Turn a Portrait into a Beautiful Porcelain Mask

In a recent campaign to promote the creative retouching services that Ardis offers to photographers and art directors in South Florida, we showed how we can take a bland stock photo and create striking surrealistic compositions. You can see the pictures in our campaign (and their creation process) in our new retouching page, but in this tutorial we decided to let you into one more secret and show you step by step how we created the beautiful porcelain mask that you can see in the composition below.

Note: this is not a beginners’ tutorial, but a little more advanced. It assumes that you already know to work your way around Photoshop. This tutorial also teaches you a couple of techniques of digital painting, so it really helps if you’re equipped with a graphic tablet. However, you can still get great results using a mouse only.

The image above is what we’re going to achieve at the end of this tutorial (click on it to enlarge it). It is up to your imagination to incorporate it in your own fantasy world and create a story around it.

For starting image, I am using the retouched version of a stock photo. But generally, any portrait where you can see the entire cheek and most of the forehead will do. To prepare your image, clean the skin and retouch your photo as you would normally do with a portrait. Then make sure that the face of your model is on a separate layer.

Make a copy of your original layer (Ctrl+J) and desaturate it a lot (about 90-95%).

Make a new group out of your new layer (the desaturated one). You will use this group to build the mask in (call it Mask). All the new files you will create in this group. Also, add a layer mask on the group directly and with the lasso tool, make a selection where you want your mask to part the face. Don’t worry about trying to follow the edge of the face. When you closed your selection, hold Ctrl + Alt + Shift and Click on the thumbnail of the layer that contains the entire face (either one). This will intersect your selection with the face shape. Fill this selection with black in the group mask, then deselect and hit Ctrl + I to invert the selection. You should now see half the original face and half the desaturated one.

Now, let’s smooth the desaturated layer. Get rid of all the skin detail, and also clone out the eyebrow. Use the clone tool and the Surface Blur filter.

Make a new layer on top of your current one. Roughly paint the inside of the eye black, and the other details of the eye like below. Don’t worry about lights and shadows yet.

Merge the painted eye with your desaturated face layer. Name the resulting layer Face. Now, let’s desaturate it even more (-70) and let’s also apply curves to it to make it brighter.

Now let’s add some highlights. Make a new group inside your Mask group and call it Highlights. Make sure it is above the Face layer. Make a new layer inside this group. Pick a small soft brush and make sure you have white for the foreground color. Lower the opacity to around 30%. Paint a small stroke on the upper eyelid and the use the Smudge tool to smooth it out.

Use the same technique to paint some more highlights on the lower eyelid and the tip of the nose.

Use a large soft brush with white to paint a larger highlighted area at the top of the head.

Let’s make a bright hot spot on the eyelid. Make a small selection with the lasso tool on the upper eyelid, fill it with white and add a layer effect of Outer glow with the setting below:

Use the same technique to create a hot spot on the tip of the nose (but with less opacity).

Let’s try to bring more shine to the mask and make it look like porcelain. Make a new group and call it Shine.  Make a new layer in it and paint a larger daub with a hard brush. Smooth it our using the Smudge tool.

Duplicate this layer and apply Motion Blur to it on a horizontal angle. The drag the layer more to the right. Lower the opacity if necessary.

Add a smaller highlight to the left (in a new layer, of course).

Now, let’s add some glossy highlights along the contour of the face. Paint with white an irregular form like in the picture below (use the Smudge tool or the Liquify filter to adjust the shape).

Next, add an Outer Glow layer style with the setting below:

Create another shape like the one before, on a separate layer. Paint it white, but when you’re done lower the opacity to around 25%. Place it to the left of the white one, like below (and don’t add Outer Glow to this one).

Use the same technique to create glossy lines at the top of the head. Use more than one of the low opacity shapes.

Let’s add even more gloss. Make a new layer and create a large circular selection with the Elliptical Marque, at the top of the head, like below:

Use the Gradient tool with white to transparent, linear, and drag from the upper left corner diagonally towards the lower left corner of the selection. Deselect and lower the opacity to 60-80%. The result should look like below:

Use the same technique to add another gloss line on the cheek. Lower the opacity more (and I also changed the blending mode to Soft Light).

At this point I noticed I could really use another soft highlight between the eyebrows, so I painted one with a large soft brush at low opacity. And let’s also add a nice highlight along the nose:

Here’s how the face looks after all the painting we’ve done:

The only thing that needs to be made more mask-like is the lips. We needs to smooth them out some, so let’s do this with the paintbrush and the Smudge tool, as usual.

Also, you can get rid of the darker shadow at the corner:

Now, all we need is some highlights, which we can paint with a brush and then smooth them out like below (place one on the lower lip and another one, softer, above the upper lip):

The face as a total looks like this:

Now, all we need is a little shadow to make the mask look like it sits on top of the face. Duplicate the Mask group, and merge the duplicated group (hit Ctrl + E) to obtain one layer out of it. The, apply the mask (right click on the mask and choose Apply mask). Hide the old Mask group. On the new Mask layer, add a shadow (not with drop shadow, but the old-fashioned way: duplicate the layer, make it black, place it behind, nudge it a little to the right, blur it 1.5 pixels, set the blending mode to Multiply, and lower the opacity to about 50%). You’re done! Here’s the final result (click to enlarge it):

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12 Responses to “Turn a Portrait into a Beautiful Porcelain Mask”

  1. Tutorials Room Says:

    Good Tutorial! It was chosen for the home page of http://www.tutorialsroom.com

    Thank you :)

  2. Tim ONeill Says:

    Awesome tut. Just found your site. Thank-you for the hard work. http://www.photography-institute.com

  3. Kim Says:

    Exceptional tutorial! I made the face within 2 hours and it came out great. Very well written and easy to follow instructions. Than you for posting it.

  4. Eddy Says:

    This looks like a pink floyd cover

  5. Abraão Says:

    That’s a crash’n burn technique. Amazing one.
    Thanx a lot for show us that excepcional help tip.

  6. SBL Image masking Says:

    Quality tutorial…Thanks.

  7. what Says:

    the first step is cut off for me

  8. image masking services Says:

    Excellent tutorial. Would love to see more tutorials. Thanks.

  9. Debi Says:

    Nice tutorial. Too bad the blog widget blocked the first step, so I couldn’t do it.

  10. turn your looks beautiful Says:

    This was exactly what i was looking for…
    Thank you

  11. Sam Says:

    Hey brother,
    nice tuts but can you tell me how to desaturate in percentage like 90-95%. I only know desaturate in photoshop and that does not give same effect

  12. bathroom cabinets Says:

    Looks very admirable tutorial.

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