Zombie pictures are all the rage at the moment, thanks to pop culture phenomena like The Walking Dead and World War Z. There are countless apps out there to help you make zombie pictures of yourself and your friends, but to ensure the best results we show you how a few simple Photoshop effects can make your zombie photos truly terrifying!
It’s that time of year when we revel in showing off our ghoulish sides, so why not celebrate by transforming people into creepy characters with blood, scars and crazed expressions?
We’ll show you how with a combination of essential Photoshop skills, from simple selections and masks to brush settings, Blend Modes and Layer Styles.
With their iconography and grisly effects, horror films offer great inspiration for Photoshop techniques (if you ever want an idea for a cool project, just look at horror film posters). We’ll begin here by dropping our character into one of the staple locations of any horror film: a creepy night-time forest.
Once that’s done we’ll emphasise the crazed expression by using the Dodge and Burn tools to lighten and darken parts of the face, which is a great way to add depth and accentuate features.
For best results, take your time, use a fairly small brush and get in close. When you’re done, you’ll have emphasised the facial features and given the person an almost comic strip-like air of monstrousness.
When it comes to adding the bloody smudges and scratches over the skin, we can use a combination of brush skills, Layer Styles and Blend Modes to get the gruesome effects.
You’ve probably used Blend Modes to blend layers before, but it may come as a surprise that they can also be used to affect how the Brush tool applies colour. Used in combination with the Bevel and Emboss Layer Style, you can add realistic cuts and scars to any portrait.
How to make zombie pictures in Photoshop
01 Copy and select
Open your start images. Go to your portrait, right click the layer in the Layers panel and choose Destination: [your second image with the background], then click OK to copy the portrait over. Go to the other image. Grab the Quick Selection tool from the Tools panel and paint to select the man. Hold down Alt to subtract from the selection if it goes wrong.
02 Refine the edges
Once you have a good selection of the man, click Refine Edge. Set Radius 1, then paint over the edges of the hair with the Refine Radius tool to get a better edge. Choose Output to: Layer Mask and click OK. Next press Cmd/Ctrl+J to copy the layer, then change the Blend Mode to Luminosity.
03 Dodge and burn
Grab the Burn tool and set Range: Shadows, Exposure 10% on the Options bar. Zoom in close, then paint to darken down any dark shadows or lines in the face and hands to emphasise them. Switch to the Dodge tool, set Range: Highlights, Exposure 10%, and use it to lighten any light patches or ridges.
04 Paint the dried blood
Click the Create new layer icon and set the Blend Mode to Multiply. Grab the Brush tool, then open the Brush Picker, click the fly-out menu and load the Dry Media Brushes. Choose the Dry Brush. Hit 1 for 10% opacity and select a red colour. Paint gradually around the face and hands to make a dried blood effect.
05 Make the scars
Make a new layer and go to Layer>Layer Style>Bevel and Emboss. Set Outer Bevel, Direction Down, Size 4, Angle -114. Choose light and dark skin tones in the Shading box. Check Texture, choose Bubbles and set Scale +5, Depth +38. Grab the Brush tool, set Mode to Multiply, Opacity 100, Flow 30%. Paint to add the scars.
06 Intensify the tones
Add a Black & White adjustment layer, set it to Soft Light, Opacity 70%. Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and set Master Saturation -40, Reds Saturation +20. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E and go to Filter>Unsharp Mask. Set Amount 40, Radius 60, Threshold 5. Go to Filter>Lens Correction and add a vignette.
The Bevel and Emboss Layer Style adds light and shade to the edges of our brush strokes, giving the impression of deep scars in the skin of your zombie pictures.
The great thing about Layer Styles is that they remain editable (unless you want to apply the style, in which case make a new layer, hold down Cmd/Ctrl and click to select both, then press Cmd/Ctrl+E to merge).
This control makes it easy to adjust the angle of light in the Bevel and Emboss settings, so you can set the Layer Style to mimic the direction of light in the scene.
How to make zombie pictures: video tutorial
Levitation photography: how to do portraits that defy gravity
Photoshop Effects: how to mimic studio lighting for stylish portraits
How to fake the Golden Hours in Photoshop (even if you shot a JPEG)
How to make tourists disappear in Photoshop
How to replace a sky: Photoshop effects to make your landscapes more attractive