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Cyber animal

distorting images

Part animal, part mechanical. It's up to you now to see what you can come up with.

Here is what you do:

  • You are to take any animal (no humans) and give it some machine-like parts.
  • The background of the image should ordinary.


cyber owl
cyber cat
cyber wolf


original tutorial is here


Start with creating a displacement map.

Think of it like taking a piece of cloth and wrapping it around and object. The cloth being the texture/pattern (carbon fiber) and the object being the map (the leopard). We are going to take a carbon fiber pattern and wrap it around the leopard. You need to experiment with your settings in this section

Find a picture of an animal. Make sure it's a good quality!!!.

Image > Image size ..... write down the exact dimensions.

Select (mask out) the animal (don’t worry about the whiskers).

Be sure to subtract the eyes and nose from the selection…

Copy the selection.

Create a New document with exactly the same dimensions and resolution.

Paste the selection into the new file.

Desaturate the animal (Image > Adjustments > Desaturate)

Save as: desaturated.psd

We now have the start of our displacement map.

Now imagine a white leopard statue. It will have no spots or fur, just the contours of a leopard (light and dark shades). This is what we need. So in order to do this we need to get rid on the fur and spots…

Click Select/Color range.

Click on a spot to select the black in the picture and set the fuzziness to 100, click OK (the black in the picture is now selected).

Now select a 50% gray from your swatches palette and using the “paint bucket tool” set at 255 tolerance, fill the spots.


Click Filter/Blur/Gaussian blur and set it to about 7 pixels (experiment with this setting).

You now have a rough idea of the contours of the leopard. I then upped the contrast by +30 to increase the definition of the contours.

Using the “smudge tool” set at 75% strength blend your contours…

Try imagining where light and shadows will fall. See the bulge of the jaw line, eye socket, leg muscles; try and accentuate these areas.

Your animal now looks like a smeared painting... COOL! But it needs to be smooth.

Again we go to your Gaussian blur and set it high till the image looks smooth (mine was 17 pixels).

And there you have it.

We now have our Displacement map…

Save as: displacement map.psd

carbon fiber texture

Creating the carbon fiber texture using the displacement map

I found a tutorial on the web that explains the whole process of creating a carbon filter: http://www.freepsd.com

Step 1.
Make a new document 4 x 4 px. Select the colors and fill as shown below.

Step 2.
Now that is done we can define the pattern. Go to Edit > Define pattern. Name as you wish then hit OK.

Step 3.
Now you have made the pattern you can now select the area you wish to make carbon fiber and then go Edit > Fill > Pattern and select yours, hit OK again and VIOLA! You have carbon fiber.

Here is a basic example of the pattern in effect.

Once you have your texture, create a new document the same size as your displacement map (the .PSD picture we created earlier)

Now using the “paint bucket tool” set on pattern (choose the carbon fiber pattern/texture), fill the whole picture to create a carbon fiber “wall”.

Now click Filter/Distort/Displace.

I used the default settings here, but experiment with them so you can see what they do. It will ask you to choose a displacement map.

This will be the displacement map.psd file we created earlier.

Your carbon fiber texture should have distorted slightly and reveal your leopard contours (its very subtle).

Save this as: carbon fiber skin.psd

Open desaturated.psd

Once opened click Select/Load selection and hit OK.

You now have the mask of the animal.

Copy this and paste it onto the: carbon fiber skin.psd picture.

It should be in place when you paste it.

Now click Select/Load selection and hit OK.

This masks the outline of the leopard.

Now delete the desaturated leopard layer to leave you with your carbon fiber texture and the masking of your leopard.

Now copy the selection (Ctrl C).

You now need to open “displacement map.psd” and paste the carbon fiber texture over it.

It should fit right when you paste it.

Set the carbon fiber layer to multiply. It should now look like a carbon fiber shell… That step is very rewarding! Play around with Levels|Brightness & Contrast|Curves etc. till it looks right.

Now click Select/Load Selection, and hit OK. Merge your layers and copy the selection

Now open your original picture of the leopard and paste the carbon fiber exoskeleton over it, and there you have it!

That was a lot of work to get the picture to this point!!!

eyes and nose

We need to make any leftover part of the leopard look synthetic i.e. plastic, metal or rubber. I chose to make the eye and nose look like glossy plastic, well black plastic to be exact ; )

(1) To do this, mask an area around the eye (don’t worry about being precise). Then select the background from the layers palette and click Image/Adjustments/Desaturate. Now it needs to look deeper and shinier so click Image/Adjustments/Levels. Move the “slider arrow” on the left towards the right hand side to almost half way and click OK.


2) Click Select/Deselect and repeat the process for the nose. Things might become a bit “jagged when you do this step, so if u like you can use the “smudge tool” to smooth things out…

Now of the optics. I found a nice picture of a camera lens which worked perfect for the leopard’s eye.

(3) Mask out the lens and then copy and paste it to the leopard picture (make sure when you past it that it is the topmost layer in the layer palette).

Now you need to scale it down and make it fit over the original eye.

Select the lens layer and click on one of the edge squares that appear. Now right click the layer and select distort.

Distort it until it looks right and then hit your Enter/Return button. Make sure it is positioned in the right place and then you can move the layer below the carbon fiber layer. One nit pick: I masked out the bottom left reflection on the lens and made it darker because I just didn’t look right, a personal preference.

4) To make the red LED effect in the eye I select the brush tool with a soft-edge nib and the color red and make a dot in the center of the eye, simple yet very effective!

Lastly I double click the carbon fiber layer ( in the layers palette) to bring up its blending properties and select Bevel & Emboss. Play around with these setting till the lighting on the exoskeleton looks right. I prefer to deselect the “use global light” option because it will mess around all your layers blending settings. Now for the whiskers (lol)….


These were very easy to make as they were all just one whisker that was duplicated and resized to different lengths.

1) Create a new layer. Now on a unused part of the picture make a long thin rectangular selection. From your swatches palette select a very light grey and a dark grey, so you have two different colors (the foreground and background colors in your tools palette) selected. Now first select the “gradient tool” and then “reflected gradient” (in the Option bar) and use it to create the pipe effect that you see in the picture below. I recommend holding down the SHIFT button when you do this to make sure it is 90 degrees… Once you have your gradient, select black from your swatches and, using the brush tool, draw the curves that will make the whisker look retractable.

(2) The Whisker is a layer, so as before right click it and play around with the distort, perspective and warp options (Edit > Transform > Distort, Warp) until it looks like a curved whisker. Hit ENTER/RETURN key when you are happy with it.

(3) Now duplicate the whisker until you have the amount that you need. Now resize each one and place it where you want it. That takes care of the whiskers on the left. Now merge all the whisker layers from the layer palette and duplicate them so you can use them for the right set of whiskers. You will need to scale these to a -100 width and a 100 hight in order for them to be facing the other way around. Now arrange them below the carbon fiber layer so it looks like they are behind it.

4) Now select the carbon fiber layer. Select your brush tool with a hard edge nib and create the holes at the beginning ends of the whiskers (because it is on the carbon fiber layer it will crate its own bevel and emboss, neat!).


The trick with the legs was to fool the eye.

They are just a mass of parts pasted on top of each other…

I did try to consider the movement of the legs and find parts that matched the motion. All it is, is parts like springs, shocks, bars, braided hosing, wires and disks. When you clutter these parts together the eye accepts what it sees because it is so much to take in. Most people won’t know exactly how a robotic leg works because it is so complex, so when you look at it you think its very complex looking, and so it must be legit..

(1) So the legs are just machine parts that have been selected and pasted into position. I made the pasting symmetrical though. See below.

Remember that you need to play around with the lighting of each part. As they come from different source pictures, they have different lighting.

(2) The side of the leopard is relatively dark and so u need to play around with the Levels| Brightness & Contrast| Curves etc of each part.

Don’t forget that this picture has a forest background and therefore the parts should reflect this.

Adding a bit of green to them makes them look as though they belong in the setting. It might be just a smudge of green that you ad, but it can really make the difference… Image/Adjustments/Color balance or Hue and saturation.

(3) Once this is done you need to merge the legs parts into one layer.

Once done duplicate it and arrange the duplicate below the carbon fiber layer so that it looks like it is behind it in the picture. Then decrease the Brightness & Contrast.

Add a slight Gaussian blur to make it look a bit out of focus…Now the legs are done.

the armor and wiring

For the armor over his head and spine I used part of a visor from a Knights helmet.

(1) I masked it out and pasted it over his head. It was to be the largest piece. I then duplicated it a couple of times and resized the duplicates to give it that “vertebrae” look.

(2) Once this was done I went into the blending properties of the first piece of armor I pasted ( the original piece) and selected a drop shadow. Once I was happy with the shadow settings I right clicked on the layer (in the palette) and selected “copy layer style”. I then selected all the “armor” layers, right clicked them and “pasted layer style”.

(3) Once done I merged the armor layers and duplicated the merged layer.

I then distorted and warped that layer so that it fitted over his forehead.

Once this was done I merged these layers and created one more drop shadow that fell on the carbon fiber.

The one part of many animals that I like is their jaw.

(4) To accentuate the leopard jaw I used a circular metal part which also connects the armor to his body, via the jaw. You need to apply an outer Bevel & Emboss to this layer to make it look countersunk.

(5) Then duplicate this layer so that it can be pasted at the ends of the armor that runs over his spine.

(6) Once this is done you need to duplicate these layers so that a wire can run between them.

Now for the wires.

Create a new layer. Select the brush tool with a hard nib the width of the wire we need to draw. Draw the first wire freehand. Now double click the layer you just created (in the layers palette) and select: Bevel & Emboss and Drop shadow. Your wire should now look 3D and drop a shadow. Tweak these options until you are happy with them. Now select your brush again.

(7) Draw your other wires. COOL!

As you draw the wire it appears 3D and drops a shadow, real time!

Draw all the red and blue wires…

shut lines and screws

We started with a tricky section and we are going to end with one… All robots have to be taken apart, right? If they are to be repaired and all. The lines in-between the different panels are called shut lines. To create them we need to use the path tool. If you have never used the path tool before then you are going to have to read up about them because they are difficult to explain.



Create a new layer. Now you need to draw the shut line paths.

(1) Draw each path individually. Then select your brush and select a very thin nib size. Next select black from the swatches palette.

(2) In the paths palette right click the path you created (which consists of all the individual paths you created, the shut lines) and click stroke path. Next make sure it is set on “brush” before hitting OK. Once done your paths will be thin solid black lines.

(3) Now go back to your layers palette and double click the layer you last created. Select Bevel & Emboss and open its properties. You now need to select the “pillow emboss” option under the style option. You might also have to change the direction of the lighting. You should now have the shut lines you are looking for. Click OK to close the properties box. Don't forget to move the whisker layer above your shut line path layer so that it does not get overlapped by the shut lines...

(4) Lastly the screws.

Mask the head of a screw then copy and paste it into the leopard picture.

Duplicate it do that you have the desired number of screws, then move them into place.

(5) The last step is a small trick I left till last. In order to give the whiskers on the left some focal depth, you need to do the following: Select the left whiskers layer, and then mask a circle around the ends of it. Now feather that mask by about 25 pixels.

Click Filters/Blur/Gaussian blur and set it to about 7 pixels. Hit OK. The whiskers now look like they go out of focus making them look even more real. This is where I save the copy I have and flatten the image. I then save it under a new name. Now I go around looking for anything I need to fix up: soften edges, smudge away imperfection, darken/lighten parts etc.