photoshop creative

Make art with layers (part 1)

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
September 17, 2014

Harness the real power of layer masks to turn your photo into a compelling image

The following tutorial will show you how to create special effects, and once you have learned these techniques on a portrait,  you can let your imagination run wild!

1. Cut the subject out

Place the subject on top of your background. Go to Select>Colour Range, use the ‘+’ eyedropper tool and click OK. You can use the Magic Wand tool (A) in Photoshop Elements. Now go to Layer>Layer Mask>Hide Selection. You will see that the background has now disappeared. That is how you create a Layer Mask.

2. Refine the mask

Use a black soft-edged brush set at 30% Opacity and with Flow set at 50% to erase the unwanted remnant of hair that are still visible in the background. Set the brush’s Size to 200px for the best effect.

3. Retouch the subject

Go to Layer>Duplicate Layer, click on the layer mask, hit Cmd/Ctrl+I and set the blend mode to Vivid Light. Go to Filter>Other>High Pass and set Radius to 10. Select Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur, set Radius to 2, then mask out the eyes, lips and hair.

4. Desaturate the image

Hit Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+Shift+E to duplicate the entire image, then Cmd/Ctrl+U to bring up Hue/Saturation. Set Saturation to -100, set the blend mode to Soft Light and the Opacity to 72%. Go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All. Now brush out the eyes, lips and hair with a soft brush.

5. Introduce some shadows and highlights

Go to Layer>New>Layer, hit Shift+F5 to bring up the fill dialog, select 50% grey and apply. Set the Overlay blend mode and paint some shadow with a soft black brush at 200px and 5% Opacity. Use a white brush at 70px and 5% Opacity for highlights.

6. Enhance the eyes

Add a new layer and brush in any colour you like for the eye make-up. Set the blend mode to Colour with an Opacity of 50%. Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves, click and hold on the line and then drag it up to Input:81, Output, 160.

7. Refine your edits

Click on the mask and then hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the mask to black. Paint onto the eye area with a soft-edged brush to bring the Curves effect back in. Reduce the layer’s Opacity if necessary to get a better, more natural result.

8. Lighten the hair

Brush in some light and set the blend mode to Screen. Go to Edit>Transform>Warp and warp the layer into the desired shape if need be, then hit Return. Place the warped light onto the subject’s hair, then hit Cmd/Ctrl+U and play with the Hue slider to change the colour. Try to add more variation.

9. Include some swirls

Download some custom brushes; has some great ones. Use one on a new layer, then transform your swirls and place where desired. Duplicate the layer, add a Gaussian Blur and set Radius to 10 for a nice glow.

10. Graphic shape

Create a new laer underneath the hair light layers and trace the subject’s clothes using the Polygonal Lasso tool (L). Fill this with white and go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal Selection. Now remove the part where the arm was supposed to be, using a soft-edged brush at 30% Opacity.

Continue onto part 2!