Tutorial: Alien Skin
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Tutorial: "Alien Skin"
Program: Photoshop CS3
Skill Level: Advanced
Approximate Time : 4 hours or more
Keywords: Photoshop, Sci-Fi, Photography, Photo Manipulation
My friend Shairah is an actress and model and recently had some professional photos taken. She generously allowed me to use these photos to experiment with in Photoshop. For this particular project, I was attempting to create an alien skin effect. Using a combination of brushes, dodging techniques and various textures, I successfully achieved my goal.
The Final Image
Before we start I duplicate the original picture (Apple/Command + J). This gives me an untouched reference photo, or something I can go back to in case of a mistake. It's good practice to always do this when working on photo manipulations.
Step 1 "Desaturate"
My first step was to desaturate the skin. Desaturating the whole photo makes the image look too flat and boring so instead I choose the Sponge Tool (O) and set the Mode to "Desaturate". Select the brush size best appropriate for your photo, changing frequently to get really detailed. I choose a low flow setting of "20%" because I didn't want to over do the technique.
It's tedious but taking the time to sponge the flesh better allows for certain nuances that would potentially occur in nature. I purposefully limit the effect around the eyes and lips.
I started with the face then worked my way down to the rest of the body. After The skin was desaturated I further reduced some of the colors in the image to help set a darker mood.
Step 2 "Overlay"
After desaturating the skin apply texture by overlaying images. I found some great large format 'grunge textures' here.
This particular texture was 'spotted' rust on a grey wall. I imported the layer into the image and made it the top layer. I set the layer's Blending Options to "Linear Burn" with a Fill of "30%". I reduced the fill until the spots from the texture more evenly matched the skin.
Of course your textured layer is going to cover the entire image, even the areas you don't want it to. Use the eraser tool on the top 'texture' layer and use it on areas like the hair, eyes, lips and clothing. You only want the skin to be textured. Attention to detail at this point is key. As a rule of thumb, never use an eraser brush with 100% flow for retouching. I typically set it around 70%.
Step 3 "Dodging and Burning"
Once your skin is textured, you may notice that it looks a little flat. In reality skin has shadows and highlights that we need to simulate. Part of this was achieved when we reduced the Fill of the textured layer. That allows enough of the original images skin to show through and it already had highlights and shadows. What I wanted to do now is recreate the same effects on the texture layer. First, I selected the Dodge Tool (O). I set the Range to "Highlights" and the Exposure to "28%".
After selecting the appropriate brush size, I targeted all the areas of the original image that had highlights. These are the areas where light is the brightest on the contours of the face....areas like the bridge of the nose, the cheek bones, the brow, and the contours of the breasts. Once the highlights are done, switch to the Burn Tool (O) and do the same for the shadows. Make sure you are still editing the texture layer and not the original image. Set the Range to "Shadows" and the Exposure to "37%".
Now, brush over all the areas where the original image has shadows. These are areas where light isn't hitting directly and usually areas opposite of the highlights. For areas where the shadow is extremely dark you want to spend more time burning (or increase the exposure percentage for those areas only).
Step 4 "Detailing"
Before I moved on, I wanted to add a bit of detail to the face. I did this by using the same toolset we've been using to detail the texture layer. Using the Burn Tool again, I brushed the lips and around the eyes. The effect is subtle but makes the resulting image more believable. Next I selected the eraser brush and set the Flow to "10%" and targeted areas of the texture layer that I felt stood out to much. This didn't erase those areas it just reduced them a bit. Part of this is guessing, part of it is patience and part of it is experimentation. Play with your image and the Photoshop tools until you get the effect that you like.
In "Part 2" of this tutorial I'll continue discussing this piece and I'll discuss adding effects to the eyes and how I 'finished' the image.
Posted byJon Gos at 1:16 PM