The secret to creating eye-catching portraits is contrast. By using the full range of values from dark to light, you can really make your subject stand out and draw the viewer in. Adding bold, complementary colors can help, too. We’ll take a look at how you can start with an ordinary drab photo reference and end up with a dramatic portrait. This tutorial shows how to combine filter effects in Photoshop, using layers, prior to opening the file in Painter for digital painting.
To begin with, look at your reference photo and think about how you can increase contrast. As you can see in the “before” image (left), there’s already a natural lighting coming up from underneath, so we’ll try to build on that. We’re going to use a series of filters to enhance the photo in Photoshop, and then bring it into Painter for an oil painting treatment. Even if you don’t own the particular filters I’m using here, you’ll be able to use the technique with your own filters.
The first filter we’re going to use is from Topaz Labs, and it’s their Adjust filter. (This is similar to the Lucis Art filter.) Use the preset called “Psychedelic.” This creates the high-contrast, high-detailed look you see below. Apply the filter and then save the file with a name, such as Psychedelic.psd. Set this file aside for now.
Next, we’ll use the Nik Color Effects Pro filter called Warmth/Brilliance. This will add a nice warm glow to the skin tones, and push the colors a bit. By using the Control Point tool, we can easily restrict the filter to just the face, without having to creating a layer mask. You can see how this looks in the next screenshot. The control handles are very easy and intuitive to use. Apply the filter, and a new layer is created for you. Save and continue. (Note: if you’re using some other filter for this step, make sure you first duplicate the background layer, and run your filter on the duplicate. At the end of Step Two, you should have a new layer on top of the original background layer.)
After running the warmth filter in Step Two, use Photoshop’s Paint Daubs filter (Filter > Artistic > Paint Daubs), making sure the new layer from Step Two is active. Our goal here is to add some surface detail. Later, when we get into Painter, this will really help with the brushwork. Use the Dark Rough option, with a brush size of 5, sharpness of 7. Save.
Remember the Psychedelic.psd file you created back in Step One? Open it up, if it’s not already open, and drag the thumbnail from the layers palette into the current file. It will create a new layer for you. (Or, in the Psychedelic.psd file, you can just go Select > All, then Edit > Copy. In the file we’re working on, go Edit > Paste.) Rename this new layer to “Psychedelic Overlay 35%.” Delete the Background layer. Change the blending mode to Overlay, and turn down the opacity to about 35%. Now we’ve got lots of drama! As a final touch, drag the bottom (Paint Daubs) layer down to the Duplicate Layer icon. Position this copy as the top layer. Change the blending mode to Luminosity, and turn down the opacity to 20%. This will brighten things up a bit . Here’s what your layers should look like at this point.
Step Five – Painter
Save this file, and then flatten it (Layer > Flatten Image), and save with a new name. (It’s always a good idea to keep a copy of your work with the layers intact.) Now you’re ready to open the file in Painter. Clone the file, and choose the Captured Bristle brush, set at 90% opacity, 20% Resat. This will give you very obvious brushstrokes, so take your time and use short strokes. Vary the size. Use small sizes around the eyes and other detailed areas, larger sizes for the skin areas. Let’s add the complement of the orange skintone, green. Choose a very dark green and paint over the background, leaving just a suggestion of foliage detail.
- Photoshop Tutorial: Add Dramatic Lighting to Portraits
- Tutorial: Create Colorful Backgrounds for Your Portraits
- Tutorial: Create the Look of Bronze Sculpture
- Tutorial: Photorealistic Painting of a Cat
- Replacing the Background in Your Portraits – Part Two
- Tutorial: A Photomanip Journal, Part 3
- Photoshop Tutorial: Create a Pencil Drawing