Time is the grand equalizer, youth is fleeting, and beauty fades. As a face ages, it undergoes a predictable pattern. Wrinkles form around the eyes, brow and mouth. The skin darkens, and spots occur. Gravity eventually prevails against cheeks that are not as tight and perky as they used to be. The nose and ears continue to grow long after the rest of the face has stopped. The eyes tend to sink back further into their sockets, and the hair thins, recedes, and gradually turns gray.
Each of these symptoms can be simulated with some Photoshop knowhow. So if you are curious what you or a friend may look like in a few decades, this tutorial will show you how to add years to the face of a portrait.
1. Gather Resources
The aging process is predictable enough that we can actually use a photo resource of an older individual to add to the photo of a younger person. The key is to find a photo of an elderly model that has similar facial features to the younger model. Look for things like similar ethnicity, bone structure, and physical build.
Our starting photo for this project is this young man (no longer available), whose portrait can be purchased from Envato Market.
Then we will use this shot of an elderly gentleman (no longer available) as a resource for the older effects.
2. Clone and Heal
It might seem counter-intuitive to "heal" or repair features before making them appear older. Yet it does make sense. A small cut or bruise would not be visible decades or years later. Pushing back the hairline requires these tools too, as we need to copy the forehead skin area.
Open the image of the young man. We don't want to make edits directly on the background layer, so create a copy by going to Layer > New > Layer Via Copy (Control-J). Then grab the Spot Healing Brush Tool (J) and treat the scratch over the model's right eye.
To create that receding hairline, the hair on his forehead needs to be removed. Use the Lasso Tool (L) to create a rough selection around his bangs. Then use the Patch Tool (J) set to Content-Aware. Drag the selected area straight down into the forehead area to sample from that skin and effectively remove the hair.
If you are not satisfied with the first attempt, try making different, smaller selections, and continue to work with the Patch Tool until you get the results you want.
3. Structural Changes
The onslaught of time changes our faces. Those changes go beyond just wrinkles. There are subtle structural changes as well. The ears and nose are more pronounced, the eyes are sunken, the neck to jaw ratio decreases, and all the skin shows the impact of years of gravity pulling on it. The best way to simulate these effects in Photoshop is with the Liquify filter.
There's a lot of work to be done with the Liquify filter, and don't expect to get all of it perfect the first time through. There's almost always a bit of touchup to be done after the initial application. So it's wise to use it as a Smart Filter. Go to Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object. Then go to Filter > Liquify to launch the liquify feature, and check the Advanced Mode option.
Use the Bloat Tool (B) and set the brush size to be just smaller than the tip of his nose. Use a few clicks to gently create a more bulbous end to his nose.
Reduce the size of the brush slightly and Bloat the ears a bit, especially the left ear as it is more visible. Be careful not to accidentally push in the side of the head and create a warped effect. This can be touchy, so take your time and work gently.
Now switch to the Pucker Tool (S) and increase the brush size to match the eye socket. Use just a few clicks on each eye to reduce the size of the eyes. This will help to give them a more sunken appearance.
Switch to the Forward Warp Tool (W) and reduce the brush size to be about one-third the size of the mouth. Then tighten the lips by pushing down on the ridges of the top lip and pushing up on the bottom edge of the lower lip. If the distortion is looking too irregular, use the Smooth tool to help even it out.
Increase the brush size of the Forward Warp Tool (W) and pull down on the "corners" of the jaw to square off the shape of the face. Then push out on the edges of the neck to thicken it slightly. Remember to Smooth where necessary.
Now grab the big, meaty parts of the cheeks, just below the eyes, and pull them down ever so slightly. This is the area that tends to loosen up and form that distinctive crease that connect the edges of the mouth to the sides of the nose.
To create a thinner hairline, the line where the hair intersects with the forehead needs to be pushed outward, while the outline of the hair against the background needs to be pushed inwards.
Use the Push Left Tool (O) to accomplish this. The way this tool works is that it will push pixels to the left while moving the tool upwards, and to the right while moving the tool downwards. So for the inside hairline, start at the bottom left and trace around to the right. For the outside edge, go in the opposite direction.
Click OK to apply the Liquify filter. Those many small changes all add up to a face that is already starting to look considerably older. Here's a comparison of the image before and after the Liquify work.
4. Hair and Skin
With the structural changes accomplished, it's time to turn attention to the hair and skin. As people age, the cumulative effects of the weather begin to change the color of their features. Darker hair goes light, and lighter skin goes dark. It's a fascinating balancing act of tones. Fortunately for our project, altering tonal value is something Photoshop is really good at!
Go to Select > Color Range and change the Select option to Skin Tones. Set the Fuzziness to 50 and press OK. Photoshop creates a selection based on the color of the skin. The selection is far from perfect, but will serve as a solid starting point.
Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Photoshop automatically uses the current selection as a mask for the adjustment layer. Check the Colorize option and set the Hue to 23, Saturation to 30 and Lightness to 30. Then change the adjustment layer's blending mode to Multiply and reduce the Opacity to 70%.
Click on the thumbnail for the layer mask to make sure it is the active entity, and use a Soft Round Brush to clean up the mask. Paint with black paint over areas like the necklace, his hair, and his eyes to remove the hue/saturation effect from those. Then use white paint to add the effect to the shadow under his chin.
The colorization made his lips look even redder, when in reality age would make them less saturated. Use the Quick Selection Tool (W) to create a selection around his lips. Add another Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, and use the on-screen adjustment tool to sample and adjust the saturation of the lips.
Or you can change the channel to Reds and set the Hue to +6, Saturation to -17, and the Lightness to 0.
Use the Quick Selection Tool (W) to create a selection around his hair and eyebrows. Then press the Refine Edge button and check the Smart Radius option. Set the Radius to 10 px and the Shift Edge to -30%.
Add another Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. The selection will be automatically added as a layer mask. Then set the Saturation to -89 and the Lightness to 3. This will turn the hair a light gray color.
Control-Click on the mask to reselect the hair area. Then go to the Liquify layer and use Layer > New > Layer Via Copy (Control-J) to create a layer just of his hair. Move this layer to the top of the stack and set the blending mode to Screen. Then clip it to the adjustment layer with Layer > Create Clipping Mask (Alt-Control-G).
Adjust the color and lightness of the hair patch layer by going to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (Control-U). Set the Saturation to -48 and the Lightness to -72.
Go back to the mask on the hair color adjustment layer. Use a small, Soft Round Brush to carefully touch up the edges so the transition into the gray hair isn't quite so sudden. To achieve realistic results, use the small brush to paint along the length of the individual hairs, not across them.
At this point the image should look something like this. He's already looking much older, but we haven't even started adding wrinkles or age spots yet!
The skin wrinkles are the most telltale sign of a face that has seen several years. They appear where the skin tends to squash from the repetition of the facial muscle movements. This tends to be most predominant at the outside of the eyes and the forehead.
Open the Portrait of a Kindly Old Man and use the Lasso Tool (L) to create a selection around the wrinkles next to, and just below, the man's eyes. Go to Edit > Copy (Control-C).
Switch back over to the young man's portrait and go to Edit > Paste (Control - V) to paste the selected area in as a new layer. Move the piece into place and go to Edit > Transform > Warp and warp the piece to fit the contours of the new face.
Go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate (Control-Shift-U) to remove the color from the wrinkle layer. Then change the blending mode to Soft Light (although the Overlay mode works well too).
To get the skins tones to match up, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels, and pull the outside handles inwards to meet the histogram. But also, more importantly, adjust the Output Level handles. Pull each towards the center until the highlights and shadow areas of the wrinkled level matches the skin of the young portrait.
Add a Layer Mask with Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Then use a Soft Round Brush with black paint on the mask to gently paint out any obvious seams or other artifacts.
Use those same steps to add wrinkles at the corner of the other eye.
Next, address the eyelids in the same way. Be careful not to cover over the eyelashes while blending in the wrinkled pieces.
Use the same process to create the wrinkles on the bridge of the nose and the brow. If the selection doesn't seem to fit correctly, feel free to break these down into two different selections.
The forehead is the next target for the wrinkle effect. This can be done in one big piece to create the balding forehead.
Take each cheek on its own, and create the wrinkled effect for them too.
Move on to the chin and add the wrinkled skin to that area as well.
While the ear doesn't have many wrinkles to show, the skin has a distinctive texture to it that shows the age. In the reference photo, it's the opposite ear that provides the best area to copy from, so it needs to be flipped horizontally.
Next comes the neck area. The neck doesn't show wrinkles so much as the evidence of loose skin and a ruddier texture.
So after all the skin patchwork is completed, your image should look similar to this.
6. Finishing Effects
At this point, the portrait looks decisively older. But there are a few final techniques we can use to push it even further.
Add a new layer and go to Edit > Fill (Shift-F5). Set the Contents to 50% Gray and press OK. Then change the blending mode to Overlay and reduce the Opacity to 50%. Use this layer as a dodge and burn layer. Use the Burn Tool (O) to trace along the deep folds of the wrinkles and the Dodge Tool (O) to lighten the ridges.
Copy another selection from the forehead of the older man to create a focus on adding age spots to the skin of the younger man. This time, use the Darken blending mode and a layer mask to paint out the unwanted areas of the layer.
Similarly, add age spots to the areas under his eyes along the ridges of the cheeks.
Shift-Select all the individual wrinkle layers. Then hold down the Alt key while going to Layer > Merge Layers (Control-E) to create a merged layer of the wrinkles. Set this layer's blending mode to Soft Light. This creates a very drastic wrinkled/aged skin effect.
Mask out the effect completely by going to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. Then use a Soft Round Brush with white paint on the mask to gently paint the effect back in over the wrinkles and other areas where the skin appears too smooth, like the ridges of his cheeks and the skin around his throat.
You are done. Congratulations! You have digitally added years to this person's portrait! Feel free to share your results in the comments below.
If you would like to see some more Photoshop tutorials along with some photo-manipulation projects, custom brushes, and even more fun, check out my profile here at Envato Tuts+ for my other tutorials, quick tips, and courses.