August 31, 2012

Horror Movie Photoshop tutorial – for Free!

New horror movie Photoshop tutorial! You wouldn’t expect such a tutorial so soon after “Deliberation”, right? So… surprise! This time, this tutorial is FREE for all of you to see, so you don’t need to be a part of the Tuts Premium Envato Network to access to ALL of the content! Aren’t these such great news? I hope they are! 🙂

This tutorial is comprehensive as usual, more than 50 detailed steps teaching how to do advanced masks to cut out items contained on image layers, tricks on how to create foggy atmosphere with nightmarish aesthetics, very similar to the horror film ones. You will also learn how to cast shadows with low light specifications and the blending of different items contained in photographs with different light sources.

Take a look at the preview here, and if you feel like doing it, go ahead and enjoy the full, free article! 🙂

Create a Horror Film Movie Photomanipulation

Curious about how to achieve a film movie effect in your photomanipulations? The secret lies in a correct light balance and the boost of midtones, so we are going to try out that effect using a horror like themed composition, that will have its main strength in the creation of its atmosphere, that will be useful to you at the time of creating your own creations. We will also take care of depth of field, blending and will learn some compositive rules.

Final Image Preview

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Photoshop
  • Version: CS6
  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • Estimated Completion Time: +3 Hours

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.

Step 1

First of all let’s create the document we are going to work in. We will use a standard A4 format canvas at 300 Pixels/Inch in RGB Color.

Step 2

Drag the Room stock photo to the canvas. Before placing it, right – click and select Flip Horizontal so we have the light focus on the right side.

Hold Shift key to keep the aspect ratio and then enlarge the image so the bottom room gets placed in the center of the canvas. Right – click and select Distort to correct the perspective a bit. Drag to the center the top veertical pointers of the transform box. When you are done, press Enter and name this layer “room”.

Step 3

We cannot fix all the perspective using only Transform tools, so we are going to take advantage of a brand new one available in the CS6 version. Go to Filter > Adaptive Wide Angle. This tool is basically to fix fisheyed photos, but we will use it instead to make the perspective lines straight and perpendicular to each other. First of all, click at the bottom of the left side of the doorframe and do a second click at the top of that line.

Then Shift – click in any of the circumference points (you will see an eyedropper and plus sign icon). The line will become straight and perpendicular.

Now just repeat the process in all of the most important perspective lines. Use the screenshot below to get some guidance. Click OK when you are done!

Step 4

Drag the girl stock photo to the canvas. Allow it to have vertical full-size, press Enter and rename this layer as “girl”.

Before being able to do something with this image, we have to cut out the girl from its photo background. Due to the colors used here, it seems that our only option is to use the Pen Tool (P). Select this tool in Paths Mode and click in any edge area of the girl. I’m going to start on her right shoulder. Just click over it.

Then click and hold in a near area. You will notice that the new line between the two anchor points is straight. Move your cursor to adapt it to the shape we want to select.

That’s pretty much all. Just repeat this process over all the edges of the girl, always holding your cursor while adding an anchor point so you can adapt it. Once you get in its flow you’ll see it is more intuitive that it seemed at first!

Try to create your path leaving some pixels outside the selection, so we will avoid the fact of selecting them later.

Create your path as usual when you reach the hair, no need to create weird shapes. We will be able to create a perfect hair selection using other tools later.

Once you’ve reached your starting point, click over it to close the path.

Right – click and select Make Selection:

Go to Select > Refine Edge (Alt + Ctrl + R) and use these settings to enhace our selection:

Click on the Brush icon on the Refine Edge window. This tool will add again the values we have entered to anywhere ww paint over, so this is a very special tool to select hair. For example, brush over the hair flocks on the right and you will see how the background disappears!

Take a look at the selected areas on the screenshot below to know which zones you’ll need to brush over. When you are done click OK and Add a New Layer Mask (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection) to this layer to hide the background.

Step 5

The stock pic we are using comes from a rainy scene, but there will be no water at all in our composition, so we have to get rid of the falling drops. We are going to use the Patch Tool (J) for this matter. Set the Patch to Content-Aware and the Adaptation to Very Loose, and draw freehand selections over the falling waterdrops. Then, grab your selection to a near area that have similar colors/lighting, and release the selection, so the drops are substituted with new pixel information.

Take a look at this screenshots to find some keys areas to work on with the Patch Tool. The procedure will be the same:

Step 6

Let’s place the girl the right way, but first of all, we need to know in which kind of composition we are working on. I have chosen the rule of thirds for this image, so we have to divide the canvas in nine equal rectangles. To do so, go to View > Rulers or press Ctrl + R to make them appear. Right – click over them and select Percentage. Use the Move Tool (V) to drag Guides from the Rulers. You have to set them at 33,3% and 66,6% both in vertical and horizontal.

Once we have this done, let’s see what would be the best place to put our girl in so it becomes or focal attention point.

Considering that the human eye reads from top to bottom and left to right, it’s important to keep in mind finding our focal point over the right – vertical ruler. Place the hands of the girl as shown below so they’ll become our reference point. You will need to use Free Transform, also (Ctrl + T or Edit > Free Transform) to make this layer smaller. Remember to hold the Shift key to keep the aspect ratio.

Step 7

Hide the Layer by pressing Ctrl + , (comma). Go to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights. This is a very useful tool to get that film movie look, because it decreases the maximum whites and blacks, and leaves our image with an emphasis in the midtones. We will be using this adjustment many times during the making of this image. Use the settings depicted in the screenshot below if you need some direction:

Step 8

We are going to start setting some basic lighting. Select the “room” layer now and press Ctrl + J to Duplicate it. Set this layer’s Opacity to 75%.

Pick the Burn Tool (O) and select the Highlights Range. Use a 0% Hardness brush, and just a quick note: all the brushing tools we are going to use during this tutorial have to be set to 0% Hardness, always. So then, start using a big brush to darken the wall on its right side, because it’s grabbing so much attention from our focal point.

Switch to Midtones Range and repeat the process

We are going to add some depth, so we have to darken Highlights and Midtones on what seems to be a bottom room, right behind our girl. Brush over also the left side of the wall.

Step 9

Go to Layer > New > Layer (or press Ctrl + Shift + N) to add a new one and name it “lighting”. Place it above all layers. Select the Gradient Tool (G). On the Tool Menu bar (under the Main Menu) double – click on the gradient bar and select the Black, White preset, then select Reverse on the Tool Menu.

With this gradient we will set the light direction, so click a bit out of the canvas and drag your mouse until somewhere at the top of the bottom left canvas corner, getting a similar result to this:

Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Now it seems to be clear where our light is coming from, achieving some more realism on our photomanipulation.

Step 10

Now that we have some basic lighting, we need to cast a shadow for our girl, so we are going to paint it using the Brush Tool (B). Press F5 to display the Brush Options panel, then use these settings if you are using a pen tablet.

Create a New Layer (Ctrl + Shift + N) under the girl one and name it “girl shadow”. Pick the black color and use a small, soft brush to paint the border of the shadow under the feet (this will be the darkest area of the casted shadow).

Then use a bigger brush as you go further from the shadow’s origin, decreasing both Opacity and Flow in the process.

Keep on increasing your brush Size while you go further. At the end your shadow should look more or less like the one below:

Launch full tutorial!

About Mario Sánchez Nevado

Mario is the CEO of Aégis Illustration. He's a freelance Illustrator and Art Director based in Madrid (Spain), and works creating covers for music bands and publishing houses all over the world. He also develops the role of Art Director and Manager of the international artistic collective Hysterical Minds. Also, he writes Photoshop Tutorials from time to time and teaches digital imaging and self-management for creatives.


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    Good web site and great article. Thank you.

  8. Tengo que decir que lo que has publicado me ha resultado útil.

    Si bien tengo que admitir que alguno de los otros post
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  9. Jack Duganne

    So, how do I launch the full tutorial from here? It appears that the only way to get it is to go to the Envato site. Is that true?

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