Create a surreal illustration with a heart in Photoshop

In this lesson you will learn how to create a surreal abstract composition.

Final result:

(click on image to enlarge)

Stage 1: Manipulations with model and background
First we need to find the right image. Try to focus all your attention on the model’s face.
This is my image that I found on Shutterstock.

Next we have to discolor the photo. To do this, press the key combination CTRL + SHIFT + U.

Now we have to cut out part of the face using the tool. Pen tool (Feather) (P). Spend enough time to cut it neatly and without sharp corners.
Create a selection around the eyes and nose, as in the screenshot below.

Create another selection around the mouth and jaw.

When finished, you can add a second eye. To do this, duplicate the first cut part, reflect it horizontally and remove the nose.
We continue to cut the form of the neck, shoulders, etc. Do not make them too complicated, we just need a few crooked simple details.

Now that everything is ready, it’s time to work on the background. Start by creating a new document of any size. I used 2000×3000, but you can choose any. If necessary, the document can always be reduced.
After we have created a new document, fill it with black. We need to create a bright gradient spot in the center of the document. Take brush and on a layer with black fill we draw something like this:

Then several times apply the filter. Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur) with a radius of 250 px.

Next, we give the background texture. Create a new layer and fill it with black, apply a filter. Filter – Noise – Add Noise (Filter – Noise – Add noise).

Apply this filter about three times and set the layer blending mode to Overlay (Overlap), and Opacity (Opacity) reduced to 8%. This will give the background a slight graininess and add depth effect.

Stage 2: Manipulations with details
Now it’s time to work with the cut parts. Let’s start with the face.

On the left side is the final result of the manipulation.
This effect is created using a filter. Liquify (Plastic). Go to the filter Filter – Liquify (Filter – Plastic) and activate the tool Forward warp (Direct curvature). Then we hold the brush in those places that need to be deformed.

Below in the screenshot, the arrows show how and what areas were deformed. I pulled the upper part of the nose, giving it the shape of the letter S. Then I repeated this process with the cheekbone. There is nothing complicated about it.
When finished with the deformation, we’ll start adding light / shadows to create a 3D effect. The arrows below show which places should be lightened and which places should be added.

In the screenshot above, the arrows are painted in different colors. Violet shows the place from which the light falls. Reds show lighted areas, and greens, respectively, areas with shadows. Thanks to such simple actions, we can achieve the desired 3D effect. To get a good result, it is very important to understand how the light will fall, in which places it will be more and in which places it will be more.

To create the shadows take the tool Burn tool (Dimmer) (O) in Midtones mode (Mid Tones) 14% and 150 px. Slightly spend in the required areas. Black out in several approaches until you achieve the desired result. Having finished with shadows, we take the tool Dodge tool (Brightener) (O) and perform the above steps, adding light spots (red arrows). After that, you can reduce the size of the tools and work out all the areas in more detail.

Similarly, we draw light / shadows on other parts of the face. The green arrows show the shadows and the red arrows the light.

Some details of the composition will not be as intensely lit as they are partially hidden from the main source of light, so when working with them, do not overdo it with light / shadows. Sometimes, to achieve a realistic result, it is enough to darken somewhere, lighten somewhere. Remember this.
For the work, I chose the part you see below (also, using Elliptical Marquee Tool (Oval selection) (M) I cut a hole).

The red arrows show where I deformed the shape with the filter. Liquify (Plastic). I placed the result of the manipulations under the jaw, as shown below.

Below the arrows indicate the places in which to add light / shadow.

In this place the shadows should be more intense. Since there is no direct light at the edges of the figure, there is no need to lighten these areas. I just slightly clarified the inside of the notch, not so much for realism, but for adding volume and depth. Take care that your work looks not only beautiful, but also realistic.
Here is the result of the work done.

Add another detail and edit it, as we did before.

Now it’s time to add hands. I used stock image from

Select the hands with which we will work, remove the background and repeat the above process with the addition of light / shadows. Duplicate the arm, reflect horizontally and slightly deform, as in the screenshot below.

As seen in the screenshot above, the green arrow shows the place where I deformed my hand using the filter Liquify (Plastic). You must do this even if you are using different hands, and not a horizontal copy. Both hands are in different places, therefore the light source will act on them in different ways. Pay particular attention to applying light / shadows so that they look harmoniously with other details of the composition.
Further we continue to add new abstract forms, lines.

By correctly specifying the cut-off areas, you get a high-quality and realistic result.

Having finished with all the details of the abstract person, we can proceed to the next step.

Stage 3: Heart and Finishing Touches
Now it’s time to add a heart. This is the only color detail throughout the composition. I found this image on Shutterstock.

All we need is to remove the background, add light / shadow and place the heart in the right place.

Let’s go back to adding details. This time we will focus on creating small particles in order to give the picture a depth effect.

Now duplicate (CTRL + J) some of the details and apply a filter to them. Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur). For each part, use a different degree of blur, then place them around the perimeter of the working canvas. Use shapes of different sizes to get a more realistic result. Blur radius vary within 5-12 px.

Now we are done. If desired, you can modify the composition, add more details. This is my final result.

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