Learn how to create this contemporary portrait with a color accent war paint. You’ll learn techniques for combining images, add some war paint that conforms to the face, then finish it off with a subtle color effect.
What you’ll be creating
Today we’ll be diving into photomanipulations. 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.
Lets start by making a new document. We’ll go to File > New and set it up to 11in X 17in and 300 Pixles/Inch. But rememeber 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 concreate layer and run a white to black radial gradiant 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 with 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 go your subject nicely outlined right click and choose make selection, the 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 about how it might look. This process is the basis of any photomanplation so its important to experiment and figure out what tools you like and dont 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 youre 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 womans 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 effect the layer they are masked too) Go ahead and make another layer in between the Black & White and womans head, again making sure the clipping mask goes down to the womans 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 muptiple layers with different blending modes, try some out and see what you can come up with!
Lets 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 lets 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 givin 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 seperate things further. Follow the same process as before with the lady to get a nice cutout 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 lions jaw and mouth but instead of masking the lion we’ll mask the womans 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 lions heads layer. Next lets 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 womans. As you can see below I added another layer (Layer 4)to paint in a shadow on the womans head (the lions cast 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 thats not an area that needs to be perfect. Cut out the right wing and duplicate it then flip tthe 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 womans 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 show below) to get some more contrast.
Things are starting to come together here! But theres 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 fist started doing this and would end up with a bunch of layers and no idea what did what, so nameing 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 someones face it wouldnt 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 bupming up the middle of the paint aorund 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. 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.
Lets 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 lets get those all placed and adding some atmosphere to the peice as a whole and group them together for organization. I also placed one behind the womans head just to add a little depth although this is completely optional.
Congrats! The composition is done! If you feel like thats enough this is a great place for you to stop however I will be going into mastering, including; Sharpening, Lens Blurs, and Gradiant Mapping.
Now for Mastering, different people like to go about this a few different ways but I have my own prefered method I’ll run you though 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 youll find all the Adjustment layers I applied and the settings for each. This is definatly a place to expereiment and change the overall feel of the peice with some different colors and even textures if youd like! I also like to apply Smart Sharpen at this point to make things pop a little more, careful not to over do 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 accendents!) 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 thoughout all the elements in the piece. But we cant 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 strenghts 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 compaired to another area. Aviod 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 (Martching Ants) and we can then go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur and pick out the settings youd like to use. Make sure Preveiw is turned on so you can see how it might look, mine are 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 photomanipultion and ow they can be used together to create pretty cool results! Hope you enjoyed todays tutorial!
Download the PSD
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!