Photoshop tutorial: Layers effects


Creating vibrant, eye-catching images like this one needn’t be a complex or time-consuming affair. In this tutorial, James White shows how to add a vivid retro flair to a striking model shot kindly provided by

You’ll learn to hone your skills with the layers palette and useful tips in applying masking, Blending Modes and Hue/Saturation. You’ll also learn how layers react with one another when overlayed in certain ways, and how selective colour can be added to enhance the overall design.

Don’t be afraid to leave yourself open to experimentation. Try different things as you go along to see what results you may come up with.



3 hours




Start things off with a few sketches to get a general idea of what the final composition might look like. These make for useful guidelines when you start working on the elements in Photoshop. I’ve included some inspiration regarding form and style with the end two images.

Ps tutorial



Open your file. Using the Clone Stamp tool with a soft brush, clone out any  obvious blemishes or stray hairs. Try to keep the skin-tone even throughout and watch for shifts in highlights and shadows.

tutorial 1.3



Next, cut out the head using the Polygonal Lasso tool. Click around the head and neck to select, then hit the Layer Mask button to knock out the background. You can then use the Brush tool to round off and fix the mask as needed.

tutorial 1.4



With the headshot selected, open the Hue/Saturation palette and slide the Hue to 187 and the Saturation to 9. This will drop all natural colour out and leave a hint of blue. Then, to add a bit of contrast, slide the shadow arrow in Levels to 21 and the highlight to 247.

tutorial 1.5



Now we need to add a bit of softness to that grainy skin. Duplicate the headshot layer, go to Filters > Gaussian Blur and apply a 4.7 blur to the new layer, then drop it’s opacity to 51%. You may need to do some selective masking to retain sharpness in some areas, like the sunglasses.




Create three new layers. In the first two new layers, select the Brush tool with a hard-edged brush and add some scribbles to the back portion of the model’s head. Switch to the third layer, and with the Polygonal Lasso tool, round off and fill any flat areas where the photo was cut off.



Create a new layer, and set the Blending Mode to Multiply. Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool and click to outline the lip area, ignoring the teeth. Then fill the selected area with a hot pink to really add a splash of colour to the face.




Create a new layer. Click around the edges of the lenses with the Polygonal Lasso tool until they are selected, and fill with black. I added a bit of a subtle star-field to mine for adde d interest. Apply the same effect to both lenses.

tutorial 1.9



In order to add more detail to the lenses, I added a second layer of stars and shifted them to a blue hue using the Hue/Saturation palette. You can find plenty of star shots on the web for this effect.




For the mercury tears, I used a picture of water drops, turned them to greyscale using Hue/Saturation, then used the Levels palette to amp up the contrast. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select the drops and hit the Layer Mask button to drop out the background. Apply a subtle Drop Shadow layer style to add depth to your drops

tutorial 2.0



Create a new layer and, using the Brush tool, add some wild colours over the top of the drops. Once the colours are done, set the Blending Mode to Overlay and reduce the opacity to 60%.



Hunt down a couple of light source images, I suggest streetlights or eclipse shots. Paste them into Photoshop, set the Blending Mode to Screen, adjust the levels in order to drop out the background and apply any masking that is necessary.

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