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How to Create a Fantasy, Sci-Fi Portrait Photo Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop

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This post is part of a series called Photoshop Portraits.
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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial I'll show you how to create a fantasy, sci-fi portrait. You'll learn how to blend a model portrait with a space background, make some special effects using light and nebula textures, manage blending modes, enhance color, paint light, and more.

Tutorial Assets

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

1. How to Build the Background

Step 1

Create a new 1500 x 900 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:

new filenew filenew file

The background color should be #010e27.

Step 2

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and reduce the lightness. Select the layer mask and activate the Brush Tool (B). Use a soft round brush with black color (soft black brush) to paint on both sides of the canvas. It's to avoid both sides becoming black and to show the details there later.

background curvesbackground curvesbackground curves
background curves maskingbackground curves maskingbackground curves masking

Step 3

Drag the space background onto the dark canvas and change the layer mode to Screen 100%:

add space backgroundadd space backgroundadd space background

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft black brush to clear some areas around the middle and both sides.

space background maskingspace background maskingspace background masking

Step 4

Create a Curves adjustment layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Decrease the lightness to make the effect appear more subtle.

space background curvesspace background curvesspace background curves

2. How to Add the Model

Step 1

Isolate the model using the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) and add her to the middle of the canvas using the Move Tool (V).

add modeladd modeladd model

Use a layer mask and a soft black brush to erase the neck, shoulders, hair, and forehead.

model maskingmodel maskingmodel masking

Step 2

Make a new layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Select the Clone Tool (S) to remove the earring:

earing cloningearing cloningearing cloning

Step 3

Create a Curves adjustment layer to lower the lightness of the lower edge of the chin and the cheek. Use a soft black brush to paint on the other areas so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

model curves 1model curves 1model curves 1

Step 4

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value down to -16:

model hue saturationmodel hue saturationmodel hue saturation

Step 5

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to match the color of the model's face with the background. Change the Midtones settings:

model color balancemodel color balancemodel color balance

Step 6

Use the Lasso Tool to select the mouth only, and then go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves. Increase the lightness to make this area brighter.

model curves 2model curves 2model curves 2

3. How to Do the Eye Makeup

Step 1

Open the ring light image and add it to the main document using the Move Tool. Change this layer mode to Screen 100%.

add ring lightadd ring lightadd ring light

Step 2

Select Filter > Liquify and activate the Twirl Clockwise Tool (C). Tweak the ring until it gets a similar result to the one shown below, or at least until it has the eye-like part shown in the small screenshot. Use it to cover the left eye.

ring light liquifyingring light liquifyingring light liquifying

Use a layer mask to erase the areas around this eye-like part.

cover the left eyecover the left eyecover the left eye

Step 3

Duplicate this layer and flip it horizontally (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal). Move it to the other eye.

add another eye makeupadd another eye makeupadd another eye makeup

Step 4

Select the two eye layers and press Control-G to make a group for them. Change this group's mode to Screen 100% and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to alter the eyes' color:

eyes hue saturationeyes hue saturationeyes hue saturation

Step 5

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

eyes color balanceeyes color balanceeyes color balance

4. How to Add the Nebula Effect

Step 1

Drag the nebula 1 image on top of the head and change its mode to Screen 100%. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) with the Warp mode to tweak the form of the nebula to fit the perspective of the head and eyes.

add nebula 1add nebula 1add nebula 1

Use a layer mask to remove the hard edges.

nebula 1 maskingnebula 1 maskingnebula 1 masking

Step 2

Duplicate this layer several times and move them around the head and face, especially trying to leave some visible effect on the cheeks. Use a layer mask if needed to clear any unneccessary details and get your desired look.

add more nebula effectadd more nebula effectadd more nebula effect

Step 3

Make a group for these nebula layers and alter its mode to Screen 100%. Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones and Highlights values:

nebula 1 color balance midtonesnebula 1 color balance midtonesnebula 1 color balance midtones
nebula 1 color balance highlightsnebula 1 color balance highlightsnebula 1 color balance highlights

Step 4

Use a Levels adjustment layer to hide all the remaining edges and make the effect more subtle.

nebula 1 levelsnebula 1 levelsnebula 1 levels

Step 5

Place the nebula 2 image in the lower part of the canvas and use Control-T to rotate it as shown below. Change the layer mode to Screen 100%.

add nebula 2add nebula 2add nebula 2
nebula 2 maskingnebula 2 maskingnebula 2 masking

Step 6

Create a Levels adjustment layer to remove the edges and make a subtle effect.

nebula 2 levelsnebula 2 levelsnebula 2 levels

Step 7

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

nebula 2 color balancenebula 2 color balancenebula 2 color balance

5. How to Add the Fantasy Light

Step 1

Drag the fantasy light image onto the top of the head and alter the mode to Screen 100%.

add fantasy lightadd fantasy lightadd fantasy light

Use the Liquify Tool (the Forward Warp Tool) to tweak the light to get a similar result to the one shown below:

fantasy light maskingfantasy light maskingfantasy light masking

Step 2

Duplicate this layer twice and move them onto the face and to the right. Use a layer mask to erase any details you don't want to see.

add more fantasy lightadd more fantasy lightadd more fantasy light

Step 3

Use the Lasso Tool to select a left area from the fantasy light image and add it to the lower left of the model. Turn it into a curve using the Forward Warp Tool.

add lower details with fantasy lightadd lower details with fantasy lightadd lower details with fantasy light

Erase the hard edge of this result using a layer mask.

details maskingdetails maskingdetails masking

Step 4

Select another part from the light image and do the same technique. Add it to the other side of the model.

another lower detailsanother lower detailsanother lower details

Step 5

Add more small details using a similar method.

more small detailsmore small detailsmore small details

Step 6

Make a group for these light layers and create a Color Balance adjustment layer within this group. Change the Midtones values:

fantasy light color balancefantasy light color balancefantasy light color balance

Step 7

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the Blue saturation value to -81:

fantasy light hue saturationfantasy light hue saturationfantasy light hue saturation

Step 8

Create a Levels adjustment layer to make the remaining edges completely disappear:

fantasy light levelsfantasy light levelsfantasy light levels

6. How to Do the Face Makeup

Step 1

Create a new layer and use the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) to grab a circle and then activate the Gradient Tool (G). Use Radial Gradient with the colors #f8b2f2 and #834115 to fill this circle.

circle with elliptical marquee toolcircle with elliptical marquee toolcircle with elliptical marquee tool

Tweak this circle using the Forward Warp Tool and place it along the contour of the model's face.

circle liquifyingcircle liquifyingcircle liquifying

Step 2

Change this layer mode to Color Dodge 100% and use a layer mask to make the effect appear subtle along the lower part of the cheek.

color dodge mode 100color dodge mode 100color dodge mode 100

Step 3

Duplicate this layer twice. Move one to a higher position on the cheek, and flip the other horizontally and then place it on the other cheek.

add more details by duplicating makeupadd more details by duplicating makeupadd more details by duplicating makeup

7. How to Paint the Light

Step 1

Make a new layer on top of the layers and use a soft brush with the color #746482 to paint around the model's face. Change this layer mode to Color Dodge 100%:

light 1light 1light 1
light 1 resultlight 1 resultlight 1 result

Step 2

Use a soft brush with the color #81a3ef to paint on the top of the head, cheek, and chin. Alter this layer mode to Overlay 100%.

light 2light 2light 2

Step 3

On a new layer, use a soft brush with the color #8c8dcb to paint on the lower section of the canvas. Set this layer mode to Hard Light 30%.

light 3light 3light 3
light 3 resultlight 3 resultlight 3 result

Step 4

Change the brush color to #a797c1 and paint on the top left of the model. Keep this layer mode at Hard Light 30%.

light 4light 4light 4
light 4 resultlight 4 resultlight 4 result

8. How to Do the Final Adjustment

Step 1

Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the colors #912d1d and #004460. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 20%.

whole scene gradient mapwhole scene gradient mapwhole scene gradient map

Step 2

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones and Highlights values:

whole scene color balance midtoneswhole scene color balance midtoneswhole scene color balance midtones
whole scene color balance highlightswhole scene color balance highlightswhole scene color balance highlights

Step 3

Use a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #ecde00.

whole scene photo filter 1whole scene photo filter 1whole scene photo filter 1

Step 4

Make a Curves adjustment layer to add a warm tone and increase the contrast of the image.

whole scene curveswhole scene curveswhole scene curves

Step 5

Create another Photo Filter adjustment layer and change the color to #dab9f4.

whole scene photo filter 2whole scene photo filter 2whole scene photo filter 2

Step 6

Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect.

whole scene vibrancewhole scene vibrancewhole scene vibrance

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 resultfinal resultfinal result
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