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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Adobe Photoshop

How to Create a Dog General Painting in Photoshop

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

We all know who runs the house, and it's time they get the recognition they deserve. Today, we'll be looking at how to create a pet portrait in Photoshop because we both know you want some fancy pet portraits. Dogs painted as generals are not only a classic Photoshop effect, but also a surprisingly simple one! Thanks to all of the textures, our digital pet portraits don't need a lot of precision, making the effect relatively quick.

pet portrait photoshop actionpet portrait photoshop actionpet portrait photoshop action

If you want to create this effect—or hundreds of other creative portrait effects—even faster, you can try one of the thousands of photo effect actions and add-ons found on Envato Elements.

And if you're a fan of video tutorials, we've got great news for you! You can visit the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel to find hundreds of amazing tutorials, like this new video on how to create a pet portrait in Photoshop:

What You'll Learn in this Pet Portrait Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to create a pet portrait in Photoshop
  • How to create a painted portrait effect in Photoshop 
  • How to create a vintage filter in Photoshop 
  • How to add vintage textures in Photoshop 

What You'll Need

To complete this project, you will need the following graphic resources:

Find more resources on Envato Elements!

1. How to Composite Images in Photoshop

Step 1

We're going to start our royal pet portrait off by first laying out and planning our image, just by doing really quick extractions of the dog's head and paws and then laying them over the original subject. 

I love the Object Select tool combined with Layer Masks for fast extracting. Then I'll jump into Select and Mask to use the Refine Edge brush with Smart Radius Checked and set to 4 px.

With this type of composite, we don't need to be very precise with our extractions. We're not only dealing with a lot of fur, but we'll be adding in some strong painterly textures that will hide a lot of our less-than-perfect edges.  

place dog images place dog images place dog images

Step 2

Now that we know where things go, we want to hide what's peeking out from underneath. Let's make a Duplicate of our human subject just so we have a backup in case we need one. 

We're going to take the Patch tool and just patch out all the parts of our original human that we don't want to see.

We can do the head in one go, just patching from an area of our studio background. The upper hand is a bit more tricky. Try to patch from areas of the armor or any other part of the human's body that almost mimics the shape of the sword hilt.

The patched areas only have to look good when the dog edit layers are switched on. It's okay if they look straight-up crazy when you switch those layers off. Here are what mine look like with them off:

remove human  remove human  remove human

Step 3

Let's do some fast color correction to the paws since, in this case, they come from a completely different-colored dog. 

I highly recommend turning your layers into Right-click > Smart Objects so you can use Smart Filters, which are just adjustment filters that remain adjustable. That, or you could use adjustment layers. Either way, you want to edit non-destructively. 

For both our paws, let's do a Brightness/Contrast of -150 Brightness and 51 Contrast. Then a Hue/Saturation of 360 Hue and 9 Saturation. 

And just for our bottom paw, let's do another Brightness/Contrast of -84 Brightness and -50 Contrast since it's in a shadowy area. 

color correct paws color correct paws color correct paws

Step 4

For our pup's head, let's add a Brightness/Contrast of 41 Brightness and 28 Contrast as it's our focal point. 

color correct dog head color correct dog head color correct dog head

Step 5

And we can finish off our dog edits with some quick shadows and highlights using a default soft round Brush. 

Create and Clip New Layers set to Overlay into the dog's paws and head. Then we can use black anywhere we need shadows, like around the dog's neck and wrists. And we can paint white anywhere we want more highlight, like in the dog's eyes and on the very top of the upper paw. 

add in shadows and highlights add in shadows and highlights add in shadows and highlights

2. How to Add a Vignette Effect in Photoshop 

Step 1

We are going to keep adding shadows and highlights using layers set to Soft Light, Overlay, and Multiply. 

Soft Light is ideal for softer shadows and highlights, while Overlay will add more harsh contrast. Multiply is excellent for truly dark shadows. 

Place these layers both behind and in front of the paws and head—wherever you find yourself needing them. We can use the default round Brush at different Hardness, Opacity, and Flow rates, focusing on the joints of the composite, or where the two images meet—so around the wrist and the neck. 

I also brought some shadow behind the dog's head and some highlights right in front of the face to add a bit more depth. Don't worry about being precise. 

add in lighting details add in lighting details add in lighting details

Step 2

Let's start our vignette effect by creating a Curves adjustment layer above the original subject's body and below all other layers. We're going to bring the Curve down to deepen the shadows, replicating something like what you see here.

Let's use a soft round Brush to Mask out the middle of the dog general painting, focusing on the face and upper chest area. 

create vignette with curves create vignette with curves create vignette with curves

Step 3 

Now, let's bring even more light onto the subject by creating a New Layer at the top of our current layer stack, setting it to Soft Light. 

We're going to bring down the Opacity to around 35% and paint white over the dog general painting's face and upper chest area. We want this to be a large but smooth light gradient, almost in a crescent moon shape. 

pait light bloom pait light bloom pait light bloom

Step 4

And let's repeat that step, making a second Soft Light layer, setting it to 50% Opacity, and then painting black using the same brush. 

This time, we want to paint on the edges of the image, bringing in that deep vignette effect. I prefer painting vignette effects by hand instead of using any built-in filters. You get much more control, and they look more organic. 

He might start looking a little washed out, but that's perfectly fine since we'll be adding some pretty heavy textures and a heavy color grade that will create tons of contrast. 

intense vignette intense vignette intense vignette

3. How to Make a Painted Effect in Photoshop 

Step 1

Let's get started on that "painted dog head on human body" portrait effect. It'll consist of four textures, and I'll be using this 25 Portrait Texture pack from Envato Elements. Depending on how heavy you want the effect to be, you can add more or fewer textures. The more textures you add, the more you'll get an almost vintage-looking effect. 

Let's start with our first texture, Texture 25, laying it vertically over the subject and setting it to Soft Light. We want to focus on the background of the subject, so don't worry about the face becoming too textured. 

add painterly texture  add painterly texture  add painterly texture

Step 2

Next, let's lay Texture 20 vertically over the subject, setting its layer mode to Color. 

ad color texture ad color texture ad color texture

Step 3

Now, let's place Texture 4 vertically over the subject and set it to Color Dodge. 

We are also going to add a Hue/Saturation adjustment. Set it to a Hue of +180 and a Saturation of -34, turning it a blue color. And let's bring down its layer Opacity to 40%.

color dodge texture color dodge texture color dodge texture

Step 4

We have Texture 6 set to Multiply with an Opacity of 50%. And then let's add a Brightness/Contrast set to 47 Brightness and 100 Contrast. 

vintage texture vintage texture vintage texture

Step 5

With our textures placed, we can Group them all together and name that group "Texture". 

Let's add a Layer Mask to the group and mask out the texture around the face of the dog. We want this to be a really smooth blend, focusing on removing the texture from the face and also slightly from the body. We want the texture to be heavy around the borders of the canvas. 

mask aware vintage texture from face mask aware vintage texture from face mask aware vintage texture from face

4. How to Create a Vintage Color Grade

Step 1

We're going to help tie in those textures with the image by adding a vintage-inspired color grade. The color grade will consist of five different adjustment layers, all placed at the top of our layer stack. We'll be going through the color grade from the bottom up. So our first adjustment layer will be a Color Lookup layer set to Edgey Amber at 35% Opacity. 

add war color add war color add war color

Step 2

Next, another Color Lookup layer set to Filmstock at 25% Opacity. 

add more contrast add more contrast add more contrast

Step 3

Third, we have one more Color Lookup layer set to the first Kodak 5218 LUT at 72% Opacity. 

vintage color effect vintage color effect vintage color effect

Step 4 

Next, let's add a Curves adjustment layer and bring up the highlights. We want to mask this so that it only affects the face and chest area of the digital dog painting, intensifying the vignette effect. 

add highlight with curve add highlight with curve add highlight with curve

Step 5

Lastly, add a second Curve layer, bringing up the Blues in the shadows but bringing down the Blues in the highlights. 

Then pull down the Reds in the highlights. Try to mimic what you see here for the Curves, but it never has to be exact. We're just bringing blues into the image's shadows and yellows into the highlights.

add vintage color grade with curve add vintage color grade with curve add vintage color grade with curve

5. How to Add Grain Using Camera RAW in Photoshop

Step 1

This step is entirely optional, but it's how I like to finish off a lot of my images. 

Let's select all of our current layers and Right-click > Convert to Smart Object. We are basically turning the whole PSD into one big Smart Object.

Step 2

Now, let's go to Filter > Camera RAW Filter. 

Here, we can make any final adjustments to the color grade; I'm going to bring in a substantial amount of Grain, setting it to around 30. 

add grain using camera RAW add grain using camera RAW add grain using camera RAW

Step 3

Finally, I'm going to go into Detail and set the Sharpening to 20 and the Noise Reduction to 75. Reducing that much noise gets rid of the finer details, while the sharpen will enhance whatever is left over. I only recommend doing this on images where you want a painterly feel.

sharpen and smooth in camera RAW  sharpen and smooth in camera RAW  sharpen and smooth in camera RAW

You're Done!

That's how to create a royal pet portrait in Photoshop! The key to the "dogs painted as generals" effect is choosing the right images to composite! You want to make sure both subjects face the same direction and are shot from similar perspectives. That's why studio shots are definitely the way to go with this effect. And since pet portraits on human bodies will never get old, you have plenty of options to choose from!

pet portrait photoshop tutorialspet portrait photoshop tutorialspet portrait photoshop tutorials

Get Creative Portrait Effects Fast With Resources From Envato Elements

If you're looking for even more high-quality Photoshop portrait effects, including more pet portrait Photoshop tutorials, check out these add-ons, graphics, and actions—all from Envato Elements!

Dog General Photoshop Action (ABR, ATN, PAT, PSD)

Dog General Photoshop ActionDog General Photoshop ActionDog General Photoshop Action

This pet portrait Photoshop action creates the "dog head on human body" portrait effect instantly. In just a few clicks, you'll be able to create an endless number of fancy pet portraits!

Double Exposure Action (ATN)

Double Exposure ActionDouble Exposure ActionDouble Exposure Action

The double exposure effect is a classic! This action creates the double exposure style instantly, combining any photos you throw at it.  

Digital Sketch Photoshop Action (ABR, ATN, PAT)

digital sketch actiondigital sketch actiondigital sketch action

Digital pet portraits don't all have to be the same. Use this digital sketch action to create modern and unique pet portrait Photoshop effects in seconds!

Scribbles Photoshop Action (ATN)

Scribbles Photoshop ActionScribbles Photoshop ActionScribbles Photoshop Action

Take your digital dog painting to the next level with the Scribbles Photoshop action! Creative and unique, this action creates standout art that is both highly detailed and high resolution. 

Painting Photoshop Action (ABR, ATN, PAT)

Painting Photoshop ActionPainting Photoshop ActionPainting Photoshop Action

A similar but more modern take on a digital dog painting effect, this action can be used for animal Photoshop effects, as well as people and even landscapes. 

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