Classic Movie Monster Photoshop Composite

Since it’s Halloween week, the #KelbyOneBooks team is sharing this “Nosferatu’s Double” tutorial, excerpted from Corey Barker’s Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers, Volume II. Enjoy!

While I was teaching at Adobe Max in Los Angeles, I stopped to check out Russell Brown’s workshop, which is always popular. The theme was classic movie monsters and he had several there, like Frankenstein’s monster, Wolfman, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. But, I especially liked the Nosferatu character because the makeup was so well done. I was given a folder of images to work with and couldn’t find one alone that I liked, but I did find two that each had something I liked.



Here we have two images from the photo shoot (the model is Mick Ignis, and the designer who did the makeup was Ian Von Cromer). The problem is I like parts of both of these images—I like the facial expression in the left one, and the hands and such in the right one. So, let’s put the best of both of them together into one image.




First, get the Move tool (V), press-­­and-hold the Shift key, and then click-and-drag the second image (the one where his finger is up) onto the first. Holding the Shift key down will help to align them (assuming they are the same size file, which they should be). However, just to make sure they are aligned, Command-click (PC: Ctrl-click) on the Background layer in the Layers panel, so that both layers are selected, and then go under the Edit menu and choose Auto-Align Layers. In the resulting dialog, leave the Projection set to Auto and click OK. Once they’re perfectly aligned, you may need to do some cropping, but we’ll take care of that in a bit.




Now, click on the top layer in the Lay­­ers panel to make only it active, then Option-click (PC: Alt-click) on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the panel. This will add a layer mask filled with black, which hides the pixels on the top layer. Get the Brush tool (B) from the Toolbox, and then choose a medium-sized, soft-edged, round brush from the Brush Picker in the Options Bar. Leave your Foreground color set to white, because we want to bring back parts of the layer beneath the mask, so we’ll paint with white on the black-filled layer mask (make sure that the layer mask is active, as indicated by the white corner lines). Since this layer contains the hands we want to use, zoom in and start painting right around the hand area where the fingers are. Continue painting to reveal the hands on the top layer and to blend the areas near them. Now we have seamlessly blended the best of both images, making a reshoot much less likely.




What we want to do now is take a merged version of our image to the next stage of our project, but we want to keep the layers intact. So, just press-and-hold the Option (PC: Alt) key and, from the Layers panel’s flyout menu, choose Merge Visible. This creates a merged version of our image on a new layer at the top of the layer stack (as seen here).




Now, we need to extract this newly merged subject from the background. So, get the Quick Selection tool (W) from the Toolbox and select the background. Be sure to get the closed off areas between the fingers and clothes (as you can see here), but don’t worry about making it too perfect because we’ll fix it up more in the next step. Then, press Command-Shift-I (PC: Ctrl-Shift-I) to Inverse the selection, making the subject selected.




While the initial selection looks pretty good, I sometimes still like to use Refine Edge to refine and soften the edges of the selected areas. So, click on the Refine Edge button in the Options Bar, choose On Black from the View pop-up menu, and then with the Refine Radius tool selected, go ahead and paint around the edges of the selection (this will also help to add that index fingernail to the selection).




Next, bump up the Edge Detection Radius amount just a bit to tweak it a little more, then choose New Layer from the Output To pop-up menu, and click OK.




Your selection will now appear on its own layer. You’ll want to clean up the edges of the extracted subject, especially since it came from a light background, so go under the Layer menu, under Matting, and choose Defringe. In the Defringe dialog, enter around 2 pixels and click OK.




Now, go under the File menu, choose New, and create a new document measuring 8 inches wide by 12 inches tall at 100 ppi—this is proportional to a movie poster format. Then, open the image that we’ll use for the background. Here, I have a stock image of a tornado and lightning composite, which will work well as a background for our creepy man composite.



STEP 10:

With the Move tool, click-and-drag the storm image into the poster file. Press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T) to bring up Free Transform, Right-click inside the bounding box and choose Flip Horizontal. Then, resize and position the image like you see here, so you can no longer see the tornado or most of the road. (Note: To see the Free Transform corner points, just press Command-0 [zero; PC: Ctrl-0].) Press Return (PC: Enter) to lock in the transformation. Make a duplicate of the image layer by pressing Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) and then change the duplicate layer’s blend mode to Overlay to darken it.



STEP 11:

Now, go back to our creature image and click-and-drag the extracted layer over to our movie poster file. Press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T) to bring up Free Transform, press-and-hold the Shift key (to keep things proportional), click-and-drag a corner point inward to reduce the size, and then position it in the layout, as seen here (make sure this layer is at the top of the layer stack).



STEP 12:

Make a duplicate of the creature layer by pressing Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J), then remove the color from the duplicate layer by pressing Command-Shift-U (PC: Ctrl-Shift-U), and change its blend mode to Soft Light.



STEP 13:

Now, go under the Image menu, and choose Duplicate. In the Duplicate Image dialog, give your duplicate a name and click OK to create another version of the file. Then, go under the Layer menu and choose Flatten Image.



STEP 14:

Next, go under the Image menu, under Adjustments, and choose HDR Toning. (Note: This will only work if the file is flattened. HDR Toning will not work on layered files, which is why we made a duplicate of our composite and then flattened the layers in the last step.) When the HDR Toning dialog appears, first go to the bottom and set the Saturation to –100 to remove the color. Then, in the Tone and Detail section, increase the Detail and tweak the Exposure, if necessary, to compensate, and increase the Gamma just a bit. Now, just tweak the Radius and Strength sliders, in the Edge Glow section, until you see something you like. You can see here how much detail was brought out using HDR Toning. Click OK.



STEP 15:

Press-and-hold the Shift key and then click-and-drag this processed file into the composite file, making sure it is at the top of the layer stack. Then, change its layer blend mode to Multiply to darken the overall look and punch up the contrast.



STEP 16:

Click on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to create a new blank layer. Then, press Shift-Delete (PC: Shift-Backspace) to bring up the Fill dialog. Choose 50% Gray from the Use pop-up menu, and then click OK. Set this layer’s blend mode to Overlay and then get the Dodge tool (O) from the Toolbox. Now, with your Foreground color set to white, use the Dodge tool to paint hotspots on this layer to enhance brighter spots on the brow, cheeks, chin, hands, and coat (as seen here).



STEP 17:

Create another new blank layer, then get the Gradient tool (G) from the Toolbox. In the Options Bar, select the Foreground to Transparent gradient from the Gradient Picker and then click on the Radial Gradient icon (the second icon to the right of the gradient thumbnail). Now, click in the center of the eyes and drag out a small radial gradient over each eye. Change this layer’s blend mode to Overlay and you instantly have enhanced creepy eyes.



STEP 18:

Create yet another new blank layer and, with the same Gradient tool settings, create a gradient in the top-right corner of the image.



STEP 19:

As a final touch, we’re going to add a texture—this really helps sell the overall look and helps to unify all of the elements. Open the texture image and click-and-drag it into your composite design. Again, make sure it’s at the top of the layer stack. Then, change this layer’s blend mode to Soft Light. If you like the blend mode, but think it seems too intense, then just drop the layer’s Opacity to lessen the effect (in the final image below, I dropped it down to 75%). To finish it off, I simply added some text.