Decomposing a face in photoshop

Posted by admin | On site photoshop tutorials | Wednesday 24 June 2009 2:47 pm

The purpose of this tutorial is to go through some advanced photo manipulation techniques; you will learn to work with masks, filters, selections, etc.
This tutorial is a follow-up of “how to change the skin texture” tutorial that I’ve posted last week. If you haven’t read that one yet, I strongly suggest you do it before going through this one, since I’m going to refer to the techniques shown there, later.

Here are the images I’ve used for this tutorial. You can either use these, or find others on stock images websites.

First you will need to make some selection sets. You can start by selecting the skin using the lasso tool, or magnetic lasso tool.
After having finished the selecting, click on “select”, “save selection” and type “skin”.
Without deselecting it, hold “shift” and start selecting the other parts of person as well (in this case, the hat and cloths), using the same tools.
When you are done save this selection as well and name it “person”.

What we need to do next, is to make new layers for each of the selections above. Therefore, with the last selection still active, click on “layer” (located in the menu above, between “image” and “select”), then click on “new” and choose “layer via copy”
Alternatively you can use the shortcut (ctrl+J).
Load the other selection (named skin) and repeat the process. You should end up with 3 layers like in the screen capture below.

Decomposing the skin into small chunks

This part is quite boring to be honest, but try to have patience because it determines the way the final image will look.
Select the skin layer and using the lasso tool or the polygonal lasso tool, start selecting pieces of the skin and move them apart, like in the screen capture bellow.
It would be a good idea to hide the other layers while doing this.

Place the bigger chunks further away from the face and the smaller ones closer to it. Also, decrease the distance between the pieces as they get smaller. Take a look at the image bellow to have an idea regarding what you should be ending above with, after about 20 minutes of work.

Having finished this step, select all the pieces you’ve created (by surrounding all them with either the lasso tool or the polygonal lasso tool), and make an new layer from this selection (like we did for the skin, only this time choose “layer via cut”)
Rename the new layer “chunks”

Adding the illusion of motion
Without suggesting motion, the image looks like a jigsaw puzzle. First, make a copy of the new “chunks” layer, and rename it “motion blur”. As you have guessed apply a motion blur filter. At the moment, all the pieces that you have previously decomposed look like they are moving very fast. We can improve the effect even more, by making the pieces “decelerate” as they get closer to the face.
Create a layer mask (by selecting “layer”, “layer mask” and “reveal all”). You will notice the icon of the mask next to the layer in the stack. Make sure it is active (so that you work on the mask and not on the actual layer) and draw a gradient, from white to black, using the gradient tool (from left to right, like in the screen capture bellow)

You should end up with an image similar to the following

Notice that I have painted the background in black for now, since we are going to replace in anyway later in this tutorial.

Fine tuning
In order make the effect more convincing you need to add a texture with cracks. Open the desired texture in photoshop and drag it over your psd file as a new layer (name it “texture1”). Change the blending mode from normal to overlay.
Hold “Ctrl” and click on the icon of the “skin” layer. Choose “select inverse” and delete the parts of the “texture1” layer that are not covering the face.
Using the eraser tool with a soft brush, delete the right part the texture. You should end up with something similar to the following image:

It is starting to look ok, but the left part of the face still lacks depth. Select the skin again (by holding Ctrl and clicking on the layer icon) and make a new layer, just above “texture1”.
With the selection still active, choose a very smooth brush and paint the recently create layer with black, just around the left edge of the face.
When you are done, change the opacity to about 80% and you should obtain something like this:

In order to make it look like a zombie, apply another texture to the face of the character using the technique learnt in the tutorial named How to change the skin texture in photoshop (that I have mentioned at the beginning of this tutorial).
In this case I have used an old copper texture, and came up with the following image:

Unhide the layer named “person”. Click on “select”, “load selection” and choose “skin”. With the “person” layer active, click delete. This way you will keep only the clothes of the character, since you have been working on the skin in an upper layer.

Open the background image in photoshop and drag it over your psd file, under the layer named “person”.
Adjust the color balance and curves so that it will blend well with your character.  After a few minor touches in some places (like color burn and color dodge) you should obtain something similar to this:

(click on the image to view a higher resolution one)


  1. Comment by ahatsi — July 3, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

    nice try on this one, you guys are great keep it up

  2. Comment by Dreadnought — July 7, 2009 @ 10:06 am


  3. Comment by Garrison Fall — July 7, 2009 @ 6:11 pm

    Another clearly explained lesson. Thanks.

  4. Comment by photo retouching services — July 11, 2009 @ 9:08 am

    Wow great looking result! I wouldn`t want to meet in the flesh.

  5. Pingback by TricksDaddy » Blog Archive » 12 Best Tutorials To Add Bizzare Effects To Your Face In Photoshop — July 14, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

    […] Decomposing a Face […]

  6. Comment by robin — July 21, 2009 @ 7:00 am

    awesum worked……realli appreciated.. wid this kind of editing…..beautiful

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