Taking a picture of a pretty girl and giving it the wow factor with some clever details is one of the most popular uses for Photoshop. In this tutorial, Photoshop guru Rob Shields shows how to execute the style with real flair, applying digital painting techniques, compositing and layer masks to stunning effect.
See also: 85 Best Photoshop tutorials
We will explore how layer masks can be used to refine the dripping paint effect and why digital painting is essential for cutting out the model’s hair successfully. You will also create custom gradients, learn perspective blurring to add depth, as well as applying background textures.
The goal is to create an image that is based in photo manipulation with accents of airbrushing and digital paint. You’ll find a graphics tablet very useful for some of the finer detail of this tutorial.
The model shot and background texture have been kindly provided by Photostogo and can be downloaded from our website. The
stomach image is by NotSchockSchwere at DeviantArt, and strawberry images are available for free from Stock.xchng. Time to complete
Photoshop CS3 or later
Click here to download this tutorial's project files
Open up your model shot. Using the Pen tool, carefully outline the girl. Be sure to follow the shape of her body exactly but at this point don’t worry about being exact around the hair. Once the outline is finished right-click (
Ctrl + click) anywhere on the screen and select Make Selection. Then select the Marquee tool ( M), right-click and select Layer via Cut.
Change the backdrop to a deep colour (we’re using purple here) to see the white that is left behind her hair. Select the top of the girl’s head using the Marquee tool (
M), then go Select > Color Range and with the dropper select the white. Using the Quick Selection tool (W) de-select any area of her skin that are selected and press Cmd/Ctrl + X.
Using a small, hard eraser (
E) go back to extract the remaining white residue. Opening the Brush palette, select Shape Dynamics, set the Minimum Diameter to 70% and Size Jitter to Pen Pressure. In Other Dynamics set both values to Pen Pressure and begin to repaint the hair.
On the background layer add a black to pink gradient with an angle of -37°. Open the silk image, stretch it to fit, then add a black Color Overlay and set the blending mode to Color. Using the Levels palette (
Cmd/Ctrl + L), bring the value on the right from 255 to 235. Convert this layer to a smart object and change the blending mode to Difference.
Duplicate the silk layer (
Cmd/Ctrl + J) and change the blending mode to Soft Light. Select Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient Fill and create another gradient with colours similar to the picture shown here. Use the Dodge and Burn tools on the Difference layer to make the silk more vibrant if necessary.
On a new layer with a soft brush, start painting highlights and shadow around the corners of the silk. In our image we used a bit of white in the top right corner and small sections of purple in the bottom right and left. This adds variety to the colour scheme.
Make the layer with the girl on it visible again. Create a layer below the girl and set the blending mode to Overlay. With a large, soft brush begin to paint black onto this new layer to give the silk a more sunken-in look around the contours of the girl.
With the girl layer selected select
Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves. Be sure to select Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask before you hit OK. Move the graph line as shown. Using the Bucket tool ( G), fill the white box in the curves layer with black to restore the girl to her previous state.
Using a soft white brush at a low opacity (around 30%), begin to paint the white back onto the black box within the curves layer. This will allow you to darken specific areas of the girl to give her a more refined look. Afterwards repeat this process in a new curves adjustment layer, but move the graph line in the opposite direction to manipulate highlights.
With the second curves adjustment layer selected, go to
Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels and again, click Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. Move the black and white arrows at opposite ends of the Levels graph closer to the centre to pump up the contrast on the image even more.
Open the stomach image and press
Cmd/Ctrl + L. Adjust the levels until the skin colour looks similar to the image shown here. Position the stomach so that the belly button is in the correct position. Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. Now using the same brush that we used to paint the hair, paint the stomach back in (using white to paint, black to erase).
With the Ellipse tool (
U) selected, create a large, dark circle below the first silk layer. Changing to white, hold Shift and create a series of white circles on a layer above the silk. Repeat this process to create a series of black circles and set the blending mode to Soft Light.
Using the same brush you used to paint the hair, begin to create thin outlines over the entire body of the model. Highlight key areas like the ridges of the lips, eyelashes and individual strands of hair. In blending modes set both a Color Overlay and a red Outer Glow.
Open the strawberries image. Use as many of the strawberries as possible to vary them. To create a sense of depth, leave some of the strawberries at their original resolution and use a Gaussian Blur set between 1-5 pixels (
Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur).
To paint the ‘cream’, use the same brush that you used to paint the hair and stomach effects. Remember to paint in broader strokes first. When painting the lines that come from the top of the piece, zoom in close and move slowly. Remember that you don’t want a perfect line. Imperfection gives everything a more natural feel.
With a large, soft brush, sample some of the red backdrop by holding Alt with the brush selected. Paint the shadows on the model’s body with this colour. Finally go to
Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels and add a final levels layer to pump up the colour.