Photo Retouching Article - Drum Kit Photos

Written by Graham W Wöbcke

This post has been updated slightly since it was originally posted on and it explains how I changed an image of a snare provided by a member of the PearlDrummerForum to show what it would be like with the finish he liked on a particular drum kit. Read Thread Here

The version of Photoshop used in this article is Photoshop 7.01. If you are using a version higher, you might use slightly different tools but the technique to achieve this remains the same.

Here is the photo of the kit that was provided.


And here is the photo of the snare drum, a Yamaha Akira Jimbo 13x7 Snare with maple hoops. Lucky for me, it was a high contrast image as this makes it a lot easier.


Where do we begin?

We obviously load the snare image inside Photoshop, but we should also do a few other things before we start any work. I created a blank document the same size as the snare image and I then added the snare image as Layer 1. Underneath Layer 1, I added a solid colour layer that is bright and one we would never expect to see in the image. You will see why we do this later, but I selected a bright pink colour and created Layer 2 underneath Layer 1. Take a look at the layer pallete here to see what I mean.


Right, time to make some non-destructive edits. In Photoshop, I find I very rarely need to use the Eraser tool. I always prefer to use a non-desctructive method of editing called masking. If you have never done masking before, I will explain to you how to do this now.

The first masked layer we will create is one that will allow us to change the finish on the drum but leave all other elements as they were in the initial image. So, the first thing we should do is duplicate Layer 1, so it sits above Layer 1 on the palette. I have also renamed the layer to a more meaningful name, in this case, Drum Finish. We can then refer to this Drum Finish layer later on with ease, knowing that this is the layer we are using. We now need to make suire we have selected that layer so click on the Drum Finish layer so it is highlighted. Now at the bottom of the layer palette is a row of icons. We need to select the second icon, the one that looks like a rectangle with a circle inside. This creates a layer mask for the currently hightlighted layer. Click on this icon and we should now see a mask layer to the right of the preview icon for the highlighted layer.


With layer masks, we use the brush/pencil or fill tools to paint with either black to hide areas or white to show them. Firstly, turn off Layer 1 by clicking on the eye to the left of Layer 1 in the palette. We now start to paint with black to hide all of the areas of the drum other than the part that contains the drum finish. When doing this, we will notice that the pink colour starts to appear. This is great because we now know that the mask is doing its job and is hiding the areas we do not want to change. Continue to paint with black until you have masked out all that you do not want to change. If you make a mistake, simply undo or paint over with white to restore the masking on that section. As you can see, masking is a very powerful and useful tool to know how to use effectively.


Once we have masked the Drum Finish layer fully, your image should look something like this:


Don't worry if your masking is slightly rough, it should still give a nice result. I have also purposely left in pieces of shading and black to add to the appearance of the final image.

The real fun with these images starts now

Right, so now we are ready to start applying blending options to the Drum Finish layer and we can start to change the appearance of the drum. We firstly need to sample the finish from the provided photo and create a pattern with it so we can use it. Due to the different lighting inside the photo, I have taken two samples, one from the brightest part of the finish and one from the darkest part.

Here are the two samples I took.

pattern2.jpg pattern1.jpg

As you can see they are quite different but they both have similar tonality due only to the different lighting. So, what I decided to do was increase the contrast of the darker sample and add in some grain to create one high contrast sample and then use that as a pattern. Here is the sample I worked with.


OK. Now using this sample, I created a pattern in Photoshop [Edit-Define Pattern] so I can then use it later as a pattern overlay blending mode. To create a blending option, simply right click on the selected layer and choose Blending Options. You'll see the Layer Style window appear as below. Here we will need to use the pattern we just created on a Pattern Overlay. Place a check mark in the box next to Pattern Overlay and your options will appear in the right hand section.


Your drum finish should now look like blue bubbles because this is the default pattern. We will need to select our pattern from the pattern list by clicking on the button that opens the pattern picker and then selecting the pattern we created. Your drum will now have that grainy look from the pattern but it will be too intense. As we created a high contrast version of the pattern, we will want to reduce the opacity of the pattern to compensate for this. I reduced the opacity to around 25% and liked what I saw, so I went with that. Click OK and the blending mode is applied and this is how the drum should look now.


To keep the sparkles but make it slightly darker, we change Blend Mode from Normal to Linear Burn. As the underlaying colour of the drum finish is white, the pattern is burnt into the white and darker pixels are shown.


Here are a few other images I made for the fun of it:

That was all that was asked for but I had some further fun with this drum by creating two more masked layers, one for the drums wooden rims and one for the drums hardware. Here are three other versions of the drum that I made. The green drum was using a Color Overlay layer that was using the Color Burn Blend Mode.


This drum was made by adding a Gradient Overlay layer, with a standard black to white gradient. The Blend Mode of this Gradient Overlay was set to Linear Burn so that the black was retained but the white was replaced with the green on the Color Overlay. The gradient was reversed so the black was on the top rather than the bottom and then the opacity was set to 66% on the gradient and the scale of the gradient was set to 55%. I also applied a black Color Overlay layer with a Blend Mode of Overlay and an opacity of 42% on the wooden rims to make them look more rich.


This final drum was made by applying a red Color Overlay and a Pattern Overlay on the finish layer. I then applied a black Color Overlay layer on the hardware with a Blend Mode of Pin Light and an opacity of 40%. Finally, I applied a black Color Overlay layer on the wooden rims with a Blend Mode of Color. I then set the layer style of the wooden rims layer to Linear Burn.


A 'cracked' finish with satin hardware


The original finish with gold hardware


The green finish with black hoops and black chrome hardware


Right, so there you go. That is how we can manipulate an image in a non-destructive manner and achieve excellent results. I have provided the photoshop source file (3.41mb) for you to download and use so you get a better understanding of this process. Good luck and enjoy Photoshop!