Look Out, Supe– That’s Taxregonite!!
I recently did a sketch for The Anvil, a very amusing “fake news” site. It was for this
post about doing one’s taxes, and how super powers are no match for the evil
and diabolical complexity of tax regulations. Here’s the final. Scroll down to see the construction sequence.
It’s just a simple cartoon image, but it incorporates what’s called a displacement map,
a Photoshop trick that allows you to superimpose text, an image, or both, onto a second image in such a way that the first image clings to the natural contours of the second; text following the craggy surface of a rock, for example. I began by scanning my line drawing into Photoshop, and coloring the Superman figure.
I applied a Hue/Saturation color adjustment, moving the sliders until I achieved a
nice Kryptonite Green. You can always apply Curves and Brightness/Contrast adjustments to lighten or darken the tone.
I did a search for tax forms, and found a decent JPEG of a 1040 Form at 72 dpi. I downloaded a copy, converted it to a Photoshop Document (.psd), boosted it to 300 dpi, and applied the Unsharp Mask Filter. I then did a Brightness/Contrast color adjustment, which sharpened the blacks and wiped out any grey specs. I only needed the top corner of the form, like so:
At this point, I needed to superimpose the tax form onto the wrinkled paper. Luckily for me, I was able to google my way to this perfect tutorial on creating displacement maps by amazing Photoshop guru Colin Smith. I worked through the tutorial and followed it exactly, including the last step. Here’s the result.
Being a fussbudget, I decided to add some glare on the rock. I did this by creating a new layer above the Kryptonite Text, and applying a radial gradient using the color White at low opacity (trial and error). In retrospect, this was a mistake, as it makes the text harder to read.
To finish up, I added some “grounding” color and a blast of Kryptonite radiation. For
the latter, I used a Foreground to Transparent gradient within a pre-selected area, then a 0% Hardness Eraser to soften the outside edges of the radiation. I also used
a layer mask so I could control the extent to which the Kryptonite Green overpowered the primary colors of Superman’s costume. Here’s the final again: