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Create a Striking Photo Manipulation of a Face Distorted in Space

In this tutorial we’ll create an awesome photo manipulation of a guy’s face being distorted in space and time. We’ll use lots of native Photoshop filters and some external textures. Both newbies and advanced Photoshop users will learn some useful things and tricks from this tutorial. Let’s begin!

Final Results

Tutorial Resources

Step 1

Open the file “Man Looking in distance”.

Step 2

Duplicate the original layer by pressing Ctrl + J and apply a Crystalize filter with 20 size (Filter > Pixelate > Crystalize).

Step 3

Duplicate the original layer again with Ctrl + J and apply a Crystalize filter with 40 size. Move this layer above the Crystalize layer we created at step 2 (in the layer palette – F7 – click and drag the layer).

Step 4

Now the layer with the big crystals should be the only one visible since it’s on top and covering other layers. Add a layer mask to this layer (Layer > New Layer Mask > Reveal All). Select the standard round soft brush at 100% opacity and paint with black in the layer mask (to hide sections of this layer thus revealing the layers above) over the face.

Step 5

Now we want to show some features of the original face. Group the two crystalize layers (hold Ctrl and click on each layer to select them) by pressing Ctrl + G. Add a layer mask to this group and paint over the eyes and the lips in the layer mask with a round soft brush at 100% opacity.

Step 6

Create a new layer from all the visible layers by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E and apply a Motion Blur effect with the settings shown below (Filter > Blur > Motion Blur).

Step 7

Add a layer mask to the layer we created at step 6 and select the Gradient Tool (G). Set the colors to black and white (D) and click in the layer mask to make it active. Now hold the Shift key and drag from right to left to create a black gradient as shown below. This step will give our scene a motion feeling.

Step 8

Now let’s create some fragments flying away from the face. Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) and create a small selection on the face (in the pixelated area) as shown below.

Step 9

Now press Ctrl + Shift + C to copy merged (to copy from all the visible layers) and Ctrl + Shift + V to paste the selection into a new layer. You should have a fragment of the face on a new layer. With the Move Tool (V) position this fragment somewhere to the right.

Step 10

Repeat steps 8 and 9 until you have created enough fragments (10 or 20 should be enough). Feel free to rotate and resize the fragments (with Ctrl + T) to make them more random and interesting.

Step 11

The fragments look fake because they don’t have a shadow. Now we could add a shadow to each and every fragment but this would be time wasting. Instead group all the fragments together (hold Ctrl and click on each other to select them and Ctrl + G to group) and double click the group icon to open Advanced Blending options window. Add a Drop Shadow effect with the settings shown below and all the fragments will get a shadow.

Step 12

I find that there are still too few fragments for my taste. Duplicate the fragments group once or twice and resize/rotate each duplicate (use Free Transform – Ctrl + T) to make it look different from the original. Place the duplicates in random positions – but still in the right side of the image. If something is wrong with a duplicate group simply add a layer mask to it and hide the offending sections (paint with black in the layer mask).

Step 13

Now let’s create some holes in the face from where the fragments have flown. Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + Alt + N) and use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to a selection of a small triangle (roughly the size of one of the fragments) and fill it with white (Shift + F5). Repeat this procedure until you have ten or fifteen white triangles on the face as shown below.

Step 14

Now double click the holes layer to enter Advanced Blending options and add an inner shadow and a color overlay effect to make them look realistic.

Step 15

Duplicate the holes layer with Ctrl + J and resize/reposition it next to the original holes layer to have some variation. Use a layer mask to correct eventual bad looking areas.

Step 16

Now let’s add some contour lines to the face and nose (they blend with the overall crystals) to make them more prominent. Create a couple of new layers and set the blend modes to Overlay. With a small round soft brush at 30% opacity paint with white some scribble lines around the face and nose as shown below.

Step 17

Now let’s blur the left side of the scene – just next to the face. Create a new layer from all the visible layers (Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E) and apply a 50px Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur). Add a layer mask to this layer and fill it with black (Shift + F5). With a white round soft brush paint over the area indicated below to reveal the Gaussian blur effect.

Step 18

New let’s create some white motion lines. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to create a selection like shown below and fill it white (Shift + F5).

Step 19

Lower the opacity of this rectangle layer to 15% and duplicate it three times with Ctrl + J. Move each duplicate a bit upper than the previous layer.

Step 20

Group these rectangle layers together and lower the group’s opacity to 55%. Add a layer mask and hide the area on the right side of the scene with a round black soft brush (paint in the layer mask with it).

Step 21

Now let’s create some more motion lines. Create a new layer and render some clouds (Filter > Render > Clouds). Add some noise by going to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and using the settings below.

Step 22

Now apply a strong motion blur effect (Filter > Blur > Motion Blur).

Step 23

Change the blending mode of the motion blur layer to Soft Light and add a layer mask. Hide partially the area on the right and the area over the face.

Step 24

Let’s change the overall mood of the scene. Create a Color Balance Adjustment Layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance) and use the settings shown below.

Step 25

Create a Curves Adjustment Layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves) and use the settings shown below to increase luminosity. In the layer mask use the Gradient Tool to hide this effect on the right side of the scene.

Step 26

Let’s add some highlights to the face to make it pop. Create a new layer and set the blending mode to Overlay. Choose the standard round soft brush and lower the opacity to 30% and set the size to 100px. Paint over the cheekbones, the nose and the forehead.

Step 27

Now let’s modify the dynamics of our motion lines. Create a new layer from all the visible layers (Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E) and use the Liquify tool (Filter > Liquify) to create the image shown below.

Step 28

Add a layer mask to this liquefy layer and use a round soft black brush to hide the obvious lines that were created in the step above.

Step 29

Create a new layer from all the visible layers again and use the Liquify tool again to modify the face as shown below. Basically we’re dragging the back of the head towards the right and the front of the face towards the left.

Step 30

Now let’s add some soft contrast to our scene. Create a new layer from all the visible layers and apply a 50px Gaussian Blur. Change the blending mode to Soft Light and you’ll see not only an increase in contrast but also increased intensity.

Step 31

Let’s sharpen it a bit. Create a new layer from all the visible layers and apply a sharpen effect by going to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. Add a layer mask and hide the sharpen effect on all areas except the face (paint with black in the layer mask over the areas you want hidden).

Step 32

Let’s add some interesting detail to the scene. Open the file “Stars” and select all with Ctrl + A. Copy with Ctrl + C and go back to our scene and paste with Ctrl + V. Convert this layer to a smart object by right clicking on the layer in the layer palette and choosing from the drop down menu “Convert To Smart Object”. Do this for every external layer you’ll paste into the scene to preserve the original pasted layer pixels and info. Later you will be able to resize it and apply various filters non-destructively. Change the blending mode to Screen.

Step 33

Add a layer mask and use a round soft brush to hide away the areas on the face and the places where the effect is too strong. Your image should look like the photo below:

Step 34

Open the file “Moon”. Use the Elliptical Marquee Tool to make a selection of the moon and copy/paste it in our scene. Convert it to a smart object and resize/place the moon in the bottom right corner of the scene. Change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 35

Create a new layer and clip it to the moon layer by Alt-clicking between the two layers in the layer palette. This procedure will make the upper layer show only through the visible pixels of the lower layer thus not affecting the rest of the scene. With a round soft brush at 10% opacity paint some highlights on the edges of the moon.

Step 36

Let’s add some interesting lighting in our scene. Create a new layer and change the blending mode to color Dodge. Sample a deep blue color from the scene (with the brush tool selected holt the alt key until the sampler cursor appears and click on the desired color – my color is #1d3378). Set the brush size to 50px and the opacity to 20%. Paint over the moon and the nose of the character in smooth strokes.

Step 37

Now we’ll add some special effects textures. Download the “Special Effects1” and “Special Effects2” zip files from the resources indicated above and extract their contents somewhere on your computer. You’ll notice that inside the two folders there are multiple files, each with a colored smoke effect on a black background. Choose one that you like and open it with Photoshop. Copy/paste in in our scene and change the blending mode to Screen to get rid of the black background. Lower the opacity to 50%.

Step 38

We don’t want this effect all over the place but only showing in the right side of the scene. Add a layer mask to the effect layer and hide the left side of it until you have something like the image below.

Step 39

Repeat steps 37 and 38 with different effects from the downloaded effects folders. Feel free to rotate and resize them with Free Transform but don’t forget to convert them to Smart Objects beforehand. Add layer mask to hide unwanted regions and keep in mind that you want these effects showing mostly on the right side of the scene.

Step 40

Let’s add a lens flare effect. Create a new layer and fill it with black. Render a lens flare with the settings shown below by going to Filter > Render > Lens Flare.

Step 41

Change the lens flare layer blending mode to Color Dodge and lower the opacity to 70%. Add a layer mask to hide the regions that are ugly or too powerful and feel free to move around the layer as you wish – beware though the hard lines that will show when moving the lens flare – if they appear hide them in the layer mask with a black brush.

Step 42

Let’s add some overall highlights to put focus on some areas and improve the scene lighting. Create a new layer and change the blending mode to Overlay. With a round soft brush at 30% opacity paint over the indicated areas. Paint with black at 20% opacity over the moon and some areas on the margins of the scene to allow the center to show better.

Step 43

Create a new Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast) and use the settings shown below to boost the contrast a bit.

Step 44

Let’s add more soft contrast and boost the intensity. Create a new layer from all the visible layers and apply a 150px Gaussian Blur. Change the blending mode to Soft Light and lower the fill to 51%. You’ll see that the effect is too strong in some areas (black regions over the eyes for example) so add a layer mask and hide those regions with a round soft black brush until the final result looks good.

Final Results

Download the PSD

Tutorial by

This was all – thank you for following this tutorial.
I am a guy who enjoys all things digital. I’ve been using Photoshop for the last 6 years and I love creating photo manipulations because they allow me to express the artistic side of me.

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