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Get it right when painting a multi-layered surreal portrait in photoshop

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Photoshop has allowed artists to play with their imagination in ways they never could before. The sky’s the limit with some necessary Photoshop skills and a smart photo editor’s team holding your hands. It takes a while to master painting a multi-layered surreal portrait in Photoshop altogether, but nothing beats the feeling when you finally get it right. If you want to save yourself some time, take a look at these tips that’ll help you quickly paint a multi-layered surreal portrait in Photoshop.

How to paint a multi-layered surreal portrait in Photoshop

There are a few things you’ll want to pay close attention to when creating a surreal portrait in Photoshop.

To ensure that your image is complete and mesmerizing, you’ll want to focus on:

  • Color and compositing
  • Blending images
  • Color Toning
  • Surreal composites
  • Portrait Retouching
Creating A Surreal Portrait In Photoshop
Get it right when painting a multi-layered surreal portrait in photoshop 1

Color and compositing

This is what will bring your image to life. Apply stylistic colors that you think will work together best. Ensure that the colors you’re using in your surreal portrait in Photoshop are vibrant and bring energy to the scenes.

Blending images

Possibly one of the most interesting aspects of Photoshop, blending images is where you’ll get to let your imagination run wild.

Blending images isn’t just one step in the process. As your portrait progresses, you’ll see whether something needs to be scaled down, whether the blended images work together. You’ll continuously be matching highlights and shadows, and making small changes that will significantly impact the result.

Color toning

Color toning is what will set the mood for your entire surreal portrait in Photoshop. Once you’ve chosen the colors you’ll be using, rely on a combination of LUTs and Lightroom Presets to perfect your image.

Color Toning In Photoshop
Get it right when painting a multi-layered surreal portrait in photoshop 2

Don’t be afraid to apply as many layers of color as you need to get the results you want – experiment and play around with different combinations. This whole process only works through trial and error. If you want your portrait to look fabulous, you cannot be afraid of making a mistake.

Surreal composites

To make a surreal portrait in Photoshop, you’ll need surreal composites. You can bring anything to life, using Photoshop. Do you want animals in your picture? You’ve got it. Paint splashes? Perfect, add them on. If you need nonexistent objects to complete your masterpiece, you can easily create them.

Surreal Composites
Get it right when painting a multi-layered surreal portrait in photoshop 3

Whichever surreal composites you bring to your image, with proper color composites, toning, and blending, they’ll all come together ideally.

Portrait retouching

If you cannot seem to find the perfect stock photo for your portrait, go ahead and make your own. All you need is a decent camera and a willing friend. Using some exciting props or clothing combinations can significantly add to the final result, so this is just another opportunity for you to play around.

Retouching Your Portraits
Get it right when painting a multi-layered surreal portrait in photoshop 4

You’ll want to remove blemishes or any imperfections and pay close attention to details when retouching your portraits.

Explaining the process

Every artist’s process is unique. Everyone has different techniques that they use to bring their surreal portrait to life. As you progress and as you develop your Photoshop skills, you’ll find the methods and tips that work best for your style. Again, it’s all a matter of trying out different things until you see what works.

Step 1: Brainstorming

Before you start, you’ll need to figure out what you want to do. Photoshop gives you a lot of options, and it can be overwhelming if you don’t have a basic idea of what you want to create.

Many artists find it helpful to create a rough sketch. Put your ideas to paper before you start, but don’t be limited by them. This is just the first step that will help you visualize your concept. As you begin creating the portrait in Photoshop, you’ll see whether you need to add something more or delete a few items from your sketch.

Step 2: Get your portrait

You can use a stock photo or one of the photographs that you’ve taken. Cut out the shapes roughly and add them to your document. An A4 size canvas with good print quality (about 300 dpi) is typically the preferred choice for surreal portraits.

Step 3: Make outlines

Outline the basic shape of the hair, shoulders, and neck. Add shadows and highlights in colors that will set the tone of your portrait. Map the positions of the surreal composites that you plan to add.

Step 4: Focus on the background

Make the background interesting, but don’t allow it to take the focus away from the portrait. The background should work to bring more attention to the portrait itself and to add more details.

Step 5: Hair and makeup

Add highlights to the hair, and use purples and pinks to add blush and color to the face and cheeks. If what you’re creating is a fashion portrait, you’ll typically try to bring as much focus on the eyes and hair as possible. So, spend time perfecting the hair and makeup, add contours, contrasts, strong highlights, and shadows.

Step 6: Blend, Blend, Blend

Add lighter and darker shades to bring some realism into your surreal portrait. Figure out where the light source would be in your painting and ensure that the shadows and highlights make sense. Blending and texturizing will make your picture seem more 3-dimensional, so don’t neglect this step.

Step 7: Experiment

Experimentation In Photoshop
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Adjust the tones. Every aspect of your surreal portrait needs to be in harmony, regardless of the surreal composites you’ve added. As mentioned, color toning will help you set the mood of the entire portrait, so experiment a little until you find what brings your art to life.

You can work closely with ‘smart photo editors’ to perfect your skills and ensure your surreal portrait in Photoshop is as mesmerizing as could be. Photoshop allows you to play around and create incredible images – it just takes some time and effort to master it.


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