Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Photoshop tutorial: Paint with fire

In this tutorial, we’re going to take a simple model shot and transform it into a spitting, crackling beacon of fire

Using some of the most common Photoshop tools (like Smudge, Dodge and Burn) Neville D’Souza shows how to create a complicated artwork without relying on third-party plug-ins.

This lesson will also give you good practice with Photoshop’s Levels and Adjustment Layers – which can be extremely powerful if used properly – as well as Layer Masks and Blend Modes to create stunning, and yet sometimes quite subtle, effects. 

Time to complete

13 hours


Adobe Photoshop CS3 or later


The resources for this tutorial can be downloaded from here.


First, open the model shot 24165569.jpg from the project files and set its colour profile. Click Edit > Assign Profile and select Adobe RGB (1998) from the Profile drop-down list. This way, colours appear more vibrant and contrasting. Select Image > Canvas Size and increase the height to 4,250 pixels, extended the image up from the bottom. Ensure Canvas Extension Color is set to White, then hit OK.

Double-ciick on the Background layer in the Layers panel to free it up so you can place layers beneath it. Hit OK and hide that layer.

Next, create the background layer called 'Colour'. Select a colour of R:127 G:53 B:41 and fill a new layer underneath the model shot with it. Create a layer between the other two called 'Gradient' and fill it with a Radial Gradient (G) with its centre in the centre of the composition horizontally and in line with the centre of the model's head vertically. Then set its blending mode to Multiply to get the effect shown.


Unhide the model shot as we need to cut her out. Select the Magic Wand tool (W) and click on the image’s empty area. Right-click and pick Select Inverse.

Create a new layer called 'Stroke' at the top of the layer stack, then go to Edit > Stroke and select a Stroke Width of 50px, set the location to Inside and a Stroke Color of R:128 G:128 B:128.

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Now it's time to start painting our flames. This is the interesting part – even if you make a mistake here, it can be turned into something artistic.

Ensure you have the ‘Stroke’ layer selected, and choose the Smudge tool. Open the brushes panel and set the Hardness set to 100%. Up the size a bit but don’t go too high, or it may take up too much memory.

Set the model shot's opacity to 20% to help shape flames along the contours of the body, then smudge swirling wisps in an upward direction.


Once that’s done, set the blending mode of the 'Stroke' layer to Color Dodge. You can see how it takes effect, even in this initial stage.

Next, use the Dodge and Burn tools (O) to tighten the effect. 


Right now, the flames aren’t glowing. To make that happen, hide the ‘Gradient’ layer and select the ‘Colour’ layer and highlight a few areas with the Dodge tool, followed by duplicating the ‘Colour’ layer.

Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and set the black slider to 115. Then, using a Hue/Saturation adjustment, shift the Hue to 18. Finally, set the opacity of the new 'Colour copy' layer to 50%, ensuring this layer is right under the ‘Stroke’ layer for the effect to be prominent.

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The flame effect needs to be enhanced even more. This is where the ‘Stroke’ layer comes in. Duplicate it three times and add a Gaussian Blur with a value of 80 to two of these. Next, add a Layer Mask with a Radial Gradient for the three newly duplicated layers. Look at the screenshot to see the layer order and what the image now looks like.


Using the same smudge technique as explained in Step 3, create more flame shapes in different layers – this is so you can have an extra level of control in case any of them need alteration. The Blend Mode of all the flame layers should be set to Color Dodge, followed by the Dodge and Burn treatment. It’s best to keep these layers inside a layer group to avoid any complications.


Using a hard brush to create the sparks, paint blobs of different sizes on a separate layer. Dodge and Burn them and switch the Blend Mode to Color Dodge.

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I felt the facial region needed more flames, so I painted and smudged an extra batch of flame shapes on to the image. These are slightly more stretchy and wavy, to follow the contours of the model’s face.


Next, using the stroke shape in Step 2 but this time without the flames, darken and highlight certain areas using the Dodge and Burn tools. This is for the subtle lining of the shoulders and neck area.


Now comes the tricky part: blending the model’s face and a bit of her hands into the flames while keeping it subtle. On the reference image, use the Dodge tool to highlight areas of her face, hands, shoulders and so on. Next, keeping the layer selected, click the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer button. Select Curves from the list then add points, adjusting the curve to get the desired look. You can see how the curve drastically alters the image.

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Select the entire image, then Copy Merged (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + C). Paste the image onto a new layer, then click Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. Again, click Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer, select Levels from the list and move the black point slider to 60.


Select the entire image again, click Copy Merged and paste the image onto a new layer. Then, using a soft brush, paint the white area with a black colour and finally, using the Burn tool, darken certain parts of her face and arms (the burn value can be experimented with). Next, use the same ‘Curves’ Adjustment Layer from Step 11 and place it on top of the ‘Image’ layer.

Now it’s time to combine the model shot with the flames. Select the image from Step 13, copy the merged layers, and paste into your main artwork file under a new Layer Group called ‘Color Edit’, above the other layers. Apply Gaussian Blur to reduce facial detail. Duplicate it twice.

On the original picture, rename the image layer ‘Blue A’. Switch on Colorize in Hue/Saturation and set the Hue to 235, Saturation to 100, the Blend Mode to Lighten and Opacity to 15%.

Copy ‘Blue A’ and rename it ‘Blue B’. Change the Opacity to 35%. Rename the second desaturated image layer ‘Yellow A’. Move it on top of ‘Blue B’. Set the same options for this as ‘Blue A’ – except Opacity, which should be 25%. Copy this layer and call it ‘Yellow B’. Click Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer, select Levels and move the grey slider to 0.88. Duplicate this adjustment layer, naming them ‘Levels 1’ and ‘Levels 2’. 


Duplicate the ‘Yellow B’ layer and rename it ‘Yellow C’. Move it above the ‘Levels 2’ layer. Set the Blend Mode to Color Dodge and the opacity to 25%. 

Rename the third desaturated image layer ‘BW image’ and move it on top of ‘Yellow C’. Set the Blend Mode to Color Dodge and the Opacity to 75%.

Add Layer Masks for all layers except ‘Yellow C’. Also add a Layer Mask to the Group ‘Color Edit’ to hide the eyeball section, so the eyes remain looking at the viewer.


Select the entire image and click Copy Merged. Paste it into a new layer group called ‘Color Tweak’. Rename the layer ‘CT-hue’ then click Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and set the hue to 8. Click OK and set Opacity to 25%. Duplicate ‘CT-hue’ and name it ‘CT-blur’. Make sure Blend Mode is set to Screen and Opacity is at 15%. Add Layer Masks to both layers. If you want to add any more sparks or flames, create extra layer groups

Photoshop tutorial: Create a person made of water from a photo

Blending water can be difficult, but Jennifer Cirpici pulls it off using a mix of stock images and a few deft tricks

In this photo manipulation tutorial, Jennifer Cirpici explains how to create a figure that appears made from water, working from a stock photograph.  

Water is a difficult element to blend, but Jennifer’s tutorial proves it’s not as hard as it looks. She shows you how to achieve a stunning end result with many basic blending tricks, including painting lighting and shadow, and setting up a focal point with a gradient. She also shows you how to make a ‘rain brush’, handy to paint with if you don’t have stock images of water.


In order to transform the model into a figure of rain, we will need to get rid of all of her body, leaving just the clothes. Start by duplicating the layer containing the stock image provided (26251879.jpg), using Cmd/Ctrl + J or Layer > Duplicate. Make the original layer invisible. With the Pen tool (P), select her stomach and a part of her hand, zooming in to perfect your cutout. Then right click > Select Inverse (or Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + I). Now the whole image, except her stomach, is selected. Add a layer mask by clicking on the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers panel.


Now select a large area of the rain, then copy and paste it, creating a new layer. Move this new layer under the mask and name it ‘Rain Stomach’.

Move the rain to sit under the area you cut out. Then select the mask by clicking on it in your Layers panel. Go to Select > Load Selection and check the Invert box to select only the stomach area.

In the ‘Rain Stomach’ layer, do Select > Transform Selection and scale up the selection slightly. Copy and paste it above the mask in the layer stack. Blend it in nicely with the Eraser tool (E) and a soft brush.

Repeat step 2 on the rest of the model’s body. You can remove the rest of her skin and hair by selecting it and filling the selection with black in the layer mask. If you have trouble copying from the layer with the mask, use the original layer we started with.


Now we’ll fill that area of the model’s jeans that her left hand was concealing. Select some of the cloth of her right trouser leg and paste it above the mask layer, blending it in carefully and smoothly with the Eraser tool. Copy, paste and blend a few times to get it right.

You’ll also need to eliminate the reflections of her feet: copy a bit of the floor, paste it on the reflections and blend with the Eraser tool.


To convert the skin showing through the mesh in her top, brush it with a 70px soft brush, then set the brush’s blending mode to Saturation. This replaces skin tones with grey/black.


Now we need to rebuild the ‘skin’ using water. First, duplicate the original image (the locked first layer) and use the Brush tool (B) to draw over it with a 3px line. A graphics tablet is a great help here, as it’s hard to get the pressure right with a mouse.


To make the shadows of her body more visible, duplicate the original layer, make it greyscale, apply a Gaussian Blur and lower the opacity to 24%. Then duplicate the layer. You should now have something like the image above.


Now to add some more water to the skin; see the Download Zone for suitable stock images. If the background of the image you use isn’t black, invert the image (Image > Adjustments > Invert or Cmd/Ctrl + I) to make blending easier. Reduce the saturation to make the water grey, brighten up the water a little and change the blending mode to Screen.


Erase the background in the stock image, so that you only have the splash visible, and paste it somewhere on the figure’s skin to obtain the image above.


Get more water splash stock images and repeat steps 7 and 8 a number of times. Don’t overdo it with the water though: if you can’t distinguish some parts of the body clearly, duplicate the shadow areas as in step 6. Conversely, if the body is too distinct in places, erase them to obtain a more transparent quality. Eventually you should arrive at something like the image above.


Using Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance, add some blue and, for the highlights, a little yellow. Lower the opacity to 50%. The image needs to be brighter, so play with the Brightness/Contrast, Curves and Levels.


In a new layer, use the Gradient tool (G) with the radial option and create a circular glow in a part of your image you want to draw attention to. Set the Blending Options to Soft Light, with the opacity at 24%; this gives quite a subtle effect.


Some areas around the edges need more shadow, so paint over them with black and a soft brush, something like 60px, ideally using a tablet. Set the Blend Mode to Soft Light and lower the Opacity. Smudge the lines to make them less hard. To make the white lines on the face more visible, paint over them with a small white hard brush, with the Opacity set to around 40% and Flow to around 70%.

Finally, go to Image > Apply Image and then go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and just add a tiny bit of motion blur. Lower the Opacity of the layer to around 30%. We’re done.

Photoshop tutorial: Create a glowing superhero

This is the first in a series of tutorials detailing the creation of work for Obsolete, as the latest set of art and illustration by the amazing Depthcore collective is titled.

Here Kervin Brisseaux shows how he turned a basic illustration into a retro-futuristic artwork in Photoshop. You’ll use the Marquee and Pen tools to create various forms, and generate atmosphere with glow effects made using Adjustment layers and Layer Styles. You’ll also use motion blur for a dynamic feel.

Adjustment layers and layer masking allow for maximum manipulation with minimal risk, and the skills you learn will therefore be useful in a many projects. The effects here can also accentuate other kinds of subtle visual pull in compositions.

The project files include Kervin’s initial illustration plus the full layered PSD artwork. They may not be used for any commercial purpose.

Time to Complete

10-15 hours


Photoshop CS5 or later

Project Files

Files for this tutorial are downloadable from here.


Open illus.psd from the project files. It has three base layers: ‘linework’, ‘ground’, and ‘figure’. Hide the ‘ground’ layer, since we won’t be working with it right away.


Start by creating a new layer and filling the entire canvas with black. Move this new ‘background’ layer behind the other objects (if you haven’t done so already).


We’ll start the colouring process by applying a black to red Gradient Map to the ‘figure’ layer. You can do this by selecting Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient map. Add a clipping mask of the Gradient Map to the figure by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + Alt + G.


Now we can start applying various glow effects on the black line work to accentuate certain parts of the suit. Select the ‘linework’ layer, go to the Add a Layer Style button at the bottom of the Layers panel and apply the Color Overlay and Outer Glow effects. Adjust the settings for both until you get something like what appears above.


Add a Layer Mask to the ‘linework’ layer. Use a black (foreground) and white (background) soft brush to begin hiding or revealing the glowing lines in various areas of the illustration. You can control the brush’s ‘strength’ by adjusting its opacity and Flow settings.


Duplicate the ‘linework’ layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J) multiple times and repeat steps 4 and 5 to achieve an effect similar to that shown above.


Now we’ll accentuate the shininess of the suit by adding more contrast in places. Start by applying highlights, which can be created with airbrushing techniques or adding a subtle Inner Glow Layer Style effect in the ‘figure’ layer as shown.


Create a Levels adjustment layer above the ‘figure’ layer and apply it as a Clipping Mask to that layer. Set the white output level to about 150. Using the Layer Mask, begin to erase certain areas of the Levels adjustment layer as shown. This should create a more dramatic sense of contrast.

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Now we’ll add streaks to indicate we have a superhero moving at a high velocity. Start by using the Marquee (M) or Pen (P) tools to create some horizontal shapes like those shown.


Use a variety of Layer Style effects, including Color Overlays and Inner and Outer Glows, to stylise the streaks as shown. As before, use masks and brushes to apply these relatively sparingly.


Repeat steps 9 and 10, this time creating secondary and tertiary streaks of various colours. Keep going until you have a sense of fast motion.


To add more dynamism, we need a sense that our figure is racing past a backdrop. First, we’ll add a simple background by creating a new layer called ‘noise’ directly above the ‘background’ layer. Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Set the Amount to 20%, hit the Gaussian button and check Monochromatic.

Hit Cmd/Ctrl + L to bring up the Levels dialog box and set the Input levels to 0, 0.4, 180. Add more noise and levels adjustments on this same layer until the noise elements are as dense as what is shown above.


Duplicate the ‘noise’ layer and set this ‘noise copy’ layer’s blending mode to Lighten. Go to Filter > Blur> Motion Blur. Set the Angle to 0 and the Distance to 30 pixels. Bring up the Levels dialog and set the input levels to about 0, 8, 90 to make the effect more visible.


We’ll now add colour and focus to the canvas’s centre. Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient and select the Radial style. Ensure this new layer sits between the noise layers and the figure and motion layers. Add Gradient Map adjustment layers for the same purpose.

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Unhide the ‘ground’ layer and repeat the earlier steps to imbue it with the same colours, glows and sense of motion.


Finish with subtle atmospheric touches such as rainbows (add layers with suitable gradient fills) plus more colour variation and depth (use Gradient Adjustment layers again).


Make a Trendy Double Exposure Effect in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

You’ve probably seen this interesting effect of two or more overlapping photos on the covers of music albums, in modern magazines and in advertisements. In this tutorial we’ll create a trendy double exposure effect in Adobe Photoshop with the help of Blending Modes and Clipping Masks in a few steps. 

In photography and cinematography, multiple exposure is a combination of two or more exposures to create a single image. Initially, this is a technique in which the camera shutter is opened more than once to expose the film multiple times, usually to different images. However, with our modern software, we can easily recreate a similar effect in Adobe Photoshop.

If you want to create a double exposure effect with just a few clicks, try this amazing Double Exposure Photoshop Action on Envato Elements. With it, you can create a wonderful double exposure effect to your own image in just a few seconds. After the action has finished, you can add a color tone or gradient to your composition, and voilĂ , your effect is complete! 

Double Exposure Photoshop Action on Envato Elements
Double Exposure Photoshop Action on Envato Elements

Using a ready-made action can save you time, but in this tutorial you'll learn how to create a double exposure effect from scratch—giving you maximum flexibility and creative control. Let’s get to it!

For the base of our image, we’ll be using the following photo of a young man fromStockvault.net. You can use any photo to your liking, for example, from your personal archive. However, make sure that the background of your photo is more or less neutral, without noisy elements such as grass or foliage, to make it easier to work with.

initial photo

Let’s take the Crop Tool (C) and make the photo less wide by deleting its side parts.

crop the photo with the crop tool

Now we need to make it much brighter and add contrast. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels or press Control-L to call the pop-up Levels menu. Move the lightest slider to the left, making our photo brighter, and add contrast by moving the left black slider to the right. Otherwise, you can just set the particular values in the spaces below: 7 for the shades of black, 1.15 for greys and 197 for whites. Click the OK button to apply the adjustments.

make the photo brighter with levels

Let’s fix the guy’s ear with the Spot Healing Brush Tool (I). Just click and move your mouse, drawing above the area you wish to fix and—voila!—the marked area is clean and flawless. This is a very handy tool for photo retouching, when you need to get rid of some minor flaws and bumps on the skin. 

edit the ear with the Spot Healing Brush Tool

Now we need to get rid of the background. This is a piece of cake, as we’re using a photo with a clean background. Take the Magic Wand Tool (W) and click anywhere on the background to select it. Then go toSelect > Inverse in order to make the man selected.

select the background with the Magic Wand Tool

While you are still armed with the Magic Wand Tool (W), find the Refine Edgebutton  in the control panel above to reveal the Refine Edge options window. Here you can change the View of your photo in the View Modes, placing the selected element on white, black, transparent and other backgrounds, making it more visible and convenient to edit. 

Slightly increase the Radius value in the Edge Detection, setting it to 1.5, making the edges less rigid and thus revealing minor details, such as separate hairs. Set the Output To in the Output section of the options window to New Layer with Layer Mask. This will automatically create a copy of your initial image with the background hidden by the Clipping Mask.

You can play with other Refine Edgeoptions  as well, making the edge smoother or more blurred. This would be handy if you’re cutting out the element that is surrounded by other elements, or the image has some more complex background and the edges of the main object are messy. In our case, these minor adjustments are enough to continue creating the desired effect

Create a New Layer below the cut-out portrait and fill it with neutral greyish color (#dcdbd9) using the Paint Bucket Tool (G).

fill the background with color with Paint Bucket Tool

Let’s select the second photo for our composition. This can be some nice flower shot or cityscape, or anything abstract and intricate. For this tutorial, we’ll use this monochromatic nature scene of a forest by Samuel Rohl, which you can find at Unsplash.com.

select the second photo for our photomanipulation

Place the image of the forest above the man’s portrait. Keeping the forest layer selected, press the Control key and click on the Layer Clipping Mask of the layer below (the one with the portrait). You will see the marching ants selection of the man’s silhouette on the forest layer.

make a selection from the portrait

Press the Add vector mask button in the bottom of the Layers panel to hide the unneeded parts of the forest image. If you click on the chain icon between the image thumbnail and the mask thumbnail in the Layers panel, this will unlink the layer and its mask, so that you can move and rotate the image inside the mask without moving the whole layer. 

In our case, let’s put the forest image upside down, so that the dark reflection of the trees is placed in the head area of the silhouette, as shown in the screenshot below. 

use Add vector mask and rotate the forest image

Select the layer which contains the cutout portrait with Clipping mask. Make a copy(Control-J) and drag and drop it above the forest layer.

place the portrait above the forest

Let’s make the portrait monochromatic to fit the forest image color palette. Keeping the portrait layer selected, move to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate or just press Shift-Control-U, converting our image to grayscale.

Desaturate the portrait

Open the Levels (Control-L) options window and make the image much darker by moving the black slider to the right side or manually setting its value to 117.

Apply the effect and go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Tick theColorize checkbox in the bottom right corner of the options window to change the whole range of colors of our image. Set the Hue value to 212, moving the slider to the right, thus adding tints of blue. Set the Saturation level to 10, decreasing the vividness of the photo, and click OK to apply the created effect.

edit the hue and saturation of the photo

Right-click on the portrait layer mask and we can Apply Layer Mask in the dropdown menu. Change the Blending Mode of the portrait layer to Screen in the Layerspanel. We can already see that the  desired double exposure effect appears! Only a few minor tweaks left, so let’s move on!

apply the mask the switch to screen blending mode

Let’s make the image more surrealistic by editing the head of the portrait. Take the Brush Tool (B) and select the Airbrush Soft Round 17 from the standard Round Brushes with Size set (you can find it in the drop down brushes menu if you click the right mouse button or in the Brushes (F5) panel).

Select the Layer Mask of the forest layer, set the Fill color to white and paint softly over the upper part of the head area (marked with red in the screenshot), thus erasing the unwanted parts of the head and adding some air in the top part of the image. This makes the image look as if the trees are growing directly from the man’s head.

Step 8

Some parts of the image look too noisy at this step—for example, the eyes area, where the trees from the forest image create a distracting effect. Let’s get rid of this and make these parts more clear and contrast. 

Create a New Layer beneath the desaturated portrait layer, take the Brush Tool (B) again and switch the Fill color to dark blue (#2f2c35), which you can pick directly from the hair part of the portrait with the Eyedropper Tool (I). 

Start painting over the eyes area, making it more distinct. For more convenience, you can Control-click on the layer mask of the portrait layer to create a marching ants selection, which allows you to draw inside the selected area, without crossing its boundaries.


Step 9

Let’s add a finishing touch to our image. Select the desaturated portrait layer and Add Layer Mask by clicking the mask icon in the bottom part of the Layers panel. Take the Brush Tool (B) and switch the Fillcolor to black.  Since our Layer mask is white by default, the black color will help us to erase the unwanted parts of the image. Paint over the neck area of the man, creating an illusion of his face popping out from the trees.

Great Job! Our Trendy Portrait Is Finished!

Congratulations! These simple steps helped us to create a stylish double exposure portrait by combining two images and creating an interesting surrealistic effect. I hope you’ve found some handy tips and tricks, which will help you to make more interesting combinations and photo manipulations. Good luck!