With some illustrations you can go directly from paper sketches to working in Photoshop on what will become the finished project. Some illustrations can prove a little more complicated, though, especially when perspective and lighting must be accurate. In this situation it can be incredibly helpful to create a 3D mock-up before getting into the nitty-gritty of the project.

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PJ Tierney used precisely such a workflow in creating Transonik, his illustration inspired by the game series Wipeout. He devised a basic model of the racecraft using Google’s free SketchUp application (available from and imported it into Photoshop to use as the basis for the final work.

In this tutorial PJ takes you through the basics of modelling in SketchUp before showing you how to make the most of clipping masks, brush opacities, layer groups and Photoshop actions to recreate the model in Photoshop with maximum realism.

If you want to skip the racecraft design process, start at Step 6 to pose PJ’s model (available in the Project Files) in SketchUp, or dive right into Photoshop from Step 7.

Time to complete

3D mock-up 4-5 hours; main illustration 15-20 hours


Photoshop, Illustrator & Google SketchUp 8

Project files

Files for this tutorial are downloadable from here.

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