‘runner lines’. Now option+click on your cutout runner layer in your layer’s palette to select all data on this layer. Select your ‘runner lines’ layer, and with your selection in place go to layer>apply layer mask>reveal selection. This will cut off the parts of your rough lines that overlap past your runners skin. Finally, reduce your lines layer’s opacity to 25%.

Step 21

Now create a new top layer called ‘runner hair’. Use the previously demonstrated technique of stroking a path line, to create multiple white path lines over the runners hair.

Then reduce this layer’s opacity to 60%, and use a large, soft eraser brush to erase away parts of the white lines. Try to erase more of the white lines as they get further away from the top of the head.

Step 22

Create a new layer above your black background layer, but below all of your layers associated with the runner. Use a very large, soft paintbrush to paint in 3 spots of color.

Go to filter>blur>motion blur and apply a motion blur of 700 strength.

Finally reduce your paint spots layer’s opacity to 40%.

Step 23

Now grab the brush set Spirals and Halftones and apply some of the brushes on a new layer called ‘brush details’. Try reducing the brush opacity as you get further away from your runner to try and give the impression of depth.

Step 24

Grab the brush set Dirty Sprays. Apply the brushes in white so that it looks like there is a surge of energy behind your runner.

And We’re Done!

I really hope that you enjoyed this tutorial, and as always I’d really appreciate your comments.

Download Source File for this Tutorial

About the Author:

Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.

Leave a comment


  1. Cool tutorial=)!!!nice one Tom.=) keep up the great work as always!

  2. [...] So the first one teaches us how to create a futuristic athlete graphic using a combination of layer masks, brushes, the pen tool and va…. Click on the picture to get to the [...]

  3. Nim says:

    it is a great tutorial
    love it
    thanks so much

  4. Matt says:

    Nice tut, very interesting. Thanks!

  5. loswl says:

    Very nice tut, love the steps you take to get that look :o )

  6. SVargo says:

    No quality of this tutorial at all. Disappointed. The final result looks awful to be honest.

  7. John says:

    You just blew mind. Niiiccceeeeeee

  8. lawrence77 says:

    good one!
    soon going to try!

  9. RUGRLN says:

    Freaky runner…nice..not so futuristic, but something cool in photo manipulation! :)

  10. very interesting building process – I was excited to read how You got such outcome – nice work, Tom! :)

  11. Rai says:

    My favorite tutorial so far because I can think of a million ways to use the techniques outlined.


  12. Chris says:

    Really great job – great information to apply on later designs. Thanks!

  13. Han says:

    Great Tut, I had heaps of fun with this, and was very happy with the results =) Thank You

  14. Avery says:

    I love reading your design here.

  15. Its a source of some real good design resources those can be applied later :)

  16. Biju Subhash says:

    Great Tutorial
    Thank you for sharing :D

  17. Nice design. i think i should looks more design from you, very Good……………..

  18. about life says:

    I feel this is among the such a lot significant information for me. And i’m glad studying your article. However wanna commentary on some general issues, The web site taste is wonderful, the articles is in reality great : D. Just right task, cheers

  19. mukesh says:

    hey man . actually am in big trouble as in 7th step ,you said that after applying the pattern overlay ,hide your original image but the original image is the same on which the pattern overlay is used. so hiding that image take up all data. so what is that step . May you plz tell me fast . and also tell what is the acquisit to duplicate the two layers at the beginning. ???

  20. Mukesh says:

    Hey i have posted a post earlier and asked you about 7th step only . now also with that tell me what is option+click and also tell on which layer we do the design . i did it on my 100% Opacity pic. and i just left with 2 low Opacity layer and 1 cloth layer and 1 black background which is locked . now total layers are 5. is it right.??? and the 7th step is really making me crazy . tell it plz….

  21. Arletha says:

    I was curious if you ever thought of changing the layout of your blog?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little
    more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images.

    Maybe you could space it out better?

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