photoshop creative

How to create vivid photo effects in Photoshop, part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
December 11, 2013

How to use surreal light, beautiful brushwork and a little imagination to transform basic photography into a magical scene. Part 2 goes up on Friday!

Download all the tutorial files here (Click on the Fantasy Portraits link)

Vivid photo effects in Photoshop


Begin by choosing the Pen tool to outline the model’s head. Go to the Paths palette, highlight your new path and choose Make Selection from the fly-out menu (or click the Load Path as Selection icon at the bottom).


Press Cmd/Ctrl+J to lift the cut-out model onto a new layer. Go to Filter>Sharpen> Unsharp Mask and set the Amount to 70% and the Radius to 4.


We want a little vibrance in our life, so choose Layer> New Adjustment Layer>Vibrance. Click the box for Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask and set the Vibrance slider to 30 and the Saturation to 10.


Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels and check Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. Set the input sliders to 5, 1.25 and 200 to lighten the face. Repeat this and add a second Levels adjustment layer set to 30, 0.85, and 255 for a contrasting, darkening effect.


In the Layers palette press the Add Vector Mask icon for both Levels adjustment layers. Mask out the left side of the lighten layer and the right side of the darken layer.


Adding a Hue/Saturation adjustment level will give colours a boost. Pull the Saturation slider to -100. Add a layer mask, then with a soft, black brush, paint on the mask to reveal subtle areas of colour.


To inject more colour, so go to Layer> New Fill Layer> Solid Color. Choose a shade of purple, for example R-160, G-80, B-155. Set this layer to the Soft Light blend mode and again add a layer mask and paint on it to reveal subtle areas of colour.


This step is all about shading, so make a new layer with the blend mode set to Overlay. With a soft brush set to 25% Opacity, paint over the image on this layer. Use the Opt/Alt key as you go to sample darker tones from the area you want to add more shadow too, and lighter ones for the highlights.


Make a new layer and again with a soft brush paint some colour behind the model. Use shades of purple, pink, and drop in any image of a sunset sky to represent the oranges.


Create a new layer called Stars. Choose a soft-edged white brush set to 100% Opacity and then under Window> Brush check Scattering. Pull the Scatter slider to 900%, check Shape Dynamics and pull the Size Jitter slider to 100%.

  • Lobna Ben Nasr

    Good tutorial thank you.

  • Sudhir

    Very good tutorial for creative work… good keep it up…

  • jamcastro

    Hi, just want to ask in the step 5… how do I mask out the left side of the lighten layer and the right side of the darken layer?

  • jamcastro

    i guess this is not for a beginner 🙂 lol.. anyways, nice design

  • tasis

    Please update the tutorial files.

  • tasis

    my mistake.the links are ok.

  • Edgaras Apalainis

    did you get the answer?

  • Greg Morrissey

    How do I mask out the left side of the lighten layer and the right side of the darken layer?