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Photoshop: The Halloween Vampire Effect

With Halloween just around the corner, what better time to learn some simple Photoshop techniques for turning your friends into TV-style vampires? There are many ways to do this, but for this Feature Tutorial, we're going to transform my friend and neighbor Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater into one of the Undead by turning his skin blue, making his eyes glow orange, and giving him fangs. So let's get started!


Step 1 - Mask Your Image

The first thing we need to do is separate the visible skin areas of your subject. In my case, we're going to be using a promo picture of Jordan I took some years ago in which he has a rather vampirish facial expression and his head and hand is well outlined against the background, which will make the masking a little easier:

mask image


You'll want to use the same sort of image if you can. And because we'll have to zoom into the image quite far at points to make small selections, you'll want to use as high a resolution an image as you can get.

There are a few different ways we can select Jordan's head and hand, but since he is well outlined, I'm going to begin by just tracing around the edges of his head with the Magnetic Lasso tool. Once you have a basic selection, use the regular Lasso tool to refine it. You can also use Shift-Lasso to add to the existing selection, and Option-Lasso to subtract from the selection. What we're after is a smooth selection that completely encloses all the visible skin in Jordan's head.

Use the lasso tool


Once your selection is complete you can tweak it a bit with the Refine Edge dialog, available in the Toolbar when you have any of the Selection tools enabled.

refine the edges


Adding a little feathering to the selection will help it blend with the background better later on, so consider a feather of 1 or 2 pixels to smooth things out.


Step 2 - Save The Selection

Once you have the first part of the selection refined, you should save it into the image so you don't lose it in the next steps. So, choose Select > Save Selection... and save the selection into a New Channel. After you do, you should see it as Alpha 1 in your Channels palette. Then save your file to save the selection as part of the Photoshop file.


Step 3 - Add to the Selection

Next, we want to mask his hand and add that to the selection. Because Jordan's hand and forearm are divided by his watch, we'll need to make two new selections and add them to the first. So, continuing on with either the Magnetic Lasso or standard Lasso, trace the forearm, and refine the edge if necessary. After that, again choose Select > Save Selection..., but this time choose Alpha 1 as the Channel, and Add to Channel as the Operation to add this selection to the previous one:

Using Alpha Channel 1


Continuing in this vein (so to speak), select the rest of his hand, zooming in as needed to precisely select and adjust the outline, and add that selection to both previous selections in the same channel. Finally, save it all in the file before moving on.


Step 4 - Duplicate Layers

Next, select the layer you just masked in the Layers palette and duplicate it twice by Control-clicking on the layer and choosing Duplicate Layer.... Name the first or middle dupe "Skin" and the second or top layer "Eyes". For now, turn off the visibility for the Eyes layer:

duplicating the layers


Step 5 - Adjust the Skin Tones

Now we're ready to give Jordan's skin that attractive corpse-like pallor. First, select the Skin layer in the Layers palette, which should be the middle of the three layers, then choose Select > Load Selection.... In the dialog, choose Alpha 1 as the channel, then click OK. This will load our previously saved selection into this layer. 

Next, choose Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation... and set the Hue to +180 for a bright blue tint in the image. Because we've loaded the selection, the Hue change will only be applied within the selection area:

Adjust the hue and saturation


Then bring the Saturation down to -60 or so to adjust the depth of the tint so it's not so extreme:

reduce the saturation


Step 6 - Adjust the Eye Color

Our next step is to adjust Jordan's eye color to give them a feral sheen. First, turn on the Eyes layer, then zoom in on the image and center the eyes. With any of the Selection tools, select the iris (the colored part) of each eye (using the Shift key to add the second eye to the first selection), then Option-select the pupil of each eye to remove it from the selection:

that feral sheen on the eyes


Next, choose Select > Save Selection..., choose New as your channel, and New Channel for the Operation to create a new Alpha channel to hold this selection. We don't want to replace the head and hand selection with the eyes selection, in case we want to go back and adjust the skin later.

Now choose Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation... and change the eyes' color to whatever you like. I got a nice reddish orange by cranking the Saturation up to +86 and the Hue to +12, but your settings are entirely up to you:

A redish tint applied to the eyes


Of course, the rest of this layer is obscuring our tinted layer below it, so the last step here is to delete everything except the eyes from this layer. To do that, choose Select > Load Selection... (if the eyes selection isn't still loaded) to select the eyes again, then choose Select > Inverse to select everything in the layer except the eyes. Finally, hit the Delete key to delete all the non-eye parts of the layer and reveal your tinted layer with the colored eyes overlaid on it.

for your eyes only


Step 7 - Make Some Fangs

Our last step is to create some vampire fangs for Jordan, which we'll do by just lengthening his existing fangs a bit. To do that, we'll be using Photoshop's Liquify tool. So, select the Skin layer again in the Layers palette, then choose Filter > Liquify... to open the Liquify environment. Since you're only working on this one layer, you won't see the whole composite in this window, but that's not a problem.

Liquify essentially smears pixels with a special brush, and by default works on the entire layer. We only want to smear a couple of Jordan's teeth though, so part of this process will be to mask off the parts of the layer we don't want to smear. This masking will also help us shape the smeared teeth into fangs, so it's an important part of the process. 

First, zoom in on the image so the mouth is enlarged and centered, then choose the Freeze Mask Tool from the tool palette on the right of the window. Set the Brush Size for the tool to something fairly small, choose a tooth that looks like it will make a good fang, and paint a red mask shape around it.

creating the fangs


Note that I've drawn the mask into a pointed shape above the tooth, but tightly around the tooth on both sides. This mask will prevent the Liquify brush from affecting the pixels outside the mask, but will also provide a guide for the tooth-smearing by "channeling" the smeared pixels into the pointed fang shape. 

Next, choose the Forward Warp Tool from the Liquify tool palette, keeping the same brush size, then click with it on the tooth and drag the tool up into the masked area. You'll see the tooth pixels deform themselves into that shape, giving you a nice fang:

Fangs in progress


Be sure not to smear any of the gum or lip into the tooth pixels; you want to click just on the tooth itself. Click OK to test this smear, and you'll see we a pretty decent fang.

The finished fangs


Continue using Liquify to mask and smear the appropriate teeth, and in time you'll come up with something like this:

The final vampire image


And there you have it: Jordan the Vampire, just in time for Halloween!


Want to explore your dark side even further? Check out Photoshop CS5 405: Body Modifications.


Richard Lainhart

Richard Lainhart | Articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films have been shown in festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. He has authored over a dozen technical manuals for music and video hardware and software, served as Contributing Editor for Interactivity and 3D Design Magazines, and contributed to books on digital media production published by IDG, Peachpit Press, McGraw Hill, and Miller Freeman Books. Previously an Adobe Certified Expert in After Effects and Premiere, a demo artist for Adobe Systems, and co-founder of the official New York City After Effects User Group, he was, from 2000-2009, Technical Director for Total Training Productions, an innovative digital media training company based in New York and California.

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