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Create primitive portraits that'll make your clients go wild

Added on Friday 12th of February 2010 09:53 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Looking for a new way to liven up your portraits? We’ll show you how, with a couple of photos and a layer mask, you’ll have your clients screaming for more.


To create wild portraits, we’ll:

     Explain how to pick the best photos for this technique.

     Uncover our tricks for perfect alignment.

     Use masking techniques to reveal only the important facial elements necessary.




Creating interesting Photoshop effects doesn’t have to be a laborious process. Once in a while it should actually be fun! So here’s a technique that’s both simple and fun—we’ll show you how to create wild portraits with animal photos and layer masks. So let your hair down, release your primitive side, and follow along!


Choose your subject wisely

Take careful consideration when choosing images for this technique. Consider your portrait’s head size and shape as well as the animal’s facial features. For example, while not impossible, giraffe faces are tricky to match up with human faces because of their oblong shape and the extended space between facial features.

For this technique, we’ll start with an easy combination—the lion and the businessman shown in Figure A. To follow along with our example, download from the URL given at the beginning of this article, extract the file wild_portrait.psd, launch Photoshop, and open the file. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.) Our sample file contains both images, with the layers appropriately named Lion and Man.


Tip: You can also reverse this technique and make animals take on human characteristics. Extract and open the file lionman.psd, and check out our sample file.




Align the features

In order to transform your portrait into a wild beast, you’ll need to align the important facial features such as the eyes and the mouth. You’ll need to decide how true you want to remain to the human’s head shape or the animal’s head shape. For this example, we’ll align the lion’s eyes to the human’s eyes, but keep most of the animal’s head shape.


To align the facial features:

1.       Select the Lion layer so it’s the active layer, and reduce its opacity to approximately 50% so you can see both layers.

2.      Select the Move tool from the Tools panel, and click and drag the Lion layer to align the eyes. The lion is too big so you need to scale it.

3.      Press [command]T ([Ctrl]T in Windows) to activate the Transform tool.

4.      Press [shift] and click and drag the bounding box handles to scale the lion down in size until the eyes look like they’ll align with the human’s eyes. Rotate the image slightly if necessary and move the layer to realign it. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it’s okay if you need to release [shift] and scale out of proportion slightly.

5.      Press [enter] to commit the transformation. You can see our results in Figure B.



Reveal the man

Now you’ll add a layer mask and begin to bring out the man’s facial features, while blending them in with the lion’s fur. This is when you need to decide how much of the man’s features vs. the lion’s features will dominate your portrait. We’ll mix them up a bit, ke...


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