Don’t just think of portraits as involving people, I think this will work well with animals as well.
This process is dependant on lots of factors, personal taste being one of them. The blend modes for the layers and the sharpening and blurring will still be the same. However, the amounts of blurring and sharpening will vary, as will the opacity of the two layers – well, 3 layers if you choose to go one step further. So lets take a look at the process, then you can go off and play 🙂
The practise image is brought to us by Arif Imam over at StockExchange, you can find it HERE I have resized the image.
That’s a nice portrait, it could probably do with quite a bit of colour correction. Even then, it may not be anything special. So lets bypass the colour correction and try to make it have an impact with a couple of layers and changing blend modes. Open the image, duplicate the image and close the original. Duplicate the background layer by dragging it to the create a new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette or pressing Ctrl + J on the keyboard. Working on the top layer, press Ctrl + U on the keyboard to bring up the Hue/Sat dialogue box and take the Saturation all the way down to -100, click OK to accept the changes. Duplicate the desaturated layer twice more by pressing Ctrl + J on the keyboard twice. You should now have 3 desaturated layers. Name the top layer ‘Multiply’ and the middle layer “Screen”, turn off the top layer (multiply layer) and change the blend mode of the layer named Screen to Screen. You should have something similar to the image below.
Still working on the layer you changed to screen go to Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask … or you can use Smart Sharpen if you like. You can copy my settings for this image but different amounts will work better on different images – just a case of finding the time to practise a little bit. I’m going to push the numbers here – Amount 300% – Radius 0.8 – Threshold 0
Turn on the layer you named multiply and change the blend mode to multiply. Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and again on this particular image you can punch in the same numbers that I have ….. experiment.
Change the opacity of the multiply layer to about 40% With some images you may have go and reduce the opacity of the Screen layer as well, but I have left it at 100% in this image. Duplicate the original background layer and drag it to the top of the stack. Change the blend mode to Soft Light and lower the opacity to suit. I used 40%, which can be adjusted. I then used a Curves adjustment layer Output 125 – Input 103 to lighten the image overall. If your Layer Palette Options are set up for an adjustment layer to automatically add a mask, click on the mask and press Ctrl + i to invert it. My Options are set up so I can add a mask only if I want one to appear. Because my adjustment layer doesn’t have a mask attached, I can simply hold down the Alt key and click on the add vector mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette and the mask will be black (hide all). With the foreground colour set to white and a large soft edged brush selected, make sure you are working on the mask and paint the face and hair area back in. At this point you can go back tweak each of the individual layers to come up with something you like. Here is my final image, and then a comparison image.