Create Surreal Photo Manipulation with A Man Without Face

Surreal Photo ManipulationFirst, I’d like to thank Joubert Quentin a.k.a hybrid-creation for allowing me to create this tutorial based on his image, Your Skull is Red. You can see his portofolio in DeviantArt or his personal site. Before we start, take at look at the image we are about to create below.

In this tutorial we will learn how to create selection, adjusting color, and adding depth to image.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Source Needed

For this tutorial, we will need these images:

Step 1: Selecting The Victorian Man

We’ll start by cutting this man from his background. For this type of selection, I prefer to use the manual way, path. From paths panel create new path then using pen tool draw path around the man. As you can see i don’t care much about his face because we will remove it later.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 2

Once we’re done creating path, hit ctrl+Enter to change it to a selection. Press ctrl+J to duplicate the selection to a new layer. You can also do this by selecting menu Layer > New > Layer via Copy. To help focus on the man, hide Background by clicking its eye icon.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 3: Removing Face

To remove his face we can just use an eraser.

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Step 4: Fixing Floating Hat

Now, we need to create his bottom hat. To do this we must draw manually using clone tool. Activate clone tool and check Sample All Layers. This option allow us to clone on a separate layer and keep the original picture safe. Then create a new layer. With clone tool sample a similar color from his hat by alt+click it.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 5

With clone tool, draw his bottom hat. This might take a while, I spend 10-15 minutes for this. To keep it natural I suggest you to use different clone source every time you click.

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Step 6

Using lasso tool, create ellipse selection underneath his hat and fill it with black.

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Step 7

Add Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) to give it a soft realistic shadow.

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Step 8: Fixing Collar

We need to manually draw his back collar. The step is a bit similar to what we do when creating bottom part of his hat. Create a selection in collar shape, sample color from his front collar, then draw it directly with brush tool. To avoid flat color we must use many color source from his front collar.

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Step 9

Draw shadow inside his collar and add another Gaussian Blur.

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Step 10: Import Man Without Face To New Background.

Now we’re done with this man. Select all (ctrl+A), click Edit > Copy Merged (ctrl+shift+C). In our new background paste the man (ctrl+V) and resize it (ctrl+T). See image below for reference.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 11: Dodge and Burn

We still need to fix lighting on the man. To do this, we will use non-destructive burning and dodging. First, alt+click New Layer icon. In the dialog box select Use Previous, Mode: Overlay, and Fill with Overlay.

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Step 12

See picture below! The light source is behind the man so his back must be lighter than his front. To fix this, paint with burn tool to make it darker and dodge tool to make it lighter.

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Here’s what we see if the layer is in Normal blend mode.

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Step 13: Add Shadow

Off course this man must have shadow. We know that the light source is behind him, so the shadow must be in front of him. Duplicate the man layer and hit ctrl+T. Hold ctrl and move its corner until it lies on the ground.

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Step 14

We don’t want to see his twin lying on the ground right? We want his shadow.

So, here’s the trick. Hit D, this will change foreground color to black. Then hit shift+alt+delete, this will fill layer with foreground color (in our case, black).

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 15

We still need to focus on the detail. As you can see below, cane’s shadow moves a little and there’s a hole between his feet. I fix this by doing minor transformation and painting with black.

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Step 16

Add Gaussian blur to create a soft realistic shadow.

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Step 17

Farthest shadow need to be more blurry. So, select those part, soften the selection with Feather (Select > Modify > Feather), and another Gaussian Blur. Here’s a tip: because we’ve just perform a Gaussian Blur we can just hit ctrl+F to repeat it again. If you want to use different radius use ctrl+alt+F.

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Step 18

Add layer mask and add black to white linear gradient to make the shadow fades away.

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Step 19: Add Water Tower

Selecting the water tower with path is not a good idea. You’ll get frustrated doing it. The easiest and smartest way is using color information in channel. Our image is in RGB, that’s Red, Green, and Blue. The water tower stands in front of a clear blue sky. So, the sky will be very visible in Blue channel. Now, I want you to duplicate Blue Channel by dragging it to the new channel icon.

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Step 20

Add Levels (ctrl+L) with this setting.

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You can see that the sky has magically disappear. Try that with pen tool!

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Step 21

Some part of the water tower is turning white. We can fix it easily by painting it with black.

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Step 22

Here’s the basic principle of masking: “White reveals, Black conceals.” We want to select the water tower, not the sky. So, the sky has to be black and the water tower has to be white. Wait! Our image is completely wrong. That’s easy, just hit ctrl+I to invert it.Surreal Photo Manipulation

Step 23

Ctrl+click blue copy channel to convert it to a selection. Copy the image and paste it behind our faceless man.

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Step 24

You might notice that the there’s a small part of the sky in the water tower. Here’s one easy way to fix it. Ctrl+click water tank layer. Contract selection by 1 px (Select > Modify > Contract). Click add layer mask icon.

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Here’s the result.

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Step 25

Fix the lighting with non-destructive dodging and burning. We have done this in step 11.

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Step 26: Adding Depth of Field

It’s time add depth to this image. Cut one of the hat collection from old top hat set. Paste it and place it near the edge of the canvas. Hit ctrl+T and rotate it to give a more dynamic movement.

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Step 27

Give it a Gaussian Blur. Because this hat is near us, we’ll give it a big radius.

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Step 28

Add another hat and give each different radius depends on its position.

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Step 29: Add shadow

Dont forget to give shadow to the water tower. The step here is similar to what we did when creating the man’s shadow. Duplicate water tower layer, fill it with black, transformation, add Gaussian blur, and fading it with gradient mask layer.

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Step 30

Again, don’t forget to add shadow for those hats.

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Step 31: Final Adjustment

I want to add more blue to the sky. For this, I add adjustment layer Channel Mixer on top of all layers with these settings.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

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Step 32

Paint everything with black except the bright sky in top right. Now, only that part is affected by the Channel Mixer.

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Step 33

To add more contrast add adjustment layer Levels with this setting.

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Step 34

Paint everything with black except the faceless man.

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Step 35

Finally, I want to make this picture warmer. Add an adjustment Layer Photo Filter with Warming Filter (85), Density 25%.

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And here’s what we have now. I hope you like the final effect. If you have better tips about the technique used here I’d love to hear it.

Surreal Photo Manipulation

Download FREE PSD File!!!

To help you learn this tutorial you can download the psd file here.

Mohammad Jeprie

Mohammad Jeprie is a blogger, author, and graphic designer from Indonesia. He is the creative mind behind DesainDigital. You can find him in DeviantArt, Facebook, and Twitter.

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  1. says

    Hi Mohammad,
    That is fantastic!!! What a great tutorial, I’ll probably wear my scrolling feature out trying to learn how to do it!! I really like the effects of the gaussian blur. Makes things so much more realistic. Really enjoyed. Thanks for sharing such a great process.

  2. says

    Wow that is awesome. If I had these kind of skills I could start creating my own images instead of spending hours on the web trying to find one similar to what I want for my blog posts. I am not very familiar with photo software. I have Gimp, but can’t do much with it. Could I do something like this using Gimp?

    Also, can you tell me if you are using a plugin for that pink share box or was that something you custom coded into your theme? I have been searching for a good plugin that will give me a similar look and style to that.


  3. Dila.13 says

    Man, that looks hard! No wonder I never succeeded as a photo manipulator. Nice tutorial, btw. I’ll be sure to try it when I have plenty of time. This might take me 3 weeks to settle!

  4. says

    Mohammad big appreciation from my side as well, really high quality tutorial with well explained and easy techniques used to achieve this amazing effect and outcome!