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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation

Create an Abstract Portrait Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial I'll show you how to create an abstract artwork by combining several stock images with abstract elements in Adobe Photoshop. Besides standard blending techniques with adjustment layers, masking and brushes, you'll also learn how to make an abstract object using Adobe Illustrator, apply texture, enhance the depth of field and more.

Tutorial Assets

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

1. Add the Landscape and Texture

Step 1

Create a new 1500 x 1000 px document in Photoshop with the following settings:

new file

Step 2

Open the landscape image. Drag this image into our white canvas using the Move Tool (V).

add landscape

Step 3

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 4 px:

landscape gaussian blur

Step 4

There is unwanted cloud detail in the sky. Since we've aimed to highlight all the main subjects in the center, this detail might mess up the effect.

landscale cloning

Create a new layer and activate the Clone Tool (S). Use this tone to clean up the indicated area:

landscape cloning result

Step 5

Drag the grunge texture onto the landscape and rotate it 90 CW (Edit > Transform > Rotate 90 CW). Then flip it vertically by choosing Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to resize it so that it fits the dimensions of the existing canvas:

add texture

Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%:

texture soft light

Step 6

To reduce the yellow saturation of the scene, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation. Change the Yellows Saturation to -78:

scene hue saturation

Step 7

Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the landscape background. The main light on the model comes from the front, so the background should be darker.

scene curves

2. Add the Model

Step 1

Isolate the model from the original image and position her in the middle of the canvas:

add model

Step 2

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to the model layer. Use the Lasso Tool (L) to make a jagged selection on the model's head:

model selection

Select the mask and switch the foreground from black to white, and then hit Delete.

delete selection

Step 3

Create a new layer under the model one. Use the Lasso Tool to make a selection behind the model's head. Try to make it jagged, as in the previous step:

make selection head

Fill this selection with a dark brown color (#281e1e):

head fill

Step 4

On the model layer, use the Lasso Tool again to grab two parts: one on the visible eye and one on the arms and back:

model body selection

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves (remember to check Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask) and increase the lightness.

brighten with curves

Now the selected parts appear brighter than the existing skin.

Step 5

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to reduce the redness on the model:

model hue saturation

Step 6

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings. This step is to match the model's color with the background.

model color balance

Step 7

Create a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the contour area, especially the back, cheek and the darker arm. Use a soft black brush to paint on the front part to give the original brightness back to these areas.

model curves

3. Add the Mountains

Step 1

Open the mountain image. Select the mountain only using the Magic Wand Tool (W). Place it onto the model's head and scale it down to be much smaller.

add mountains

Step 2

Add a mask to this layer and use a hard black brush to erase the part overlapping the eye. Also delete the extra part outside the head to make the mountains part fit the size of the head. Leave some holes for depth and shadow.

mountain masking

Step 3

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the mountain completely:

mountains hue saturation

Step 4

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

mountains color balance

Step 5

Use a Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the mountain—it looked hazy:

mountains curves

4. Create the Background Circles

Step 1

Return to the original landscape image. Grab a circle on the right using the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M):

landscape selection

Press Control-C to copy this selection. Make a new layer above the texture one (under the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer) and press Control-V to pasted the copied part into it. Place it behind the model.

add landscape selection

Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%:

landscape selection soft light

Step 2

Load this selection by holding Control and clicking its thumbnail layer. Go to Select > Modify > Contract and set Contract By to 30 px:

load landscape selection
selection contract

Click the Add layer mask icon and then press Control-I to invert the mask.

selection masking

Step 3

Duplicate this layer and use Control-T to rotate it to the right and resize it to be smaller:

duplicate landscape circle

On the mask of this layer, switch the foreground to white, and change the brush to the splatter ones. Use different splatter brushes to restore the circle and create some jagged, crumbly edges:

mask landscape circle

Step 4

Create a new layer above the Hue/Saturation and Curves adjustment layers (in section 1). Select the Pen Tool > Ellipse Tool with Shape Layers and the color #e3e3d0. Draw a circle behind the model and cover the existing circles.

ellipse tool shape

Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%:

shape soft light

Step 5

Add a mask to this layer and make the circle appear subtle, with some visible edges:

shape masking

5. Create an Abstract Circle

Step 1

Open up Illustrator. Create a new document with the settings below:

illustrator new file

Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw a circle with the color #716E72 (remember to set the Fill to None) and stroke set to 8 pt:

draw circle 1

Step 2

Hold down the Alt key and drag this layer up to duplicate it. Use the Free Transform Tool (E) to scale it down a bit and place it in the middle of the existing one. Change the stroke color to a darker one (I chose #3E3D3F).

draw circle 2

Step 3

Duplicate the first layer and place it inside the previous one, making it much smaller.

craw circle 3

Step 4

Draw a circle filled with the color #231F20 inside all the existing circles.

draw circle 4

Step 5

Select all the circle layers and go to Object > Blend > Blend Options:

blend options

Press Control-Alt-B to blend all the circles with the settings above. You should have a similar result to this:

make blend

Step 6

Press F5 to open the Brush menu. Click the Brush panel options, choose Open Brush Library > Artistic > Artistic Ink, and choose Dry Ink 2:

apply dry ink 2 brush

Save it as an EPS file for your future use.

6. Add the Abstract Circle

Step 1

Return to Photoshop. Browse the abstract circle file and rasterize it with the settings below (feel free to make the size smaller or bigger as needed).

rasterize abstract circle

Step 2

Place this circle behind the model in the existing document and rotate it a little. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100% and use a layer mask with the splatter brushes to break the edges of the circle, creating a jagged, grunge look:

add abstract circle

Step 3

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and change the Cyan of the Midtones settings:

abstract circle color balance

Step 4

Duplicate this layer and change the mode to Multiply 100%. Place it onto the top of the head, behind the mountains, and use a splatter brush to mask off its edges. Break the edges in the way you want—you don't need to make it look 100% like mine.

abstract circle duplicated

Step 5

Duplicate this layer several times and change the layers' mode to Soft Light. Arrange them beside the model, on her face and shoulder, and make them crumbly by using the splatter brushes.

Drop down the opacity of the circle on the right to 50% (the selected one in the screenshot). You don't need to arrange them in the same way as mine—feel free to experiment and use your creativity!

more duplicated abstract circles

Step 6

Create a new layer above the model one (set as Clipping Mask), change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray:

dodge and burn new file

Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 15-20%. Use it to paint along the edges of the brighter, broken skin areas created using Curves and the abstract circles to make them look real. Also darken the mouth a little. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode:

indicated areas
dodge and burn result

7. Add the Forest

Step 1

Open the forest image. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select the upper part of the image and place it onto the model's back. Rotate it as shown below:

select forest
add forest

Use a layer mask with a medium-hard black brush to make this part appear inside the back area only.

forest masking

Step 2

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken this forest part more.

forest curves

Paint on its layer mask to refine the light and shade of this part to make it part of the back completely:

forest curves masking

Step 3

Take another part from the original forest image and add it to the head:

add more forest

Use some splatter brushes on its layer mask to get a subtle grunge effect as shown below:

forest masking result

Step 4

Use the same method to add more effects to the face, body, arm, clothes, and mountains. There are no rules for this—we're creating abstract things, so just experiment and don't limit your imagination until you feel good!

more forest effect

8. Make the Lines

Step 1

Set up a new layer on top of the layers. Activate the Line Tool (U) with Weight of 2 px and the color #1b1101. Paint several sloping lines from left to right over the model's head.

make lines

Step 2

Make a group for the line layers and add a mask to it. Use a soft black brush to blur the lines part on the head—we don't need to make it too obvious.

lines masking

9. Add the Circular Designs

Step 1

Open the sets of circular designs and rasterize them as we did with the abstract circle. Select the ones you like to put on the model's body and between the lines:

add circular designs

Step 2

Add a mask to some of these circle layers and blend them with the model's body. I changed the mode of the circle on the shoulder to Soft Light 100%:

circles masking

Step 3

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer where you need to change the color or reduce the saturation.

circles hue saturation 1
circles hue saturation 2
circles hue saturation 3
circles hue saturation 4
circles hue saturation 5
circles hue saturation 6

10. Add the Flowers

Step 1

Open the flower image. Drag it onto the upper part of the model's back:

add flower

Blend the flower with the back using a layer mask:

flower masking

Step 2

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value down to -66:

flower hue saturation

Step 3

Change the flower color with a Color Balance adjustment layer:

flower color balance

Step 4

Darken the flower using a Curves adjustment layer:

flower curves

Step 5

Duplicate the flower twice and move them leftwards a bit. Put one on the arms:

duplicate flower

Change their mode to Overlay 100%. Paint on their layer mask make the effect fade out into the skin.

flowers overlay mode

Step 6

Make a group for these two flower layers with Overlay mode 100%. Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the Saturation value to -79:

flowers hue saturation

Step 7

Apply a Color Balance adjustment layer to match the effect with the rest:

flowers curves

Step 8

Make the effect on the back more visible with a Curves adjustment layer. Keep the brightness on the arms and fingers using a layer mask:

11. Add the Halftones and Dots

Step 1

Open the halftone images pack. Select the one you like and place it onto the model's body area:

add halftone

Press Control-I to invert this halftone and change its mode to Soft Light 100%. Make the effect appear more subtle using a layer mask:

halftone masking

Step 2

Duplicate this layer and move it to the back area.

duplicate halftone

Step 3

Create a new layer and change the foreground to #e6fafa. Select a hard brush to paint some dots with various sizes around the model and the existing circles.

add dots

Alter this layer mode to Soft Light 100% and use a layer mask to make some dots fade out, giving the effect an abstract feel.

dots masking

12. The Final Adjustment

Step 1

We've finished adding all the elements, so now it's time to color the whole scene. Create a Color Balance adjustment layer on top of the layers. Change the Midtones and Highlights settings:

whole scene color balance
whole scene color balance result

Step 2

Add a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #03ec07:

whole scene photo filter

Step 3

Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect:

whole scene vibrance

Congratulations, You're Done!

I hope that you've learned some new tricks and techniques for your future projects. Just don't try to make your images look exactly like mine—be creative on your own! Don't forget to enjoy Photoshopping!

final result
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