Post-Mortem Photoshop Effects

Introduction: Post-Mortem Photoshop Effects

Hello, you brave soul, you. Are you prepared to enter the morbid world of halloween image editing? I warn you, your final photo may look like an unfortunate murder victim died while holding it.

And then possessed it.

The concepts here are relatively simple, so even if you haven't touched photoshop before, you may be able to get something unique out of this.

The scope of the tutorial ranges from simple digital painting to slightly more involved blending effects and layering. I'll explain what's going on in each step to hopefully clear up any misconceptions. Good luck, and don't stare into the spirit's eyes for too long...

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1:

Technically, the only supplies you need are a camera, yourself, and a computer with reasonably good photo editing software.

However, its important to keep in mind that I'm going through these steps in Adobe Photoshop CS5, so the steps may be different for you if you're using different software.

Open your image in Photoshop, and we'll get started!

Step 2: Photoshop Axiom #1: Resize, Then Edit

The first thing you'll want to do is double-click your background layer, rename it as a normal layer, so all the effects you'll need will work on it.

Then, make sure your photo is the size and dimension you want. Cropping, warping, or resizing later could mess with the effects and hard work you've already put in, so this is very important . In this case, I thought the photo was all right as-is.

In Photoshop, cropping is as simple as selecting the crop tool (hitting the "c" key is a shortcut) and dragging a box of the size you want.

Cmd (or ctrl, for PC) T will allow you to freely transform the image size-wise, not locking it to any ratio.

Once you're satisfied, go on to the next step.

Step 3: Photoshop Axiom #2: Where You Can, Make It REVERSIBLE

The next step is to mess with the coloration on your photo! It's a multi-layer process, so pay attention:

First, create a new brightness/contrast adjustment layer via the pallet in the upper-right corner. Hovering over the different buttons will tell you which one it is. I wanted to create some darkness and stark color contrast so that the next step wouldn't remove all of the color from the image.

Second, create a hue/saturation adjustment layer above the previous layer. Drag the saturation slider down pretty low, so the subject looks only halfway-alive, like he or she just rose from the grave. Now, if you so choose, you can change the hue slider so the face will take on a slight color cast. I chose a reddish one.

The important thing to remember, guys, is that these layers can be removed or re-edited at ANY TIME. This way, if you have second thoughts later (and believe me, it happens) then you can always change something!

Step 4: Reduce Noise (Clammy Skin Effect)

At this point, you may want to run a reduce noise filter or two to make the skin smooth, clammy, and "possessed-looking." It adds a surreal atmosphere to the image.


First, you should select the base layer, and turn it into a smart object

This way, you'll be able to remove the effect at any time if it doesn't turn out the way you planned it.

Step 5: Duplicate and Disappear...

Duplicate the base layer, and then create a new "hide all" layer mask.

Select a soft brush slightly larger than the subject's eye size, and make the foreground color white.

Then, select the black layer mask next to the base layer duplicate. The corners of that little black rectangle will be bracketed when it's selected.

Click once on the subject's eye with the brush tool. Nothing interesting will happen... yet.

Change the blending mode of the layer copy to "linear dodge (add)" by clicking the drop-down menu at the top of the layers palette and selecting linear dodge--you should be able to notice a lighter area around the eye.

Then, go to image>adjustments in the menu bar, and select hue/saturation. From here, you can increase the saturation of the eye specifically, since that's the area you painted a hole in using the white brush. I increased the saturation and changed the hue to become more yellowish, so it would be like a ghost's glowing eyes.

You're free to paint through the other eye and change its color too, if it looks good. Or, you may want just one glowing eye, which could work just as well or better.

Step 6: Just a Flesh Wound!

Here's the fun part.

Create a new layer above the image layers, but below the adjustment layers. This will be the blood layer. :)

Open the brushes palette from the options bar above your image. click on the little round button with the right arrow on it, and you'll get a list of photoshop brush sets. Choose wet media brushes, and then "append."

Select the brush in the picture labeled 54, which looks like a sparse bunch of dots. Change the color to a deep, dark red. If you happen to have a drawing tablet, enable the pressure sensitivity for both opacity and size in the options bar.

Now splatter some blood on!

Don't be too over-the-top, or it'll wreck the image itself. Keep the opacity around 80-90 percent. With a tablet, this turns out beautifully, because your blood streaks can be lighter and smaller on the ends and thicker in the middle, making them much more realistic.

However, if you've just got a mouse, all you have to do is paint a couple layers of blood in one spot, and add smaller, less opaque 'tails' on either end.

Get artistic with it, and if you have trouble getting something you like or make a mistake, hit Cmd-option-Z (Ctrl-alt-Z for PC) to undo steps continuously or Cmd(or Ctrl)-shift-Z to redo.

If you add a couple slightly different shades of red/orange into your blood strokes, it will look much better.

Step 7: Lighting Effects

Make the image darker at the corners by selecting Filter>Render>Lighting effects from the menu bar. You'll be presented with a new window with which to make adjustments. You can change the size, shape, and type of light by grabbing the dots on the circle and moving, or using the pull-down menus and sliders. You may find that very slight adjustments work better than huge ones.

Experiment! No two of these pictures should be the same!

Next, control-click on the blood layer and select "Blending options."

Choose "Pin light" from the top drop-down menu.

Choose "inner shadow" on the left side of the window.
Change the distance to 0, and the size to either 1 or 0 using the sliders or type fields.

Step 8: Finish It Off!

This is where I give you free reign. Do whatever else you want to this photo. You can add a couple more blood splatters, change the glow around the eyes, use different brushes, or whatever else suits your fancy, because at heart, this project belongs to YOU . Hopefully I've given you the tools to create some really grotesque stuff!

Enjoy! If you really liked it, please vote for me in the Halloween Image Editing Challenge!

Halloween Photo Editing Challenge

Participated in the
Halloween Photo Editing Challenge

Be the First to Share


    • Toys and Games Challenge

      Toys and Games Challenge
    • Backyard Contest

      Backyard Contest
    • Silly Hats Speed Challenge

      Silly Hats Speed Challenge