photoshop creative

How to make an animal hybrid in Photoshop

Posted in:
General, by Mark White
June 17, 2013

In this free Photoshop tutorial we’ll be covering the techniques used to extract and apply textures from one animal to another

Using just a few key tools and the Overlay blend mode, you’ll see how simple it can be to combine your own favourite animals. You won’t be limited to only creating zebra-elephant hybrids, as the methods used in this tutorial will work across a multitude of animal types and even objects. You’ll exercise the fine art of carefully applying textures onto your creature piece by piece to achieve a textural effect that looks natural. Well, as natural as a hybrid of two animals who should not be put together can be.

Regardless of your skill level in image editing, there should be plenty of tips and tricks for anyone to pick up in this lesson. So grab the images of the elephant here and the zebra here, or use your own to follow along.

Step 1

First, open the image of the elephant as your base, then open the main source of the zebra stripes in a second document. Using the Lasso tool, make a rough selection of the zebra’s body and paste it onto your main document. Use Edit >Transform >Distort to transform the piece to roughly fit the elephant’s body.

Step 2

Lower the Opacity of the stripes layer to 40% to help see the underlying elephant. Select Edit>Transform>Warp to warp the texture to the contours of the elephant’s body. Click and drag your cursor from about a third of the way into the selection and pull outwards to create a rounded contour. Drag the corners in to contract and round out the overall texture.

Step 3

Hide the stripes layer. Using the Pen tool, select nodes all around the elephant to create a basic path of the figure. This will come in handy as you’ll commonly refer to this path as your guide for cropping elements to the body.

Step 4

Ctrl/right-click the thumbnail of your elephant path and select Make Selection. Invert your selection (Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+I) and cut (Ctrl/Cmd+X) the excess from your stripes layer. Set this layer’s blend mode to Overlay.

Step 5

Select Image>Adjustments>Curves to tweak the image’s tonal values and alter the stripes to suit the elephant. Raising points at the left end of the curve will control the dark values in your image, with the lighter tones on the right. Raising the curve brightens these areas and lowering it darkens them. In my image, I slightly raised the first quarter of the curve to brighten the over-darkened stripes.

Step 6

Select the Eraser tool set at 100% Opacity and erase the texture from the elephant’s ears and legs, as those sections will be texturised individually on new layers. Use a hard edged Eraser to delineate the ears from the striped texture and a softer brush around the thighs, as those will require a softer blend into the textures you’ll apply later.

Step 7

Now we’ll continue the texturing on the legs. Again, use the Lasso tool to select a section of the largest thigh from the zebra source and paste it onto the main document on a new layer. Position the segment roughly with Distort and use the elephant work path to help remove the excess.

Step 8

Select the Smudge tool set at 50% Strength and drag the ends of the stripes around the edges to adjust the stripes to fit the contours of the elephant’s legs.

Step 9

To darken the elephant’s feet to match the tone of a zebra’s hoof, make a rough selection of the foot and copy it onto a new layer. Using the elephant shape path, extract the foot from the excess background debris.

Step 10

Select Image>Adjustments>Curves, select a point near the middle of and drag it down. This will darken the overall tone of the middle greys while leaving the darkest and lightest points of the section intact. Use a soft Eraser to blend the foot onto the rest of the leg.

Step 11

Continue the process to texture the rest of the legs. Sometimes you’ll find that the darkest areas of the elephant’s legs don’t get affected as much when the texture is overlayed. To remedy this, simply open Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast and raise the Brightness of the section to match the rest of the textures on the image.

Step 12

Open the second zebra source image (‘113031276218.jpg’), make a selection around the face and paste it into the main document. Use the Free Transform tool to position the segment so that the zebra’s eye aligns with the elephant’s. Use the Eraser tool at 100% Opacity and extract the part of the texture obstructing the elephant’s eye.

Step 13

Because the elephant’s face is much larger than the zebra’s, simply warping the texture may not be sufficient. In this case, make a selection of the texture and open the Liquify window (Filter>Liquify). Using a high Brush Pressure (90-100) drag the stripes to suit the contours of the elephant’s head.

Step 14

To texture areas such as the trunk, simply copy the longest section of stripe you can from your zebra sources and paste it onto the document. Using Free Transform to stretch the section vertically to create the general size of the segment.

Step 15

Again, use the Warp tool to adjust the texture to the curvatures of the trunk. Then, like we did for the feet, darken the tip of the trunk to simulate the snout area of a zebra. You can do this by copying the tip of the elephant’s trunk, pasting it onto a new layer and adjusting the brightness and softening the blend into the rest of the trunk.

Step 16

Using the elephant shape path, make a copy of the elephant and paste it onto the top layer. Create an S-shaped curve to dull the general tone and apply the Soft Light blend mode to the layer. This will create a more consistent tone throughout the entire figure. You can lower the curve on the left to keep the shadows darker or blow out the highlights by raising the right curve.

Step 17

Use the Paintbrush with black as the Foreground colour to paint in darker recesses in key areas such as under the ears or in the crevice of the fold where the legs meet the body. This will help to delineate the various sections a little better. Lower the Opacity to about 30% on this layer.

Step 18

Finally, adding a bit of sharpening can help to boost the texturing. On a new layer create a merged copy of the entire image at the top of the Layers palette (Alt/Opt+Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+E). Now apply Filters>Other>High Pass set to 6px with the layer’s blend mode at Soft Light.