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Photo Manipulate a Kick Ass Flaming Skull Scene

Photo Manipulate a Kick Ass Flaming Skull Scene

Final Image

Here is a preview of the image that we are going to be creating:

Step 1

Create a new document (1400X1300px).

Fill your ‘background’ layer with black:

Download the ‘goth’ image from the resources section for this tutorial.

Paste it into the center of your canvas. There should be a black space either side of the image:

Apply a layer mask to this layer, and then use a soft, black paintbrush to mask off the man’s head. The black background on the underlying layer should show through:

Step 2

You’ll notice at the bottom left of your ‘goth’ image there is a human skull on the floor.

To get rid of this, use your lasso tool to create a rough selection around the skull.

If you have Photoshop CS5 go to edit>fill>content area. This will quickly fill the area based on the surrounding data.

If you have an older version of Photoshop then use the clone stamp tool to clone out the area:

As you can see, the content-aware fill does a pretty good job at removing the skull:

Step 3

If we look at the area where we masked off the goth’s head, then it looks a little strange, as the area is now 100% black, whereas the surrounding wall area is varying shades of gray:

To fix this, create a layer above the main black background layer but below the masked ‘goth’ layer. Call this layer ‘head area lighting’.

Use your eye dropper to sample colors from the surrounding background and and then use a soft paintbrush to paint over this area. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as we’ll be covering most of this area with images later, but just try to blend in this area with the main background a little more:

It looks a little strange how we’re not seeing the inside of the man’s jacket now, so we need to paint this in. Create a new layer called ‘shadow neck area’ and create a black area where the inside of his jacket would be:

Step 4

Now paste in the ‘flame’ image from the resources section for this tutorial.

Position the flame so that it appears to be firing up from the man’s neck, and then change it’s layer blend mode to ‘screen’ to hide the black background:

Step 5

Ok, so far we have this. It’s looking good, but we need to fix the black areas to the side of our central image:

To fill these side areas start by selected the right half of your goth image. Copy and paste this onto a new layer, and then go to edit>transform>flip horizontal. Move the flipping image to fill the right side of your canvas:

You’ll notice that the flipped image is showing some of the man’s leg and foot still:

To fix this, use your content aware fill tool once again to fill in the areas with his leg:

Use the same technique to fill in the left side of your canvas. Mask the sides of this new area where appropriate to blend them seamlessly:

Finally, create a new layer called ‘shadows background’.

Use a soft black paintbrush to paint in shadows in the corners/edges of your canvas:

Step 6

Download the ‘animal skull’ photo from the resources section for this tutorial.

Extract it from it’s background and paste it on the floor next to your man:

Apply a color overlay blending option to this layer:

Color Overlay Blending Option Settings:

Blend Mode: Soft Light
Color: 171919
Opacity: 65%

Now apply a levels, color balance and then hue/saturation adjustment layer. Be sure to give each adjustment layer a clipping mask so that your adjustments only effect the underlying layer:

Levels Adjustment Layer Settings:

46 / 0.73 / 255

Color Balance Adjustment Layer Settings:

Highlights: -13 / 0 / 0
Midtones: +9 / 0 / +4
Shadows: -11 / 0 / -4

Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer Settings:

Hue: 0
Saturation: -100
Lightness: -62

FInally create a new layer called ‘lighting animal skull’.

Use a soft black paintbrush to paint in shadows on the left side of your animal skull and the floor, creating the effect of a shadow being cast. Use a soft, low opacity white paintbrush to paint in highlights on the top of the skull.

Then change this layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’ to make the lighting more natural:

Step 7

Download the ‘skull’ image from the resources section for this tutorial.

Extract the skull from it’s background and then position/resize it to fit over the flames emerging from the man’s jacket.

Apply a levels and color balance adjustment layer (giving each a clipping mask):

Levels Adjustment Layer Settings:

23 / 1.00 / 243

Color Balance Adjustment Layer Settings:

Highlights: 0 / 0 / 0
Midtones: -8 / +8 / +15
Shadows: 0 / 0 / 0

This is the result:

Create a new layer called ‘skull shading’ and set this layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’.

Use a soft, low opacity black paintbrush to paint shadows over the edges of your skull, giving it a more rounded, shadowed appearance:

Step 8

Time to add some fire to create our flaming skull effect!

Paste in the ‘fire’ image from the resources section for this tutorial, positioning the image over your skull:

Now change this layer’s blend mode to ‘screen’ to hide it’s black background. Apply a layer mask and use a soft black paintbrush to mask off the bottom area of flames, leaving only a stream of flame rising up from the eye socket of the skull:

Repeat this step of screening/masking fire layers to add additional flames to your skull:

Step 9

Download the FanExtra clouds brush set from the resources section for this tutorial.

Create a new layer called smoke, and using a white paintbrush apply several of the cloud brushes over your skull. This should give the impression of smoke rising up from the flames:

Reduce the opacity of this ‘smoke’ layer to 20% to make the smoke more subtle:


Step 10

We’re going to add some more large flames to the bottom of our composition, so we want to start giving some orange/yellow lighting to this floor area.

Create a new layer called ‘floor lighting’.

Use your lasso selection tool (30px feather) to create a nice soft area around the feet of your man.

Fill this area with d74c00 (orange):

Change this layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’ and reduce it’s opacity to 30%:

Step 11

Paste in one of your flame images from the resources section for this tutorial, positioning it in the bottom right of your canvas.

There is no need to resize this image as we want it very large in the foreground to help add depth:

We want our flame at more of a curve, so go to edit>transform>warp and warp the warp to arc around the bottom of your canvas:

Now change this layer’s blend mode to ‘screen’. Also apply a layer mask and mask off the left edge of your flames using a soft black paintbrush, in order to blend it better into the main composition:

Step 12

Naturally, intense flames like this will cast some of their light and color on the surrounding elements.

Create a new layer called ‘flame coloring’. Use your eye dropper tool to sample the lightest area from your flames. I chose the color e9dc6c (light yellow).

Use a soft paintbrush with this color to paint in highlights around the areas closest to your flames. Try to think where the light from the flames would be cast:

Change this layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’ and reduce it’s opacity to 50% to make the lighting effect more natural:

Step 13

Now we want to apply a wider light cast from the flames. This light should be larger, but weaker.

Again, use a soft paintbrush to paint in the light yellow color cast from your flames, this time taking it further from your flames:

Change this layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’ and reduce it’s opacity to 15% to give a nice, natural lighting effect:

Step 14

Download the FanExtra spider webs brush set from the resources section for this tutorial.

Create a new layer called ‘spider webs’ and apply several of the brushes over your surfaces using a white paintbrush:

Reduce the opacity of this layer to 50% and then apply a layer mask. Use a soft, black paintbrush at around 40% opacity to mask off areas of your webs, until they appear natural and blend well with the surrounding surfaces:

Step 15

Create a new layer called ‘dodge/burn’.

Go to edit>fill>50% gray. Then change this layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’.

Use a soft, black paintbrush (10% opacity) to paint in shadows and burn your image. Use a soft white paintbrush (10% opacity) to dodge your image and add highlights.

Try to identify common light sources, and work out which parts of your image you want to draw your viewers eye too. Personally I wanted to accentuate the flaming skull, making this the most prominent part of the composition. I also burned around the corners/edges of my canvas to give a kind of vignette effect, which drew attention to the center of the composition more:

Below you can see this dodge/burn layer at ‘normal’ blend mode and then ‘overlay’ blend mode:

Step 16

To complete your image, apply a couple of final gradient map adjustment layers.

Very importantly, do not give these adjustment layers clipping masks, as you want these adjustments to effect your entire canvas.

First Gradient Map Adjustment Layer Settings:

Gradient: Default purple to orange
Blend Mode: Normal
Opacity: 4%

Second Gradient Map Adjustment Layer Settings:

Gradient: Default white to black
Blend Mode: Soft Light
Opacity: 4%

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.

Download Source File for this Tutorial


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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 Comment:

  1. Su Hall says:

    Nice image! I saved this one to try out! Thank you!

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