Advertisement
  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation
Design

How to Create a Floral Sugar Skull Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

by
Difficulty:AdvancedLength:LongLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial I'll show you how to create an abstract skull inspired by the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday paying respect to beloved people who have passed away. A sugar skull is one of the most popular symbols in this holiday, with colorful decorations and makeup. 

Using Adobe Photoshop, we'll take some popular elements used for a sugar skull, such as flowers and floral elements, a spider and a web, and we'll combine them with painting and watercolors to achieve an abstract and colorful result. 

Tutorial Assets

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

1. How to Add a Texture Background

Step 1

Create a new 1400 x 1200 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:

new file

Step 2

Open the texture image. Drag this image into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V) and lower the Opacity to 50%:

add texture

Step 3

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

texture color balance

Step 4

Use a Curves adjustment layer to make the canvas much brighter:

texture curves

2. How to Add the Skull

Step 1

Isolate the skull from the background and add it to the middle of the canvas.

add skull

Step 2

Create a new layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Use a soft round brush with the color #eeddc3 and Opacity and Flow about 34-36% to soften the skull surface, making it look finer.

skull retouch

Step 3

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change the Master value to -49:

skull hue saturation

Step 4

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to change the skull's color:

skull color balance

Step 5

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the top of the skull. On this layer mask, select a soft black brush to erase the lower area to restore its brightness.

skull curves

3. How to Make the Face Shapes

Step 1

Create a new layer and activate the Pen Tool (P). Make sure the tool mode is Shape so you can change the color and shape any time later. Pick the color #54af23 and draw a shape following the form of the cheek. Press Control-J to duplicate the layer and go to Edit > Transform Path > Flip Horizontal. Move this shape to the other cheek.

shape 1

Change the mode of these layers to Multiply 100%:

shape 1 muiltiply mode

Step 2

Draw more shapes on the face: the chin area with the same color, and pick the color #ed8d1c for the ones on both sides of the top of the head. Change the mode of the layers to Multiply 100%.

shape 2

Step 3

Draw two small shapes under the ones on both sides of the head using the color #e9e022 and alter their layer modes to Multiply 100%.

shape 3

Step 4

Make a shape on the top of the head using the color #b87e03, Multiply mode 100%:

shape 4

Step 5

Duplicate this shape and flip it vertically. Move it onto the nose and cheek areas and change the color to #ed611c. Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a medium-hard black brush to remove the bottom area and leave some dark space around the cheeks to create some shadows.

shape 5

Step 6

Add more shapes on the nose and the forehead using the colors #51a616 and #d3be2e. Use a layer mask on the nose to make it fade out.

shape 6

4. How to Decorate the Eyes

Step 1

Make two separate layers and use a medium-soft black brush to fill the eye sockets and the holes under the cheeks.

eyes hole

Step 2

On another layer, use a soft black brush with a low Opacity (about 30-40%) to paint the soft shadow around the eye sockets.

eyes shadow

Step 3

Make a new layer and hold the Control key and click the eye sockets fill thumbnail layer to load its selection. Go to Edit > Stroke and pick the color #f86c00.

eyes strokes

Step 4

Double click this layer, and choose Bevel and Emboss. Change the Highlight color to #df5258 and the Shadow to #732222.

stroke layer style
stroke result

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to erase the stroke on the right eye (we'll add more makeup to this eye later).

stroke masking

Step 5

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray:

Dodge tool new file

Use the Dodge Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 30-35% to add some light to this stroke. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

dodge result

Step 6

Make a new layer and change the foreground to black. Choose a hard brush and lower its size to 2-3 px and paint several small lines around the eye's stroke to break it into parts.

black lines

Step 7

Open the spider web image. Use the Magic Wand Tool (W) to isolate the spiderweb from the white background and place it over the left eye area. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) with the Warp mode to change the spiderweb's form.

add spiderweb

Add a mask to this layer and remove the part outside of the skull.

spiderweb masking

Step 8

Double click this layer, and choose Drop Shadow.

spiderweb drop shadow
drop shadow result

Step 9

Create an Invert adjustment layer to change the spiderweb color from black to white. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to restore the black on some areas and make the effect more interesting.

spiderweb invert

Step 10

Use a Curves adjustment layer to increase the visibility of the spiderweb.

spiderweb curves

5. How to Add the Floral Vector

Step 1

Open the floral vector image. As it has a transparent background, just use the Move Tool to drag it onto the canvas and the skull and warp it to fit the skull's face.

add floral vector

Use a layer mask to erase the floral parts outside the skull and on the chin and cheeks, leaving it visible only on the nose, the left eye, and the middle of the forehead.

floral vector masking

Step 2

Apply the Drop Shadow and Color Overlay effects to this layer. Pick the color #6bbb2a for the Color Overlay and #1f4508 for the Drop Shadow.

floral vector layer styles
floral vector drop shadow
floral vector layer styles result

Step 3

Duplicate this layer and move it downward. Use a layer mask to make the effect visible only on the chin.

more floral vector

Step 4

Make a new layer and use a small hard brush with a bright yellow color (#eff243) to paint some short lines around the floral vector and the spiderweb.

yellow strokes

Step 5

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to refine the light and shadow on the skull, especially on the forehead, nose, and cheeks.

DB skull

6. How to Add the Hat

Step 1

Open the hat image. Cut out the hat on the head of the dog and place it above the skull.

add hat

Step 2

Create a new layer and use a soft black brush with the Opacity about 40% to paint the shadow of the hat on the forehead.

hat shadow

Step 3

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change the Master and Cyans settings:

hat hue saturation master
hat hue saturation cyans

Step 4

Add a Curves adjustment layer to darken the hat a bit.

hat curves

Here are the areas to apply the mask.

hat curves masking

7. How to Make the Branches

Step 1

Isolate the branch from the background and place it in the main document. Go to Filter > Liquify and choose the Forward Warp Tool. Use this tool to tweak and bend the branch, but don't change its form too much.

branch liquify
branch liquify result

Flip it horizontally and move it to the right. Use a layer mask to make it appear behind the skull and mask.

branch liquify masking

Step 2

Use the same method to tweak the branch and duplicate it many times. Arrange the results around the skull, make some branches growing out from the holes on the skull, and use a layer mask to erase the unwanted details.

add more liquified branches

Step 3

Select all the branch layers and press Control-G to make a group for them. Change the group mode to Normal 100%. Add a Curves adjustment layer to darken the branches a little.

branches curves

8. How to Add the Spider

Step 1

Cut out the spider from the dark background and add it to the socket of the left eye.

add spider

Step 2

Use a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the spider a bit.

spider curves

Step 3

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value down to -77.

spider hue saturation

Step 4

Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to refine the light and shadow of the spider.

spider DB

9. How to Add the Flowers

Step 1

Open the flowers 1 image and isolate the flowers using the Magic Wand Tool. Select a rose from the image and add it to the lower branch on the right.

add flower

Step 2

Add more flowers to the branches and the top of the hat from the flowers 1 and 2 images.

more flowers

Step 3

Add a flower to the chin area and lower its Opacity to 70% to blend it with the surface.

flower on chin

Step 4

Use the Liquify Tool to tweak some of the flowers as we did with the branches.

liquify flowers

Use a layer mask to hide their lower part behind the hat.

liquified flowers masking

Step 5

Paint shadow for one of the flowers on the hat.

flower shadow

Step 6

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer for a flower on the right. Change the Reds and Yellows settings.

flower hue saturation reds
flower hue saturation yellows

Step 7

Make a group for the flowers and use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to make them more yellow.

flowers group hue saturation

Step 8

Use a Curves adjustment layer to make the flowers a little brighter.

flowers group curves

Step 9

Cut out the rose and place it onto the dark socket of the right eye. Duplicate it and move it to a branch on the left.

add roses

Use a layer mask to cut off the right rose a bit to make it appear to be inside the eye socket.

rose masking

Step 10

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change the Saturation value to -59:

rose hue saturation

Step 11

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones settings:

roses color balance

Step 12

Make a Curves adjustment layer to increase the shadow of the rose inside the eye.

roses curves

10. How to Make the Watercolor Effect

Step 1

Add the watercolor 1 image to the lower part of the canvas and change the mode to Multiply 100%. Use a layer mask to remove the white edge and make the effect subtle. Place this layer under the skull layer, above the texture image.

add watercolor 1
watercolor 1 multiply

Step 2

Add the watercolor 2 image using the same method. Place this image in the top middle of the canvas.

watercolor 2

Duplicate this layer and rotate it to the other side. Apply a layer mask to make the effect appear subtle and less obvious.

watercolor 2 duplicate

Step 3

Add the watercolor 3 image to the right eye and then use a layer mask to delete the white edges. Place this layer on top of the other layers.

add watercolor 3

Step 4

Use a Curves adjustment layer to increase the visibility of the effect:

watercolor 3 curves

Step 5

Duplicate this layer and move it to the black hole beside the mouth.

watercolor 3 duplicate

Step 6

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to turn the effect's color from red to green.

watercolor 3 hue saturation

Step 7

Import the watercolor 4 image to the main canvas and remove its edges using a layer mask.

add watercolor 4
watercolor 4 masking

Make a Curves adjustment layer to change the effect's color.

watercolor 4 curves

Step 8

Open the watercolor pack (watercolors 5). Use these images (or you can choose the ones you like) to add to both sides of the skull.

watercolors 5

Change the mode of these layers to Multiply 100% and apply a layer mask to each of these layers to cancel any white edges remaining.

watercolors 5 masking

Step 9

Apply a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the one on the lower right:

watercolors 5 hue saturation 1

Step 10

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer for the one on the top left and change the Master settings:

watercolors 5 hue saturation 2

Create a Curves adjustment layer to decrease the effect's visibility, making it more subtly blended.

watercolors 5 curves

11. How to Add the Halftones and Wireframes

Step 1

Select one from the halftone images pack and add it to the bottom of the skull. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100% and use a layer mask to reduce its visibility:

add halftone
halftone masking

Step 2

Duplicate this layer and move it to the top right.

halftone duplicate

Use an Invert adjustment layer to brighten the effect.

halftone invert

Step 3

Duplicate this layer and the Invert adjustment layer twice, and move it to the lower left and the top left. It helps to connect all the elements together.

add more halftones

Step 4

Use the wireframe image you want and place it on the left of the skull. Alter the mode to Soft Light 100%. You can duplicate it as I've done, but it totally depends on your taste.

add wireframes
wireframes soft light mode

Step 5

Make an Invert adjustment layer for each of these layers.

wireframes invert

12. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

Make a new layer on top of the layers and use a soft brush with the color #d4c7a9 to paint on and around the skull to bring some light to these areas. Change the mode of this layer to Soft Light 100%.

paint light
light result

Step 2

Create a Color Fill layer and pick the color #020b22. Change this layer mode to Exclusion 100%.

color fill

Step 3

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones values.

whole canvas color balance

Step 4

Use a Curves adjustment layer to enhance the color and effect. Take a soft black brush with a very low Opacity (20-25%) to paint around the middle area to make a subtle vignette effect for the final result.

whole canvas curves

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
Advertisement
Advertisement
Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.