The traditional cyborg, a mix of human and machine, has the ability to unsettle viewers in a way that robots or other synthetic humanoids can’t possibly match. There’s a visceral quality about the transplanting of flesh and metal in iconic figures such as The Terminator or Star Trek’s Borg. It conjures up visions of the horror of Victorian medical practices, and frightens us more than the completely synthetic Replicants of Blade Runner, or the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica.
In this tutorial, Fabio Sasso shows you some techniques for creating a cyborg from photographic sources in Photoshop, tapping into the movie heritage of the cyborg, but mixing it with the glossy ‘Bleach-Bypass’ look of modern sci-fi TV shows such as V and The Event. You will use some stock photos and lots of adjustment layers, in order to achieve a convincing result.
Time to complete
Adobe Photoshop 6 or higher
Open Photoshop and create a new A4 portrait document. Import a photo of a person that will be your cyborg. You can call this layer ‘HeadShoulders’. To obtain the slick look we’re going for, choose an image with bright highlights and dark shadows, and with fashion stylings. The one I’m using is courtesy of Shutterstock and can be found at
Using the Lasso tool (
L), select the area of the face you want to cut out. Go to Layer > New > Layer via Cut. Call this layer ‘Face’. Move the face to the top right. You can hide the ‘Face’ layer for now.
Select the ‘HeadShoulders’ layer and go to
Layer > Layer Styles > Drop Shadow. Select a Multiply blending mode with 68% Opacity, 120° Angle, 0 Distance, 31% Spread and a Size of 114px.
Go to the Bevel and Emboss tab and select a Style of Inner Bevel, a Technique of Smooth, 241% Depth, 10px Size, and 16px Soften. For the Shading use an Angle of 90% and an Altitude of 21%. Select Lighter Color for the Highlight Mode with a white, and a black at 60% Opacity with Linear Burn for the Shadow Mode.
Let’s import another image. This one is of a metalic skull I found
here. Place it in your design in a layer called ‘Skull’, and move it so it’s beneath the face.
Add a new layer and fill it with black, then change the blending mode to Screen. With the Brush tool (
B), start painting over the teeth, in order to make them white.
Select the ‘Skull’ layer and go to
Image > Adjustments > Levels. Use 0, 1.40 and 255 for the Inputs. There’s a huge highlight spot on the forehead that we want to remove. Add a new layer called ‘Gray’ and select a gray color of the skull with the Color Picker, then paint over the highlighted area with the Brush tool ( B).
Let’s add another image for the nose, this time of a computer power supply fan. You can find it
here. Name the layer ‘Fan’, place it over the nose, and with the Polygonal Lasso tool ( L), select the nose area and mask the ‘Fan’ layer.
With the ‘Fan’ layer selected, go to
Image > Adjustments > Levels. Increase the black input to 25, change the grey input to .95, and for the white output, change this to 176.
If necessary, using the Brush tool and black for the color, paint over the fan, in order to darken it.
Let’s use another image for the eyes, this time of a webcam. The one I used is from
here. Select just the central part of the webcam, and position it over the whole of the eyes.
Add a layer on top and fill it with black. Change its blending mode to Screen. With the Brush tool (
B), select a very soft brush and red for the colour, then paint over the eyes to create a red glow effect.
Make the ‘Face’ layer visible once more, and go to
Layer > Layer Style > Drop Shadow. On this tab and the Bevel and Emboss one, modify the settings to match those above. Please note that the blending mode colour for the drop shadow is a dark brown.
Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter. Use an orange for the color with 20% Density.
Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue and Saturation. Reduce the Saturation to -50. Next, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map. Use black and white for the colour and a blending mode of Soft Light.
Add a new layer to the top of the layer stack and fill it with blue (#12497c). Change the opacity to 60% and the blend mode to Soft Light.
Add another layer and fill it with green (#257940). Change its opacity to 60% and the blending mode to Soft Light.
We want to add a simple vignette effect. Add a layer on top. Fill it with black. Change the blending mode to Multiply. Select the Brush tool (
B) and a very big soft brush, with white for the colour. Paint over the girl’s face and other areas, leaving just the edges.
To add a glow effect, first select all the layers, and
right click > Duplicate Layers. With the duplicated layers still selected, go to Layer > Merge Layers ( Cmd/Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E). Next, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Use 20 pixels for the Radius. Change the blending mode to Screen and reduce the Opacity to 80%.