Photo Manipulation

Stylish Surreal Portrait

In today’s tutorial we will combine surrealism and fashion effortlessly to create a state of art portrait. I’ll show you how to achieve this essentially through a combination of photos, filters and brushes. You can then translate these techniques into your designs to add an artistic edge to them!

Preview of Final Results


Stylish Surreal Portrait Photoshop Tutorial

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Photoshop Cs3
  • Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1 hour +


Step 1 – Brainstorm

I love the concept behind surrealism. Surrealism is a style of art that uses visual imagery from the subconscious mind to create art without the intention of logical comprehensibility.– Surrealism.com. Let’s not limit our creativity to logic and let’s design a portrait that will be a fusion of spunk, futuristic and Victorian!

Gather some inspiration to get your creative juices started. For this type of design I find it best to put my idea to paper before going into Photoshop to create the artwork. Right now it’s just a rough sketch to help you visualize your concept. It doesn’t matter if the end result is far from your original sketch. I drew a head overflowing with flowers and butterflies.


Step 2 – Set up

Create an A4 size canvas with a decent print quality of 200dpi (optimal is 300dpi). Let’s start off by working on the woman to give her a fashionable look. Open the woman image and place it at the center, bottom of the page.


Step 3

Duplicate the woman image and apply a Black & White adjustment ( Image > Adjustments > Black & White) on it. Adjust the values for the different colors until you get a sharp black & white image with high contrasts. In a fashion portrait, the focus is usually on the woman’s eyes and hair. Additionally I want her face contours to be more defined as I’m planning to extract her face from the image later.



Step 4

Make a second copy of the woman’s image and apply a Poster Edges Filter (Filter > Artistic > Poster Edges) with a maximum edge thickness of 10 and the bring the rest of the settings to 0. This gives us a highly stylized image and a beautiful glowing skin.



Step 5

The “poster edge” layer should be on top of the “black & white” and it’s Opacity should be set to 90%.


Step 6

We will use the Pen Tool (P) to extract the background and hair and keep her face and torso. There are a few reasons for using this method. One is for clean edges, two we can modify the shape at any point in time and three we can reuse the path for other purposes. Use the Pen Tool (P) set to Paths.


Step 7

Carefully plot around the face and shoulders contours ignoring the hair. Make a dome shape for her head where it is cropped and continue the shape of her shoulders as well. With the Pen Tool (P) selected, press Cmd/Ctrl key and drag individual points to adjust the shape of your path.


Step 8

Next we will apply this path to a folder that will contain all our layers for textures, colors, effects pertaining to the woman’s face and body. Create a New Folder(1). Load the woman’s path as a Selection (2). Add a Layer Mask to the New Folder (3).

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