Deke’s Techniques 169: Attack of the Killer Pumpkin! (In Photoshop!)

169 Attack of the killer pumpkin

This week’s technique is based on a request from a member of the Online Training Library. And while I love the requests (keep ‘em coming!), this one turns out to be a bit silly. This particular person—male, female, phantom, no one knows, it’s so scary—wanted to know how to create a killer tomato. Like in the movies. Two problems: 1) Those movies are no good. You know how some movies are so bad they’re great? Like the most entertaining movie ever made if you’re a geek like me, Plan 9 from Outer Space? The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes franchise is Plan 9’s opposite. That is to say, a series of movies intended to be funny-bad that are just plain unpleasantly idiotic. 2) Despite they’re wretched awfulness, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is aggressively trademarked. And after that Olympic Rings debacle, I’m not willing to risk yanking another video for a crappy bunch of unwatchable films.

(Oh, I’ll risk it again. You can bet on that. But it’ll be for something loftier.)

Then I thought, killer tomatoes, it’s a funny idea. It has a high geek factor. And we’re all geeks, and watching that first movie and then researching this project by watching a bunch of gut-wretchingly awful sequel trailers really pissed me off. So I thought, you know, really, fuck it. I’ll make that video. Only I’ll substitute the tomato for America’s most patriotic squash, the pumpkin. God + America = the pumpkin, after all. George Jefferson was a pumpkin, and so was Theodore Lincoln, and so am I.

You’re gonna like this one. Here’s the official description from

This week’s Deke’s Techniques is the first of two installments of Deke’s annual Halloween tribute, in which he celebrates his favorite holiday by making ghoulish but gorgeous graphics in Photoshop.

The underlying technique in this project, which is actually useful for any time of year, is how to “carve” a face into an otherwise unsuspecting pumpkin. 

Cute girl with unsuspecting pumpkin

The first step is to draw an angry face on a transparent background. For this evil grin, Deke used a Wacom tablet and his own vivid if childish imagination.

Oh gosh that's a scary face

Next, Deke adds the face to the original photo. He uses the Edit > Transform command to get the face to the size and angle he’s looking for:

The pumpkin has gone to the dark side

A layer mask, created with the Color Range command and some hand-crafted detail, removes the parts of the face that have spilled over onto the girl’s arm.

Masking the killer pumpkin

A variety of layer effects—Drop Shadow, Color Overlay, and Outer Glow, if you must know—along with a Smart Filter-application of the Median filter, carves the face into the pumpkin’s flesh. 

Oh wow now the pumpkin appears carved

Finally, duplicating the pumpkin’s mouth, coloring its teeth white, and then giving them some transparency (by changing the Advanced Blending settings in the Layer Style dialog box) add the final touch.

Shit, the teeth!

And that’s just the beginning of this seasonal Photoshop celebration. For members, Deke has an exclusive video in which he shows you how to create a classic glowing-eyed jack-o-lantern effect, starting with this very same image. 

Deke will be back with another spooky Photoshop technique next week!

In case you’re wondering what that project looks like, here it is:

A faux Jack-o-lantern created in Photoshop

As for next week, it’s not even a technique. It’s a yarn about how someone brought me a smart phone that they found in the woods. They asked me to recover the heavily-JPEG’d data off the device’s card, and this (among other horrors) is what I found:

A recovered photograph of a headless figure

I’m not deluding myself, am I? That’s a figure in the gloom, right??? I swear to you: I am totally making this up and this is not a true story! Which is what freaks me out, frankly. I’ll tell you all about it next week.

Oh, btw, I’m gonna be the one and only guy not to urge you to vote. Don’t vote. It’s all a waste of time. And you’re a factory-issued tool. Seriously, don’t vote. Just let the bad guy win.

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 171: The Headless Stranger, a Tale of Photoshop Horror

Previous entry:Deke’s Techniques 168: Creating a Money-Like Design in Illustrator

  • Bad Movies

    1) We can say (one of the) f words here now?
    2) I still say “Manos: The Hands of Fate” is the worst movie ever.
    3) George Clooney was in one of those Tomato movies. I don’t think he’s highlighting it on his resume.

    4) Both guys are courting the low information voters at this point. The LIVs, if they bother to show up, will probably just do a coin toss. I’m not in a swing state, so they’re basically leaving me alone. Yay!

  • I don’t know which is

    I don’t know which is better. Your new video or the marvelous description of your video. ;-)

    You know you could just rename the the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes video to “Eke’s Day Uckin Fay Ttack Aay of the Iller Kay Omatoes Tay Hotoshop Pay Utorial Tay”

  • Yeah, \“Manos\” is unspeakably terrible

    In its favor, it wasn’t trying to be funny.

    But it is unwatchable. Even with ‘bots.

    My eldest, Max, routinely claims that any movie made before he was born does not scare him in the slightest. So I dared him and showed both my boys “Aliens.” The James Cameron one, that scared the pee out of me when it came out. They laughed at it. Peels of laughter. Made me replay a few scenes, they thought it was so hokey hilarious.

    And as I watched their reactions, I couldn’t help but agree. The FX and the dialog are so dated. Fortunately, Bill Paxton is still funny.

    Anyway, I’m not sure gore and horror has much of a shelf life. Maybe someone watched “Manos” once and thought it was scary. Instead of, you know, depressingly wretched.

    On a different note, can’t wait for WWZ!

  • No one could find \“Manos\” scary…

    ...unless, of course, they’re terrified of 20 minute long driving montages.

    On second thought, maybe it is a pretty scary movie.

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