Forced by popular demand, I took some time to prepare this tutorial in the hope it might put an end to the

flurry of email requests for assistance. But seriously, I love to help. Please read on.
I deliberately exported in PDF format so you can feel free to email it to al your friends or upload it to your web site if you like. This will also save me oodles of bandwidth. OK, without further procrastination, let’s begin by finding a suitable portrait. The higher resolution the better. I setup my camera and tripod to pose for a 2048x1536x300dpi photo. The room was well lit.

1. Remove the subject from the background

This is probably the easiest part. Using the Pen tool in Paths mode, draw a path all the way around the subject until your end point meets your starting point. Right click inside the completed path and select Make Selection. Use the default settings of 0 feather radius with Anti Aliasing. Click OK. Now Cut and Paste the selection into a new document window. The short cut key combo is Ctrl X, Ctrl N and Ctrl V. If you did everything correctly, you should now have your mug against a white background. Take some time to clean up any loose hairs, or if you are lazy simply do what I did – slick your hair back before taking the photo. This eliminates the need to Photoshop out any loose hairs and what not. Now make the canvas size about 50 pixels bigger all around to make it easier to complete stages further into this tutorial. Moving right along…

I can’t speak for your photo, but typically digital photos can leave flesh tones with a pinkish hue. Let’s get this sorted now. Bring up the Colour Balance dialog (Ctrl & B) and make sure Midtones is the selected Tone Balance. Move the red slider down about 20 and the blue up 20. This should get rid of any pink hues.

2. Fixing the colour

3. Add life to the eyes
Make a selection around the left eye and desaturate it by pressing Ctrl, Shift & U. This will remove all colours from the selection. Now this next stage will vary slightly depending on the eye colour of your subject. In my case, I will be using Blue. You use what ever suits your eye colour. So for Blue, press Ctrl & B to bring up the Colour Balance dialog. With Midtones selected, move the blue slider up all the way up and the red slider all the way down. Select Highlights and move the Blue slider to +70. Click OK. Repeat for the right eye. Press Ctrl & D to deselect.

4. Removing the mouth
Now for the fun part. Using a combination of the Healing brush and the Clone stamp, you will need to sample selections from around the mouth and cheek areas, taking note of any differences in lighting on either side of the face. So if the right side of the face is slightly in shadow, don’t sample from this side and use it on the left side. I think you know what I am getting at. I find a large brush makes this job a lot easier. To sample, place the mouse pointer over an area you want to sample, and then hold Alt and click the left mouse button and release. Now draw (left click) over the mouth by holding the left mouse button. Just a little at a time. You may have to try this several times until you get it right. If it helps, sample from areas that have a lot of exposed skin. When done, you should have something like this:

5. Adding detail to the mouthless section
So while it is looking OK so far, there is still room for improvement. The problem with using the Clone stamp and Healing brush over the same area repetitively is sometimes you loose some of the detail. It all depends on your sample source. If you did loose detail, as I did, try this simple solution. Make sure you sample enough skin defects and blemishes into the general area where the mouth used to be. Now draw a selection around with the Lasso tool. Right click inside the selection and choose Feather, with a radius of about 20. This value will vary depending on the resolution of you image. But the intention is to make the edge smooth and blend in nicely. Now copy/paste the selection (Ctrl & C and then Ctrl & V). What was the point of that? Looking at your layers palette you will notice a new layer with the mouth area we just passed, but with a soft edge. Go to Filter Sharpen Sharpen. You may have to apply the Sharpen filter a 2nd , or 3rd time if you want to get extreme. To reapply the same filter just press Ctrl & F. The area will now have a higher level of grit to it. Having said that, you can probably skip this stage if your subject is smooth skinned. Merge this new layer with the one below.

6. Adding bloom and focus
While not an actual bloom effect, this is pretty good for 2D, and easy to accomplish. Duplicate the layer and name it “blurred”. Make sure it is the bottom of your 2 layers. Go to Filter Blur Gaussian Blur and give it a value that makes it very blurry. I used 8. You will notice the subject now has a soft edge. That is all good be we want to draw attention to the centre area of the subject. This method is nasty but effective. Select the Eraser tool and grab a large soft edge brush. I used a diameter of 300 with hardness set to 0. With the top layer selected, start erasing around the edges of the subject. The image above indicates something to aim for. How much you actually blur and bloom is really a matter of preference. When you are happy, merge the 2 layers. For the final touch to the subject, we will add a little more blue to get a more dull ‘alien’ skin colour. Go to Image Adjustments Photo Filter and select Deep Blue with a value of around 10 – 15%. Click OK. This stage is optional.

7. Creating the shadow
Yet another easy stage. Shadows like this are easy to create. Use the Magic Wand tool and click somewhere outside of the subject. Now right click somewhere inside the selection and choose Select Inverse. Create a new layer underneath the subject layer and fill the selection with Black. Press Ctrl & D to deselect. Go to Filter Blur Gaussian Blur and give it an insane value. I used 90. Move the shadow down and to the left or right – depending on where the light source is indicated on the subject. In this case, down and right. Change the Opacity to about 60%. We should be looking something like this:

8. Creating the bard code tattoo

This is not too difficult so relax. If you are thinking “Displacement Map” then you are already one step ahead. First make a new layer and create the bar code itself using the Line tool and add some numerals for effect. Something like this will do. You can use a Barcode font instead if you have one. Marge all layers used to make the barcode graphic and name the layer “barcode”. Position the Barcode graphic over the clavicle. Angel the layer using Transform (Ctrl & T) until it is the same angel as the shoulder line. Now hide this layer.

This starts to get a little complex so bear with me. Select the subject layer. Using the Rectangular Marquee tool, make a selection over the clavicle where the barcode graphic is, as shown left. This selection needs to be about 25% larger than the dimensions of the barcode you created. Now go to the Channels pallet and click on each channel until you notice the one with the most contrast. In this case it was the Blue channel. While still on the Blue channel, copy the selection and paste it into a new document. Save the new document to your hard drive and name it map.psd. Close this document. This will be the Displacement Map we use to make the barcode tattoo convincingly wrap around the curves of the subject’s clavicle. Click on the RGB channel and go back to the Layers palette. Go to Filter Distort Displace and use the default settings of 10 for both Horizontal and Vertical Scales, Stretch to Fit, and Repeat Edge Pixels. Click OK and locate map.psd that you saved earlier. Click Open. Your barcode tattoo should now appear distorted. The next stage will make it look less like a random distortion and more like a real tattoo. Simply go to the Layers palette and change the Blending mode to Overlay. If needed, reduce the Opacity slightly but you probably won’t have too. Press Ctrl & D to deselect. The tattoo now should look like the image on the left.

9. Creating the background

You can pretty much put any background you like, but pale colours are best advised for this image. If you want to make the same on I created, read on. Extend the canvas wider. Lets say twice the width of the current value is OK. Create a new layer and move it to the bottom of the palette, and fill it with white. Reset the Foreground and Background colours (black and white) by pressing D on the keyboard. Go to Filter Sketch Notepaper and change the value until you get something grainy enough to suit you. Click OK.

Go to Filter Render Lighting effects and change the settings to suit the lighting of your subject. In my case, the light source needs to come from top left; hence I used the settings indicated left. Click OK and you should now have a half convincing looking light source. But the background still looks crappy because it is too sharp. Simply add some Gaussian blur with a radius of 2 or 3. Experiment with different values.

Pat yourself on the back. You’re all done.
If you did everything correctly, and I did not miss out anything important in this tutorial, you should see something like this.

I also added a few slight enhancements, like darkness around and inside the nostril cavities, and touching up the eye brows. What you do from this point on – if anything – is up to you. Thanks for reading. Mike.

Michael Ott is a veteran Photoshop power user and Web Designer. You can visit Michael’s web site web page at This PDF tutorial is free to share as long as it is not modified and credit is given where due.