In today’s tutorial I will show you how to turn a cute squirrel into a Rambo squirrel. This tutorial can be a bit difficult for beginners but I will try to explain it the best I can. In this tutorial you will use the Warp and Clone Tools so be prepared for a heavy manipulation lesson.
I have to mention that the concept of this tutorial is not mine. The original manipulation was made by Neijman from deviant ART. He made a quick tutorial but I wanted to make a more detailed version. I used almost all the stock images he used except for the background.
Make sure you visit his DA account he’s got a very cool portfolio.
Final result preview
- Squirrel: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/938803
- Soldier helmet: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/670295
- Weapon: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/946160
- Background: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1229342
- Ammo: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/948158
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Open the background image in Photoshop. You don’t even have to unlock it because you will not retouch it. Next, open the squirrel image and subtract it from the background with the Pen Tool (P). Paste the squirrel over the background and use a soft brush to blend it with the grass from the background layer.
The next obvious step is to create the shadows casted by the squirrel. So create a new layer below the squirrel and paint some shadows underneath using a soft low opacity brush. I also painted some shadows over the lower parts of the squirrel’s body.
Now you have to redo the fur on the squirrels body. Get the Smudge Tool set Strength to about 20% and a 40-50px soft brush and smudge the sharp edges. Then set the smudge brush to 1 or 2px set Strength to 80-90% and make the hairs of the squirrel.
Open the helmet image in Photoshop (if you can’t open it try opening it in Paint and then save it as jpg and try opening it again in Photoshop.) Scale it down and place it over the squirrel’s head. In order to make the helmet more symmetric I cloned the right side. If you can’t clone it, copy the right side as shown below, paste it on the left side and blend the edges with a soft brush.
After that, create a shadow of the helmet on the squirrel’s head using a soft brush.
Open the gun stock image and start cutting with the Pen Tool (P).
Once you masked the parts of the soldier you don’t need, scale down and place the image so that the left hand of the soldier fits the squirrels left arm.
Next you will have to remove the shadow from the gun stock. Use the Clone Tool (S). See details on the images below.
Now you have to recreate the butt of the rifle. Make a selection with the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) and then fill the selection with the Gradient Tool (G). As for the gradient colors I sampled them from the gun stock. After that add a 1 or 2 pixels Drop Shadow.
Let’s get to something more difficult now. You have put the squirre’ls hand on the gun. Start with the left hand. Use the Clone Tool (S) to sample hair from the squirrel’s arm and cover the soldier’s hand. If you activate the “All layers” option you will be able to clone the hair on an empty layer. I suggest you don’t clone the hair directly on the gun layer because it’s very easy to mess up here If you do, make sure you have a copy of it as backup.
After cloning the finger on the trigger, copy the squirrel’s left fingers and paste them over the remaining soldier hand. Use the Brush Tool (B) to blend it and the Warp Tool to adjust it. See image below.
Now go to the right arm.Select and copy the squirrel’s right hand and paste it on a new layer as backup. Now on the original squirrel layer hide the right arm with the Clone Too. Again, I cloned on a separate layer.
After hiding the arm, blend the copied arm using a Layer Mask and a soft brush. Rotate it so that it fits the soldier’s right hand fingers.
The final step on this process is to cover the soldiers right hand fingers. Again, use the squirrels fingers and paste them over the soldier’s. Use the warp tool for adjustments and make it look as the squirrel is holding the gun.
Now start making the ammo belt. Open the image with the bullets and delete the background using the Pen Tool (P) or any other technique you prefer. After that, duplicate the bullets and use the Clone Tool and Free Transform to position the duplicated bullets and “weld” them to the others. After fusing both ammo clips, duplicate then a few times and create a long strip like in the image below.
Select the bullets layer and activate the Free Transform with Ctrl+T and select the Warp Tool. Adjust the ammo belt to create the illusion that it’s sitting around the squirrel’s body. Use Levels to increase the Midtones a bit. See Image below.
Time for some Dodge & Burn because the manipulation is ready. Create a new layer above all layers on the palette and fill it with 50% gray from Edit>Fill or Shift+F5. Set the Blend Mode of the gray layer to Overlay and name it dodge-burn. Use the Burn and Dodge tool to enhance the shadows and highlights of the squirrel’s body and the gun. Also paint some shadows below the ammo belt on a separate layer.
Time to make the final adjustments. Now you can turn this into something more interesting and more artistic tweaking the colors and lighting using some adjustment layers. Add a Photo Filter and a Gradient Map like in the image below.
I also created a vignette effect. You can easily make it by selecting the Rectangular Marquee tool, set Feather to 150-200 px (smaller if you use a low res image) and drag to select the entire canvas (Ctrl+A will not work as the father will not be applied). After you make the selection invert it and fill it with black using the shortcut Alt+Backspace, change the layer blending mode to Soft Light.
Next up I created a stamp with Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E and made more adjustments. I used the Lighting Effects from Filter>Render>Lighting Effects to focus the light on the squirrel. I also adjusted the Shadows/Highlights from Image>Adjustments>Shadows/Highlights and I increased the Midtone Contrast to 12 and decreased the Color Correction to -56.
The final touch is given by a Black & White adjustment layer set to Lighter Color and Opacity 25%.
I hope you learned something out of this tutorial. As you can see the Warp tool can be a really cool tool if used correctly.