Photoshop is a great tool to create many forms of art. With it, there is no limit of what kind of artwork we can create. The only limit is our imagination. In this tutorial we will create a kind of surreal artwork, which I call ‘Surreal Head Stacking Photo Manipulation’. I’m only using two stock photos to create this, the rest is heavy use of selection, masking, grouping and several color correction. So let’s get started!
Preview of Final Results
Download and Open in Photoshop the Rural Self Portrait photo. Using Rectangular Marquee tool, create selection around the head and shoulder area like on the screenshot.
Use Image> Crop to crop selected area, deselect with Ctrl+D. Now we get a nice close up view.
Using Pen tool, create selection path covering shoulder and head area perfectly.
Right click the paths, choose Make Selection from the pop up menu. Click OK to transform path into selection.
Copy selected area to a new layer by pressing Ctrl+J.
Draw an ellipse path using Ellipse tool, this path will mark the cut area of the head later. Edit the path’s bottom part using Direct Selection and Path Selection tool, so the path will arched following the nose shape.
In order to create thickness for the cut area, create a second elipse path or simply duplicate the first one.
Hold Alt while dragging the first path, this way the path will be duplicated when you start dragging it. With the second path still selected, click subtract from shape area button.
Go to Edit> Free Transform to reduce second path’s size and re-align its position to the center of the first path.
Open the Paths panel (go to Window> Paths in case you didn’t know), click Load path as selection button to change the path into selection.
Go back to Layers panel, duplicate selected area to a new layer by pressing Ctrl+J.
We also need to duplicate the half head layer. When you done duplicating layers, hide the rim cut and background layer.
Drag full head layer to the topmost layer stack. Within the Paths panel, select rim cut path we created earlier and then Load this path as selection.
Add layer mask for half head layer, do this while holding Alt button. This will change the selection into layer mask. And because you hold Alt button, the color of layer mask become inverted. Now we get a hole in the face.
Continue masking using hard round brush tool until the upper head part is completely hidden. Make sure you set the brush color to black when continue masking.
Show the rim cut layer, you should saw the curve white lines now. Remove this curve white lines by continue masking on the half head layer using smaller brush, and set the brush color to white.
Our selection on Step 3 seems to leave some hair texture on the ears. Repair this flaws using a new clipping mask layer and Clone Stamp tool. Sample a clean skin texture near the ears area to cover the hair texture. Because we’re working in different layer, make sure Sample: All layers option is selected from the option bar.
Add a new clipping mask layer above rim cut layer. Using Eyedropper tool, pick highlights and shadows color samples from the face and set them as the foreground and background color.
Ctrl+Click rim cut’s layer thumbnail to create a selection. Expand selection area about 2px wide by going to menu Select> Modify> Expand.
Use Filter>Render> Clouds menu to fill the selection with cloud filter. Not satisfied with the result? You can repeat the clouds filter by pressing Ctrl+F.
Deselect with Ctrl+D when you’re done.
Use Burn and Dodge tool to manually define shadows and highlight areas in the cut texture layer. Make sure you pick Range: Midtones and use low Exposure value for both tools.
Still in the cut texture layer, add grainy noise to it by using Filter> Noise> Add Noise. Set the Amount: 2% and then OK.
Blur the noise using Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur with radius value around 0.3.
The ‘hole’ inside the circle need to be fill with texture. Select it easily using Magic Wand tool (make sure the sample all layers option was checked!).
As like the previous steps, expand the selection around 2px value.
Add new layer beneath half head layer, name it ‘head texture’. Use the Cloud Filter again to fill the selection (notice that we’re still using the same foreground/background color as before). Don’t forget to deselect when done.
We will use gradients and filters. Click “Add a layer style” small icon in the bottom part of the Layers Palette. Apply “Inner Shadow” and “Gradient Overlay” styles. Use setting and colors just like on the screen shots below.
Inside the Inner Shadow setting, change blend mode to soft light, increase Distance and Size value.
While in the Gradient Overlay setting, set the gradient color to black and white, select multiply blend mode, increase Opacity to 80%. Make sure Angle is set to 900 and the Scale is increased to 116%.
We need to add inner shadow inside the cut texture. To do this, add Inner Glow layer style for the cut texture layer. Why not use Inner Shadow but Inner Glow instead? I personally like the softer result from the inner glow layer style, and it was easier to control. Follow the instruction in the image below and you’ll be OK.
Apply Drop Shadow to rim cut layer. Use grey as the Drop Shadow color. Select Color Dodge blend mode, set Angle to 900, adjust Distance: 1px and Size: 5px. By Following this setting, you will get a nice highlight color beneath the rim cut.
Create new layer beneath rim cut layer, name it ‘shadow’ and set Multiply as the blend mode. Ctrl+Click on the half head layer thumbnail to create a selection. Next, hold Ctrl+Alt+Shift while clicking half head layer mask thumbnail. This action will intersect both of the selection.
Inside the selection, draw shadow in the marked area. Do this by using black soft round Brush tool with low opacity, and make sure you draw it in the shadow layer.