Photoshop Tutorials
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Hollywood Movie Retouching

When this letter came in from the Photoshop 911 emergency hotline it presented several unique problems for the Photoshop team to solve. First of course they replied to the reader with a step-by-step on how to accomplish the technique. However, during the process the images caught our attention so we figured it would be a good tutorial to present here.
      Oh, by the way, to do this in Photoshop Elements you would follow basically the same steps.

How to create the wispy, ghostly image

The reader, D Cristales from San Diego, CA, using Photoshop 7 under Windows XP writes:
How do I do a pic like this where you fade the face except for the eyes, nose and lips using photoshop 7 like this example from the new movie: Beyond Borders

Analyze what we'll need

The first place to start on such a project is in the analysis of the specific operations that will be required for the job. This image has a number of effects that come together to form this striking movie poster. They're not new ideas however -- we've seen many in the past with this same technique.

Let's concentrate just on the face picture and decide what we'll be needing for this effece:

  1. The eyes need to remain color
  2. The face needs to be reduced to a fairly high contrast black & white
  3. The edges need to be fogged away very carefully.

First: Isolate the eyes

Since the eyes are to remain color, we'll need to lift those out first.
  1. Select the eliptical marquis tool (tap: "M")
  2. With the Alt (option) key, click in the center of the pupil and begin dragging
  3. Add the Shift Key. While dragging, the shift key constrains the tool to a circle.
  4. Drag to enclose the iris of the first eye.
  5. Release the mouse - observe racing ants around the iris
  6. Hold the Shift Key and begin a drag in the upper left-hand corner of the second eye. (The shift key this time "Adds" to the selection)
While dragging, you can press the space bar and the selection circle in progress becomes mobile -- so you can move it around to get it positioned exactly enclosing the second iris.

Once satisfied with the second selection, release the space bar, release the mouse, and the shift key. You should have both iris selected.

Now hit Cntrl/J (Command/J) to "float" a copy of the eyes to their own layer.

Hue SaturationAdd Saturation and Hue

Let's add some saturation and perhaps change the Hue a bit to accentuate the eyes while we're at it.
Select menu: Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (Ctrl-U, Cmd-U) and increase the saturation a bit. We slid the Hue slider a bit to the right to shift Sarah's eyes a little more into the green spectrum.

Converting to Grayscale

Now the image must be converted to pure grayscale. We won't convert the whole file, but rather induce a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer

Select menu: Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation, or simply click the circle button at the bottom of the layers palette. (Next to "New Layer" button, round half/black.) Set the Saturation slider all the way to the left.

Since we need to do more than just convert to grayscale, we'll need yet another Adjustment layer -- this time a "Levels" adjustment. (Follow the steps above but this time select "Levels" for the layer.)

From the diagram, you can see we really need to compress the tonal range quite a bit to achieve the "ghostly" look of the original. We're going to flatten the middle tones while adding contrast.
      Use the triangle color range markers to pull up the darks, and limit the lights. Slide these sliders toward the center while watching the image. (Of course it will depend on the image you are using as well as the resolution of the image.) Now move the center marker -- which controls the mid tones -- toward the left until you've achieved the look you want.
      Click okay, to commit the changes. Remember that by using Adjustment layers you are not editing the original image. So, you can return to these layers any time and make new adjustments by simply double-clicking the Left icon of the layer in the layers palette.

Completing the image

Using the Airbrush To finish up we'll need to fog out all parts of the image we don't want. Rather than using feathers and selections, the best way to do this is on a new layer with a large, soft brush painting white. This gives you complete control over the process.

  1. Click "New Layer" button next to trash in the layers palette
  2. Tap "B" or select the brush tool
  3. Observe the Options bar across the top of the screen, and set your brush to a relatively large SOFT edged brush. (60 or so depending on the size of the image, the resolution, and area to be fogged.) NOTE: the circle in the diagram is the size brush we used relative to the image.
  4. Tap "D" (Resets default colors) Tap "X" (Makes white the foreground)
  5. Begin painting in from the edges, on the new layer, in white to 'manually' introduce the fogging/fading effect.
  6. Keep painting until you've removed the background and isolated your in-focus image parts.

Since every image will be different, experiment with this technique. For a bit more foggy effect, click the "Air Brush" option in the Options Bar, and manipulate the Opacity and Flow settings. If you paint out too much, just select the Eraser tool (Tap "E") and erase away. It will use the settings still in effect for the brush tool. Here's our finished image after painting and flattening.

While it's not quite exactly like the movie poster, we feel it captures the "spirit" of the technique. To exactly simulate the poster, we would need a different shot with a brunet and the lighting positioned differently. But you get the picture.
      Now all you need is the additional images to be dropped in -- and you're done!

And that wraps up another case study from the emergency calls at Photoshop 911 dot com. To see more case studies, and tips generated from Photoshop911 just go to our Tips & Tricks department.


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