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Design

How to Create a Melting Portrait Photo Effect Manipulation in 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 portrait photo effect of a man melting. First, we'll add a curtain background and retouch the model. After that, we'll build a melting candle on top of the model's head and some wax around his body. We'll refine several details, paint the light effect, and use an adjustment layer to enhance the final effect.

Tutorial Assets

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

1. How to Make the Base Background

Step 1

Create a new 2000 x 2000 px document in Photoshop with the following settings:

photo effect - new file

Step 2

Open the curtain background image and drag this image into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Place the upper half of the curtain onto the canvas and hide the floor.

photo effect - add curtain

Step 3

On the curtain layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 21 px. You can change these settings depending on the dimension of your document or when you feel it's soft and blurry enough. This step is to separate the background from the main subject and make some depth for the whole scene.

photo effect - curtain gaussian blur

Step 4

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and decrease the lightness until it's almost invisible. On this layer mask, activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a soft round one with black color. Lower the brush's Opacity to about 10-15% to paint on the middle of the background to reveal some light on the wrinkles of the curtain in a subtle way.

photo effect - curtain curves
photo effect - curtain curves masking

Step 5

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the blue of the curtain. Reduce the Saturation to -90.

photo effect - curtain hue saturation

2. How to Retouch the Model

Step 1

Cut out the model from the background and place him in the lower half of the dark canvas. Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft black brush to remove the top part of the head.

photo effect - add model
photo effect - model masking

Step 2

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change the Reds and Blues settings. This step is to adjust the tone of the model's face and his shirt to match the background.

photo effect - model hue saturation 1 reds
photo effect - model hue saturation 1 blues

Step 3

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones and Highlights values. The aim is to give the model some golden light reflection as we'll be adding the flame effect above his head in the next stages. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the light effect on his skin and on the lower part of his shirt where it's less affected by the light than the rest.

photo effect - model color balance highlights
photo effect - model color balance midtones
photo effect - model color balance masking

Step 4

Make a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. On the layer mask, paint on the front of the model to reveal the lightness there.

photo effect - model curves 1

Step 5

Use another Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the model. Paint on the front of the mouth, chin and shoulders and any details you feel are too dark or contrasting.

photo effect - model curves 2

Step 6

Add another Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to reduce the golden light after increasing the contrast. Bring the Saturation values down to -32:

photo effect - model hue saturation 2

Step 7

Create a new layer and use a medium-soft brush with the color #0d0907 to paint more shadow below the model's lips and nose. We've added more light and contrast, so the shadow should be more visible and a bit larger.

photo effect - model face shadow

3. How to Build the Candle

Step 1

Cut out the candle 1 image and use the Lasso Tool (L) to select the top of this candle. Drag this part onto the front of the model using the Move Tool.

photo effect - add candle 1

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to remove the bottom of the candle and the wick, and blend the top with his face. Lower the brush's opacity when blending on the intersection between the face and the candle.

photo effect - candle 1 masking

Step 2

Use the Lasso Tool to select another part from the original candle image and add it to the face of the model. Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to remove the hard edges and blend this part with the face.

photo effect - add  another part of candle 1
photo effect - candle part 1 masking

Step 3

Select a long, thin part from the side of the candle to add to the right of the model's face (from the viewer). Add a mask to this layer and take a hard black brush to trim this part into several lines flowing from the top of the head. Lower the brush's size to get a more natural result.

photo effect - add more part of candle 1
photo effect - candle part 2 masking

Step 4

Select all of the candle layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Change this group's mode to Normal 100% and create a new layer within the group. Activate the Clone Tool (S) to reduce the light on the part above the nose.

photo effect - candle 1 cloning

Step 5

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and set it as a Clipping Mask. Adjust the
Saturation values to desaturate and change the color of the candle.

photo effect - candle 1 hue saturation

Step 6

Create a Curves adjustment layer to decrease the lightness. On this layer mask, paint on the middle area to reveal the lightness there, leaving the shadow visible on both sides and the space between the candle wax lines.

photo effect - candle 1 curves

Step 7

Move the candle 2 image into the main document and place the candle's flame on top of the middle of the existing candle. Add a mask to this layer and use a medium-soft black brush to erase most of the candle, leaving the candle's flame and its glow visible.

photo effect - add candle 2
photo effect - candle 2 masking

Step 8

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer above this candle layer and set it as a Clipping Mask. Change the Hue values a bit to +8:

photo effect - candle 2 hue saturation

Step 9

Make a new layer below the candle 2 layer. Use a soft brush with the color #e2b588 to paint around the candle's flame. Change this layer mode to Color Dodge 80% and use a layer mask to erase the light around the head.

photo effect - paint candle glow 1
photo effect - candle glow 1 result

Step 10

Create another layer and use a soft brush with the color #9b6837 to paint above the candle's flame to make a light reflection there. Alter this layer mode to Hard Light 40%.

photo effect - paint background light reflection normal mode
photo effect - background light hard light mode

4. How to Add the Candle Wax

Step 1

Open the candle wax 1 image. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select a part on the right to place on the left of the model's face. Flip it horizontally (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal) and add a mask to this layer. Use a soft black brush to blend this part with the existing candle's surface.

photo effect - add wax 1 part 1
photo effect - wax 1 part 1 masking

Step 2

Select other parts from the candle's wax to add around the shoulders and the left ear. Use Control-T to rotate these parts to different angles and sizes. Add a mask to several wax layers to blend them with the existing candle and shirt and remove the hard shadow of the wax on the left shoulder.

photo effect - add more parts of wax 1
photo effect - wax 1 parts masking

Step 3

Create a group for these wax layers and make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the color of the wax.

photo effect - wax 1 hue saturation

Step 4

Add a Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to this wax. On this layer mask, paint on the shadow areas of any details you feel are too bright.

photo effect - wax 1 curves

Step 5

Open the candle wax 2 image. Use the Quick Selection Tool (W) to select different parts of wax to add to the head, face, and shirt. Add a mask to each of these layers, use a soft black brush to blend the top of the wax with the existing candle, and use a hard black brush to trim these pieces of wax in different lines flowing along the face.

photo effect - add wax 2
photo effect - wax 2 masking

Step 6

Make a group for these wax layers and make a Channel Mixer adjustment layer to alter the color of the wax.

photo effect - wax 2 channel mixer red
photo effect - wax 2 channel mixer blue

Step 7

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the color of the wax lines a bit to make them match the rest of the candle.

photo effect - wax 2 hue saturation

Step 8

Make a Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the wax. Paint on any details you feel are too dark or contrasting.

photo effect - wax 2 curves

Step 9

Create a new layer below the candle wax groups. Use a soft brush with the color #1c1b1b and Opacity about 30% to paint shadow below the wax on the shirt.

photo effect - waxes shadow

5. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

Make a new layer on top of the other layers and use a brush with the color #753c23 to paint on the lower lip, avoiding its highlight. Change this layer mode to Multiply 40% to reduce the light on this part.

photo effect - reduce lips highlights

Step 2

Create another layer and use a soft brush with the color #2a1503 to paint on the candle's flame. Change this layer mode to Color Dodge 100%.

photo effect - candle glow 2

Step 3

Use another brush with the color #d5af5a to paint more glowing light on the bottom of the flame. Alter this layer mode to Hard Light 100%.

photo effect - candle glow 3

Step 4

Make a new layer and change the brush's color to #0d0907. Use a medium-soft brush to paint the shadow of the head, including the top of the candle, on the shoulders and neck. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 80%.

photo effect - paint head shadow

Step 5

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

photo effect - DB new layer

Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range and Exposure about 15-25% to refine the light and shadow of the details of the candle, face, shoulders, and face, especially the space between the wax lines. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

photo effect - DB normal mode
photo effect - DB overlay mode

Step 6

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer to increase the light, color, contrast and vibrance of the whole scene.

photo effect - whole scene color balance midtones
photo effect - whole scene color balance shadows
photo effect - whole scene color balance highlights

Congratulations, You're Done!

I hope that you've enjoyed the process of creating an interesting portrait photo effect and learned something new for your own projects. Feel free to share your results or leave comments in the box below. Enjoy Photoshopping!

Here are some more interesting portrait photo effects:

photo effect - final result
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