A "Ghosted", "Phantom View", "Transparent", or "See Through" technical illustration is one that renders the exterior skin of an object transparent in order to see the interior workings.
A Ghosted illustration will be slightly more time consuming and expensive to create than a Cutaway Illustration. Ghosting an object requires completion of the entire outside AND inside of the subject before the fading or "ghosting" process takes place. The decision to ghost or cutaway a subject is a stylistic one. Although more internal information may be visible in a cutaway version, a ghosted illustration will favor the exterior of the subject which may contain important components, body features, logos, etc.
For the purposes of this demonstration, we are going to use the "ghosting", "see through" or "phantom view" technique to create this illustration of an Acura NSX. All of the painted areas must be completely finished in individual layers before the ghosting takes place.
In this demonstration we are approaching the entire illustration process in much the same way as was done before computers. In the non-digital world, you would start with an inked line drawing on illustration board. Using Frisket or a similar masking material, you would paint or airbrush one section at a time. "Frisket" is a term for a transparent self-adhesive plastic film used to mask areas in airbrush illustrations. The film was put on top of a line drawing and an X-Acto knife was used to cut a windowed area to airbrush through.
The first step in the illustration process is to create the line art in Adobe Illustrator (below). This line art phase is done before any painting and color work takes place. Once you have completed the entire image in vector line art, you will export the layered file from Adobe Illustrator into Adobe Photoshop. You will now start the painting process. Make sure you retain the layers when exporting by choosing the .psd export format.
Note: For more information on line art and perspective drawing techniques, go to the: Lessons and Tutorials section of my "Technical Illustration Students" page.
This is the final layer pallet for each file format. The Illustrator layers pallet is on the left, and the converted Photoshop layers pallet is on the right. The Photoshop version has been simplified for this tutorial. There would normally be a separate line and tone layer for each element. You would always retain a line art layer for each and every element in order to make any necessary changes to their tonal values (see paragraph on "friskets" and "masks" above).
It order to use the following painting and erasing techniques successfully, you will need to use a good quality drawing tablet (Wacom Drawing Tablet or similar). Before we start the painting and ghosting process, it will help if the "Painting Cursor" is set to "Brush Size" in the "Display & Cursors" window of "Photoshop Preferences". This will give you a round cursor that is roughly the diameter of the pixel dimensions for the selected brush size. Having this visual aid will help you to imagine how large of an area you will be affecting with each stroke.
The next step will be to paint each individual layer. You will use the line art layers as a type of "frisket" to mask the areas to be painted. For some basic painting techniques, refer to the "Basic Photoshop Painting Techniques" tutorial in the Lessons and Tutorials section of our "Technical Illustration Students" page.
The samples below are the main individual paint layers prior to any ghosting and blending work. The layer order is very important. Notice that the "Chassis" and "Car Background Tone" layers are underneath the "Yellow Body" layer in the layer pallet above. You will also notice that we are duplicating the sheet metal body color on the "Yellow Body" layer and the "Car Background" layer.
Once all of the individual layers are painted, you will begin the ghosting process. Although this phase of the illustration is reserved for the last 10 percent of the project, it is the most important aspect of the overall impression that the image will give to the viewer.
Select the "Body Frisket" line art layer. You will use this line art layer, in conjunction with the "Magic Wand" tool, to select an area to paint or erase. In the layers pallet you will change the opacity of this layer to 1%. This accomplishes two functions. 1. You will always know if you are working on the wrong layer because nothing will happen if you paint or erase on the 1% layer. 2. You will not be distracted by the dominance of the line art. Subtlety is the key to a quality ghosted illustration and you must be aware of the relationship between "exterior" and "interior" detail.
While still on the "Body Frisket" layer, you will use the "Magic Wand" tool to select the areas to be worked on. At this stage, you will be selecting areas with large open fields such as the hood and body panels. This will leave small details and highlights intact.
Once you have selected all of the desired areas, it is a good idea to "Feather" the selection by at least 1 pixel. This will soften the edge of the selection. You can then turn off the "Marching Ants" by typing "Command H".
To create the ghosting effect, you will use the "Eraser" tool exclusively. Click on the "Eraser" tool and set the "Mode" to "Brush" in the options tool bar. While still in the options toolbar, set the "Opacity" to a low percentage (25% or less). This will make any alterations very subtle. If you go too far, you can always undo your strokes or revert to a previously saved version.
In the "brushes" pallet select a brush size that covers a large area and use a brush with a soft edge. The soft edged brushes will give your stroke an "airbrushed" effect.
While leaving the selection areas active, you will click on the "yellow Body" layer (see "Layers" pallet below) to make it active. This is the only layer that will be altered during this phase of the ghosting process. It is a good practice to duplicate this layer before proceeding. You can turn it off and hide it below a solid white background layer.
Slowly erase away the exterior surface layer in the selected area while working in a back and forth sweeping motion. Try not to start your stroke in the middle of a selected area because the starting point will be apparent. Attempt to work from the outer edge of the selected area towards the interior of that area and try to use the outer edge of the brush. This will avoid "hot spots" and/or a blotchy look.
De-select the selected sections by typing "Command - D". Now you will " airbrush erase" the highlights that were left intact by the first selection. Set the opacity of the eraser to an even lower percentage and set the brush diameter to a more manageable size.
One of the last steps will be to go to the remaining upper layers (Upholstery, Seats, Defroster Lines, etc.) and erase the appropriate amount of detail from each. Additionally, you will need to fine tune smaller areas such as the door "b" pillar sample below.
You may want to go back in and add windows glass highlights on a separate "Screen" layer, or window glass tint on a "Magnify" layer. You can adjust the intensity of these tint layers by making subtle changes to their opacity in the "layers" pallet.
By using these techniques, you will be leaving the fine body line work, door and window seams, and other exterior detail intact. this will give the illusion that the exterior body is floting over the interior detail.
More Photoshop Tutorials From Kevin Hulsey
Photoshop Tutorial - Painting Techniques
Basic Photoshop Painting Techniques for Technical Illustrations
Before we begin this Photoshop painting lesson it is important to have a cursory understanding of color theory. We will be working exclusively in CMYK and not in RGB. Although there may be many good reasons to work in RGB (web graphics only, smaller file size, etc.), for our purposes, CMYK (A.K.A. Subtractive Color) is a better choice.
Photoshop Tutorial - Cruise Ship Cutaway
Adobe Photoshop Tutorial - Painting in Photoshop CS for Technical Illustrators
With all of the line art complete, it was time to move on to the color phase. The line art was exported from Illustrator into Adobe Photoshop CS. At this point in the project, photo reference started to come in. The first step was to duplicate all of the floor coverings in "plan" view. The following image is the tile floor of the ship's Solarium. All of the hard floor surfaces were created in vector.
Also make sure to visit Kevin Husley's site, where you'll find more free tutorials and some really amazing and inspiring work!
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