Design a Surreal Photo Manipulation

Design a Surreal Photo Manipulation

In this tutorial I will teach you how to create a surreal image with a light color palette. Using some basic overpainting techniques combined with textured bushes, you’ll be able to make soft skin shapes and retouch stock photos of people to get an original looking illustration without the use of filters. This tutorial is inspired by an Illustration I did for the slashTHREE art community. Below you will learn some of the techniques I used in creating that image.

Preview:

Step 1:

We are going to start with the background. Open a new document in photoshop 4000 pixels wide by 6200 pixels high and a resolution of 300 dpi. First Unlock the background layer (ALT+double click) and fill it with a soft pink color (#eee7e7) using the paint bucket tool (G).

Download this landscape stock image and open it inside your document. First resize it to match your document and then select the pen tool (P) to select the sky and delete it. We are going to use a mountain stock photo to fill up the landscape and create some depth so we need to get rid of the sky first.

Draw a path along the edges of the mountains and the lake as detailed as you can. When you close the path, right click and select the option “Create selection” and press OK (we don’t need feather so the feather radius option just stays at 0). Then hit delete.

As you can see, the stock image has a boat and some parts of houses and land that needs to be removed. We are going to do that with the help of the Clone stamp tool (S). Use the clone stamp tool with a soft round brush of about 70 pixels wide and 0% hardness. While holding the ALT key , sample one part of the water (a wider area will give you more workspace and you won’t have to sample as much). Click on parts of the boardwalk to cover them up with the water. Sample as needed from different parts of the lake to avoid duplicating similar parts.

Now open the snowy mountain stock behind the lake layer and flip it horizontal (Edit>transform>flip horizontal) and rezise it to fill your document. Remove the sky just like we did before.

Step 2:

Now we are going to set the main coloring of the mountains.We are using a very soft color palete with pinks and reds as shadows and light blues as highlights to get an ethereal and tranquil mood. There are two main ways of achieving that effect: using a gradient map or using a layer with the blending mode “Exclusion” to colorize the stocks. First Desaturate them (SHIFT+CTRL+U). Now we need to match the tones of both stocks as much as possible,use levels (CTRL+L) to change the shadows and highlights of each stock until they match (Values may differ depending on the stock photo used)

If you wish, you can merge the mountain and the lake (Select them holding SHIFT and then  CTRL+E).

Create a new layer above the lake and the mountain layers and clip mask it (ALT+CLICK between layers) Grab the paint bucket tool and fill the layer with a red color (#dd0505) and change the layer blending mode to “exclusion”. This will act on the highlight and shadows of the image. The red hue will remain intact on the darker parts of the image while the color will invert on lighter tones. The effect is the same as “Difference” but it will be less saturated. The effect will look very strong, so reduce the opacity of the layer to about 40%. You can also use a layer mask to erase some parts where the effect still appears too strong. Just grab a 200 pixel wide soft round brush with an opacity of about 30% and mask parts of the effect where you feel it’s needed.

Step 3:

Now lets focus on the details of the background as well as the integration with the sky. Download this rock stock image from raine-stock1314 and using the pen tool extract it from its background. You can just cut the top part of the image and use a soft eraser brush, gently delete the lower part until it fades with the rest of the water. Desaturate the image and put a red layer set to exclusion just like we did in the last step.

The mountains still need some kind of integration with the background color. Create a new layer above the mountains and clip mask it. Then select the same pink color as the background and using a large soft round brush about 500  pixels wide 0 hardness and an opacity of about 40% brush on the top part of the mountains to give the impression of mist and that they are fading away in the horizon.

Step 4:

We are going to start working on the integration of the woman into the scene. Download this model stock image from mjranum and extract her from the background using the same technique we used for the sky on the mountains. (Using the pen tool) Be as detailed as you can be on the body but don’t spend much time on the hair because we’ll get back on that later on. Place her in the center of your document.

Create a new layer and Clip mask it to the woman. In this layer we are going to overpaint the stock image. This will give the skin a nice fresh texture and we will also be able to correct some of the color and the lightning to get better results.

Select the brush tool (B) and choose one of the Natural Brushes from the brushes menu. Pick one with a nice texture of about 50 pixels wide and change its opacity to about 20%.

Now Sample some color off the body by pressing ALT and clicking and gently brush the skin following the shape of the body.


Sample as many times as you need. You will see many shades of color but try to stay focused only on the hardest shadows, mid-tones, and the lightest highlights. That way you don’t need to sample every shade of pink you see in the skin and you can blend the strokes better between shades.

If you have a graphics tablet this will be very easy but if you are doing this with a mouse it can be tricky. Try to keep the stroke of the brush as steady and clean as possible so there are not many inconsistencies between the color you are applying and the color thats underneath it. Below you can see the images before and after painting over the clip masked layer.

You can see that the body may be a little too smooth after overpainting it. To fix this you can add noise to the layer. Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and use an amount of 3% with the monochromatic option selected.

Step 5:

Now we are going to start working on the hair. Change your foreground color to white. Download a set of hair brushes. You can find a multide of different styled hair brushes by doing a quick Google search. Load the new hair brushes into your brushes palette. Using the brushes now start building the hair over the original stock photo.

Play with the sizes and positions of the locks of hair.

Try to keep a flow on the hair compared to the position of the face and the body.Don’t over do it or it will not look proportioned to the head.

Use the eraser tool to delete parts of hair that you don’t need. Keep different parts of the hair in different layers so you can have more control over the position and size of it.

Step 6:

For the swirls first sketch out or just draw a simple shape you want for the lower part of the body. Here is a quick guide I painted just to have some sort of idea of what I wanted to do:

As you can see it’s very rough but it doesn’t matter because we are going to remove it completely once we have the base of the shape we want. Grab the pen tool and draw a path using your guide. For the swirls, I’ll use separate pieces to have more control over the effect I want to achieve. Once you have the shape you want. Fill the layer with any color of skin from the woman.

Create a new layer and Clip mask it to your base shape.We will paint over this layer using the shape under it as a guide. Go to the Brush tool (B) and select the same brush you used for overpainting the model’s skin, only this time change the opacity of the brush to something around 30%. Sample a shadow color from the girls skin and gently stroke in the direction of the shape.Take into consideration the source of light that falls over the original image.

Sample the midtone and brush over the middle of the shape. Do it slowly so it blends with the shadow below. Change opacities of the brush to about 12% and stroke where the two colors meet to get a smooth transition.

You should now have a nice blended result. Now sample a highlight (lighter tones) on the womans body and paint the light that falls over the shape. Take the pen tool again and draw a shape of the second loop in a new layer and fill it with another color from the body and clip mask a new layer where we will be painting the second part of the tail.

You can use an eraser to delte the part where the two shapes meet to get a nice transition between the colors. Paint the shadows mid-tones and highlights just like we did before. Remember to paint a little shadow where the shape hides behind the loop. Grab the pen tool again and draw the shape of the last part of the tail on a new layer and add a clip mask layer to do the painting. You can see I did it a little bit different from the first sketch I did. It’s okay to try weird shapes but always remember to take into consideration the light source while painting.

When you are finished, apply a noise filter over the paint layer to give the shape a nice skin texture.

As you can see on the lake image, the water looks very rough so no reflection would be needed. If you use an image where the water is brighter and objects are casting a reflection on it,you can merge the body of the girl and flip it vertically over the water and reduce it’s opacity to about 30%. Create a new layer between the tail and the lake and change your foreground color to black then grab a round soft brush of about 300 pixels wide and 20% opacity to draw a soft shadow over the water.

Step 7:

From now on, we are going to concentrate on the details of the image to finalize our composition. We are going to create a colorful rain of circles around the body to give a more dreamy feeling to the image. Create a new layer on top of all the layers and then go to the Brush tool. Select a small brush of about 7 pixels wide 100% hardness and 100% opacity then select a dark red tone (I used #700909) as my foreground color. Open the brush settings menu and change the spacing to 100% on the “Brush Tip Shape” option.

Check the “Scattering” and apply a count of 1.

Now check the “Color Dynamics” option and apply a Hue jitter of about 20% (This will change the color of the circles randomly as you stroke. The more % applied,the more the colors will change). Set the saturation jitter to about 40% (This will randomly change the intensity of the color). Set the brightness jitter to 40% (This will change the intensity of the brightness of the stroke) and keep the purity to 0%. Set the foreground/background jitter to about 24%.

Now stroke several times close to the body of the girl. You will see how the circles appear with different placement, color and intensity each time you brush this makes a cool random effect.

Create a new layer and change the brush to 30 pixels wide and keep the same setting. Now create the medium size circles the same way we did for the small ones.Try not to over do it or it will end up cluttered and messy.

Create a new layer and change the brush size to 60 pixels. Now brush to create the larger circles. Draw just a few of these circles. They can take up too much space if you overdo them because of their size. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and apply a radius of 13 pixels to the circles. This will enhance depth.

After this step, your composition should look a little bit like this:

Step 8:

The result we have looks very nice, but it feels a bit too clean.So we are going to use a texture to dirty it up a bit. Download this paper texture pack from WeGraphics place it on top of all the layers in your document and rezise it to fill the canvas. Desaturate it (CTRL+SHIFT+U) and go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness and contrast and apply the next settings:

We need it to be almost white with hints of noise and texture from the paper so it doesn’t take much color or lower the image brightness. Change the layers blending mode to “Multiply”. Duplicate the layer and Flip it Vertically to apply the same texture on the lower side of the image.

Create a new layer beneath the textures.We will create some mist on the lower part of the composition to level out the image and give a more mystical feel. Grab a soft round brush about 600 pixels wide 0% hardness with an opacity of 30%. Select the pink tone you used for the background as your foreground color and paint hints of mist on the rocks and the lower part of the tail.

Step 9:

For the final touches, you can add adjustment layers to enhance the image (Layer > Adjustment Layer). I used a Brightness and Contrast adjustment layer and a Hue and Saturation layer to improve the lightning and color saturation of the image.

Step 10:

Save your image as a .jpeg with full resolution and open it in Photoshop. Duplicate the layer and go to Filter > Other > High Pass and apply a radius of 3 pixels.

Set the layers blending mode to Overlay. This will sharpen your image. Then, to keep as much detail and quality as possible you need to size it down. Go to Image > Image size and change to 700×1080 pixels. Save it again as a .jpeg and you are finished!

This is the final outcome:

Really hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I encourage you to experiment with the techniques you just learned and use them to complement your own ideas and concepts.

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Edmar Cisneros

My name is Edmar Cisneros a 21 years old graphic designer and illustrator from Mexico City. I started experimenting with digital art in 2007 and havent stopped ever since. I specialise on Digital manipulations with mixed media tecniques such as 3D compositing and matte painting. I'm looking forward to opening my professional portfolio later this year and start freelancing full-time.

2 Comments

(+add yours)
  1. Very creative

    Could you please send a demo for making a page curl. Thanks,
    Balraj

  2. Great tutorial and techniques, explained well… Thanks for sharing…
    Featured in Tutorials of the Week at http://www.hangaroundtheweb.com

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