What you’ll be creating
Today we’ll be diving into photo manipulations. Here I will be introducing the basic methods and tools you can use to create your own as well as some tips about working with different textures. You’ll need Photoshop CS3 or newer to follow this tutorial.
- EagleFreeImages.com by doc_
- Lion FreeImages.com, a great resource by ltshears.
- Woman Shutterstock – However free sites can offer similar results.
- Brushes A nice set of dry paint brush brushes from Blog Spoon Graphics.
- Dust Texture A Great texture pack from PSDBox by Andrei Oprinca! Check out his stuff!
- Concrete Texture – Feel free to use the one you like best in combination with your color scheme.
Let’s start by making a new document. We’ll go to File > New and set it up to 11in X 17in and 300 Pixels/Inch. But remember these are just my settings and others will work! Then we’re going to bring in the concrete texture (or any similar texture you may want to use). Rasterize the layer if its not already (right-click on the layer and click rasterize) and then we’ll blur it to give is a nice soft background with some dynamic to it. Go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur, you can see the settings I used below but different backgrounds may require some changes. Also, we’re going to create a new layer above the blurred concrete layer and run a white to black radial gradient from bottom to top setting that layer to overlay on top of the blurred texture. This will give us a nice little background to work up from, go ahead and group these layers together by Shift+Clicking on both of them then Layer > Group Layers and name and even color the group. When working in big documents its good practice to keep stuff organized.
In this next part, we’ll start by actually extracting our subjects from the stock photos. We’re going to start with bringing in the woman. This process can be done a few different ways but I’ll be covering the way I usually prefer because of the control it offers. We’re going to start by giving the layer a new layer mask by going to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. This is very useful compared to actually deleting layer data in-case you mess up somewhere. The next tool we’ll be using is the pen tool, we’re going to be using this to outline the subject, utilizing a combination of curves and points to get a nice tight outline, this can be tedious but taking the time to do it right will make a huge difference. Now once you’ve got your subject nicely outlined right click and choose “make selection”, then switch to the wand tool (W) and right click then refine edge. This little tool is very very useful for cleaning up edges using the settings as well as the brush it uses especially with hair. The best way to understand how it works is to try it out! My Refine Edge screen from the woman can be seen below to give you an example of how it might look. This process is the basis of any photo manipulation so it’s important to experiment and figure out what tools you like and don’t like. Once you’re happy with your edge, click ok and it will apply it with the “crawling ants”. You can then (making sure you have the outside of your figure selected, Select > Inverse can be useful here) and paint in your mask, thus extracting the figure! Go ahead and make a Black & White adjustment layer above the woman’s layer and apply a clipping mask (Right-click on the adjustment layer and click on make clipping mask, these can be very useful later on. Clipping masks can make one or more layer only affect the layer they are masked too) Go ahead and make another layer in between the Black & White and woman’s head, again making sure the clipping mask goes down to the woman’s head. Now on this layer use a 10%-20% black brush to make a shadow on the right side of her face if you’d like, shadows are an awesome way to add realism to your works, these can be simple one layer things or multiple layers with different blending modes, try some out and see what you can come up with!
Let’s go ahead and bring in the lion next. Just as a side note I like to get everything extracted and positioned properly before I start work on lighting or any effects. So next let’s get the lion all cut out. We’re going to be using the same method before but take some liberties with the accuracy of the edge given that it will eventually be very dark. The refine edge tool’s brush will really help you here with the hair, just run it over the edge and it will separate things further. Follow the same process as before with the lady to get a nice cut out of the lion head as shown below. Now with the lion head, things get a little tricky because we want it behind the woman but the mouth to be coming over the top like in the final image. So what we’ll do it use the same technique as before to isolate the lion’s jaw and mouth but instead of masking the lion, we’ll mask the woman’s head. Once you’re done refining the edge and have the “marching ants” selection you can click on the layer mask for the woman and fill it in so that you can see the lions jaw. Remember we placed the lion behind the woman.
Now that we have the lion sitting nicely on her head we’ll add a Black & White adjustment layer (on auto settings) and a Levels adjustment layer (also on auto). Highlight both of these and Create Clipping Mask down to the lion’s heads layer. Next, let’s add a layer just above the lions head (See layer 8 in the pic below). We’ll use this to shadow out the edge of the lions head so it fades slightly into the background. We can also use this layer to add a shadow to the right side of his face to match the women. As you can see below I added another layer (Layer 4)to paint in a shadow on the woman’s head (the lions cast a shadow onto her head). Next, we’re going to move onto the wings which we can use to hide some of the furry edges on the lion.
For the wings, we’ll use the same technique as before but remember the base of them will be hidden so that’s not an area that needs to be perfect. Cut out the right-wing and duplicate it then flip the duplicate Edit > Free Transform then right-click on it Flip Horizontal and move it into position. We can also group these layers together and place the group behind the woman’s head but above the lion head as you can see in the final product. To get the second set of wings simply duplicate the same one and Free Transform it smaller, moving them into position behind the first two. Mess around with placement and sizing to your liking. Finalize with a clipping mask on the bottom two wings to add a shadow at the base and a black and white adjustment layer on top of the group, applying a clipping mask to this layer just above the group will apply it to just that group. I also added a Levels layer in their (my settings shown below) to get some more contrast.
Things are starting to come together here! But there’s still a good bit to be done to polish this up. In case you missed any black and white adjustment layers we’re going to add one on top (see the image below) with auto settings and a levels adjustment layer below that one with the settings to the left. At this point, your picture should look something like the one on the right. Just for reference the Dust particle layer and Group 3 are the dust particles in the final image but we will be getting to those a little later but this will help you understand their placement, note the one behind to add subtle depth.
Just a step to stop and go over what we have so far. Nows a good time to go back though, get your layers organized, named, and color-coded. This was a mistake I made when I first started doing this and would end up with a bunch of layers and no idea what did what, so naming is a good habit to get into early on. Next, we’re going to move into the red paint, the dust, and finally mastering our image.
Moving into the paint step I’m going to assume you already know how to import brushes but if not a google search is your best friend! On a new layer place in a nice brush, you like across her face in red on an overlay blending mode. Now as you can see the paint is a straight line but if you can imagine paint on someone’s face it wouldn’t be a straight line, it would bulge with the curves. For this, we’ll use a tool called puppet warp, under Edit > Puppet warp. This tool has plenty of uses and can be very very useful but here we’ll be using it to smoothly bumping up the middle of the paint around the nose. With it, you click to place anchors, and then you can click and move those anchors around. Use the image below to see how you would place the anchors but messing around with the tool is the best way to understand how they work. The overlay will give you a nice blend but you can further the look of this paint and make it look more realistic by messing with making more layers of it and changing their blending modes on top of the first.
Let’s go ahead and bring in the Dust Particle Textures, this part is fairly straight forward because all you’ll be doing is placing the images. The trick is setting them all to Screen Blending Mode. This will make everything but the whites transparent, much easier than trying to cut things like this out! (Works great with fire too!) So let’s get those all placed and adding some atmosphere to the piece as a whole and group them together for better organization. I also placed one behind the woman’s head just to add a little depth although this is completely optional.
Congrats! The composition is done! If you feel like that’s enough this is a great place for you to stop however I will be going into mastering, including; Sharpening, Lens Blurs, and Gradient Mapping.
Now for Mastering, different people like to go about this a few different ways but I have my own preferred method I’ll run you through to get you started on finding what works best for you. I first save my document out as a JPG, this flattens it without causing weird effects that can happen sometimes with different blending layers. Then I open that JPG in a new document so that its the Background and we have a fresh doc to work with. Below you’ll find all the Adjustment layers I applied and the settings for each. This is definitely a place to experiment and change the overall feel of the piece with some different colors and even textures if you’d like! I also like to apply Smart Sharpen at this point to make things pop a little more, careful not to overdo it though. A lot of my mastering comes from just experimenting with different things and seeing what I like rather than planning every little detail out (lots of happy accidents!) So dive in!
Once you have your adjustments all up and looking nice we’ll apply a final effect I like to use to tie everything together, lens blur. This can add depth and a sense of connection throughout all the elements in the piece. But we can’t just throw it on and erase parts, it never looks quite right doing that. I like to use the quick mask tool to paint on where I want blurred then when I apply the blur it gets applied smoothly and in different strengths in different areas depending on the opacity of the brush in that area. Pressing Q in photoshop will toggle the Quick Mask mode. Turn down your brush opacity to about 20% and start brushing in your edges. Remember going over an area more than once will later result in more blur compared to another area. Avoid the middle and the lion head. This will also paint on in red so you can see the density and where it is. Pressing Q again will make it Selected (Marching Ants) and we can then go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur and pick out the settings you’d like to use. Make sure Preview is turned on so you can see how it might look, mine is located below but you might like more or less. Click ok and there you are! We’re done! However, as always, I encourage you to mess around with these tools and settings on your own to gain a better understanding of what they do. This is just to help you get comfortable using some of the more common tools of photo manipulation and how they can be used together to create pretty cool results! I hope you enjoyed today’s tutorial!
Download the PSDAnimal Portrait.zip | 43.5 MB
Tutorial by Jacob Pryor
Thank you very much for reading! If you have any questions or there’s something I didn’t cover clearly enough please feel free to post them in the comments below and I’ll be more than happy to help however I can!
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