Picasso took an unconventional approach to portrait painting. He evoked an impression of his subjects by rendering their face in profile while depicting features like the eyes and nose as if viewed from head on. We can apply this approach to portrait photography to create what are called double exposure portraits. The trick is to convert some standard shots into a creative composite that sums up our subject in an eye-catching way.
In this tutorial we’ll demonstrate how to use Photoshop’s tools to combine both a face-on and profile view of a subject in a single image so that we can summon up more about their identity than we could in a conventional portrait.
We’ll kick off by cropping the start images to make the subject’s key features look more prominent in the frame and then add them to a layered document.
You’ll then use Selection tools to remove unwanted background details before converting the selections into masks.
No selection is initially perfect, so we’ll demonstrate how to apply brush strokes to the Layer Masks to hide or reveal particular facial features.
We’ll also demonstrate how to use fill layers to add simplified washes of colour to the shot’s shadows and highlights to help push the end result in a more artistic direction.
Step-by-step how to make double exposure portraits
01 CROP THE FACE
Open your face-on portrait. Grab the Crop tool. Set it to Original Ratio. Drag a corner handle to crop out the edges of the frame and zoom in on the subject. Drag outside the crop box to rotate the shot by 12 degrees. Drag inside the box to position the face as shown. Hit Enter.
02 REMOVE BACKGROUND
Grab the Quick Selection tool. Spray over the beige background on the right to select it. Choose Select>Inverse. Click the Refine Edge option. Spray the Refine Radius tool over the spiky hairs to add them to the selection. Set Output to Layer Mask. Click OK.
03 ADD NEW PORTRAIT
Open your profile portrait. Choose Select>All and then Edit>Copy. Edit>Paste the shot into the main project. Set the pasted layer’s Blend Mode to Multiply. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T to activate the Free Transform tool. Rotate, scale and position the layer so key features overlap.
04 ADD A LAYER MASK
Cmd/Ctrl click on the ‘Layer 0’ mask to reactivate the selection. Click on ‘Layer 1’. Click the Add layer mask icon. Restore the ‘Layer 1’ Blend Mode to Normal. Click on the ‘Layer 1’ thumbnail. Use the Quick Selection tool to select the beige background. Click on the ‘Layer 1’ mask. Choose Edit>Fill. Set Contents to Black. Click OK.
05 EDIT THE MASK
Click on ‘Layer 0’ mask and fill the selection with black. Press Cmd/Ctrl+D to deselect the marquee. Set ‘Layer 1’ Blend Mode back to Multiply. Grab the Brush tool. Paint a black brush on the Layer Masks to remove any areas that aren’t overlapping. Reduce the Opacity to 50% and spray on the top layer’s eye.
06 COLOUR THE IMAGE
Click the Create new fill icon and choose Solid Color. Choose white and place the layer at the bottom of the stack. Add a Black & White Adjustment Layer. Use the High Contrast Red Filter preset. Set the Foreground colour to purple and background to orange. Add a Gradient Map and use the Foreground to Background preset.
To give your surreal portrait more contrast, choose Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves. Place the Curves Adjustment Layer above the two image layers. You can start off by experimenting with Preset adjustments like Strong Contrast.
Alternatively, click to place a point near the bottom of the curve and drag downwards to create darker shadows. Place another point nearer the top and drag upwards to brighten the highlights. This will create an S-shaped curve.
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