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Design the Retro Futurism Photo Manipulation ‘Cosmic Rocker’

Design the Retro Futurism Photo Manipulation ‘Cosmic Rocker’

Resources Used In This Tutorial

Final Image

Here is a preview of the image that we are going to be creating:

Step 1

Create a new document (1100X1000px). Fill your canvas with black:

Step 2

Now paste in the nebula texture from the resources for this tutorial. Resize and position it to fit your canvas:

Now reduce this layer’s opacity to 55% and apply a layer mask. Use a large, soft black paintbrush to mask off the top corners of your nebula image.

Apply a levels adjustment layer.

Levels Adjustment Layer Settings:

9 / 1.25 / 215

Paste your guitarist photo into the left half of your canvas, and apply a levels adjustmenet layer. Be sure to apply a clipping mask to this adjustment layer, so that it only effects your underlying guitarist layer, not your entire canvas.

Levels Adjustment Layer Settings:

2 / 0.88 / 244

Now apply a layer mask. Use a soft black paintbrush to mask off most of the background of your guitarist. Also mask away his legs, blending them smoothly into the background.

Luckily the background behind his hair is already looking good against our main background, so doesn’t require much masking. This is useful, as masking off hair is tricky stuff!

Step 3

The cable coming from the guitar is actually distracting away from the composition as a whole.

Zoom in on your guitar, and ensure your guitarist layer is selected. Use your clone stamp tool to clone out where the guitar cable is:

Step 4

We want to soften the background. To do this, create a new layer called ‘background lighting’, above your nebula/background layers but beneath your guitarist layer. Use your eye dropper tool to sample some of the light colors around your guitarists hair.

Then use a large, soft paintbrush and brush some over areas at the top right of your background.

Step 5

Create a new layer called ‘clouds ripple’.

Drag out a circular selection from the center of your canvas. Use your elliptical marquee tool for this, and ensure that your selection has a 30px feather in order to give it a nice soft edge.

With your selection in place go to filter>render>clouds and render some black/white clouds:

Go to filter>convert for smart filters. This will convert your clouded circle layer into a smart object, allowing you to apply filters non destructively.

Go to filter>distort>zigzag.

ZigZag Filter Settings:

Amount: 100
Ridges: 8
Pond Style: Pond Ripples

Go to edit>transform>distort. Distort your rippling circle until it appears like the image below.

I also applied a layer mask and used a large, soft, black paintbrush at a low opacity to mask off the top left of this circle shape:

Change this layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’. This will make the effect almost invisible, but you’ll still get a subtle ripple effect against your background and guitarist:

Duplicate your ‘clouds ripple’. This will make your ripple effect more visible and intense. If needed mask off more of your duplicate ripple until you’re happy with the result.

You want to try and mask off more of the left side of the ripple, make it appear that the ripple is spreading out from the guitar in a kind of soundwave, echoing out to the right of your canvas.

Repeat this technique creating a smaller rippling oval in the right of your canvas. Ensure that this ripple layer is also set to ‘overlay’ blend mode, but reduce it’s opacity to 30% to make the effect more subtle:

Step 6

Create another smaller ripple over your guitar area. This will provide the basis for your main sound waves.

Now apply an outer glow, inner glow and color overlay blending option to this layer. Be sure to give each adjustment layer a clipping mask.

Outer Glow Blending Option Settings:

Blend Mode: Overlay
Opacity: 100%
Color: ffffff
Spread: 0%
Size: 81px

Inner Glow Blending Option Settings:

Blend Mode: Overlay
Opacity: 100%
Color: ffffff
Choke: 0%
Size: 98px

Color Overlay Blending Option Settings:

Blend Mode: Color
Color: fdd092
Opacity: 26%

Keep the main layer opacity of your small ripple layer at 100%, but reduce the ‘fill’ opacity to 8%:

Step 7

Duplicate your ‘cloud ripple small’ layer twice. With each duplicate make the object smaller, and center it over your guitar.

By duplicating your overlay layers like this, you’ll be making the light and color of this area much more intense:

Step 8

Select your paintbrush tool and select a 2px white paintbrush.

Then use your path tool to create a wavy path line stemming out from your guitar. In your path palette right click on your path and click ‘stroke path’. Make sure that you have ‘simulate pressure’ box.

Apply an outer glow blending option to your path line layer:

Outer Glow Blending Option Settings:

Blend Mode: Normal
Opacity: 100%
Color: fdda87
Spread: 0%
SIze: 13px

Keep this layer’s opacity at 100%, but reduce it’s fill opacity to 30%. This will make your line effect more subtle, but keep the outer glow effect nice and obvious:

Step 9

Repeat step 8 multiple times to create several lines of light streaming out from your guitar:

Step 10

It’s time to add some distortion to our light lines.

To do this, select your smudge tool, and ensure it’s set to 30% strength.

Then select each individual light line layer, and with each layer smudge out the line, following the shape of the contours of your larger ripple effect.

You can see in the image below where I’ve smudged my light lines and the direction in which I’ve smudged them:

Step 11

Create a new layer called ‘light over lines’.

Use your polygon lasso tool (feather: 30px) to create a selection over your light lines area.

Fill this selection with white:

Reduce this layer’s opacity to 50% and change it’s blend mode to ‘overlay’. This should give a subtle lighting effect over your lines of light:

Step 12

Now duplicate your ‘light over lines’ layer. Keep the blend mode at ‘overlay’ but reduce the layer opacity to just 6%.

Apply a gradient overlay blending option, which will give a great rainbow light effect over your light lines:

Gradient Overlay Blending Option Settings:

Blend Mode: Normal
Opacity: 100%
Gradient: default rainbow gradient
Style: Linear
Angle: 90

Step 13

Create a new layer called ‘light specks’.

Select your paintbrush tool and apply the brush settings shown below:

Now paint a scatter of white brush marks over your light lines:

Apply an outer glow to your ‘light specks’ layer:

Outer Glow Blending Option Settings:

Blend Mode: Screen
Opacity: 100%
Color: ffdd95
Spread: 0%
Size: 13px

Step 14

Download the light rays brush set found in the resources section for this tutorial.

Apply a couple of the brushes over your lit up area:

Reduce the opacity of your light brush layers until it looks something like the image below. Try to keep your light effects fairly subtle, and don’t overwhelm your overall composition with your light rays:

Step 15

Create a new layer called ‘vignette’. Select a very large, soft black paintbrush at around 50% and paint around the edges of your image. Focus particularly on the bottom left corner, as you want this to be the darkest area, whilst your guitar/light effects illuminate the right part of your canvas.

Step 16

Create a new layer called ‘dodge/burn’.

Go to edit>fill and fill your layer with 50% gray. Then change your layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’. This will allow you to dodge/burn your image non destructively. Simply select a soft paintbrush (around 10% opacity) and paint over your image with black to burn and white to dodge.

The images below show the dodge/burn layer at ‘normal’ blend mode and then at ‘overlay’ blend mode:

Step 17

On a new layer, type out the word ‘ROCK’ using white text, just over where your lines of light area.

It’s not particularly important what font you use, but try and use something quite elegant and not too chunky/bold:

Now reduce the fill opacity of this layer to 0%, keeping the main layer opacity at 100%.

Apply an outer glow and stroke blending option to your text layer:

Outer Glow Blending Option Settings:

Blend Mode: Color Dodge
Opacity: 10%
Color: ffffff
Spread: 0%
Size: 50px

Stroke Blending Option Settings:

Size: 1px
Position: Outside
Blend Mode: Color Dodge
Opacity: 50%
Fill Type: Color
Color: ffffff

Step 18

Duplicate your text layer multiple times (I duplicated mine 9 times). With each dulicate layer move it very slightly from the position of the original. This movement only needs to be a few pixels, but by layering up these glowing text layers you’ll create a nice piece of lighting effect typography.

Step 19

Finally, apply two adjustment layers to help bring your composition together. DO NOT give either of these adjustment layers a clipping mask, as you want your adjustments to effect your entire canvas, not just the underlying layer.

Levels Adjustment Layer Settings:

5 / 1.09 / 229

Gradient Map Adjustment Layer Settings:

Gradient: default purple to orange gradient
Layer opacity: 20%

And We’re Done!

You can view the final outcome below. I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and would love to hear your feedback on the techniques and outcome.

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. john says:

    Nice idea, but I really like the intermediary images (without the text) more than the final result! I will give it a try…

  2. Warre says:

    When i added a smart filter and tried to distort it, PS kept asking me to make a rasterized layer of it. Only distorting the filter ain’t a solution ether. What to do with it?


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