photoshop creative

Turn photos into silhouette art

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
March 9, 2016

Use a combination of photos, gradients, blend modes and custom brushes to create an ethereal piece of artwork


1. Create a background


Create a new document (Cmd/Ctrl+N), 240mm high by 210mm wide, and a resolution of 300ppi. Select the Gradient tool (G), set to Linear, Foreground to Transparent and 100% Opacity. Use colours R:49 G:250 B:252 and R:1 G:193 B:72 to create the background.

2. Add the floor


Select the Rectangular Marquee tool (M), and create a short rectangular selection across the bottom of the canvas. Create a new layer (Shift+Cmd/ Ctrl+N), name it Floor, and use the Fill tool to fill the selection with black. Press Cmd/ Ctrl+D to deselect.

3. Bring in a sky


Open a cloudy sky image. Press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+U, to desaturate. Add a Levels adjustment layer, move the sliders to Black: 52, Grey: 1.00, White: 196. Press Cmd/Ctrl+A then Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+C, paste (Cmd/Ctrl+V) it into your artwork and rename the layer Sky. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T and transform it to fill the background.

4. Add some clouds


Change the layer’s blending mode to Multiply, and the layer Opacity to 80%. Open another clouds image, press Cmd/Ctrl+U and change Saturation to -100. Copy (Cmd/Ctrl+C) and paste (Cmd/Ctrl+V) it into your artwork, rename the layer Clouds and change its blending mode to Screen.

5. Blur and mask


Press Cmd/Ctrl+T, and transform it to fit the background. Go to Filter>Blur>Surface Blur, enter Radius: 18 and Threshold: 53, and click OK. Add a layer mask and use a black airbrush at 75% Opacity to gradually hide most of the bottom third of the layer.

6. Bring in more clouds


Open a third clouds image, select the canvas (Cmd/Ctrl+A) and copy (Cmd/Ctrl+C) and paste (Cmd/Ctrl+V) it into your artwork. Rename the layer Clouds 2. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T and resize it to fit the background. Change the layer’s blending mode to Overlay and layer Opacity to 75%.

7. Change the moon


Open a stock image of some caustic water, select the canvas (Cmd/Ctrl+A), copy (Cmd/ Ctrl+C) and paste (Cmd/Ctrl+V) into onto an image of the moon. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T and transform the water so it covers the moon. Change the blend mode to Hard Light. Press Cmd/Ctrl+U and desaturate.

8. Just add water


Click on the pool water layer in the Layers palette and select Create Clipping Mask from the fly-out menu. Copy and paste in another pool water layer, again reducing the Saturation to -100 and creating a clipping mask layer, but set the blending mode to Soft Light.

9. Paste in the moon


Hide the background layer (click the eyeball in the Layers palette) press Cmd/Ctrl+A, then Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+C to copy all layers, then paste (Cmd/ Ctrl+V) it into your silhouette artwork. Press Cmd/ Ctrl+T and transform it as shown in the screenshot. Change the blending mode to Screen.

10. Add another moon


Paste in a second moon. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T and alter the angle, decrease its size and position it in the top-right corner. Change its blending mode to Linear Dodge (Add) and layer Opacity to 75%.

11. Make a starry sky


Paste a starry sky into your work. Rename the layer Stars, change its blending mode to Screen. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T and transform it to fill the background. Add a layer mask and use a black brush to hide the stars on the moons.

12. Create a tree silhouette


Add a tree image and desaturate again. Press Cmd/Ctrl+L and move the sliders to Black: 120, Grey: 1.00, White: 122. Go to Select>Color Range, click the white background to select, click OK and then press backspace to delete it.

13. Adjust the tree



Use the Eraser tool (E) to remove the lower branches. Use the Brush tool (B) with black to paint in any gaps on the tree and add in an extra section on the left side of the base of the trunk.

14. Paste in the tree


Use the Lasso tool (L) to select the tree, and copy (Cmd/ Ctrl+C) and paste (Cmd/Ctrl+V) it into your artwork. Rename the layer Tree, press Cmd/Ctrl+T and change the angle, size and position as shown.

15. Take a swing


Open a girl swinging, draw around her with the Pen tool and fill in with black. Copy (Cmd/Ctrl+C) and paste (Cmd/Ctrl+V) it into your artwork. Rename the layer Girl, press Cmd/Ctrl+T, resize and position it accordingly. Create a new layer (press Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+N), and name it Ropes. Use the Pen tool (P) to create a path from the swing to the tree branch.

16. Draw the ropes


Select the Brush tool (B) with a black round hard-edged brush, size 10px. In the Paths palette click the Stroke Path With Brush icon. Repeat the process to create the second rope. Elements users: draw in the ropes manually with the Brush tool.

17. Add the dog


Use the same technique you used with the girl to insert a sitting dog. Press Cmd/ Ctrl+T and resize and reposition the dog accordingly. Add a new layer (Shift+Cmd/ Ctrl+N) and name it Grass.

18. Apply finishing touches


Add various sized patches of grass along the floor using brushes or stock images. Make any final amendments, such as repositioning elements or adding more colour variation by using bright green and blue gradients on the Gradients layer.