PSDFan Extra

Create a Cool Abstract Photo-Manipulation

Final Image

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Download this great paper texture.

Create a new document (600X700px) and paste in the texture.

Call this layer ‘old paper texture’.

Step 2

Now apply a hue/saturation adjustment layer. Reduce your saturation to -60 and increase your lightness to +70.

Step 3

Apply a levels adjustment layer in order to give your background texture more emphasis.

Step 4

Download this photo of a woman model.

Cut out her face using your preferred method (I used the lasso tool). Paste this into the center of your canvas, and call this layer ‘woman face’.

Step 5

Now apply a hue/saturation adjustment layer and reduce your saturation to -100.

Then go to layer>apply clipping mask. This means that your adjustment layer will only affect the data on the layer directly beneath it (in this case your woman’s face layer), rather than the entire document.

Step 6

Now create an exposure adjustment layer (settings below). Apply a clipping mask to this layer also, in order to clip it to your woman’s face shape. This exposure layer should make your woman’s face far more intense.

Step 7

Download this awesome brush set.

Apply various brushes from the set on a layer BENEATH your woman’s face layer.

Step 8

Now create another layer beneath your woman’s face layer and apply more brush strokes (black). You want to create an abstract outline around your woman’s face.

Step 9

Now create a new layer ABOVE your woman’s face layer called ‘brush strokes outline’. Use small versions of your watercolor brush set just to outline your woman’s face a little more. You want to paint over areas where the edge of the face is obvious, and blending this edge into the watercolor background.

Step 10

Create a new layer called ‘colored brush marks’. Apply your watercolor brush over the eyes and mouth of your woman’s face, using red/blue colors. I reduced the opacity of this layer to 38% in order to make the color overlay effect more subtle.

Step 11

Now we want to create a unique abstract shape. Start by creating a new document (50X50px) and then fill the top 25px of your canvas with black, using your marquee selection tool and paintbrush tool.

The image below shows this document zoomed in closely:

Go to edit>define pattern and save this pattern as ‘stripey’.

Step 12

Now create a new document (600X600px). Go to edit>fill and fill your canvas with your newly created ‘stripey’ pattern.

Step 13

Go to filter>distort>wave and apply the settings shown below:

Step 14

Now paste your wavy lined image back into your original document.

Then go to edit>puppet warp (this feature is new in Photoshop CS5. If you don’t have CS5 you will have to try and work with your liquify tool). Warp your image until it looks something like the image below. You want to give the impression of it melting into a very abstract shape.

Step 15

Now click the ‘quick mask’ icon on your layers palette. With your mask in place, use a medium sized black paintbrush (50% hardness) and brush over the area of your abstract shape overlapping your woman’s face.

This should let your woman’s face show through. Then reduce this layer’s opacity to 85% (see below):

Step 16

Now apply a gradient map adjustment layer directly above your abstract shape layer (ranging from 047292 to 19b8f3).

This will effect your entire canvas, but you only want it to effect your abstract shape.

Go to layer>apply clipping mask and this should fit your gradient map to only effect your abstract striped shape.

Step 17

Now create a new layer called ‘dark areas’. Go to layer>apply clipping mask and any data you apply to this layer will only overlay your abstract striped shape area.

Use a medium sized soft black paintbrush (20% opacity) and paint in shadows to make your abstract area more 3d.

Step 18

Now create a new layer called ‘lighter areas’. Go to layer>apply clipping mask and any data you apply to this layer will only overlay your abstract striped shape area.

Use a medium sized soft white paintbrush (20% opacity) and paint in highlights to make your abstract area more 3d.

Step 19

Now create a new layer called ‘vignette effect’. Use a large, soft black paintbrush and paint black around the edges and corners of your canvas.

Then to make this effect more subtle reduce this layer’s opacity to 75%.

Step 20

Now apply a gradient map adjustment layer, ranging from 290a59 to ff7c00.

Then reduce this layer’s opacity to 15%.

Step 21

Now apply a curves adjustment layer. You want to bring up the shadows bottom part of your RGB curve just slightly in order to eliminate 100% blacks, and then bring down your top part of the curve (whites) in order to eliminate 100% whites. This should give your piece a nice finish.

And We’re Done!

You can view the final outcome below. I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and would love to hear your feedback on the techniques and outcome:

About the Author:

Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.

Leave a comment


  1. really awesome work you did in this tutorial.

  2. vishal says:

    wow,what great tutorial,i love this i want to be a great animator and this site helps me to be a gud animtor with their tutorials.From my HEARTS Thanks “”

  3. Zoe Livana says:

    This was my first time doing a PS tutorial and i thought it was great. Because it was my first time, I probably did something wrong along the line because for some reason, my face is a bit transparent, so you can see the abstract ‘stripey’ along the chin line.

    Thanks very much. :D

  4. subhamay says:

    it’s a great tutorial. I’m really helped by this tutorial. thank you.

  5. Guest says:

    Don’t you think it’ll be much effective if you were to show us how to paint brush? Not all of us knows how to do it.

Leave a Comment:

Related Posts

Subscribe to PSDFAN and Get Your Free Designer Toolkit

Have every post delivered to your inbox and get access to hundreds of useful design freebies.

Your Design Work, But More Awesome:

Do you know the basic tools in Photoshop but feel that your work is still looking average? Join our creative community at FanExtra and get the direction you need to take your work to the next level.