Join Now Sign In
Get full access to articles, free contest entries and more!

How to Create Stunning Abstract Portraits Using Layers in Photoshop

A simple but powerful editing tool

Adobe Photoshop’s layers tool is a simple and versatile tool when it comes to photo editing. It’s one of our favorite ways to do basic portrait retouching, but it’s also an excellent way to add more abstract elements to your portraits.

A new video tutorial from Aaron Nace of Phlearn dives into a step by step process of how he used Layers to add eye-catching graphic elements to a colorful portrait. Overall, we think its a great creative exploration of a tool that many photographers are familiar with, but may not be using to its full potential. 

Step #1:

Nace begins with importing a splatter effect layer that he downloaded from Adobe Stock. Rather than changing the blending mode of the layer, he selects individual colors within the splatter design using channels to capture a selection with a variety of transparencies. When selecting using channels the light areas on a particular image end up getting more selected than the dark areas on an image. 

Step #2: 

Selecting via channels means Nace can see what color channels hold the most information. In this case the green color channel includes the most information. He makes a selection by hitting control and command or by hitting the selection icon.

Step #3:

Nace creates a new layer with the selection, but wants the darker areas of the splatters to be visible so he inverses the selection that he created in step 2. He does this by hitting Select and choosing Inverse. Finally he fills the selection with the magenta color that appears in the background. 

Step #4:

Nace duplicates the layer of the magenta splatters and then uses the lasso tool to remove areas where he wants to eliminate the splatter effect. He creates a layer mask and inverts the selection to remove a distracting blotch that appears over the subjects nose. He adds to the layer mask by making additional lasso selects and filling the area with black. 


Step #5: 

He duplicates the layer a second time and moves it so that it’s interacting with his subjects eyes. Then he uses  Blend If in the Layer Style panel. Using this particular tool means that Nace can control if the splatters are showing up in the highlights or shadows of the image. He separates the sliders so that he can create a feathered blending effect. He duplicates the layer again, and moves the layers around the image to create a desired effect in different areas of the image. He repeats this step until he’s happy and then groups the splatter layers together. 




Leave a Reply

Save Your Favorites

Save This Article