Surreal Portrait Retouching Workflow

Surreal Portrait Retouching Workflow

4 Seasons

Many photographers are accomplished at bringing their vision to life. Kelly Robitaille has turned her dark and dreamlike visions into a series of surreal and whimsical portraits. In this tutorial Kelly shares her retouching methods, including actions, overlays and textures, which will allow you to create unusual and surreal portraits.

In this tutorial Kelly Robitaille unveils her entire creative workflow for taking surreal and whimsical portraits from concept to realization. Beginning with a concept, Kelly stresses the importance of giving her subjects backstory to create a narrative and enhance character-driven emotion within her images. She then dives into the technical side of her work demonstrating a number of Photoshop tools in interesting and unconventional ways specific to her style, yet easily translated into nearly any style or genre. Using common Photoshop practices like dodge and burn, frequency separation, compositing, blend modes, the liquify tool, and puppet warp, Kelly’s workflow provides a fresh look at retouching as an artful practice more than a trite and repetitive process. Kelly teaches how to manipulate human form with purpose, invoke emotion with characters, and use textures to create depth and atmosphere within images. Finally Kelly challenges you with a homework assignment, providing a RAW image and charact

Surreal Portrait Retouching Workflow
  • Introduction

    Episode 1

    An introduction and overview of the series with photographer, Kelly Robitaille, outlining the goals for the series.

  • Perspective on Portraits

    Episode 2

    Photographer, Kelly Robitaille gives background and context to her artistic evolution in the genre of creating Surreal Beauty Portraits. From concept, lighting, wardrobe and make up, Kelly gives a closer look at her process and philosophy in creating the characters portrayed in her artwork.

  • Retouching Plan

    Episode 3

    Kelly gives a brief introduction and outline for her retouching process for a whimsical waif. Gain insight on how to retouch Bluebird, with exercise goals and an overview of her plan for the image.

  • Facial Enlargements

    Episode 4

    Learn the process of enlarging the head and eyes to create the foundational features of a Whimsical Waif. Use layer masks and the brush tool to composite the image elements.

  • Liquify

    Episode 5

    Within liquify, utilize the bloat, pucker, and forward warp tools to reshape/redefine features of your character.

  • Background Cleanup

    Episode 6

    Create a more consistent background, develop a cleanup process for flyaways from hair and wardrobe with the spot healing brush.

  • Skin Cleanup

    Episode 7

    An artistic approach to skin cleanup focusing on character and emotion, utilizing spot healing, patch, and clone tools.

  • Frequency Separation

    Episode 8

    Use the Frequency Separation action with the clone stamp tool to create a surreal skin aesthetic.

  • Dodge and Burn

    Episode 9

    Moving to the second image of the series - Bluebird - use Dodge and Burn to accentuate the shadows and highlights of the image. Create more dimension and emotion to the work. Push the character further into an artistic rendering with painting to accentuate the makeup and achieve a painterly aesth...

  • Color Grading

    Episode 10

    Apply a variety of color elements to create a surreal and painterly finish to the image. Utilize Selective Color to create a matte effect, curves to enhance vibrancy, contrast and saturation. Apply a gradient to further enhance the style of the character’s face.

  • Puppet Warp

    Episode 11

    Apply final modifications to the image with painting, blending, and puppet warping.

  • Final Textures

    Episode 12

    Blending texture, custom brushes, and masking to create the final composition for Bluebird.