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Feathers and Flight

Author: Firebirdz

Tools Needed

  • Photoshop
  • Mouse or Drawing Tablet (recommended)


Many a Time, what is often overlooked after rendering birds is to make them more believable. Rendered feathers are usually static and unless they are highly detailed, require touchups on the feathers. Birds in flight will also look static without touchups on the wings. Here are some simple tips that can give that render a little something extra.


Step 1 - Duplicating the layer


In this render, the hummingbird hovers but the wings look “frozen” in time. With a little help from the standard photoshop filters, you can create a feeling of motion to the image.

I first made a duplicate layer in Photoshop and saved the file. Always work with the duplicate layer so that you can go back to the original if you want to restart. Remember to save snapshots along the way in your History palette.

Step 2 - Making your selection


Using the Lasso Tool or any other appropriate selection tool, select the parts of the wings and tail that would be moving the most during flight.

Step 3 - Applying the Filter


In the File Menu, Select Filter > Blur > Motion Blur.

Adjust the Angle in which the wings would be moving and the desired distance. This would help create the illusion of flight. The higher the distance, the blurrer the selected area. Here, I gave it a setting of 4.

Step 4 - Adjusting the Motion BLur


Adjust the distance setting until you are satisfied with the result.

Step 5 - Working on the Feathers


For larger birds, or closeups of small birds, you can enhance the look of the feathers by “brushing” them. Let's start with the DAZ Eagle.

Step 6 - Brushing the Feathers


Start with the Smudge brush with the following settings: one pixel brush, Mode set to Normal and Strength set to 98%. I also made sure that shape dynamics and other dynamics were also selected (see image below - here I used Photoshop 7 but the function is also available in Photoshop 6).


Proceed to use brush strokes going inwards so as to create gaps between the feathers.

From time to time, brush in the opposite direction (outwards) so bits of feather are pulled out so as to create some irregularity.

Do not overdo this step or there won't be any feather left!

Step 7 - Adding Motion


I then made a selection of the wings and tail and applied the motion blur filter to them to create the illusion of motion. See the steps outlined above. This will prevent the image from being too static.

Here is the result.