Creating a Highly Detailed Steampunk Insect

Creating a Highly Detailed Steampunk Insect

In this tutorial I’m going to walk through my process for creating a photo-realistic steampunk style insect. This tutorial involves a lot of image composites, so rather than repeating instructions over and over, I’m going to walk through the steps I took and give you an overview of my ideas and thought process behind the piece. This tutorial is surprisingly easy, you just need to have a basic understanding of selection and blending techniques in Photoshop to make the final image appear as realistic as possible. In this article, I’m assuming that you have a moderate understanding of the techniques I’m using, as I don’t go into great detail on every step. Lets take a look.

Here is a view of what we will be creating.

Typically with projects like these I will gather a group of photos that I think might work in the composition, and as I work I begin to narrow down what photos will and will not work. My final list of photos consisted of these:

- Honey Bee Macro (incredible photo!)
- Spring/Coil Image
- Clock Mechanism
- Skeleton Caseback

Step 1 – Deciding What Clock Gears to Use

I think the hardest part of building a composition like this is deciding what pieces to extract and composite into the the piece. In this image it was a matter of what gears and pieces would work on the bee’s body, and which of those pieces would fit well together and look like something someone would actually build.

On the two clock gear images I used the following pieces.

I used the Quick Mask Mode (Q) to extract these pieces, but you can use whatever selection method that you prefer.

Step 2 – Adding the Extracted Images to the Main Composition

This is where the blending and color matching comes into play. The idea is to make these pieces look as natural as possible in the composition, so that your eye does not get automatically drawn to an area that looks distracting or unnatural. To start, I created a new document 1500×1500 at 72 dpi, and pasted the bee image onto it.

I added the first piece, and positioned it in a way that I felt it looked natural. I decided this seemed like a starting point that I could build onto with other mechanical parts.

From there I began adding other pieces, and positioned  them like puzzle pieces. “This fits here. That fits there… etc”. As I was positioning the mechanical parts I realized that the arms sticking out sort of aligned with the bee’s wings, so I knew I wanted to accent that a little more. In comes the coil springs. I used the Puppet Warp Tool to bend the springs in the direction I wanted. If you’ve never used the Puppet Warp Tool

I felt like the metal on the arms was a little too clean compared to the first piece. So decided to overlay a texture just on that layer. Any good metal grunge texture will work well.

Next up, I painted some subtle shadows using a soft black brush at 30% opacity. The idea is to start light and build up the shadows.

Step 3 – More Detail

I like how this is looking so far. But I feel like something more is needed.

Looking at the clock gear images, I decided it might be cool if there was a little hatch or opening in the bee where the viewer could get a glimpse at some of the inner mechanisms of the bee. In order to do that I made a vector shape in the spot I felt the hatch should appear.

I made a selection using this shape and copied and pasted the bee’s back to make a separate hatch piece laying off to the side. I used the distort transform tool (Edit | Transform | Distort) to warp the hatch slightly so that the angle looked natural. Then I painted some shadows on a layer underneath.

As for the exposed mechanisms inside the view port, I coped and pasted another section of the clock gears, and used the vector shape as a guide to remove the portions I didn’t want.

Now it’s just a matter of shading the area to look a bit more natural. I used the soft black brush at 30% again.

Step 4 – Final Tweak

Before calling it complete, I noticed that one of the gear images has a small dial. So I decide that I have to use it somewhere. After a bit of trial and error, I decide to simply place on the side of the bee next to the exposed hatch.

Step 5 – Adjusting the Final Lighting

To blend the colors and light a little better, I added a Gradient Map adjustment layer. I set the layer’s blend mode to opacity, and used the following gradient.

Below is the final piece.

I hope this overview has given you an idea of my thought process as I worked through this piece, and some of the ideas that I applied while designing. Gather some photos up and give it a try. Steampunk styled compositions can be incredibly detailed and a lot of fun to build.



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Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown is a graphic designer who loves working with various media. He combines traditional art styles with a little experimentation and digital flare. Nathan's works have contained everything from ink and paint to leaves and a box of dirt. Everything is fare game when it comes to his approach to art. Nathan lives in Austin, Texas where he has been working as a designer for 10 years.


(+add yours)
  1. Patara

    Thanks for this Nathan, looks great. I’ve always wanted to try something Steampunk so will save away until I get a chance. Also thanks for always supplying the full tutorial in the email as it makes it so much easier to store away for later use.

  2. Awesome tutorial and result! thank you for sharing

  3. haha ! love the end result . very nice tutorial ! :D

  4. looks very nice, lots of great details!

  5. boom!

    Thanks for this awesome tutorial! I tried following and here is what i came up with:

  6. Thanks for the tutorial :D

  7. awesome..!

  8. This is just brilliant, Nathan!

  9. Daniel de Souza

    isso ñ adianta ver o tutorial sem as fotos originais q vcs usaram!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Daniel de Souza

    no use to see the tutorial without the original photos
    you used!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Não adianta ver o tutorial SEM como fotos Originais
    Que usaram VOCÊS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    no sirve para ver el tutorial sin las fotos originales
    que utilizó!!!!!!!

  11. Wow it’s great. thanks for sharing

  12. Great tutorial! Used this for some quick fun. Check out my rc fly:

    I would love some feedback!

  13. Spot on with this write-up, I really believe this amazing site needs much
    more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the advice!

  14. Great instruction. I Learned a lot.

  15. tank you

  16. You have a great site. Please keep us updated with new posts and articles.

  17. Hi,

    Thanks for the tutorial. I attempted it with a photo I took. Will be posting it on my site soon :)

  18. its vey nice article thank you

  19. Awesome post, I love PS for the reason that you show us.

  20. Awesome post, I love PS for the reason that you show us.

  21. iidea soft

    I love it , Amazing

  22. Wow very good, Thanks :-)

  23. ooww tnx i enjoyed a lot

  24. ooww tnx i enjoyed a lot . i love it

  25. Great, thanks a lot

  26. thanks for sharing this article , i am eager to these subjects

  27. Fantastic tutorial. Thanks for sharing

  28. Thanks for sharing such great tutorial. photos are amazing. very detailed and beautiful.

  29. I like your website very much..:-)

  30. very good data this site

  31. so good tutorial. when i was reading steps, i wait for end mission.thanks a lot

  32. recently i found your is archive of best graphic tutorials.thanks Nathan

  33. i just can speack good comment

  34. tnx for this

  35. This insect is harmful but useful

  36. in the world in the life this is nice

  37. thank you for nice commnet

  38. thank for nice comment

  39. all this item is good tank you

  40. this is very good tank you

  41. Thanks for the interesting and useful

  42. thank you
    useful and Attractive

  43. thank you

  44. so nice !

  45. thank you

  46. if you can pleas give us mo toturial like this .
    i want to know how can i be able to round corner boxe with shadow

  47. so so so so nice

  48. thanck you

    very very goooooooooooood

  49. good tnks

  50. Hej Nathan! Thanks. What an excellent tutorial. I’ve been working on some bug illustrations and needed a bit of inspiration.

  51. do good thank u

  52. Thanks for the tutorial. I attempted it with a photo I took. Will be posting it on my site soon :)

  53. ???? ???? ???

  54. ???? ???? ???

  55. The text was very nice and helpful.
    Thank you Webmaster

  56. veryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy gooooooooooooooood

  57. Thanks to good luck

  58. very good tank u

  59. amazing thank you

  60. Thank you Webmaster.

  61. The text was very nice and helpful.

  62. text is very useful and i use it more time

  63. thx, i like your posts and tutorials :)

  64. thanks, i like your posts and tutorials :)

  65. amazing (o l 0)

  66. Thanks for sharing Post

  67. Thanks for sharing this Post ;)

  68. I always have good luck
    The text was very helpful and informative.
    Thanks for reading and we look forward to more Webmaster

  69. thanks for sharing with us , so great

  70. so useful to me , thanks guy

  71. thanks for this awesome post!
    site design

  72. woow.The evolution of technology is enormous .

  73. Thanks for your good tutorial.

  74. thank for this post.i like this

  75. I always visit your website and share materials taken from your website. The materials provided in website are really interesting and amazing.
    Best wishes

  76. Thank you very much, very good idea, my is here :

  77. i like it thank for this post

  78. all this item is good tank you

  79. wow, it’s awesome,
    Where did you copy the spring?

  80. tnx a lot. i see your site much and enjoy it.

  81. It’s very good :-)

  82. thanks for this post.i like this

  83. thank for this post.i like this

  84. very excelent.

  85. Thank you so much, its very good.

  86. thanks alot for this post

  87. I like this post.tnx

  88. very good

  89. tnx for best content

  90. its fun

  91. very good

  92. very good

  93. Awesome article

  94. thanks for sharing…
    very good site

  95. thanks a lot for this page.

  96. thank you

  97. very goof article about web site design

  98. can i translate this for my site and link to you ?

    • BradLenox

      Thank you for your interest, but we do not allow re-publication. For similar questions please see our FAQ at

      • ok, thanks for your answer. really thanks

  99. I really liked the content of this article thanks a lot.

  100. very nice. thank you

  101. thanks for this post. I like this

  102. hello
    very good

  103. thanks
    a lot for this page!!!

  104. I like this post………….

  105. I like this post very much. thanks admin

  106. very thanks a lot for this page ..

  107. i think The evolution of technology is enormous ….

  108. no use to see the tutorial without the original photos
    you used!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  109. Very nice post!

  110. your webdesign is veryyyyyy nice :-)

  111. very useful contents

  112. o my god
    very thanks a lot for this page & site

  113. very good

  114. ????? ? ??????? ?? ????? ? ??????? ?? ?? ??

  115. ZZbro

    What photoshop do you use?

  116. useful and practical …..

  117. thank you , this is really great information and help me about this subject

  118. this is very good tank you.

  119. I like this post very much. thanks admin

  120. thanks for your post

  121. wooooooow.very goood.thanks

  122. thank you , this is really great information and help me about this subject

  123. Nice thanks for sharing ;)

  124. thanks for nice sharing

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