Making of Maija Luusua

Today I want to show you, how digital art pictures are created. A couple of month ago I showed you the “making of I love Helsinki”. Some elements are similar, but now and then we have different approaches.

Making of Maija Luusua

When counting all the layers and adjustment layers I ended with 103! On layers you work on the pictures, and with adjustment layers I can correct levels, curves, colors and more-
I am not going to show you every of the 103 layers!

To start a look on the finished picture.

How to start?

The most important picture was this scooter, it had to be used to the contest.

The most important thing is, to develop an idea. When I first saw that scooter, I rather wanted to be pissed than to develop an idea. I needed days for that. Usually I see something and I know a hundred things, what to do with it!
Some brainstormong with my best friend who is an Digital Artist by herself. So first we were thinking of easy rider, the movie. It thrilled her but not me. But then my favorite band released a new song and my brain was all rock’n’roll.
Hey, I could do a loudspeaker with that scooter. Sometimes I am a bit simplehearted. So I had to show a rehearsal room. I spend days in picture data bases. At least I got now cable for minimum five gigs on my HD. 😀
While scrolling through data bases, the picture become more and more clear in front of my eyes.
So I ended up with this fantastic model by Marcus Ranum and Maija was born.

What else does a musician need?

Not much, maybe some drums for decoratio. Amplifier and guitar was part of her.

While browsing the data bases I found not only cable but as well this lovely gas pump, which ended to be the loudspeaker-

Background is stolen from a former picture I did.
The wall and the floor:

Now you might feel a bit scared by it. But it is not that difficult, at least if you know what to do.
Usually you start the work with cropping. Or to say it more boldly: separate what you need from what you don’t need. Usually you don’t need the backgrounds.


I started with the scooter.

This is the scooter without the background. In the sidepanel, which is the grey stuf next to the picture, you will see also parts of my layers.
Next step was to get rid of the reflections on the backside of the scooter mirrors. I solved whis with a layer, on which I copied the mirror backsides and then I layed a socalled layer style on it.

This style is a ready made effect. This is made of gradients, shines and shadows. Nice thing: you can also always change everything.
I tried some to figure out what I liked best to get close to the target: “bye bye reflections”
This is how I decide mostly when creating a picutre: intuitively!
After the scooter was done, I have placed it to the spot I liked it best. Again: intuitively. I am just trying and shoving and ending with what I like best.
At the beginning all of my pictures take a lot of time. I so hate cropping, it is so boring. That’s why it takes so long. Just one object per day.
Next in line was Püppi or little doll. I usually call my female models Püppi, not because I am not respecting them, just to have a lovely name for them.
Todays Püppi is finally called: Maija Luusua 😀
This time the cropping took even more time, it was because of the hair of Püppi. And the Amplifier with the cable, oh my 🙁
After finishing I doubled the layerof Püppi and on one I cropped out the amplifier and on the other one Püppi.
Now Püppi had to change her spot a lot. She could have been a standing rock girl or a sitting one. What a gift for this challenge!
So she ended up sitting on the scooter!

Her cable-part towards the amplifier was tweaked a bit, so you got the idea, that it is behind the scooter.
Next step was to work on the edges of the model. No matter how accurate you are working, there will be always leftovers. How to deal with them?
A wonderful colleague of mine had had the tip, to create a new layer and to take a very tiny brush, and then paint over the edges on the new layer. You have to take the color again and again from your object and you have to paint with the mode “darker color” and it will blend in fantastically.
When looking at the layer with “darker color” you will see that there is a little hook towards the layer of “Püppi”, we got a so called sectional layer. Everything I am doing on that layer only effects the layer it is linked to. When painting, it is not that easy to paint only the edges. Remember your coloring book! But in this case, you won’t see when I paint more than just the edge!
Finally I helped Püppi to get rid of some zits, and I also painted some extra hair. Cropping hair is never perfect.


Meanwhile Püppi and her scooter seem to practicing levitation, not so well for a famous rock’n’roll star. She needs some proper ground. That’s why I was thinking of a former picture of mine with a fantastic floor and wall.
As in the former picture I combined floor and wall with a shadow edge and played a bit with color adjustments.

This time the wall got a kind of beige color, similar to the scooter:

Color was blended in via: overlay. I think it is kind of harmonic with the structure of the wall
Wall and floor have been on one layer, I had to mask it. Next to the colors is another box which is partially white or black.
White means: everything on the adjustment layer will be applied totally and when it is black, it won’t be applied. If I will delete a mask, everything is at it has been before, that’s why it is called: non destructive working. It is kind of smart, imagine making a mistake and taking to much away.
Floor got a slightly metallic grey as an overlay.

Yeah I really liked it this way, in a way.
Background seemed a bit to light thats why I added levels. But I didn’t play with the buttons, I just blended it in via “multiply” That’s why I love photoshop. You can get cool effects if you know what to do.
Multiply makes things darker and screen makes it lighter.
You can also take influence via opacity. Either having a total of 100% or regulate it softly down to 0%. In the last case an adjustment level is sensless :p . I decided to use 66% opacity.
Now the gas pump. I am always thrilled to see it. Cropping and also prepapering it to become a loudspeaker.
Trimming the edges the way I did it with Püppi, as I always do.

I also took some of the color of the gas pump to retouche some parts and also to create an overlay to have it a bit more harmonic.
Finally also using levels with multiply and I am still thrilled by the result. 😀

really posh!
And now we are going to create a loudspeaker.
First a grey gradient.

than a cross texture, which create the loudspeaker pattern by using the filter “Pinch”. With pattern I mean the effect you see, when looking at the membrane.

Some rings, designed via edges and emboss

as well as the middle part of the loudspeaker. Finally fixing it with some screews.

It shall be light

Then there was this funny cut in the gas pump. What to do with it? Maybe installing some light.
In photoshop you create light via brushes and color, layer mode screen and at first with a big brush and dark color upto one by one getting smaller brush and lighter color, and then you have this wonderful glowing light organ 😀

Maybe you have realised that the lovely gas pump got a logo “shell”. I throw that away, but I wanted a logo on my loudspeaker. Thats why I built a simple logo with some shapes and fonts for the fictional music company “sound”.

Now it is time to place Maija’s amplifier. It ends up close to the loudspeaker.

Its cable got tweaked to, and now we got the idea, that it is continuing behind the scooter.
Since this is a rehearshal room we are going to need some more instruments. That’s why placed the drums on the right side. Lucky me, the drums have been delivered as a so called png-file and already cropped! I darkend the drums via levels.

A bit more light

Logo of Sound is duplicated and placed to the wall along with the writing presents Maija Luusua.
Now we got a promotion picture. I want to have the idea of a illuminated advertising for this writing. That’s why I am using the effect “shine” for inside and outside. I am using the color of the outline of the logo and the writing and let it glow red!


One of the most important parts in picture manipulation is: shadows. Everything that is illuminated with light (more or less) has shadows. But you have to make up your mind: what is the direction of the light, maybe to paint some light, and then you set up the shawdows.
But you also have to keep in mind, that underneath something: e.g. the scooter or the table, there is less light, therefore you have to paint those part a bit darker. When something is standing or laying on the ground, there will be also small dark parts. Just have a look at the stuff on your desk, where they touch the desk, the desk is darker.
Depending on the light the shadows are darker or lighter, more accurate or soft.
When being on a walk you can observe how your shadow is changing, when being in broad lamplight or sunlight, natural or artificial light. That’s quite interesting.
Maija got her light from above left and also a bit from the right side.
Why? Coz I painted it that way 😀

Now I also tweaked Maija a bit. Sometimes you do this, when you are nearly done. You have looked so often on that picture, that you suddenly realize: yes there are still changes to be made.
Maija is a rocker, she loves tattoos. And I also wanted to tweak her coloring a bit.

Her pants got colored violett.

To make a picture more harmonic, to create the idea, that it is more a photographie than a manipulation I like to use the filter “average”.
At first I combine all my elements on one layer, without destroying the existing layers. Than I use the filter “average” and the mode “soft light”.
Why? It is based on an observation in nature. All objects tend to absorb the colors and light by which they are surrounded.
A task for you again: have a look a pictures of concets or dancing clubs. People look darker, or slightly pink or red, depending on the limelight. When sitting at a fireplace everything is kind or redish or orange.
It is no question of being absolutely correct of perfect, but you will realize when it is not correct.
My picture have been photographed in different light and surroundings, so I have to tweak them, to make the illusion work.
So with filter “average” which creates some strange brownish layer + “soft light” I can create the illusion of similar light for all objects.

Spot on, I played finally a bit with limelight.

I used different sets and ended with light from mid left and right.

To make it a bit more rocking I duplicated the layer with lights and placed one underneath of Maija and masked her so she would get only one limelight.

Before I will start with the endfinishing I like to dodge and burn a bit, to make some parts darker and some lighter, just to add more placidity.

You can also influence again the way light and shawdow is seen. I burned Maija’s upper arm as well as the corner of the loudspeaker.
Parts that will get less light, will be dodged or darkend. A nice technique as well for creating more muscles on the arm without training.


I am done now.
Everything is cropped, placed and adjusted.
But this is the part we could call obligation. Now for free style to create a piece of art!
I have a little list I am usually working on.
I am repeatingly combining all layers to one (without destroying the orignal layers)

The new layer is always changed to a so called smart object. Fantastic!
Usually when you use a filter on a layer or picture you can’t change anything when it didn’t came out the way you wanted it. By using a smart object I can change the filter again and again.
I can use ore than one filter and correct them as well.
One of my favorite is “Camera Raw”, and it is the first one to use.
Since I want to do more stuff, I am splitting my 2 camera raw steps today.
First I enhance contrast, dynamik and clarity.

I also tweaked a bit black and white.
New layer, new smart object.

Colorlookup “Bleach Bypass” + coloroverlay.

A little intuitive playing with layermode and opacity.
New layer, new smart object.

And now the second part of camera raw, to create an overall color impression.
I used a lot of violet/magenta for the lights and red for the shadows, I enhanced the saturation and tweaked the aligment towards the shadows.

New layer, new smart object and one of my favorite toosl: nickcollection of google

Nickcollection comes with a lot of premade filters, which can be influenced in strength and appearance and you can create such awesome looks with it!
Here: before and after

The result is blended in via layer mode and opacity and it ends with placing my signature on the drums.

Sound presents Maija Luusua!