Friday, March 27, 2015

Photoshop Tutorial: How to Replicate the "True Detective" Look

Google + followers of Amateur Nikon might remember a photo I had uploaded some time ago. I had taken a series of photos for a friend of mine, and, since he is a fan of the 'True Detective' series, I thought to offer him a version inspired by that look.

The photo in question was this one:

It's really a very simple procedure, but it can produce some pretty interesting images. So, I decided to show you the simple steps involved in making images like this. I will not replicate the exact same image as you see above, but I will use the same portrait. Needless to say, this is only a guide. Come up with your own ideas, and make your own images according to your individual needs. After all, this tutorial is a starting point for learning to work with:
a) layers and blending mode
b) layers and masks
c) brushes and textures

Step 1
Create a new image (since we're replicating a TV series, you might as well choose widescreen dimensions - e.g. 1280x720 pixels).

Step 2
Fill the background with a low-saturation color. I chose a light beige (250, 240, 220 in RGB).

Step 3
Paste (as a new layer) the portrait image you want to use. The 'tighter' it is, and with the more empty space around it, the easier your work will be. For this effort, the original image I used was this:

Step 4
First of all, position your image so that it looks natural in the frame. In our example, I had to place it a bit lower so that my friend's shoulders aren't suddenly cut off from the sides - notice the top image. After that, you must get rid of the surroundings. There are more than one ways, I chose to use the magnetic lasso. Don't be too preoccupied with 100% accuracy (i.e. it's OK if the selection is not perfect).

Step 5
Having roughly selected the portrait outline, create a new mask. It will automatically apply the selection. Now, click on the layer mask to select it, then run a Gaussian Blur filter (experiment with the values, I chose 10). At this point, your image should look something like that:

Step 6
Stamp the visible layers (on a PC: CTRL+Shift+Alt+E). Click on the eye icon of the newly created layer to make it invisible - we will need it in a while. Then, go back to the layers just under it (the one you've been working on, with the layer mask) and change its blending mode to Screen (experiment also with other blending modes if you want, that's how you learn).

Step 7
The idea now is to have the top of the portrait appearing a bit more transparent. Click on the eye icon of the top layer again, then add a layer mask to it. Use either a soft brush to selectively remove parts of the face, or, alternatively, use a gradient. The gradient will look less dramatic but more smooth. You can also adjust the opacity of the layers. Doing that you will get something like this:

Step 8
Let's create a texture layer. There are countless ways to do this. The easiest (although not necessarily the most flexible) is to use the texture fill of Photoshop. Create a new layer on top of everything and select "Overlay" as the blending mode. Reduce opacity to about 20% (experiment). Then use the Paint Bucket tool, selecting 'Pattern' instead of 'Foreground'. Experiment with different patterns (you can and it's worth it to use more than one - each on its own separate layer, blending mode overlay and opacity ~20%), filling the layer. Add a layer mask, then randomly remove parts of the texture (try to make it random; pick brushes of different shapes/sizes). After all this, you end up with something looking like this:

Step 9
Time to add the secondary exposure(s). Pick an image of your liking and paste it as a layer on top of everything else. As with everything we've done so far, there are many ways to follow, each taking us to a different result. 'Multiply' and 25% opacity will give you this:

While Color Burn, 25% and a layer mask to remove the right portion of the layer will give you this:

Let's pick the latter (there is no right or wrong, remember). Let's now add some more elements. Experiment! How about some letters and red splatter?

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, so I will stop at this point. Just remember what I said at the beginning: this tutorial (and any tutorial) serves only as a guide, something to get you started. It's all about learning, experimenting, seeing what works and what doesn't.

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