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
  • Facial Enlargements

    Episode 1

    Turn your attention to Blackbird. Make adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW. Reinforce the principles of enlarging the head, eyes and mouth to create the foundational features of a Whimsical Waif. Use layer masks and the brush tool to composite the image elements.

  • Liquify

    Episode 2

    Within Liquify, use the bloat, forward warp, and pucker tools to further enhance and reshape the character’s face. Modify the arms and hands to exaggerate the characteristics of the Whimsical Waif.

  • Background Cleanup

    Episode 3

    Fill out the background, use the patch and spot healing brush tools to cleanup flyaways in hair and wardrobe

  • Skin Retouching

    Episode 4

    Utilize the spot healing, clone and patch tools to create a surreal skin tone and texture for your character. Use the Frequency Separation Action to push the surreal skin tone further. Dodge and burn to create additional dimension and tone.

  • Color Toning

    Episode 5

    Another application to 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 tonal changes for global hue changes. Paint highlights to add specular detai...

  • Enhancing Emotion

    Episode 6

    Create a custom element to enhance your character’s emotional story. Paint a tear, mask and blend, add shadow details and composite the element into the final composition.

  • Final Textures

    Episode 7

    For the final stages of Blackbird, apply texture and brush elements for finishing touches. Apply late stage puppet warp and liquify adjustments as minor tweaks to character, wardrobe posture/posing. Apply final curves