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28 February 2009 @ 08:28 pm
Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself...  
Hello there. I was invited to be a guest speaker and today is my day so here it goes.
Names wickedfox. I have a website called Wickedfox.com where you can find photo manipulations for the fandoms Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Jekyll, Murphy's Law and general James Nesbitt appreciation. My primary graphic application is Photoshop CS3 and I use a Wacom tablet to do the dirty deeds I do.

First thing, they requested I answer the following questions . . .

1. favorite color?

2. favorite style?
Not sure what you mean by “style” so I'll just say dark.

3. least favorite style?
See previous answer. I suppose bubbly and cutsie.

4. favorite type of fanart (icons, headers, walls, manips)?
Manips are by far my favorite. I love the idea of tricking the eye to see something that never was but should have been.

5. most favorite font?
At the moment, Zothique Demo

6. least favorite font?
Wingdings 3

7. major influences?
Koala's Hub, Once More With Feeling, The Buffy related sites of www.inner-moppet.com (which won't work for some reason), Formosus et Sophus, The Perfect Thing, Stay and Gloat, Mark of Eyghon, Cocorific: The Band Candy Fanlisting, Oakpark Street. And of course katekat1010.

8. Who/what is your most favorite subject to work with?
Men, specifically James Nesbitt (Jekyll, Murphy's Law), Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Merlin) and Robin Sachs (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

9. Who/what is your least favorite subject to work with?
Women. I'd much rather stare at men for hours.

10. Of all the art that you've created, which piece/pieces is/are do you love the most (and why)?
Hard to say since my mood changes often.

I enjoy this one since it made soooo many folks laugh and the manip worked out surprisingly well.

I was pleasantly surprised that I managed to do more of an "artsy" piece that came together well and had just the right amount of angst.
And the ones I chose for the tutorial fall under my "bearable" rating but I'm rarely satisfied.

Photo manipulation ~ Fun With Pixel Torture

Let me preface this tutorial with my graphic credentials. I don't have any. No artistic or Photoshop training at all. I'm self taught and everything I do is a haphazard trial and error experiment that once in a long while manages to produce something I deem passable enough to share. I'm sure there are better, correct techniques and terminology for the "tricks" I do but I'm fairly comfortable with my chaos. That said, I think I do some things that help make my manipulations work for the most part and this is what I'll cover in a very general overview. If there is something specific you would like to know, feel free to ask.

A quick reiteration of things already covered but I consider very important to successful manips and that I follow as golden rules.

  • As katekat1010 covered in her post about choosing a base, choosing images with similar lighting will provide a great starting point. Sometimes you can cheat this by adding highlights and shadow but please note the more you manip, the more it looks like a manip. Less is better. Rather than forcing it, try looking for an alternative head shot to make work with that hottie base image you found.

  • Selecting an appropriate substitute body type for the subject is also important for believability. However, with some effort and insanity, you might be able to de-muscle an image to better suit your needs. I find myself having to revert to this all the time.

  • Black and white is always easier to match than color, the reason, you must match skin tone in color. When I can't get a color manip to work, I often check it in a desaturated mode just to be sure it's hopeless before I file it in the trash.

Moving on to the tutorial bit... (warning, not dial-up friendly)


Many photo manipulations involve dismemberment like adding a characters head to a different body. When I see an opportunity to, I like to take this further, copying and pasting limbs into their own layers to add depth and complexity. Let me start with my one of my favorite pairings, Buffy/Giles (yes, I'm one of those).


I stripped Giles of his glasses and shifted his arm down. Buffy's arm was tilted up very subtly to make room for Giles. Add a smidge of shadow from Giles chin on Buffy's shoulder and between the joined hands to create a cuddly moment. The lighting and coloring of each base shot was quite close to begin with so there wasn't much need for tweaking.

Though I must admit Giles' legs seem to have been removed to make this position work. I said dismemberment, didn't I?


Rupert Giles has to be one of my favorite torture victims. I've done many bad things to him, from zomibifying to mutating but what I keep coming back to is vamping him. Let's look at a young Ripper going vamp.


The trick is using the Smudge tool or the Liquify tool (under Filter>Liquify) to mutilate characters to my liking. I'm uncertain if the Liquify tool is available for any versions of Photoshop earlier than CS3.


(Click to enlarge the images above.)


The Smudge tool set to a various higher strength levels allows me to “draw” over the image, adding creases, thickening brows, reshaping cheeks, all using the images original skin tone. The Smudge tool tends to smooth things out a bit more but the Liquify tool works well at preserving some of the texture/grain/noise of the image when applied with lesser Brush Density and Brush Pressure. You can also use the Clone Stamp tool by sampling highlights and shadows and applying them to the intended areas. To add noise to any one spot, I use the Eyedropper tool to find the various colors of shadows and highlights then apply the Brush tool. It's a good idea to use a speckled brush when using the Clone Stamp tool or Brush tool when working with a low quality, grainy picture.

 (Click to enlarge.)

To add depth to the newly mutilated features, I use the Dodge tool which helps to lighten shadows, midtones or highlights. The Burn tool darkens but also intensifies saturation so I use the Sponge tool set to desaturate to help bland out the recently darkened colors. Each of these tools is set to a low percentage exposure to avoid drastic changes.

With a beheading and pasting, we get vampy!Giles of the Ripperish variety. I work the Smudge tool, set to a very small brush size and higher strength, to "smear" out strands and locks of hair to make the pasted head more natural. When pasting anything over another image, unless they miraculously match color and light/shadow to begin with, be sure to fade the seams either with masking or using the eraser (masking is always preferred, of course). This opacity helps reveal the base image beneath and better blend the two together. Note how the lighting of both source images is similar enough to help "sell" the manip. I also lucked out with head position.


Hair extensions:

My preference in subjects tends toward the more average body type but with one usually tricky attribute, chest hair. This is particularly true for my latest obsession, Hyde from the BBC show Jekyll. Actor James Nesbitt is practically a bear and this makes for difficulty in manipping him. But with the help of some some good Photoshop brushes, this challenge can be overcome because the grass brush that comes with Photoshop can only get you so far. The Dave Nagel series is particularly great to work with for textures and hair. Here are some of his hair series that are worth checking out: Series 43, Series 36, Series 21. It also helps to find a base image sporting some chest hair to begin with but can be hard to find these days with the popularity of smooth-chested studlies. So when a source image is just too good to pass up, like say, a bloody axe wielding psychopath, oh yeah baby, I'll try to make it work.

Added highlights by way of the Dodge tool to the back of the neck and shoulder to better match the backlighting of Hyde's head. I selected a hair brush. This really is a test-and-see sort of thing since the thumbnails rarely give you a good idea how the hair will turn out. I usually set the hair layer to "Overlay" or "Multiply" and sometimes add a shadow set from middle to low opacity and matching the color of a darker shadow from the image.

In the end, I decided for more of a comic book feel so with a mix of (Filter>Noise>Reduce noise) and (Filter>Blur>Smart Blur), followed by a (Filter>Stylize>Diffuse) set to Anisotropic that I faded a smidge with (Edit>Fade Diffuse), then I increased the saturation with (Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation) to end up with a more colorful, comic style. Phew! Using the combination of Smart Blur and Diffuse also helped to mellow out the chest hair which came out a bit too sharp. I was none too pleased with the results of the blood splatter but I'm never satisfied.

 Going Dark:

Okay, one more which shows an attempt to mend two images that really aren't matching for body type, lighting or head position but that I had a very specific idea and mood in mind. I prefer to manip straight on shots, ones where the subject seems to be staring looking at the viewer because I feel like they have more of an impact. So how could I pass up this demented Hyde?

I wanted a gloomy, damp setting and had just the right base to use.

Unfortunately Tom's got quite the buff physique going for him here. Jimmy's out of his league for sure but a few tweaks might make him a body double contender. First, squish Tom to make him leaner by using the (Edit>Free Transform tool). Do this sparingly since it tends to be obvious if not freakish when overdone. Second, use that Liquify tool, Smudge tool or simply "draw" over the biceps a bit to lessen those bulgey muscles. Normally I would also tackle lightening those shadows and dulling those highlights on the torso that help accent muscles but I intended to help camouflage some of this musculature with other things. *grin*

So I've added chest hair both above the shirt collar and added texture to hint at it beneath the damp fabric. The blood stains and bullet wounds help break up the musculature as well, I hope. Again, I used that handy Dodge tool to add highlights to the light exposed arm in an attempt to better match the lighting of Hyde's head. I really could have done more but I lean toward less manipulation to avoid too much, if that makes sense. Finally, to add a punch to the image, I copied the completed layer and set it to overlay to exaggerate the colors and contrast of the original completed manip, in essense, going dark.

This concludes my ramblings. I know I kept things rather vague so if there is anything you would like more details about, please feel free to comment.

Thanks for reading!

Current Mood: artistic
WickedFox: bloody brucewickedfox on March 2nd, 2009 05:14 am (UTC)
Thanks again. It really was dumb luck. I knew how I wanted it to look but had to tinker for a while to get things right. That's usually how my projects work, just keep changing little things until its as close as I think it will come.