October 18, 2014

Digital Collage: I Dream of Texas

I thought it might be illuminating to describe how I put together the photo illustration I created to go with my previous post.

I started with an idea based on an image of the dream itself: Mary standing behind her grandfather, who was dressed in a suit and laid out on a steel table, with a map of Texas behind them. I thought that might be a little too macabre, not to mention too time-consuming, so instead I skimmed through Morguefile for pictures of women who looked vaguely like Mary as she appeared in my dream.

This is the image I started with:

I chose this picture because the girl looks very neutral: blank wall, neutral expression.
I'll be able to alter her appearance however I need to.

In my dream, Mary was sickly-looking and had bad acne. So instead of using Photoshop to make someone look better, in this case, I was trying to make her look worse. I did that by
  • Scaling the photo horizontally, then using the Liquify filter on her face to make her thinner.
  • Using the techniques described in this photo retouching tutorial to add shadows on her cheeks and under her eyes.
  • Using the stamp tool to take acne from another photo and add it to her face. I set the acne layer to overlay so it blended naturally.
  • Changed her hair from red to blonde using Image > Replace Color.
And here's how she looked after that:

Mary's had a rough few months.

Then I used the patch tool, stamp, burn tool, and brush to remove the glare on her glasses. After a little more Liquifying to shorten her chin and enlarge her eyes, I saved the picture as a flat PSD file.

I found a great old map of Texas on Wikimedia Commons that I wanted to use as the background. This tutorial on selecting hair was exactly what I needed to create the composite. 

If you look carefully, you can see I didn't do a perfect job selecting her hair,
but I figured it was close enough for my purposes.
Now the really fun part: changing all the colors to make it look crazy and dreamlike! I used the layer effects palette to add a gradient fill over Texas. Then I created a layer above but below the photo, filled it with green, loaded the photo's layer mask as a selection,  and expanded and feathered it the selection to make a shadow mask. This helped the photo stand out from the background better.

The green shadow layer is set to Multiply.
Mary's face still didn't look nearly as red as it did in my dream, so I again loaded the layer mask as a selection, created a new layer above the photo, and filled the selection with hot pink. I tried several different blending modes for the layer, and liked the way Hard Mix looked (Vivid Light and Color Burn are two other modes I tend to favor).

Girl, that color really brings out the texture in your zits!
The color looked great, but there wasn't enough detail, so I copied the original photo and put it on top with the blending mode set to Screen to capture the higlights.

Almost there...

Then, just one more layer to add the shadows and some of the natural color back in: another copy of the photo set to Multiply. Voila!

Here are the layers palettes from the two files I created.

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