In this tutorial, we will create a bright, abstract portrait of a woman, using several stock photos and various Photoshop tools.
Create a new document of 2000 x 2850 pixels with a resolution of 300 dpi and a transparent background. Then open the photo of the woman and drag it to the working document.
Activate Paint Bucket Tool (G) (Fill), hold down Alt to switch to the eyedropper, and sample the background color of the photo. Then with this color we fill the transparent background layer of the document (the second image below).
Next, take Brush Tool (B) (Brush), set Flow (Push) by 50% and Hardness (Hardness) at 100%, choose black. Add a mask on the layer with a woman (for this click on the button Add layer mask (Add layer mask) at the bottom of the layers panel) and delete its body, as shown in the third image below.
Take Lasso Tool (L) (Lasso) and draw a selection around the blue elements on the woman’s head. Try not to catch the release of her hair or skin. Copy / paste (Ctrl + C / Ctrl + V) the selected area, use the free transformation (Ctrl + T) to rotate it, and place it in the place where the body used to be (1st image below). Change layer blend mode to Multiply (Multiplication) so that this element is better combined with the background and inaccurate edges are not conspicuous. Repeat the process until we close the entire area around the neck of a woman.
We rudely cut a blue ornament from the girl’s head, so one mixing mode is not enough to hide uneven edges. To fix this, go Image – Adjustments – Levels (Image – Correction – Levels) and adjust the position of the white slider (2nd figure).
Repeat the process (1st image), but this time we will ONLY need the blue element, so we carefully cut it out, removing the skin, hair and remnants of the background (2nd figure). Then we place the cut out area in the chin zone (the blending mode is left Normal (Normal)).
Later we will add more items.
2. Add flowers and adjust the color of the composition.
Open photos of flowers and perform the following actions:
- 1st figure: change blend mode to Multiply (Multiplication) and apply Image – Adjustments – Levels (Image – Correction – Levels).
- 2nd figure: apply Image – Adjustments – Hue/ Saturation (Image – Correction – Hue / Saturation) (activate Colorize (Toning)).
- 3rd figure: apply Image – Adjustments – Color Balance (Highlights) (Image – Correction – Color Balance) (Light)
- 4th figure: apply Image – Adjustments – Color Balance (Midtones) (Image – Correction – Color Balance) (Mid Tones)
- 5th figure: place the flowers above all previous layers and close the cropped areas with them.
After color correction, flowers blend perfectly with the blue elements in the hair, if necessary, you can create more copies of the flowers and place them in other areas of the photo. This is an alternative way to mask the flaws of the cut edges, which can be used instead of copying / pasting from the previous steps. In general, you can take any object with a light background and customize it, as we did with the flowers. The main task is to hide the flaws and create a beautiful abstract frame of the head.
Open the image with watercolor blots. Twice we drag it onto our illustration and change the blending mode to Multiply (Multiplication). Next, apply to each blot Image – Adjustments – Levels (Image – Correction – Levels) and move the white slider (1st image). Now we return to the beginning of the lesson and adjust the brush, as in the first step, add a mask to the layers with blots and use this brush to erase the extra areas that overlap the face (2nd figure).
Open the second photo with a flower and cut it out using Pen Tool (P) (feather) or Magic Wand Tool (W) (Magic Wand). Place the cut flower on the working paper. Eraser (E) with a hardness of 100% remove the lower part of the plant, which we do not need (2nd figure).
To make the flower look realistic on the head, we will add a shadow under it. For this we take Brush Tool (B) (Brush) with Flow (Press) 5% and Hardness (Hardness) 0%. Create a new layer under the flower, change its blend mode to Multiply (Multiplication). Hold the Alt key, take a sample of a dark brown color from the woman’s hair (the place is marked with a red circle in the 3rd figure) and draw a shadow under the flower (the place is marked with a red arrow in the 3rd figure).
A little finalize the last flower. Create a new layer above it, press Ctrl + Alt + G to transform the layer into a clipping mask, and change its blending mode to Multiply (Multiplication). We take a sample of color (the place is indicated by the yellow circle in the 1st image) and draw shadows in places marked with green arrows (1st image). We do not need a rich shadow in this place, so do not overdo it.
Next, we create another layer above, press Ctrl + Alt + G again to transform it into a clipping mask, and change the blending mode to Overlay (Overlap). Select a very light shade of yellow, for example, # fff0c1, and draw on the petals (as shown in the 2nd image).
3. Edit the face
In the original photo, the woman’s face is too light, so we’ll add some brightness to it. Adjust the brush (B): Flow (Press) set by about 4-10%, Hardness (Hardness) – 100% (remember these parameters, later we will need them).
Create a new layer above the face layer and change its blend mode to Multiply (Multiplication). Take the brush (B), hold down Alt to take a sample of light brown color from the skin, and paint over the places marked with arrows. Please note that in the first picture (the picture on the right) there are noticeable differences in tones compared to the picture on the left.
Next, create another layer above, select the white color and add highlights in the marked places (2nd figure). Combine the brush with a soft eraser (E) to get smooth transitions between fair skin and dark areas.
If you have a graphic tablet, you can use it, but I used a mouse. Also, I do not specify specific colors, because you can use a different photo for work, in this case the colors will vary, so you have to push off from your image when selecting the right shades.
We use the same technique to add brightness to the eyes and blue decorations in the hair. The brush settings are the same. To work create a new layer above. All manipulations with a brush are needed in order to hide the natural texture of the skin.
Do not stop only on my tips in the form of arrows, if, for example, a certain element needs to be lightened slightly, take a sample of the desired color and draw it boldly. If the picture needs more brightness, then change the blending mode of the new layer to Overlay (Overlap) and white or light blue paint over the desired areas.
In the first picture you can see in which places I added brightness. I used a light blue tint and blend mode Normal (Normal). In the second picture you see how I edited her eyes. In the original photo, they are too photographic, in this place we just need to correct the glare on the pupils.
Now we will brighten the face a bit and add new colors to the image Take Brush Tool (B) (Brush) with Hardness (Hardness) 0% and Flow (Push) 3%. Create a new layer above all the previous ones and use a soft white brush on its face (places are marked in the 1st image). In the second picture you can see the resulting result.
Now go to the addition of color. Create another new layer above. Change the blending mode to Overlay (Overlap). Bright green / yellow color (# aab84b) is carried out on her eyebrows / jewelry, hair, etc. (3rd figure).
You can use other colors, but always light colors.
4. Add texture
It’s time to add a florid pattern on the face. Open the image with the ornament and drag it to the working document. Change the blending mode to Multiply (Multiplication) and place it on the face.
Deform the texture to match the shape of the face (Ctrl + T) – right-click – Warp (Deformation) (1st figure). Next we apply two adjustment layers to the pattern: first Levels (Levels), then Hue/ Saturation (Hue / Saturation) – the order of the layers is very important! (2nd figure)
Our work already looks good (3rd figure), but this is still not what we should get in the final. The effect of the texture does not look as realistic as possible. Now the result is more like a drawing than a sculpture.
The first thing we need to do is remove the extra texture areas. To do this, select the layer with the pattern and go Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All (Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All). Take a soft white brush (B) and draw on the mask, as shown in the first figure.
The result is not the one we need (2nd figure), but then we got rid of the extra details and now the texture is better “sitting” on the face. Next, duplicate (Ctrl + J) the ornamental layer and bleach the copy using the Ctrl + Shift + U command (third image). Change layer blend mode to Overlay (Overlap) (4th figure).
As you can see, now the texture looks much better, but you still need to adjust it a little, especially on the sides. But we will deal with this later.
Let’s enhance light and shade, it is better to highlight our ornament.
Create a new layer above all the previous ones and fill it with gray color (# 737373). Change its blend mode to Overlay (Overlap). Now pay attention to the pictures below:
1st figure: here are the places where we will add shadows.
2nd drawing: according to this scheme, we will apply shadows, the darker the color, the richer the shadow (this layer is shown in blending mode Normal (Normal)). Since we have set the blending mode Overlay (Overlap), we do not see all this shading. Take the tool Burn Tool (O) (Dimmer) and draw the shadow, then change to Dodge Tool (O) (Clarifier) and lighten the desired areas. All the manipulations do on the gray layer.
3rd figure: this is the result of the work done. As you can see, the lighting has become more contrast, and the edges of the texture look much better.
Repeat the previous step in the same order. Create a new gray layer in blend mode. Overlay (Overlap) and draw on it with tools Burn/ Dodge Tool (O) (Dimmer / Clarifier).
Pay attention to the first picture. You need to very carefully increase the saturation of the shadows on the texture using Burn Tool (O) (Dimmer). You will have many small lines. The black and white areas do not require much work, but some places require more attention.
In the second illustration, a portrait of a woman is slightly visible in order to see more clearly which areas need to be darkened / lightened. In the third picture we have the finished result.
If you understand how to work properly in these areas, then in the future you will be able to do everything at your discretion. Make sure you do not overdo it with the effect. If something went wrong, you can always fix the bad places with a gray brush (# 737373).
5. Editing the blue elements
Take Lasso Tool (L) Lasso) and create a somewhat chaotic selection of different sizes on the blue elements (I hope, the selection on the 1st figure can be seen quite well). To create several separate selections, hold down the Shift key while you work.
Next, press Ctrl + Shift + C and then Ctrl + V to copy and paste the selection to the new layer. Since all the selections were on the same layer, we again take Lasso Tool (L) (Lasso) and distribute the cut fragments throughout the document (hold down the Ctrl key, select the cut fragment and move it), as shown in the 3rd and 4th figures.
Since the background is filled with a solid bright color, we can use one trick to give the cut elements depth. We select several fragments and chaotically erase their edges. For this you can use Eraser Tool (E) (Eraser) or layer mask.
6. Add textures
Now add some textures with splashes. Open the image with the red watercolor blot and drag it onto the working document. For convenience, slightly reduce its opacity. Then duplicate the texture (Ctrl + J) and place both copies on the sides of the head to create something similar to the hair (1st drawing).
Next, press (Ctrl + I) on both layers to invert them (2nd figure). Change the blending mode to Linear Dodge (Linear clarifier) (3rd figure). Then go Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All (Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All) and gently draw on the mask with a white brush in the specified places, where the watercolor blots in shape resemble hair (4th figure).
Let’s add more abstractness to our work. Open the picture with the wall and drag it to the working document. Change the blending mode to Multiply (Multiplication) (1st figure).
If necessary, use Levels (Levels) (Ctrl + U) to improve lighting (2nd image). This will help us to hide the white areas of the wall and highlight the yellow ones. Next, go Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All (Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All) and gently draw on the mask with a white brush. Work carefully to keep the hard edges of the yellow elements (3rd figure).
Repeat the whole process to add more yellow spots around the head (4th figure).
Open the next photo with flowers. Drag it onto the working document and discolor it with Ctrl + Shift + U (1st image). Then change the layer blending mode to Overlay (Overlap) (2nd figure).
Go over again Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All (Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All) and draw with a white brush on the mask (in the 3rd image in red the area that we have to save is indicated). You can use both soft and hard brush. In the fourth figure we can see the result.
You can add more colors to your hair, but don’t overdo it. Let them be only where they look best. In the fifth drawing, something caught my attention. I noticed that there are dark gaps between the colors that blend well with the hair, so I decided to add more colors.
Now open two images with splashes. Change their blend mode to Multiply (Multiplication) and place one image above the woman’s head, and the second one at the neck (1st figure). We need to make sure that the result is interesting for the viewer, so placing all the splashes in one place would not be the best solution. It is better to distribute them throughout the work and, perhaps, experiment with color.
I did not change their color, but only strengthened the green shades and got rid of the visible edges of the paper by applying Levels (Levels) and Hue/ Saturation (Hue / Saturation) (2nd figure).
Next, take the eraser (E) and delete all the excess (3 figure). You can also use a layer mask, it allows you to hide the extra, without destroying the integrity of the layer.
Working with an eraser, try to achieve a completely new form of spray. As you can see in the third figure, the resulting spray is different from the original. And this is all thanks to the correct work with the eraser!
7. Add Butterflies
Open the first picture with a butterfly. Cut it with Pen Tool (P) (Pen) and paste above all layers on the working document (1st image). Then take a brown sample, create a new layer above the butterfly and transform it into a clipping mask (Ctrl + Alt + G). Change layer blend mode to Multiply (Multiplication), select the soft brush (B) and draw in brown, as shown in the second figure.
Now pay attention to the third drawing. Above we create a new layer, change its blend mode to Overlay (Overlap) and transform into a clipping mask (Ctrl + Alt + G). Then we take a soft white brush and paint in places marked with green arrows.
Next, create a new layer above and transform it into a clipping mask (Ctrl + Alt + G). We select a pale shade of blue somewhere under the butterfly (marked by a circle) and using a very soft brush with Flow (Pressing) 2-3% doing a few strokes on it (4th figure). We need to ensure that the butterfly looks harmoniously on the hair and is not “cut off” from the overall composition.
Finally, notice the fifth figure below. Create a new layer again, change its blend mode to Multiply (Multiplication) and transform into a clipping mask (Ctrl + Alt + G). Choose a dark blue tint somewhere under the butterfly (marked with a red circle) and draw under the paws to create a shadow effect.
Open the second image with a butterfly and do the following:
As shown in the first picture, cut a butterfly and paste above all layers on the working document. Then create a new layer, change its blend mode to Multiply (Multiplication) and transform into a clipping mask (Ctrl + Alt + G). Select a dark blue color and draw a brush on the lower wing, as shown in the second image.
Create another new layer (blend mode Overlay (Overlap), transformation into a clipping mask), choose a light blue tint or white and draw with a brush on the upper wing to slightly lighten it, as shown in the third figure.
Then, as shown in the fourth figure, hold down the Ctrl key and click on the thumbnail of the layer with the first butterfly (on the layers panel) to create its selection, then hold down (Ctrl + Shift) and click on the thumbnail of the second butterfly.
And, as shown in the fifth figure, go to the layers panel and add adjustment layers above. Customize Gradient Map (Gradient map) as shown below (the mask of the adjustment layer will be automatically created according to the shape of the butterfly selection).
8. Final touches
Do not worry, the first picture below looks depressing, but now I will explain everything. Open the picture with the spray and drag it to the working paper. Change the blending mode to Multiply (Multiplication) (1st figure). Then add Levels (Levels) to soften the edges of the texture (2nd image).
Now look at the third drawing. I noted the places where the background of the texture has almost completely disappeared, and it blends perfectly with the background of our illustration. Next, go Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All (Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All) and with a soft white brush edit the mask in the marked places (4th picture) to “bare” a small part of the texture.
We return to the fifth part of the lesson, where we cut out separate blue fragments and distributed them throughout the whole picture (1st figure). But this time we need to place these fragments on the face of the woman to enhance the emotional component of the illustration.
Below all the blue elements create a new layer in blend mode. Multiply (Multiplication) and take a soft brush (B). Select the dark skin color from the woman’s face and draw on this layer the shadow of the fragments (as shown in the 2nd figure).
If you think that the selected color is too light, then take a darker and draw again. Our task is to create the correct shadow, and the correct shadow is a combination of several tones (from light to dark).
At the bottom we create a new layer and using Ellipse Tool (U) (Ellipse) draw a large circle (color #ebebeb) (1st drawing).
Notice that after the circle was created, non-erased areas from other images were found. In order not to waste time searching, which layer a particular fragment belongs to, we simply add a mask to the circle and edit it to hide the extra details (2nd figure).
Next, duplicate the circle (Ctrl + J), decrease Fill (Fill) copies up to 0%, double click on the layer to bring up the window Layer Style (Layer style) and apply Stroke (Stroke) with values as in the third image. This will add a nice thin circle to the circle. Duplicate the stroke layer several times and change the size of each copy (Ctrl + T) (4th image). Such circles will well fill the blank background of our illustration.
We have only a few final touches left, but they are very important. As you can see in the pictures below, we need to choose bright colors: pink, yellow, blue, green. Remember these colors, as we will switch from one to another. Adjust the brush (B), as in the fifth picture. If you have a graphics tablet, now is the right time to use it, as it will be much more convenient to use the pen than a mouse.
As you can see in the sixth and seventh drawings, we draw a brush with a size of only 1-2 pixels and carefully fill in the marked areas with color. Combine all four colors to your taste. I worked with a large brush on her face and a smaller one on her hair. Do not forget to change colors to make the picture interesting and juicy.
Now add some adjustment layers. Go to the layers panel and add Color Balance (Color balance) (1st drawing), then Selective Color (Selective color correction) (2nd figure). You should get the result, as in the third figure.
At the end of the work it is very useful to add several adjustment layers that will merge all the elements together and create the impression of a holistic composition.
Create a layer above all the previous ones, fill it with the color # e9ede5 and apply the filter Filter – Noise – Add Noise (Filter – Noise – Add noise) (1st figure). The values will depend on the size of your picture. Change layer blend mode to Multiply (Multiplication) and turn Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All (Layer – Layer Mask – Hide All). Use a soft white brush to “bare” the noise in the corners of the document (2nd figure).
Hit Ctrl + A (select all working canvas), then Ctrl + Shift + C (copy) and Ctrl + V (paste to a new layer). Make sure that the layer with the copied area is at the very top of the layers panel. Next, press Ctrl + Shit + U to discolor the copy (3rd picture).
Change layer blend mode to Soft Light (Soft light) and turn Image – Adjustments – Shadows/ Highlights (Image – Correction – Shadows / Light) – use the values as in the fourth figure. Thanks to blending mode Soft Light (Soft light), all changes can be observed in real time immediately during setup.
And finally, the last, optional step in which we add a vignette effect. Hit Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E to copy all visible layers to the new one. Burn Tool (O) (Dimmer) (mode Midtones (Midtones)) and dims all the corners of the image (5th figure).
Thanks for reading this tedious lesson. I hope you liked it, and you have reached the end. Good luck and remember that each work should be as polished as possible before you show it to the public!