Creating A Monsterous Image Using this Halloween Photoshop Tutorial

This is a guest post by Kevin Stohlmeyer:

The photo illustration above was created using images captured at the Photoshop World Conference held this past September in Las Vegas, Nevada.  At very conference, there are opportunities to shoot live models or vignettes using state-of-the-art lighting equipment.  But this particular image was created using not one but several images to create the perfect Halloween composite in Photoshop. Here’s how I put it together:

The idea came to me walking around the vendor booths at the conference.  An instructor at Photoshop World, Dave Black taught me to show up early and scout out the event for opportunities.  While scouting, I took this shot of the background, just checking my camera settings.

I realized that I might not be able to get the perfect shot with all the right models and backgrounds, but I could shoot each piece of the vignette individually and then re-position the subjects as I saw fit in Photoshop afterwards. While others were scrambling to get the perfect shot in one exposure, I shot focusing on each model. It saved a lot of time behind the camera.

I ended up using three images from the models below.  I love the pose from both of them in the first shot, but the model’s eyes were closed. So I used another great shot I caught of her giving a frustrated look, and a third shot of Frank scowling at the camera. Using Photoshop, I composited these three shots together to get an image I would not have been able to capture live.


Finally I needed the mad scientist. To be honest, this capture was pure luck. Russell Brown, Senior Art Director from Adobe was walking the show floor dressed as the scientist and I asked him for a pose, even though it wasn’t the optimum locale.


The first step in the composition was to create a clean background area for my subjects. The clone-stamp tool made quick work of the edges. Then, using the repaired shot, I added three layers of texture using various shots of concrete with cracks.

I keep a repository of various shots of textures to use when I’m compositing something like this. It’s a great technique for artists and can really come in handy in situations like this. The background was too clean, so using these layers with a multiply blending mode, I can drastically change the mood to a darker tone.

Next I added in the model shot and positioned them in the image. Using the quick select tool and refine edge command, I was able to get a clean selection to mask my image.

Then came the challenge of swapping out their heads with the proper shots. To do this, I placed the new heads over the existing and with a lower opacity, positioning them using their clothing as a guide. Below are the before and after shots of the heads.



Finally to ground them in the background, I added shadows on two layers.

This technique allows me to vary the intensity of the shadows on the base of the subject and the cast shadow behind them. Creating my shadows on one layer would result in a very flat looking layer. My shadow layers are placed on Multiply for the blending mode, and reduce the opacity as needed.

To add the scientist to the image, I used the same technique as the couple. I added the shot, made a selection and masked the image. However, the location shot of Russell was a very flat light compared to the models, so I also added adjustment layers to blend the tone of his layer into the shot.

Finally, I added a darker vignette around the image giving it a deeper tone along the edges.

The shot would be complete, but I wanted to give it that “Illustrated” look. So on a separate layer on top of the image, I added illustrative effects using the mixer brush and the natural brush tools. The tip to blending these brush strokes into your image, is to set the layer blend mode to Overlay so it intensifies the original image as it adds the strokes.

Each model gets their own layer, and in the case of the scientist, it took five layers to complete the illustrated look – one for the face, hands, hair, clothes and any additional touch-up. Below the is the before and after of the technique.


The result is a very moody, high-contrast illustrated image that will look great on my wall for Halloween. I hope this has given you some ideas for creating your own spooky images for the upcoming holiday!

Kevin StohlmeyerKevin Stohlmeyer is an Adobe Certified Instructor, Adobe Community Professional and a member of the Adobe Freelancer Team. He is a contributor for Photoshop User and Adobe Inspire magazines and is the official on-site blogger for Photoshop World Conference. You can follow Kevin at  

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