Spirit of the Dead (Photoshop 7.0 or Above)




Your friendly neighbourhood weirdo. Celebrating her individuality since 1648. NOX INVICTUS

Want to shock and scare your friends this Hallowe'en with the simplest of things, a photo?

With this tutorial I'm going to let you in on one of my secret techniques.
Why not? This is one of my favourite times of the year.

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Step 1: Selecting the Photo

For this to work effectlively, you need to have a clear (preferrably high quality) image.
As you can see, it doesn't really matter about the darkness of the photo as you can fix this, all you need is a creepy pose would be excellent or even a blank pose works great. Head and shoulders works best as you can get up close and personal and see details such as they eyes (we will get onto that).
In my photo, I really opened my eyes so that the effect will really pop.

Step 2: Correcting the Photo

If your image is a little dark, the best way to change it is to change the levels (Image>Adjustments>Levels)
Adjust the middle notch until the image is lightened as high as it can go without pixelating the image. Then adjust the notch furthest to the right to get the highlights correct, and finally the notch furthest to the left ever so slightly so that you can enhance the shadows a little.

(Oh no! The horrible image is revealed. Seriously, this picture is not nice!) 

duplicate the layer to be safe! (In the layers bar, right click on the "background image" and select "duplicate layer)
I always think the image works better with a blacked out background, but this part is up to you. Sometimes if the background is too light the black background won't work.
To do this: select a feathered and fairly large brush (for my image it's about 176 pixels.) When going closer to the head you'll want to use a smaller brush size and perhaps change the opacity in case anything goes wrong.

Step 3: Correcting the Skin & Creepy Skintone

Correcting the skin is another step that isn't important but just makes the image look a little more flawless.
You don't want to over do this, as the image will look a little too fake and you'll end up looking like a piece of plastic.

How I correct the skin is with the clone stamp and healing brush tool (circled on the image). The healing brush works best as you can't see the "edges". You'll want to use a small-ish feathered brush size. Hold down "alt" and select the best midtone, then carefully using small strokes go over the part of the skin you want to correct.

Now it's time to start spookifying your image.
If you really think about it, the dead don't have any blood.. unless you're a bloodsucking vampire. This means that the skin will be very grey and pale, something we can achieve by saturating the image.
Before you do this, you need to make sure that you protect the eyes!
With the magnetic lasoo tool, click around the whites of the eyes. Yes click. You can't leave the computer to do all the work as it will get it wrong. The magnetic lasoo will just help guide you. (Hint! Hold shift when selecting the second eye. Then hit "ctrl" and "c" to copy it, then "ctrl" and "v" to paste it into a new layer.)

Now we've got the eyes out the way (make sure you're on the previous layer, we'll call this the "original"), we can finally start draining the blood! To do this, go to image>adjustments>hue/saturation and slide the saturation bar until it's about -65. Because there is a copy beneath the original layer, you can erase (with the eraser slightly opaque) any part of the picture you want to keep colourful, such as the hair. I also used the "sponge" tool on my lips to make them paler.

Step 4: Darker Shadows...

The next thing to do to make this picture look even more ghoul-ish is to darken the shadows.
Go to image>adjustments>brightness/contrast. Set the sliders to about -31 and 17, but this all depends on YOUR image. The darker you make the shadows, the higher you want the contrast. However if you set the contrast too high, your image won't look like a photograph anymore.
Next come the shadows under the eyes.

Use the "burn" tool (highlighted in image). For this, you'll want a fairly large feathered brush set to a low opacity of about 10%. Slowly paint it on underneath and around the eyes. Because the opacity is quite high, you won't get such a harsh shadow and it will look more like the actual skin. If you want to darken anywhere else just make the bursh bigger and apply.

You may also want to make yourself look a little blue! To do this realisticly go into image>adjustments>variations and slip the slider down to very fine. Then you can click on whichever preview you like to add whichever colour it is.

If the image is still looking a little dull you can go to image>adjustments>brightness/contrast and higher the contrast slightly.

Another trick (a clever trick) is to use high pass . First, duplicate the original layer and while on that layer, go to filter>other>high pass and set it to about 3.5. Click ok then set the layer mode to "overlay". If this does look a bit odd you can change the opacity. All this really does is sharpens the image and makes it stand out a little.

Step 5: THE EYES! & Crumbling Skin

Now for the best bit...
Although you have the eyes selected on another layer, you may just want to select the irises of the eye, copy them, then place them onto another layer (using the tips in step 3).

The first thing to do is remove the rough edges of the eyes. Use the eraser tool and with a feathered brush carefully erase around the edges.

Now go to the layer with the irises, and go to image>adjustment>brightness/contrast. I've set the brightness to 29 and the contrast to 61, but remember the higher the brightness the higher the contrast. As you can see, where I've selected the eyes (quite terribly) they're a bit scratchy. All you need to do is use the eraser tool with a medium sized and feathered brush. If you look at the image, you can see that I'm not erasing directly on the eye but around it.. the feathered brush makes it look smooth. I also think if the iris has a dark ring around it, the eyes really stand out.

You can also make your irises white if you want to by using the "sponge" tool on the irises, then adding cotrast again. (Not too much or it will pixelate!)

There. Perfect scary eyes.

OPTIONAL! Crumbling the skin.
This part is great if you want a zombified effect.

You'll need to start with a texture. Find a good crumbly/cracked texture online, or even take a photo of your own.
Copy this image into a new document, select it then go to edit>new pattern> and call it skin.
Back on the original image, select the part of the face you want to apply this texture to with the lassoo then go to edit>fill and select your skin texture. Set the layer mode to overlay.
If it doesn't look part of the skin, you could maybe desaturate a little or turn up the darkness/contrast .
Finally, take the eraser tool with a medium, feathered brush size (with the opacity at about 70%) and erase around the outside of the filled section and on all the creases and shapes of the face to make it extra realistic.

And there you have it, a spooky yet gruesome portrait!

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13 Discussions


7 years ago on Introduction

this where this goes when you keep at the graphics and photo manipulation. I used Photoshop CS5.5 when I did this photo..https://www.instructables.com/files/deriv/FGX/KU0V/H2WEY8R3/FGXKU0VH2WEY8R3.THUMB.jpg

vamp edit.jpg

7 years ago on Step 5

If you want to peeling/crumbling skin to blend and look creepier here is a tip. If you have not done so, create a layer that has only the skin. do this my selecting the skin area and pressing ctrl j to copy via new layer. hide the other layers. the skin layer will be slightly transparent. copy it 2-3 times and merge the copies. after this go to the channels. choose the channel that has the best contrast and copy to a new document. in the new document add a 2px gausian blur and adjust the contrast via levels (ctrl l) use only the middle and right markers.
save it as a psd with the name displacement map. switch to your original document. create a new layer and go to file>place>use you texture image. make sure you are still on the texture layer. after that go to filter>distort>displace. select the displacement map psd file you created. the texture will now me mapped the shadows and form of your models face. adjust the options to get the look you want and accept.


7 years ago on Step 3

For skin hue/pigment change. I select the the skin, feather the selection by 1px and copy via new layer ( ctrl j). click on the new layer and add adjustment layer hue and saturation. after you get the look you want click okay. while holding the alt key click between the adjustment layer and the skin layer. this will link the adjustment layer to only the skin layer. to enhance the effect. add a second adjustment layer with brightness and contrast. small tweaks on this layer. make sure the second layer is above the first. hold alt and click between the two adjustment layers. The second adjustment layer is now linked to skin layer as well.

This method is NON DISTRUCTIVE. meaning you can change or delete the effect and return to the original.


7 years ago on Step 3

for the copying they eyes to a new layer there is faster shortcut. With the eyes selected via laso etc press "ctrl" and "j". this is the shortcut key-command for copy to new layer


7 years ago on Introduction

haha, mine didn't come close to yours, and the background is cheesy, and i didnt have enough shadows. but great tutorial!

dead kate.jpg
1 reply

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Wow that's good! As I've said before it just takes practice to do it well, as well as developing your own techniques as you go along. But well done! :)


7 years ago on Introduction

Wow! Really simple instructions that even I can follow - Cool!! I didn't know it could be so easy.

1 reply