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  1. Design & Illustration
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Design

How to Create a Dark Lady Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create a dark photo manipulation in Adobe Photoshop, featuring a creepy lady with a foggy forest, a dark gate, flying bats and an eerie atmosphere. 

First we'll add the forest and gate and darken them to define a night background. We'll add the model later after doing some retouch and match her with the rest using adjustment layers, masking and then with the Dodge and Burn Tool. We'll decorate the dark night with some bats, smoke and random particles. After that we'll change the color, contrast and light of the whole scene and do some makeup on the model to complete the tutorial.  

Tutorial Assets

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

1. Add the Forest and Gate

Step 1

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

new file

Step 2

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

add forest

Step 3

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 6 px:

forest gaussian blur

This step is to add some depth to the scene.

Step 4

Use an adjustment layer to darken the forest. Select Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and decrease the lightness:

forest curves

Step 5

Open the gate image. Place it in the front of the forest using the Free Transform Tool (Control-T):

add gate

Step 6

Create a Curves adjustment layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Reduce the lightness of the gate to match it with the forest background:

gate curves

2. Prepare the Model

Step 1

Open the model image and isolate her from the background using the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L). Make a new layer between the background and the extracted model one and fill it with a dark brown color. There are some unwanted details of the hair I want to remove:

hair detail

Create a new layer (set as Clipping Mask) and activate the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to clean up the indicated hair detail:

hair cloning

Step 2

Create a new layer and use a hard round brush with the color #363135 and size about 3-5 px to fix the model's hair:

paint more hair

Step 3

The cloak's form does not look very good, so we'll retouch it a bit. Hide the background and the fill layer and press Control-Shift-Alt-E to merge all the visible layers into a new one. 

Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select a part of the lower right of the cloak (the right from the viewer). Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this new layer and then press Control-I to invert the mask. We have this result:

cloak masking
cloak masking result

Step 4

Merge all the transparent layers again using Control-Shift-Alt-E. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select the upper part near the hair:

select cloak area

Right-click this selection and choose Layer via Copy. Use Control-T to fill in the lower missing part of the cloak:

add missing cloak

Add a mask to this layer to blend it with the existing cloak.

cloak blending

Step 5

Use the same method on the other side of the cloak, to make the cloak larger.

before adding more part
after adding more part

3. Add the Model

Step 1

Merge all the transparent layers into a new one using Control-Shift-Alt-E. Place the merged model on the left side of the gate:

add model

Step 2

Create a new layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Use the Clone Tool to remove the nail and some wrinkles on the cloak:

clone details

Step 3

Make a new layer (set as Clipping Mask) and use a soft brush with the color #a67b72 and the Opacity and Flow about 20-22% to brighten and soften the model's face. Paint on the chin, cheeks, nose and forehead:

soften model skin

Step 4

The model looks too hazy compared to the background. To correct it, create a Curves adjustment layer and increase the contrast of the model. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with the Opacity varying from 10% to 30% to reveal the light on the model and define some details for her. Here are the results on the mask and on the picture:

model curves 1 masking
model curves 1 result

Step 5

The model's head, especially the face, looks too obvious, so use another Curves adjustment layer to fix it. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask:

model curves 2

Step 6

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

dodge and burn new file

Use the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 10-30% to paint and define more details for the model, especially the clothes. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode:

DB normal mode
DB overlay mode

Step 7

To desaturate the blue on the cloak, create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation of Blues down to -83:

model hue saturation

4. Add the Bats

Step 1

Open the bats image. Isolate the bats from the background using the Magic Wand Tool (W) or any tools you prefer. Add some of them to the current document using the Move Tool and Control-T and set these layers under the gate one. Make the bat on the right side of the scene bigger:

add bats

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to the bats in the middle and on the left and 3 px to the big bat on the right (it's meant to be closer to the foreground so should be less blurred and more visible than the others):

bats gaussian blur

Step 3

Select the bat layers and press Control-G to make a group for them. Change this group mode from Pass Through to Normal 100%. Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the bats:

bats hue saturation

Step 4

Create a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. We're aiming to add a light source on the top left behind the model's head. So on this layer mask, paint on the sides of the bats where the light should be reflected.

bats curves

5. Create the Dark Atmosphere

Step 1

Make a new layer on top of the layers and press D to turn the foreground/background to default (black and white). Go to Filter > Render > Clouds:

clouds filter

Lower the opacity of this layer to 30% and use a layer mask to clean up the smoke effect on the upper half of the image and leave it visible somewhere on the bottom:

smoke masking

Step 2

Drag the particles image into our working file and change the mode to Multiply 100%.

add particles

Step 3

Add an Invert adjustment layer to reveal the black particles:

particles invert

Step 4

Add a mask to the particles layer and reduce the particles' intensity, especially on the face and body of the model. We don't need too much.

particles masking

Step 5

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 3 px to make the effect subtle.

particles gaussian blur

6. Add the Branches

Step 1

Cut out the tree from the original image and select the branches you'd like to add to the bottom sides of the working document. Here are the ones I've chosen:

select branches
add branches

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 6 px to these branches to increase the depth of field.

branches gaussian blur

Step 3

Make a group for the branches layers. Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value down to -89:

branches hue saturation

Step 4

Add a Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness. You can see how I masked off the branches with the screenshots below.

branches curves masking
branches curves masking result

7. The Basic 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
color balance result

Step 3

Add a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #47f4de:

whole scene photo filter

Step 4

Create a Levels adjustment layer and bring the Midtones value up to 1.34. Paint on the areas around the middle of the scene to make the middle (shown in the screenshot below) brighter.

whole scene levels

8. Add the Color and Light

Step 1

It's time for the most interesting stage of the tutorial. Use the Lasso Tool to select an area of the bottom right and set the Feather to 80:

select bottom right

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Channel Mixer and change the Red channel settings:

channel mixer 1

Step 2

Repeat the previous step with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to bring more red to the bottom right area:

bottom right hue saturation

Step 3

Do the same with the top left, but make it blue instead of red:

top left  channel mixer
top left hue saturation

Step 4

Increase the light on the top left, behind the model, using a Curves adjustment layer in the same way.

top left curves

Step 5

Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the color effect:

whole scene vibrance

Step 6

On a new layer, use a medium-soft brush with the color #0c9ec7 to paint the light reflection on the big bat and the contour of the model, especially the parts illuminated by the blue light.

blue light 1

Step 7

Paint the light on the left side of the gate using the same brush. It might not be so easy and requires some patience, so I recommend that you use a tablet pen to achieve a better result.

blue light 2

Step 8

Time for the red light. Make a new layer and paint on the bottom of the cloak with the color #1e0203. Set this layer mode to Color Dodge 100%:

red light 1
red light 1 result

Step 9

Paint on the bars of the right side of the gate and the branches, the bottom of the big bat, and the lower part of the cloak, especially the wrinkles with the color #df151a. Make the effect on the parts nearer to the light stronger and more visible.

red light 2

Step 10

Use the same brush to paint inside the model's eyes to create an evil look.

red eyes

Step 11

Change the brush color to #fb9e5a to paint the highlights of the eyes. They should follow the original direction of the look, so paint them on the bottom of the red areas.

eyes highlights

Step 12

Use a brush with the color #332841 to paint some dark makeup for the eyes and increase the terrible effect.

eyes make up

Step 13

To make the model's skin paler, use a soft brush with the color #08b4d3 and Opacity and Flow about 10-15% to paint on the face and the uncovered skin area on the breast:

pale skin

Congratulations, You're Done!

I hope that you've learned something useful for your future projects. Feel free to leave your comments in the box below—I'd love to see them. Enjoy Photoshopping!

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