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Convert a Portrait Into a Creepy Human Puppet for Halloween

With Halloween fast approaching it’s time take our design work to a dark, spooky place.

That’s the whole beauty of design isn’t it? The ability to adapt our style of design based on the creative brief, the context or the client.

Today we’re going to create a seriously creepy human puppet hybrid using a regular portrait photo of a beautiful model. This is a tutorial packed full of useful techniques, and it’s also an outcome that you could recreate with your own portraits and really scare your friends (creepy profile picture anyone?).

You’ll master a range of techniques including:

  • Digital Painting.
  • Retro color correction.
  • Creating a living puppet.
  • Working with adjustment layer’s, combined vector masks and color correction.
  • Using Filters to create a dramatic, well focused scene.

What You’ll Be Creating:

Here’s a look at the outcome you’ll be able to produce by the end of this lesson:

Ready to begin? Great, let’s get started!

Resources Used In This Tutorial

Step 1

Create a new canvas in Photoshop and import the image of the BG texture on to it.

Step 2

In this step we are going to create a huge crack on the wall using .gimp image.

1) Using the GIMP software convert the .gimp file into .png. Then import it on to the canvas and place it in the middle of the scene.

2) Now set the Blending Mode of the crack layer to multiply, to blend it perfectly with the BG to get the natural crack effect.

Step 3

In this step we are going to manipulate the model’s body into a puppet body.

1) Cut the image of the model from its BG into a new layer using the Pen Tool (P).

2) Using the Mask Tool (M) cut the lower part of the body into a new layer and erase that particular area in the original. We won’t need it further.

3) Now move the lower body layer upwards as shown.

Step 4

In this step we are going to blend the puppet body to the scene and add few improvements to the puppet.

1) Import the image of the puppet on to the canvas and place it in the center as shown.

2) Now cut the elbow and wrist joints of both hands of the puppet as shown by using the Pen Tool (P).

3) Create a new shadow layer under the puppet layer and fill in the selection with black color in the shape of the puppet. Then move the layer
slightly towards the right of the scene as shown.

4) Now add a Gaussian Blur of Radius 12.7px to the shadow layer.

5) With the soft round brush selected paint the soft shadow under the puppet as shown.

6) Now create a new layer above the puppet layer and paint the shadow on the puppet as shown.

Step 5

In this step we are going to color correct the puppet to blend with the scene seamlessly.

1) Group all the puppet layers into a single folder. Then create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the folder and check the colorize option. Then set the Hue level to 194 and Saturation level to 11.

2) Again create another Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the puppet folder and reduce the Saturation level to -38.

3) To enhance the dark shadows on the puppet create an Exposure adjustment layer and set the Offset value to -0.0023 and Gamma Correction to 0.81.

Step 6

In this step we are going to add some gothic makeup and paint a facial scar on the model’s face.

1) Create a new layer over the puppet folder and paint the lips black, also slightly enhance the dark shadow of the cheek bone as shown.

2) Now paint the shape of the facial scar as shown in a new layer.

3) By using the color #eeeae9 paint a thin line over the edge of the scar as shown. This gives a natural and 3D depth to the scar.

Step 7

Create a new layer on the top of layers pallet and create a black bokeh on the corners of the scene as shown.

Step 8

In this step we are going to add dead branches at the bottom and make them look like they are from the puppet’s body.

1) Create a new layer under the puppet folder and paint random shaped dead branches as shown using black color.

2) Now import image of dead branches and place them over the previously painted branches as shown.

Step 9

In this step we are going to a skeleton structure of the elbow and wrist joints using dead branches. This is a very crucial step because the shape of the branches represents the positioning of the hand.

1) Import a dead branch image from the dead branch image2 and place it as shown on the right hand elbow section as shown. Make sure the branch is slightly bent, while selecting the dead branch from the dead tree.

2) Now import another branch image and place it as shown. This represents the elbow shape.

3) To make the structure more firm and strong add another branch from elbow joint as shown.

4) Add another dead branch to the arm as shown to structure look strong.

5) Similarly add few dead branches to the wrist joint as shown. While selecting branches for the wrist joint make sure the branches are tender or thin.

Step 10

In this step we are going to create the elbow joint of the left hand.

1) Import the image of a dead branch which is bent by 40° angle and place it on the left elbow joint as shown.

2) Add few more dead branches as shown to make the structure look rigid and strong.

3) Now add a couple of thin branches to left wrist joint as shown.

Step 11

In this step we are going to create a 3D depth to the pieces of the arm.

1) Create a new layer and paint a rough sketch of the arm shapes as shown.

2) Using the pen tool select a mask in the shape of the previously drawn shape and fill in the selection with the color #c0bfba. (Place this layer above the puppet folder.)

3) Now by using the color #eae9e4 draw thin silver lining at the intersection of the previously created shape and the arm. This detail is barely visible but every small detail adds a great value to the output.

4) Now paint the shadow as shown using the color #81817f.

5) Similarly paint the 3D shapes as shown at the joints.

6) Now select the shape of the dead branches of the left wrist and select the left wrist 3D shape. Then erase it half the way on the 3D shape as shown. To make the branches look like they embedded into the wrist.

7) Similarly follow the same procedure on the other 3D shapes.

8) Now group all the 3D shapes into a single folder and create an Exposure adjustment layer. Then set the Offset value to -0.0991 and gamma Correction to 0.61.

Step 12

In this step we are going to add hooks on the hands of the puppet.

1) Import the image of the hook onto the canvas and place it on the right hand as shown. Then cut the bottom end of the hook in the shape of the thumb muscle, to make it look like it is hinged in the middle of the palm.

2) Similarly place another hook on the left hand as shown.

3) Create a new shadow layer under the second hook and paint the dark shadow as shown.

4) Now group all the hook layers into a single folder and create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Then check the colorize option and set the Hue level to 196 and Saturation level to 12.

Step 13

In this step we are going to add chains hinged to the hooks. These chains represent the string by which a puppet is usually played.

1) Import the image of the chain from the stock photo and place it on the right hand as shown.

2) Similarly place another chain on the left hand as shown.

Step 14

In this step we are going to perform a slight face lift on the puppet.

1) Create a new layer over the puppet and paint white on the face as shown and set the Opacity of the layer to 64%.

2) Now set the Blending mode of the layer to Overlay.

Step 15

In this step we are going to place a metal shield behind the puppet’s head.

1) Import the image of the metal shield on to the canvas and place it behind the puppet as shown.

2) Now create a new layer under the shield layer and fill it with black color in shape of the shield. Then move it slightly towards the right as shown.

3) Now add a Gaussian Blur of radius 7.4px to the shadow layer.

4) Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the shield and set the Saturation level to -58.

5) Again create another Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the shield layer and check the Colorize option and set the Hue level to 183 and Saturation level to 15.

6) Now by using the Curves adjustment layer set the RGB curves as shown.

7) Create a new layer above the shield layer and paint a very thin shadow on the right as shown.

Step 16

In this step we are going to place a carved design in the background wall.

1) Import the image of the carved design on to the working canvas and place it on the left side top corner as shown.

2) Create a Curves adjustment layer to the carved design and set the RGB curves as shown.

3) Now by using the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer with the colorize option checked set the Hue level to 183 and Saturation level to 10.

Step 17

In this step we are going to add a carved pillar in the BG.

1) Import the image of the carved pillar on to the working canvas and place it on the right side of the scene as shown.

2) Now create a dark shadow layer under the pillar layer, then move it slightly downwards and add a Gaussian Blur of Radius 6.8px.

3) Now create a new layer above the pillar layer and paint dark shadow on it as shown.

4) Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the pillar and check the colorize option. Then set the Hue level to 190 and Saturation level to 11.

5) To enhance the dark shadows on the pillar, create an Exposure adjustment layer and set the gamma correction level to 0.72. Now select the layer mask of the adjustment layer and by using the soft brush with black color selected paint the area where the color correction is not required.

6) Now create a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer and set the Brightness to -9. Then follow the previous step to paint the area where color correction is not required.

Step 18

In this step we are going to create a heart shape in the scene.

1) Create a new layer and select a mask in the shape of a heart and fill in the selection with red color.

2) Now create a shadow layer under the heart layer and move it downwards as show, then add a Gaussian Blur of Radius 26.1px.

Step 19

In this step we are going to create a frame around the heart.

1) Import the image of the heart frame on to the working canvas and place it on the heart as shown.

2) Now import another metal design from a frame stock image and place it on the top of the heart as shown.

3) Now add a ruby and a round pendant designs on the heart as shown.

4) Now add shadows to the designs placed on the heart as shown.

5) Create an Exposure adjustment layer to the pendant design in the center and set the Exposure level to +2.48 and Gamma Correction to 0.81.

Step 20

In this step we will be creating a spire like design at the bottom end of the heart facing downwards.

1) Import the image of the design on to the working canvas and place it at the bottom end of the heart as shown.

2) Now cut the top portion of the design and extend it upwards as shown.

3) Merge all the spire design layers and de-saturate them by -86 using the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

4) Now create a Curves adjustment layer and bring down the Red curve as shown.

5) Create a new layer over the design layer and paint dark shadow as shown from right.

6) Since this is a glowing heart we need to add some light glow on the design. Hence paint yellow color on the spire design and set the blending mode of the layer to Soft Light and reduce the Opacity to 55%.

Step 21

In this step we are going to add light glow effect to the heart.

1) Place a lens flare at the center of the pendant design and set its blending mode to Screen.

2) Similarly place another lens flare inside the heart frame and cut it in the shape of the heart to get the following effect.

3) Now create a new layer over the frame layer and paint light glow overlapping within the edges of the frame design as shown.

4) By using the color #f9cd34 paint the light glow around the heart as shown.

5) Now set the blending mode of the light glow layer to Pin Light.

6) Import another lens flare layer over the light glow layer and set its blending mode to Screen.

Step 22

In this step we are going to add few dead branches around the scene and work on Depth Of Field (DOF) to create a natural depth to the scene.

1) Import the image of the dead branches on to the working canvas and place it in the right side bottom corner as shown.

2) Then add a Gaussian Blur of Radius 19.0px to the dead branches. This gives the depth of distance between the branches and the puppet.

3) Similarly add few more branches around the scene as shown.

Step 23

In this step we are going to work on color correction and focus effect, which drives complete attention towards the main character.

1) Merge all the layers and name the image as Surreal Puppet. Then duplicate the image and add Radial Blur (Filter>Blur>Radial Blur) of Amount 13. Then set the Blur Method to Zoom and Quality to Best.

2) Now erase the center area of the blurred image to reveal the main image below. Now when you look at the image constantly for some time you feel like you are being dragged into the image.

3) Now create a Curves adjustment layer on the top of layers pallet and set the RGB curves as shown.

Congratulations, You’re All Done!

Awesome job making it this far! You should be proud of what you’ve created. Show it off to your friends and colleagues and get some feedback.

You can also comment here with your version, or any questions you had about the techniques used. We love to see what you guys create and we’re always here to give helpful feedback and tips to help you to improve.

Get deeper insight into the workflow and techniques used in this tutorial. Access the source files for this tutorial:

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About the Author:

I'm a freelance graphics designer and the Founder of Zillionarts and ZillionArts Workshop. Here we ought to provide the best training on Digital Painting and Visual Effects host by the experienced pros from the Hollywood and Gaming Industry. I work constantly to explore more possibilities and techniques to bring my imaginary worlds to live. You can follow me on Deviantart.

Leave a comment

10 Comments:

  1. Daemon Inkz says:

    Very nice manipulation. And a great in-depth tutorial.

    Thank you.

  2. Henk says:

    Thanks for this great tutorial, here is my version of your tutorial:
    http://helldog2004.deviantart.com/art/Puppet-Women-410853964

  3. roshan says:

    Thanks for this great tutorial…….its perfect…… may be I want your help……it’s fun…

  4. Temak says:

    What .gimp image are you talking about please in step 2. There’s nothing of such in the ‘resources used in this tutorial’ section. Please kindly provide a link for that. Thanks.

  5. P.Oldridge says:

    Great tutorial and love the website!

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