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.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
- Splatter brushes
- Circular designs
- Halftone images pack
1. Add the Landscape and Texture
Create a new 1500 x 1000 px document in Photoshop with the following settings:
Open the landscape image. Drag this image into our white canvas using the Move Tool (V).
Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 4 px:
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.
Create a new layer and activate the Clone Tool (S). Use this tone to clean up the indicated area:
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:
Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%:
To reduce the yellow saturation of the scene, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation. Change the Yellows Saturation to -78:
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
2. Add the Model
Isolate the model from the original image and position her in the middle of the canvas:
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:
Select the mask and switch the foreground from black to white, and then hit Delete.
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:
Fill this selection with a dark brown color (
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:
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves (remember to check Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask) and increase the lightness.
Now the selected parts appear brighter than the existing skin.
Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to reduce the redness on the model:
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings. This step is to match the model's color with the background.
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.
3. Add the Mountains
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 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.
Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the mountain completely:
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings:
Use a Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the mountain—it looked hazy:
4. Create the Background Circles
Return to the original landscape image. Grab a circle on the right using the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M):
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.
Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%:
Load this selection by holding Control and clicking its thumbnail layer. Go to Select > Modify > Contract and set Contract By to 30 px:
Click the Add layer mask icon and then press Control-I to invert the mask.
Duplicate this layer and use Control-T to rotate it to the right and resize it to be smaller:
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:
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.
Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%:
Add a mask to this layer and make the circle appear subtle, with some visible edges:
5. Create an Abstract Circle
Open up Illustrator. Create a new document with the settings below:
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:
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
Duplicate the first layer and place it inside the previous one, making it much smaller.
Draw a circle filled with the color
#231F20 inside all the existing circles.
Select all the circle layers and go to Object > Blend > Blend Options:
Press Control-Alt-B to blend all the circles with the settings above. You should have a similar result to this:
Press F5 to open the Brush menu. Click the Brush panel options, choose Open Brush Library > Artistic > Artistic Ink, and choose Dry Ink 2:
Save it as an EPS file for your future use.
6. Add the Abstract Circle
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).
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:
Create a Color Balance adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and change the Cyan of the Midtones settings:
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.
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!
Create a new layer above the model one (set as Clipping Mask), change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray:
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:
7. Add the Forest
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:
Use a layer mask with a medium-hard black brush to make this part appear inside the back area only.
Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken this forest part more.
Paint on its layer mask to refine the light and shade of this part to make it part of the back completely:
Take another part from the original forest image and add it to the head:
Use some splatter brushes on its layer mask to get a subtle grunge effect as shown below:
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
8. Make the Lines
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 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.
9. Add the Circular Designs
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 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%:
Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer where you need to change the color or reduce the saturation.
10. Add the Flowers
Open the flower image. Drag it onto the upper part of the model's back:
Blend the flower with the back using a layer mask:
Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value down to -66:
Change the flower color with a Color Balance adjustment layer:
Darken the flower using a Curves adjustment layer:
Duplicate the flower twice and move them leftwards a bit. Put one on the arms:
Change their mode to Overlay 100%. Paint on their layer mask make the effect fade out into the skin.
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:
Apply a Color Balance adjustment layer to match the effect with the rest:
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
Open the halftone images pack. Select the one you like and place it onto the model's body area:
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:
Duplicate this layer and move it to the back area.
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
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.
12. The Final Adjustment
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:
Add a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color
Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect:
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!