Create a cracked portrait in Photoshop using Layer Styles and Filters
Film posters need to express a concept in an immediate, simple and visually exciting way — so they’re often great inspiration for cutting-edge Photoshop ideas.
The posters for the Oscar-winning film Black Swan are a great example, with one in particular standing out, where cracks run through the doll-like face of the lead actor, Natalie Portman. Here we’re going to recreate the cracked look of the Black Swan poster and learn a host of key Photoshop techniques along the way.
First we’ll apply some texture and alter the colours to make the subject appear less human and more like a porcelain doll. Then, by working with brushes, selections, styles and transform controls, we’ll crack the doll apart.
The great thing about this technique is that you can apply it to virtually any surface, not just skin. The cracks are drawn in using brushes to create different shapes, which are then turned into selections and copied from your image to different layers.
01 Make duplicate layers
Start with the image above and create two duplicate layers by pressing Cmd/Ctrl+J twice. Double-click on the layer names in the Layers Panel and rename the middle layer ‘Weak Texture’ and the top layer ‘Strong Texture’.
02 Add texture
Highlight the middle layer and go to Filter>Texture>Texturiser. Select Texture>Sandstone and set scaling to 60%, with Relief at 2. When combining image elements it always looks more realistic if the lighting is similar: here the girl is lit from above and to the left so we can imitate this in the way the texture is lit by choosing Light>Top Left.
03 Add stronger texture
Select the top layer in the Layers Panel and apply the Sandstone Texturiser Filter again, but this time set scaling to 100%. Now we have two layers of texture above our original image. We’re going to combine the two layers to give an illusion of depth, with the larger texture working on parts of the body that are closer to the camera.
04 Add a full mask
Hold down Alt and click on the Add Layer Mask icon in the Layers Panel. Select the Brush tool and choose a soft round brush. Press D to set your foreground and background colours to black and white, press X to switch to white. Paint over the face and forearms to reveal the stronger texture. You can alter the size of your brush with the square bracket keys.
05 Mask the texture
Press Cmd/Ctrl+E to merge the two texture layers together. Create an empty Layer Mask by clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon. Paint on the mask with a soft black brush to hide the texture in the background, hair and anywhere other than the skin. Lower the opacity of the brush to 50% and work around the eyes, lips and any areas of shadow to lessen the effect there.
06 Lower the Saturation
Duplicate your background layer again, then select your texture layer and merge them with Cmd/Ctrl+E. Rename this top layer ‘Texture’. We want to suck some of the life out of the girl’s face so go to Image>Adjustments or press Cmd/Ctrl+U to bring up the Hue/Saturation box. Knock Saturation back to around -30.
07 Add cyan
Adding cyan to a portrait takes some of the redness out of the skin and allows you to boost contrast without making the subject look radioactive. Press Cmd/Ctrl+B to access the Colour Balance Box. Move the top slider left to around -20.
08 Add contrast
There are several ways to boost contrast and give the image a bit of extra punch. Using the Curves feature gives you greater control than using the Brightness/Contrast option. Press Cmd/Ctrl+M to bring up the Curves box. Draw a shallow S-shaped curve by dragging a point down towards the shadows and then a second point up towards the highlights.
09 Load the brushes
Select the Brush tool then click on the drop-down menu at the top left of the screen next to your brush size. This brings up the Brush Preset Picker: click the circular arrow icon and select Load Brushes. Navigate to the Video Disc and load the Crack Brushes. They will now appear among your brush list. Select one that has simple, clean lines.
10 Draw a crack
Click the New Layer icon in the Layers Panel and rename it ‘Face Crack 1’. Press D to reset your colour to black then click to begin painting. Continue painting the crack, combining different brushes as you go. Go to Window>Brush to access the Brush Panel and alter the angle of the brush. End where it would logically disappear, such as the edge of the arms.
11 Fill it in
Switch to a basic black brush and paint precisely over the area of the body you’ve drawn the crack along. This takes patience and a steady hand. When you have a solid shape, hold down Cmd/Ctrl and click on the rectangular layer thumbnail in the Layers Panel. This will load a selection of the black shape. We’re finished with the shape layer now, so hide it by clicking the Eye icon in the Layers Panel.
12 Change the Blend Mode
Highlight the ‘Texture’ layer and press Cmd/Ctrl+J twice to copy the selection to two new layers. Name the upper of these ‘Surface 1’ and the lower as ‘Inner 1’. Go to the drop-down menu at the top of the Layers Panel to change the Blend Mode of Inner 1 to Multiply. Toggle the top layer on and off with the Eye icon to see how it looks.
13 Add a Layer Style
Click the Add A Layer Style icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel and select Inner Shadow. We want the shadows to match the way the light falls from the top left, so move the angle arrow around to 130 and use these settings: Blend Mode Multiply, Opacity 65%, Distance 3, Choke 0, Size 2. We’ll be using these settings again so click Make Default to save them.
14 Add a Drop Shadow
Highlight the ‘Surface’ layer and once again click the Layer Style icon, but this time choose Drop Shadow from the list. Enter the same angle and opacity settings as your Inner Shadow: Distance 2, Spread 0 and Size 2. Now we have two layers working together to create a realistic looking crack that can be transformed and shifted around.
15 Transform the surface
Select the Move tool and make sure you have the boxes checked next to Auto-Select and Show Transform Controls. Move the position and angle of the ‘Surface’ layer so that it appears to be slipping. Experiment with it until it looks right. Click on one of the squares in the bounding box to transform the selected layer, adjusting the angle and position until you’re satisfied.
16 Clone some debris
Try using the Clone Stamp tool to paint some small pieces of debris in the gaps. Hold down Alt and click to target an area inside the crack shape to clone from. Paint with a small brush and add some falling debris at the edges if you like. The trick here is to make the pieces look jumbled, so adjust your brush size with the square bracket keys and paint random shapes.
17 Draw finer cracks
Make a new layer then zoom in close and paint smaller cracks in black. Load the layer as a selection by holding Cmd/Ctrl and clicking on the layer thumbnail. Delete the layer then highlight your ‘Texture’ layer and press Cmd/Ctrl+J to copy to a new layer. Drag this to the top of your layer stack and name it ‘Finer Cracks’. Change the Blend Mode to Multiply and select Inner Shadow from Layer Styles.
18 Take it further
If you like you can add more cracks by repeating the process from step 10 onwards, using new layers and renaming them appropriately. For the finished effect we’ve taken it further, adding more cracks in the same way. When you’re happy with the result, go to Layers>Flatten Image.
This entry was posted on Saturday, July 28th, 2012 at 7:00 am and is filed under Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a comment. Pinging is currently not allowed.