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Turn an Ordinary Photo Into an Avatar Style Portrait in Photoshop

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The beauty of Photoshop is that you can do nearly anything with it, even turn yourself into a Na’vi alien from Avatar. In this tutorial we will demonstrate how to use basic digital painting techniques to turn an ordinary photo into an Avatar style portrait. Let’s get started!


Tutorial Assets


Step 1: Selecting the Skin Tones

Open the model photo. Our first step is to apply a color adjustment to the skin. Go to Select > Color Range. Click over the skin to add to the selection, watch the preview on the Color Range window (white represents the selected area). Shift-click on other areas of the skin in order to add more skin tones to the selection; you can also Shift-drag to add even more colors. Adjust the Fuzziness value and keep adding colors until you have all the face selected (try to get the forehead behind the hair). Click OK.

Your selection should look like this.

Go to Select > Refine Edge. Adjust the Feather value until you get soft edges (I've used 8.0 px), Contract/Expand you selection in order to get rid of the selected hair while keeping the skin. Click OK.


Step 2: Color

With the selection still active, add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer by clicking on the Hue/Saturation icon on the Adjustments Panel (second icon from left to right on the second row of the Adjustments Panel). This will add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer with a layer mask which reveals the adjustment for the selection and hides it for the non-selected areas. Select Colorize and type a Hue value of +210 and Saturation 35 (I recommend a value between 35 – 55.

Select the layer mask by clicking on the layer mask thumbnail (when the layer mask is selected a black border appears around it). Press D to get the default colors on the Tool Bar.

Select the Brush Tool (B) and open the Brush Preset Picker by clicking on the down-pointing arrow next to the sample brush tip shape on the Control Panel. Choose a soft brush with a Master Diameter 500 px and 0% hardness (if you're using Mac you have to press Enter to close the panel). Lower the opacity of the brush to 60% (the opacity value of the brush appears on the Control Panel).

Paint over the face including the eyes, lips, nostrils, ear and neck. Paint in one stroke (this way you make sure you paint with 60% opacity, if you paint in more than one stroke over the same area you add opacity with each stroke and you'll end up with more than 60% opacity). Paint on the forehead where you see skin tones in order to reveal the adjustment layer which will add blue for the skin tones that were not selected with the color range command.

Press X to invert the foreground/background colors, now black should be your foreground color. Select the Brush Tool (B). Open the Brush Preset Picker, choose a soft brush of Master Diameter 200 px and Hardness zero%. Lower the opacity of the brush to 40% and paint over the hair in order to hide the blues of the adjustment layer.


Step 3: Darkening the Face

Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color, name the layer "Darken" and change the blend mode to Soft Light. Click OK.

On the Color Picker window (note the name of the window is Pick a Solid Color) type the following values for RGB: R=0 G=0 B=0
and click OK. If the image looks too dark you can lower the opacity of the layer (this will pretty much depend on the screen you're using).


Step 4: Eyebrows

We'll darken the eyebrows; this will make the eyes stand out more. Alt-click on the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, name the layer "Eyebrows" and change the blend mode to Multiply. Click OK.

Select the Brush Tool (B), press D to get the default colors, now black should be your foreground color. Open the Brush Preset Picker, select a brush of Master Diameter 40 px and Hardness zero%. Make sure the opacity of the brush is set to 100% (the brush opacity values appears on the Control Panel). Zoom in on the eyes and paint over the eyebrows. Then lower the opacity of the layer to 50%.


Step 5: Iris

Open the Eyeball image and extract the iris as shown below. Place the extracted eyeball on the canvas and resize as shown.

Press Cmd/Ctrl+J to duplicate the layer. A layer named "Iris copy" should appear on the Layer Panel above the Iris layer.
Select the Move Tool (V) and move the iris into position so it covers the iris of the other eye.

Add a layer mask by clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon on the bottom of the Layers panel. Select the Brush Tool (B), open the Brush Preset Picker and choose a soft brush of Master Diameter 60 px and Hardness zero%. Make sure the opacity of the brush is 100%. Press D to get the default colors on the Tool Bar, then X to invert them and paint with black over the eyelids in order to hide the iris.
Select the other iris layer and repeat the operation.


Step 6: Eyelashes

Go to the top layer. Create a new layer and name it "Eyelashes."
Select the Brush Tool (B), open the Brushes Panel by clicking on the Brushes icon on the Control Panel or by going to Window > Brushes.

Open the Brushes Panel menu and choose Load Brushes, select the brushes file you downloaded at the beginning of the exercise (you'll have to locate the file on your hard drive).

The brushes you loaded should appear at the bottom of the presets list. Choose the brush 1502, adjust the diameter to 550 px, make sure your foreground color is black and paint the eyelash of the left eye.

Then select the other 1502 brush (the one that is flipped horizontal), adjust the size to 535 px. Go to Brush Tip Shape menu on the Brushes Panel (the second option on the menu located on the left area of the panel) and enter an angle of seven degrees.

Then paint the eyelash for the right eye.

Now select the brush 504, go to Brush Tip Shape and enter an angle of minus nine degrees and a diameter of 480 px and paint the lower eyelash.

Select the brush 525, enter an angle of fourteen degrees, diameter of 525 px and paint the lower eyelash of the other eye.


Step 7: Cleaning Up

Alt-click on the Create New Group icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, name the group "Eyes" and click OK.

Select the following layers: Eyebrows, Iris, Iris copy and Eyelashes by clicking on the top most layer and Shift-clicking on the lowest layer (you can also Cmd/Ctrl-click on each layer). Then drag the layers into the group by dragging the selected layers into the name of the group.

Now the layers should appear indented, close the group by clicking on the down-pointing arrow next to the group name so you have more room on the Layers panel.


Step 8: Face Painting

Create a new layer, select the Brush Tool (B), open the Brush Preset Picker, go back to the top of the presets list and choose a soft brush of Master Diameter 300 px and Hardness zero%. Click on the foreground color on the Tool Bar to open the Color Picker, type the following values for RGB: R=46, G=108, B=147 and click OK.

Paint over the face (you can follow the area I painted over or design your own painting).

Change the blend mode of the layer to Multiply and lower the opacity to 65%.

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, choose a Radius of 35.0 px and click OK.


Step 9

Create a new layer. Select the Brush Tool (B), open the Brush Preset Picker, choose a soft brush of Master Diameter 150 px and Hardness zero%.
Click on the foreground color on the Tool Bar to open the Color Picker, type the following values for RGB: R=180, G=95, B=177 and click OK.

Paint the eye shadows, reduce the size of the brush to paint below the eyes (you can reduce the size of the brush from the Brush Preset Picker or by pressing ]).

Change the blend mode of the layer to Color and reduce the opacity to 40%.

Go to Filter > Gaussian Blur (this will apply the Gaussian Blur filter with the last setting skipping the options window).


Step 10

Create a new layer. Select the Brush Tool (B), open the Brush Preset Picker, choose a soft brush of Master Diameter 150 px and Hardness 0%. Click on the foreground color on the Tool Bar to open the Color Picker, type the following values for RGB: R=86, G=90, B=205 and click OK. Paint lines over the face. You can vary the size of the brush.

Change the blend mode of the layer to Multiply and lower the opacity to 40%.

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, choose a Radius of 20.0 px and click OK.


Step 11

Create a new layer. Select the Brush Tool (B), open the Brushes panel and select a soft brush of 17 px of diameter. Press D and X.
Go to Brush Tip Shape and choose Spacing 500%.
Go to Scattering and choose Scatter 840% and Count one.

Paint over the cheeks and forehead.

Lower the opacity of the layer to 80%.
Create a new layer. Select the Brush Tool (B), open the Brushes panel and select a soft brush of 9 px of diameter.
Go to Brush Tip Shape and choose Spacing 500%.
Go to Scattering and choose Scatter 900% and Count one.
Paint over the face, then change the blend mode of the layer to Luminosity and lower the opacity to 50%.


Step 12

Create a new layer. Select the Brush Tool (B), open the Brush Preset Picker, choose a soft brush of Master Diameter 100 px and Hardness 0%. Open the Color Picker and type the following values for RGB: R=220, G=108, B=108. Paint over the lips.

Change the blend mode of the layer to Soft Light and lower the opacity to 80%. Create a new layer, open the Brushes panel and choose a soft brush of diameter 9 pixels. Go to Brush Tip Shape, choose spacing 500%. Go to Scattering and choose Scatter 500% and Count two. Paint over the lips.
Change the blend mode of the layer to Color Dodge and lower the opacity to 50%.


Conclusion

Create a new group named "Face painting" and move all the face painting layers into the group.
Keep the group closed so you have more room on the Layers panel.