The Freedom to Move

By Rus Khasanov

When Adobe asked me to illustrate the concept of multilocalism, the idea of a silhouette of a person with a balloon flying through a city came to my mind almost immediately. To me, it says freedom and movement. I used a multi-exposure technique to express the contrast between the place where we are and where we wish to be, and to show the transition from monochrome reality to a bright dream. In the video clips below, you can see how I went from vision to finished artwork using Photoshop, Illustrator, Dimension, several Adobe Stock images—and paints in oil.

This is my finished piece.

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I begin by searching Adobe Stock for a photo I can turn into a silhouette. I consider many pictures of dancers and jumping people until I find one that suits my idea perfectly.

I license two photos of the woman in different poses because I like the head position in one and the body in another. (Sometimes even a slight difference in hand rotations are important.) In Adobe Photoshop CC, I combine parts from both photos into one rough figure, and then open that in Adobe Illustrator CC to draw the silhouette with Illustrator’s Pen tool. I mostly follow the outline of the figure but do change some things, such as a foot, as I go along.

I also license a panorama of the city, a photo of a sunny landscape, and a 3D object of a balloon, all of which I’ll use later in my process.


The next step is drawing hair. Hair is one of the most important details in the illustration; the free and airy hair in this photo was one reason I chose it. It took me more than 90 minutes to draw the hair; you can see a short clip from that process below.

I recommend that you start with larger objects and gradually go to small ones. Using Illustrator’s Pen tool, I outline large curls around which I’ll draw smaller details. On the top of her head, there’s a curl that may look like a horn in the silhouette; I’ll fix that later. For drawing small curls and hair, I create my own Art Brushes. It’s best to make several brushes in different sizes. I draw individual hairs with the Pen tool. If you have a graphics tablet, it’s better and faster to use the Brush tool, but I only work with a touchpad. 

When I finish the silhouette, I save the Illustrator file with a transparent background.


I want a few abstract, bright textures to fill the balloons and decide to make them with paints, water, and oil. It’s important to use liquid paint that is not thick. I fill syringes with paints, pour oil on a dish, and play with the colors. Because of the oil, the paint drops don’t spread, but keep the shape of ball. To mix colors, I add water.

I photograph the results with a Sony a7R2 with a 90mm f / 2.8 Macro G lens, then open the files in Photoshop to crop them and adjust the levels.


To make the balloons for the final artwork, I could have just drawn silhouettes and filled them with my paint textures, but I want the balloons to look real, so I begin with a 3D file from Adobe Stock and open that in Adobe Dimension CC, the new 3D application. I make copies of the balloon, group them, and then apply the textures I made with paint.

I haven’t worked with 3D for a long time, but Dimension was simple and intuitive.


In Photoshop, I create a new document of 4000x4000 pixels. I copy and paste the city panorama, a bright landscape, the silhouette, and the balloons and arrange the silhouette and balloons. Using a clipping mask, I fill the silhouette with the bright landscape.

I draw ribbons for the balloons with the Pen tool [not shown]. To increase detail in the landscape, I run a filter (Nik Collection Color Efex Pro’s Detail Extractor), and then duplicate the layer to increase the brightness. Later, I apply Gaussian Blur and the Soft Light Blend mode.

I want to see more elements, so I add circles cut from the textures with multi-colored overflows; this also brightens the image.

As a final step, I run the Color Efex Pro plug-in. I most commonly use the Film Efex: Modern and Cross Processing filters.

You can find more of Rus Khasanov’s work on Behance and his website.