Barbed-asol Wire face - (See what I did there?)

Some nice Photoshop today, from the days long before Photoshop was even a baby program. In this 1962 ad, Barbasol uses the time-tested method of burning a striking image into your brain, and hoping their brand identity comes along for the ride.
A contemporary example of this can be... ooh, let's see... the bank commercials with the lovable vikings running rampant in our modern world asking us "What's in YOUR wallet?" Trouble is, I can't remember what bank made the ad or how the vikings tie in to the bank's services. This is a failure.

Barbasol chose to wrap a man's face in barbed wire by way of selling you their whisker-taming cream. Well done. THAT makes sense. Modern unknown viking bank, take note.

There's some REALLY good photo retouching going on here. I don't think they wrapped a real model in barbed wire, although looking for clues revealing the artist's technique only impresses me with the workmanship. I can't even tell if the barbed wire is a photo, safely wrapped around a dummy head and comped onto the real photo, or if the wire is completely painted in by the artist, from scratch, as it were.

The trick to getting this illusion right is all in the shadows. You'd think the rendering on the wire would be the key - and it has to be done right, of course - but the shadows are what "plants" the wire on the model and makes it look like it's digging into the guy's skin. Let's try to follow along.

First we need a black and white picture. W.C. Fields will do. The blue lines form a box around our work area.

Here's W.C.'s cheek, unmolested.

I'll be trying to use basic painting tools in Photohsop, to mimic the barbaric level of technology the Barbasol artist had to work with.
First, we "press" on the edge of his face in the fatty area where the wire would deform it a little bit. Here's is where I used the "smear" tool. It could be done with an airbrush, but I don't have all day. The rest of this process is all airbrush. I promise.

Next we paint a "trench" in his cheek following the path of the wire across his skin. Light comes from above, so shadow forms under the "cliff" formed by the depression in the skin. A little light forms the "ledge" that catches the light.

Here's the wire. First comes the dark, sampled from the inside of W.C.'s ear hole to make sure the tones match what's already present in the photo. Then some mid tones describing the curvature of the wire. Then white highlights showing us the shiny parts. This part takes the most time, not surprisingly.

Then we add the cast shadow under the barbed wire. The wire is close to the skin, an dthe shadow is traveling a short distance, so the shadow gets a clearly defined edge. Lots of people chicken out and make shadows soft, because they're intimidated with the task of figuring out where the shadows should fall, and don't know what else to do. Never blur because you're uncertain. Only blur if that's what's called for.

This last step is subtle. I blurred all our fakery in certain areas to match the very short depth of focus in the photo. W.C.'s ear is soft, so the wire is soft near there. His lips are soft, so the wire next to his lips is soft. I also sprayed some grey over the highlights in the wire near his mouth, noticing that the light mostly comes from the side in the original photo, and the lighting on the wire didn't quite match.

So, here's our little drunkard with a sprig of barbed wire garnishing his chubby face. The Barbasol guy had "classic" tools and more than an hour to do it, but the best tool is his skill, which is easily overlooked in an age when any oaf with a pirated copy of Photosop calls himself an "artist". Here's to you, uncredited Barbasol ad artist!


Craig F. said...

Barbed wire Bluetooth earpiece available exclusively through the Skymall catalog.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

The preferred Bluetooth earpiece of cenobytes. Teeth chatterer leaves the most boring voicemails.


Thanks for reading, Craigf!

Phil Jr. said...

I shat myself. Bravo, Phil Sr.
I used to do editorial cartoons for 2 San Diego newspapers. It was a paid gig, but not my day job. I remember many nights tossing sketch after sketch over my shoulder, desperate for a worthy idea. And then there were the gems that went down on paper on the first try. I feel like you must have similar trials in producing P.A.G. with such consistency.
Though I applaud every offering, I feel especially humbled by this one. It entertains and educates your readers, while it showcases your talent. It certainly feels like you spent more than an hour on it. I hate you for that.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Jeez, thanks, Other Phil! It may have been previous job experience that flogged me up to speed. One job was a video post house (video sweatshop), working in an edit suite with a client from DoucheBank International staring over my shoulder. They'd think up an idea and the editor and I would have to make it happen while they sipped coffee and put their feet up. All the while they'd be commenting "Nope. Yep. More like that. Nope again. Hey, your job must be so fun!"

High pressure job number two was a cartoon studio where we were paid like a factory, with each foot of completed film (16 frames, I think) was worth a flat rate. Keep in mind that one frame of film does not equal one drawing. A character's body can be broken up into several layers so his body can "hold" while the head "talks". Some scenes were just a man standing there and talking (body-1 drawing, heads-30 drawings, arms-10 drawings). Other scenes had maybe six characters dancing and singing (bodies-hundreds of drawings, heads-hundreds of drawings. A scene with one guy standing and talking could be 35 feet x $28 per foot = gold mine. A dancing group of kids could be two feet long and require 300 drawings. Some animators went "into the hole" actually owing the studio money. This is why cartoons are animated overseas now.

Aaaaanyway, I can do one little strand of barbed wire in an hour. Wrapping his whole face would be a larger project. My skills with an actual brush and paint are now negligible, so I couldn't do it on an actual photo for any money. The Barbasol artist was amazing.

Thanks for reading, Other Phil!

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