Create an Abstract Composition in Photoshop
In this Photoshop tutorial you will learn how to create an abstract composition using rendered images and light effects. As you can see from the final result preview we will create a mystical and magical effect. In this tutorial we will use plenty of Photoshop tools, and we also will use another Adobe product – Cinema 4D, but if you don’t have Cinema 4D that’s ok, you will be able do all rest steps of this tutorial. I hope you will learn some new tricks. So, let’s move forward and start this tutorial.
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Final Image Preview
1.Step – Extraction
Open a new document in photoshop, it should be 12×18 inches and 300 dpi. Drag you face stock into the document and rename the layer to “Head”, use the Pen tool (p) to extract it from its background. Be sure to use a hi-resolution stock to get the best quality possible.
Once extracted, center it on your document and create a new group, name it “Head” drag your main “head” layer inside. Apply the next brightness and contrast and levels settings to the “head” layer (Image>Adjustments>Brightness and Contrast/levels).
Desaturate the image (Image>Adjustments>Desaturate). If you want you can apply a Smart sharpen filter, it will also help you get a better skin effect in the next steps.
2.Step – Skin
Duplicate the “head” layer 3 times, clip mask them holding Alt and clicking between layers. The first layer is our base and will rename unchanged. Change the blending mode of the second one to Overlay and lower its opacity to 67%. Change the blending mode of the third layer to Screen and lower its opacity to 20%. Play with the opacities and if you need, duplicate the Overlay layer until you get something like this:
3.Step – Hair
Create a new layer on top of all of our “head” layers and rename it “hair”. Set your foreground color to black and select the Brush tool. Pick a hard 3pxl round brush, open the shape dynamics and set the controls to pen pressure. Now grab the Pen tool and draw some paths around the head. Once you’ve got a nice wavy line, right click and stroke path, select the brush and check the pen pressure option.
Once you have enough strokes you can duplicate/transform by using Warp and Perspective tools to fit other parts of the hair. Select all the “hair” layers and merge them (ctrl+e) when you are happy with the results.
4.Step – Dodge and Burn
Go back to our base “head” layer and grab the Dodge tool (o), use a large soft round brush with an 8% exposure and paint over the parts where you want more highlights.
Use the Burn tool for the shadows.
On the same layer, grab the Pen tool and draw a path on the lower side of the head you should get something like this:
Right-click and chose “make selection” use a feather radius of 0 pixels. Invert the selection (ctrl+shift+i) and add a Layer mask or erase the selection.
Double click on the main “head” layer to bring up the layer style menu. Check the Bevel and Emboss box and apply the next settings:
Right click on the FX button next to the “head” layer and select the option – create layers, lower the new layer opacity to about 70%.
6.Step – Branches
I used Cinema4D to render some branches with different perspectives and shapes, here is a link with a tutorial on how to do it.
Create a new group and name it “branches”. This is where you’ll be placing all the branch layers to keep things organized. Start placing the branches on top of the head, transform them to make them flow with our composition.
Keep adding different branches. Mask the parts that overlap and add shadows and highlight using the Burn and Dodge tools.
Use the Pen tool to give random shapes to the end of the branches to achieve a more realistic look.
Create a new group under our “head” layer and add some tinier branches to get more detail. You should end up with something similar to this:
7.Step – Light effects
Grab the Nebula stock and place it behind the head and the branches.
Center it and resize if needed. Apply the next setting to it:
Set the blending mode of the layer to Screen. Now you will see some hard edges on the nebula. Add a Layer mask and set your foreground color to black. Using a large soft round brush start painting over the edges to erase them.
Use the Transformation tools to rotate and resize the nebula. You may want to duplicate the layer and move it around to get a more random effect.
Grab the Spark stock. Go to (Filter>Blur>Radial blur) and apply the next settings:
After that you should have something like this:
Move the layer on top of all the nebula layers and behind the head. Set its blending mode to Screen. Mask the hard edges.
Now I used this fractal to put some detail on the branches. You can do the same effect with a simple pen stroke and a glow layer style.
Duplicate the layer several times and using the Warp tool, cover part of the branches to give them some color and detail.
8.Step – Details
I added this render, I made on Cinema4D to the background to give it more depth. You can use another render if you like. Just desaturate it and darken it using levels and curves to match our composition.
Download and install these brushes. Select one and resize it to fit the face, duplicate the layer and use the next layer settings:
Erase the parts of the brush that lay over the head and unwanted parts.
9.Step – Closing
Save the image as a .jpg with full quality. Open the image on Photoshop and resize it to something like 1200×800 to maintain maximum quality.
Final Result: Abstract Composition