1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation

How to Create a Dark Gothic Portrait Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial I'll show you how to create a dark gothic portrait photo manipulation in Adobe Photoshop. 

First we'll add a texture background, import the model, and do some retouching. Later we'll add the frame, branches, and roses, and we'll blend them together with adjustment layers, masking, and brushes. We'll create a blood splatter effect using a splatter image and several paint stroke brushes. After that, we'll increase the dark and evil effect with some cobweb brushes. We'll use several adjustment layers to complete the final effect.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:

1. Add the Dark Texture

Step 1

Create a new 2000 x 2000 px document in Photoshop with the following settings:

new file

Step 2

Open the texture image. Drag this image into the canvas using the Move Tool (V):

add texture

Step 3

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and change the Midtones settings:

texture color balance

Step 4

Make a Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness, making the texture much darker.

texture curves

2. Add the Model

Step 1

Open the model image. Use the Quick Selection Tool (W) to isolate the model and add her to the middle area of the dark canvas.

add model

Step 2

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft black brush to remove the shoulders area and the higher hair part on her head.

model masking

Step 3

Make a Curves adjustment layer and set it as Clipping Mask to reduce the light on the middle of the face a little. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to paint on the shaded area of the cheeks so it will not be affected after this step.

model curves

Step 4

To increase the evil effect for the model, create a new layer (non-Clipping Mask) and use a medium-soft brush with the color #9d0909 to paint a dark red area inside the model's eyes.

eyes red

Step 5

Make a Levels adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to darken these red areas. On this layer mask, paint on both sides of the areas to reveal the red and make the black only visible in the middle of the eyes.

eyes levels

Step 6

Create a new layer and use a hard brush with a small size (2-3 px) and the color #d9dce1 to paint the highlights on the top of the eyes .

eyes highlights

3. Add the Frame

Step 1

Open the frame image. As the frame is on a transparent layer, use the Move Tool to drag it into the dark canvas and place it behind the model. Also set the frame layer under the Color Balance layer (in step 3 of section 1).

add frame

Step 2

Add a mask to the frame layer and erase the right half of the frame.

frame masking

Step 3

Use a Curves adjustment layer to make the frame a bit brighter.

frame curves

Step 4

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the Saturation value to minimum (-100):

frame hue saturation

Step 5

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Blue value of the Midtones to 16:

frame color balance

4. Add the Branches

Step 1

Open the tree image and cut it out using the Magic Wand Tool (W). Select a branch using the Lasso Tool (L) and place it on the right side of the model (the side without the frame). Set this layer under the model one (above the Color Balance and Curves adjustment layers in section 1).

add branches

Step 2

Add another branch and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) with the Warp mode to tweak the branch following the form of the head.

branches tweaking

Step 3

Select different branches and add them to the main canvas using the same method.

add more branches

Step 4

Select all the branch layers and press Control-G to make a group for them. Change this group mode to Normal 100%. Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the branches, and on the layer mask, paint on the middle area of them to reveal the original light there.

branches curves

5. Add the Roses

Step 1

Isolate the roses from the original "roses 1" image, and place them beside the model's cheek:

add roses 1

Use a layer mask to remove the part overlapping the face:

roses 1 masking

Step 2

Duplicate this layer several times and arrange them around the model. You should rotate them in different directions and change their size. Remember to make them appear different using a layer mask.

roses 1 duplicating

Step 3

Make a group for these layers and use Hue/Saturation to desaturate the roses' color.

roses 1 hue saturation

Step 4

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings:

roses 1 color balance

Step 5

Create a Curves adjustment layer and make the roses a lot darker. Paint on the roses in the middle to reduce the dark effect on them.

roses 1 curves

Step 6

Add the rose 2 image, after cutting it out, to the top of a branch. After that,  duplicate the rose and make it smaller, and then place it beside the first rose.

add rose 2

Flip the smaller rose by choosing Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal:

rose 2 flipping

Step 7

Make a group for these roses and use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value down to minimum (-100):

roses 2 hue saturation

Step 8

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings:

rose 2 color balance

Step 9

Make the roses darker using a Curves adjustment layer. Reduce the dark effect on the middle area as we did with the other subjects.

rose 2 curves

6. Make the Blood Splatters

Step 1

Create a new layer on top of the other layers and change the foreground to a dark red color (#810707). Use different paint stroke brushes to paint on the model's lips and the roses on the lower right and lower left. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100%.

splatters 1
splatters 1 overlay mode

Step 2

Open the splatter image. Isolate the splatter using the Magic Wand Tool and place it onto the face. Use a layer mask to erase the part overlapping the face and make it appear more subtle.

add splatter 2
splater 2 masking

Step 3

Select different parts of the splatter to add to the eyes and the roses.

add more splatter 2

Here is the result after masking out the unwanted parts:

splatters 2 masking result

Step 4

Make a group for the splatter layers and change the group mode to Linear Burn 100%.

splatters 2 linear burn mode

Step 5

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the Saturation value to -100. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with a low opacity (30-35%) to reveal some of the red of the blood and make the effect less flat and more realistic.

splatters 2 hue saturation

7. Make the Cobwebs

Step 1

Make several layers on top of the layers and change the foreground to white. Activate the cobweb brushes and lower the brush opacity to 50%. Select different brushes (feel free to choose your favorite ones) to paint on the roses on the top of the model's head, the branches on the right, and the cheek on the left. Use Control-T with the Warp mode to tweak the cobwebs on the right a little, following the branches there.

add cobwebs

Step 2

Use a layer mask for the cobweb on the left to erase the part outside the frame.

cobwebs masking

8. The Final Adjustment

Step 1

Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the colors #e10019 and #00601b. Lower the opacity of this layer to 20%.

gradient map

Step 2

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones and Highlights settings:

whole scene color balance
whole scene color balance result

Step 3

Add a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #000bec:

whole scene photo filter

Step 4

Create a Curves adjustment layer and increase the highlight a little. Paint on the model areas as we need the effect to be visible only on the edges.

whole scene curves

Step 5

Use a Levels adjustment layer to increase the midtones. Erase the edges and the shaded areas around the model so they're not affected by this adjustment layer.

whole scene levels

Congratulations, You're Done!

I hope that you've enjoyed my tutorial and learned something new. Feel free to share your ideas or comments in the box below—I'd love to see them. Enjoy Photoshopping!

final result
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