Photoshop Tutorial: Create a metallic silver or gold vehicle in 3 steps!

When designing for the Renault Trucks UK ‘Design A Livery’ competition that I wrote about for my last blog post, I wanted to turn the non-metallic white truck cab into a gold one for an idea I had. Here’s how I achieved that result, and I eventually found a technique that worked for gold, via creating silver as well. I felt this could be useful for some people, and that’s why I’ve written a quick tutorial about it.

The Base Image:

Before we start, it’s important to consider the base image, as generally, the lighter the vehicle’s original colour, the easier it is to change it to something else. So here we are lucky to have a white truck cab.

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1. To find gold, first you must find silver!

Due to the fact we want to darken the tones of the truck’s paintwork it is necessary to go to the Layers Palette, and add a Curves adjustment layer. By altering the line into a curve, you can achieve the desired effect. It is worth bearing in mind that every image will probably require handling differently.

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To isolate this change only to the areas we want, click on the Layer Mask button. By pressing Ctrl/Cmd + I to Invert the layer means the adjustment is now completely hidden. For layer masks, black hides and white reveals. Moving to the Brush tool (B), choosing a relatively hard brush (around 65%) allows us to brush white over the area we want to be silver. If you make a mistake press the X key to swap between white and black. I used a graphics tablet for greater control here, but you may find you want to use a selection tool such as the Magic Wand instead.

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2. Adding the metallic flake to the paintwork.

While the truck now looks silver, it still is ‘flat’, which is holding back the overall effect. To create the metallic flakes, click the New Layer button at the base of the Layers Palette, set the Foreground Color to 50% grey (CMYK 0,0,0,50) using the Fill box in the Tools bar, and then selecting the Paint Bucket Tool before clicking once on the layer to cover it.

Then right-click on the layer and select Convert to Smart Object. By doing this now, it will allow us to make adjustments later on if necessary. By going now to Filter > Add Noise, and setting the Amount to 15%, Distribution as Gaussian, and ticking the Monochromatic box gives the desired effect. Again for other images you may need more or less noise.

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With our layer mask already made in the first step, we can press the Option key (Alt) while clicking and dragging the later mask onto the noise layer, thereby duplicating it in the process.

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Then we need to switch the Blending Mode (found at the top of the Layers Palette to Overlay, in order to blend the noise layer over the truck. Again, you may want to experiment with different blending modes if you want a slightly different look, or you can go back and adjust the level of noise.

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3. Turning the vehicle gold

Thankfully Photoshop makes it easy to change the colour to gold. Double-clicking on the Noise layer brings up the Layer Styles dialogue box from where a variety of effects can be applied. Tick the Color Overlay, click the colour box visible, and enter the values FFB720 — a strong yellow — into the bottom box. Then the last thing to do is change the blend mode to Multiply to allow the truck to be visible beneath it. The advantage of a Color Overlay is that if you want to change the colour, it is a very easy change to make.

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And that’s it! From there, it is very easy to change the colour of the truck to something else entirely, or to increase/decrease the amount of metallic flakes visible.