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Create a Fantasy Girlbird Illustration in Photoshop

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What is more fun than mixing people with animals? The results can often be cute, funny, or even a bit disturbing. In today’s tutorial, I will demonstrate how to create a fantasy bird girl illustration using digital painting and photo manipulation techniques. Let’s get started!


Tutorial Assets

The following images were used during the production of this tutorial.


Introduction

Make sure that when you begin a project like this that you start out with some good high quality photos. If you like, feel free to use the images above. You can also attempt this project using photos of your own choosing. In addition to high quality images, you will also need a graphic tablet.


The Creation Process

I began this illustration with a sketch of what I wanted to create. Then, I began searching for suitable photos. I found this photo of an adorable little girl, which I decided to use. Then I incorporated some other images that I found as well. Once that was done, I made a rough composition in Photoshop using the images that I found.


Step 1

Create a new document in Photoshop. I used 2000x2200px 300dpi canvas. Fill the canvas with a very light blue color #EEF3F6.


Step 2

Open Bird1.jpg. Use the Magic Wand Tool (W) to select background around the bird.

Then press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + I to inverse your selection. Press Refine Edge and change the values to the ones indicated below.

Then press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + J (Layer via Cut) to cut the selected bird to a new layer, select this new layer, right-click on it and choose Convert to Smart Object from drop-down menu. I use Smart Objects for all the images, without exception. This allows all possible manipulations and transformations, to apply filters and masks, but without being destructive.

Then place the bird on BirdGirl.psd canvas, flip it horizontal using Cmd/Ctrl + T > right-click > Flip Horizontal and scale it to 75%.


Step 3

Now let's bring in the girl. Using the Pen Tool (P), select the girl's head, then press Cmd/Ctrl + Enter to convert the path into a selection. Press W, then press Refine Edge and use the same values we used for the bird. Then press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + J (Layer via Cut), and convert the new layer to Smart Object.

Place the girl's head in our image above the bird. Use Cmd/Ctrl + T to scale and rotate the layer. Now it should look like the one shown below.


Step 4

Let's make her eyes bigger! Select the left eye area using Lasso Tool (L) with like 10px feather to soften the edges around the selection. Then press Cmd/Ctrl + J (Layer via Copy) to copy the eye to the new layer.

Do the same to the right eye.

Select the "Left Eye" layer, press Cmd/Ctrl + T enlarge and rotate it as shown below. Do the same to the "Right Eye" layer.

Now, mask the "Right Eye" layer by clicking on the mask icon in the layers palette. Using a large, soft-edged brush, paint on mask with black color to erase unwanted areas around the eye. Do the same to the "Left Eye" layer.

Here is what you should to get.


Step 5

Select the "Head" layer and go to Filter > Liquify. Use Forward Warp Tool with 200px brush and make changes as shown below. Slightly change shape of the face, enlarge the distance between the eyes in the district for the nose, lift up mouth and nose. Click OK to apply the changes. Well here we are finished changing the face, now let's paint for variety.


Step 6

Create a new layer by clicking on the Create a New Layer icon in the layers palette. Then hold Alt and click between the "Head" layer and a new layer to create a clipping mask.

On this and the next few layers we will paint using a brush, changing its properties of hardness, size and opacity, and using colors taken from the photo itself to deliver smoothness and the effect of painting to the face. I use one of the standard Photoshop brushes with the following settings.

Choose the brush (B), set opacity to 20%, hardness to 0% and size to 70px. With the Brush tool chosen, you can press and hold I key, it will bring up the Eyedropper Tool, sample the color from the photo and then release I, it will bring the Brush tool back. It's easy way to switch between those tools, to pick different colors from canvas during painting. Sample the bright pink color and paint over the face and neck, avoiding the eyes area, mouth and nostrils.

Add pink to the cheeks and using a small 7px brush, draw a mouth. That will give it more shape. Create a new layer for each new color and make them clipping masks.


Step 7

Now, using a large soft brush with 20% opacity, paint on new layer with pink the cheeks and nose area and around the eyes as shown below. Set the layer blending mode to Overlay.


Step 8

Next we will add some glare. Using a hard transparent brush, paint a very light pink onto the highlighted areas of the face, then using a smaller brush, fill with white, the teeth and whites of the eyes.


Step 9

Now, using a small soft brush with 20% opacity, paint with light blue, the pupils as shown below. Set the layer blending mode to Overlay and layer's opacity to 60%.


Step 10

Set your brush to 2px size, 100% opacity and 100% hardness. Draw eyelashes and eye contour with dark brown. Also, you can add some shadows over eyes using same color and large soft brush with like 10% opacity.


Step 11

She really needs some eyebrows! Open Boy.jpg. Using the Lasso Tool (L) with 5px feather, select the right eyebrow, convert it to Smart Object, then drag it to our painting and place as shown below. Do the same for the left eyebrow. Group both eyebrows layers (select layers and press Cmd/Ctrl + G).

Now, mask the "Eyebrow right" layer by clicking on the mask icon in the layers palette. Using a large, soft-edged brush, paint on mask with black color to erase unwanted areas around the eyebrow. Do the same to the "Eyebrow left" layer.

Add Levels adjustment layer to the "Eyebrow right" layer by clicking on the adjustment layer icon in the layers palette or by opening Adjustments pallet (Window > Adjustments). Change the values to the ones indicated below. On Adjustment palette, click Clipping Mask icon to apply effect just for one layer. Do the same to the "Eyebrow left" layer.

Create a new layer and using 2px brush with 20% opacity paint eyebrow hairs.


Step 12

We are now done with the face for the moment, now to the hair. It's all about painting; basically all we are doing is painting over the photo, repeating hair structure and just adding more shape to it. We will still use the same brush we used in the beginning. Start painting using a large soft brush with 20-30% opacity to paint basic color. You can pick colors from the photo or choose others. Gradually reduce the size of the brush to paint the details. Paint each color on a new layer, it's the easiest way to fix if something goes wrong. Finally you should get something like the image below.

I don't really like the form of the bangs, so I decided to change it. Set you brush to 80% opacity, 15px size and 80% hardness, paint the bangs’ shape as you like.

Now, using small 4-6px brush, draw the tips of her bangs.


Step 13

Let's pay some attention to the bird. Select the bird layer and add adjustment layers as shown below. 1. Adjustment Layers > Levels. 2. Adjustment Layers > Hue Saturation. 3. On the same Hue/Saturation palette choose yellow from the drop-down menu. 4. Adjustment Layers > Levels. Then select the bird layer and all adjustment layers and convert them to Smart Objects.


Step 14

Open Bird2.jpg.
Use Magic Wand Tool (W) to select background around the bird. Then press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + I to inverse your selection.
Press Refine Edge and change the values with the ones indicated below. Then press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + J (Layer via Cut) to cut the selected bird to the new layer and convert it to Smart Object.

Then place it in our painting.

Add a mask to the "Bird Body". Using a large, hard-edged brush, erase unwanted areas.

Now do the same to the "Bird Legs" layer.


Step 15

Open Bird3.jpg. Cut the tail and place it as shown below.


Step 16

Create a new layer above the bird's body, fill with blue wing's area and set layer opacity to 20%.

Now paint blue wing with same technique we used to paint the hair. Paint with short strokes to emphasize the texture of feathers.

Select "Bird Body", "Bird Legs" and "Bird Tail" folders and convert them to Smart Objects.


Step 17

Create a new layer above bird's body, fill with brown body area and set layer opacity to 20%.

Now paint the feathers in same way we painted the wings. Add a dark brown contour to the legs.

Some more painting on the wood.


Step 17

On the new layer, fill with blue tail's area and set layer blending mode to Soft Light. And paint again.

Your composition should look like below.


Step 18

Open Flowers.jpg.
Use Pen Tool (P) to select two flowers. Press Cmd/Ctrl + Enter to convert the path into a selection. Press W, then press Refine Edge and use the values as shown below. Then press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + J (Layer via Cut), and convert the new layer to Smart Object.

Place the flowers in our painting.

Create a new layer under a layer of flowers, set layer blending mode to Multiply. Using a hard brush with 20% opacity draw shadows.

Paint flowers with purple as shown below and set layer blending mode to Soft Light.

Give some emphasis to the petals, white to the light areas and dark purple to the shadows.

Duplicate the "Flowers" folder and put the copy behind Girls head, delete shadow layer.

Paint some shadows.


Step 19

Open Feather1.jpg.
Use Magic Wand Tool (W) to select white background around the feather. Then press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + I to inverse your selection.
Press Refine Edge and change the values with the ones indicated below. Then press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + J (Layer via Cut) to cut the selected feather to the new layer and convert it to Smart Object.

Place the feather as shown below.

Press Cmd/Ctrl + T, then right-click and choose Warp from drop-down menu. Transform the feather as shown below.

Add Levels adjustment layer.

Double click the layer to open Layer Style window. Choose Color Overlay.

Then apply Filter > Gaussian Blur with 1px radius.


Step 20

Bring the second feather (Feather2.jpg) in the same way we did the first one. Warp it and apply the same effects: select the "Feather1" layer, right-click and choose Copy Layer Style, then select the "Feater2" layer, right-click and choose Paste Layer Style. Now Select the Levels adjustment layer above "Feather1", hold Alt and drug it above "Feather2", you will see black and white arrows cursor, which means you duplicate the layer.

Select the "Feather2" layer with Levels layers and convert them to Smart Objects. Then duplicate it, scale and place as shown below. Apply Filter > Gaussian Blur with 2.5px radius and set layer opacity to 80%.


Step 21

Open Feather3.jpg. We want to cut the smaller feather, it's very fluffy, so we will use the channels to separate it from the background.

Open channels panel, choose and duplicate the Blue channel. Press Cmd/Ctrl + L to open Levels window and set values as shown below.

Hold Cmd/Ctrl and click on "Blue copy" cannel layer. Press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + I to inverse your selection.

Now, go back to the layers panel and press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + J (Layer via Cut) to cut the selected feathers to the new layer. Duplicate this layer, then select both layers and merge them by clicking Cmd/Ctrl + E.

Use the Lasso tool (L) to select the smaller feather and cut it to a new layer. Then go to Layer > Matting > Defringe, then press Ok in opened dialog. It will remove unwanted halos from the feather and make the cut cleaner. Convert this layer to Smart Object.


Step 22

Place the feather and add Levels.

Now choose Photo Filter adjustment layer to get the feather color more similar to the bird.

Blur it a little using Gaussian Blur.


Step 23

The last thing we will add is some nice rose petals. Use the Pen Tool (P) to select 3 petals, press Cmd/Ctrl + Enter to convert the path into a selection.

Press W, then press Refine Edge and use the values as shown below. Then press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + J (Layer via Cut), using Lasso Tool (L) select each petal and cut each one to the new layer. Convert each layer to Smart Object.

Place the petals. Duplicate and resize some of them to create better composition.

Blur them a little, using Gaussian Blur with different radius for each one like shown below. After that select all petals layers and convert them to Smart Objects.

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and make petals more purple.


Step 24

We are almost done, lets add some final touches. Paint some light pink and purple dots around the bird.

Paint some white dots on the face, body and flowers to add the effect of light shine and flicker. Actually, you can paint white dots everywhere.

And finally, let's draw her freckles. Paint them on new layer and set blending mode to Multiply.


Step 25

Last step! Color correction - my favorite part of any project. Merge all layers except background and add adjustment layers as shown below. Add a Gradient Map layer with gradient colors: #ffcdb2 / #fdc084 / #6f022b. Set the layer mode to Color and opacity to 20%.

Add another Gradient Map layer with gradient colors: #f1ffb2 / #ff5571 / #000b2f. Set the layer mode to Multiply and opacity to 20%.

Add Color Balance. On the layer's mask, paint with black on face area to not apply color change to face.

Add Sepia Photo Filter.

Add last Gradient Map layer with gradient colors: #ffd8c0 / ##eb0042. Set the layer mode to Lighten and opacity to 20%.


Final Image

You might now believe it but we are done! You can play more with adjustment layers to get different shades. I love this kind a vintage look we got here. I hope you liked the tutorial and the GirlBird that we created.

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