I usually don’t use “tricks”, such as filters and effects, when I’m painting in Photoshop. If I do, it’s only for a subtle texture, a quick drop shadow, etc. – but nothing major. However, when painting this cake for my “Cake Eater” illustration, I purposely used a few layer effects to make my job a bit easier.
This illustration may seem a bit puzzling to those of you who haven’t read Roald Dahl’s classic children’s story Matilda. Yes, this woman is very mean, and yes, she is forcing this little kid to eat this cake. It is one of the more memorable scenes I remember from one of my favorite stories. It made for a very fun illustration, and I played around a lot in style, color, and technique. In order for this illustration to work, this cake needed to look rich and gooey and delicious. I really didn’t know how I was going to accomplish this, which is probably why I saved it for last. My drawing was pretty simple with just a basic outline of the cake and the frosting. I started by blocking in the shapes with solid colors.
On another layer, I painted a little value and texture.
I was then faced with creating just the right “spongy” texture for the cake. The idea of painting a bunch of little holes didn’t really appeal to me, so I decided to search through my various textures that I had on file. I eventually found this one, and thought it might work for my needs.
Normally, I would place the texture on a new layer and try various layer modes, such as multiply and overlay, to see what the effect would be. This time I tried something a little different. I selected the texture, then went to Edit –> Define Pattern. This added the texture to my library of patterns within Photoshop. I then took my cake layer and applied a bevel/emboss to it by going to the layer styles button in the Layers palette.
Here are the settings I used:
On the left of the Layer Styles window, there is a checkbox under Bevel/Emboss for “Texture”. I selected this and clicked directly on the word “Texture” to change the settings. I used the drop-down menu to change the pattern to the texture that I defined earlier and played with the sliders until I was satisfied with the look.
The Bevel/Emboss Texture settings:
The texture made crater-like impressions on the surface on the cake, creating the “spongy” feel I was looking for. It was a simple trick that I thought ended up working quite well.
Next came the frosting. I liked using the bevel/emboss trick so much that I tried it again, yet in a different manner. I created a new layer. Before I painted anything on it, I gave it a bevel/emboss layer style. This time, I did not apply a texture to it, and I set the direction of the bevel/emboss to Up instead of Down. Using a rectangular brush set to an opacity between 30-50%, I proceeded to “frost” my cake. I thought this trick was kind of cool because it was almost like frosting an actual cake. Since the bevel/emboss is based on the opaque pixels on my layer, I could use my brush with the lowered opacity to gradually build up my texture.
I had to be careful not to overdo it, because otherwise the frosting would just end up looking flat. If I felt I needed to build up more, I created a new layer with the same bevel/emboss style and continued to paint. When my cake was completely finished, I merged all the cake layers.
There you have it — a cake without the messy kitchen or the calories.