Wooden Skin

In this tutorial you’ll learn how to make a person look like it is part of a tree. Blending textures.

Here are our two images we’re using, both found on Stock.xchng.

Step 1: Positioning and Prepping

I’m going to copy and paste the image of the girl over top of the image of the tree. At this point I could scale it if I wanted, but she is actually the perfect size for me. However, I want her flipped, because I want her peaking out of the inside of the tree. Once I flip her, I want to make her about the same color as the tree as well, so I am going to adjust the colors with Hue/Saturation (Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation or CTRL+U).

Now, I want the darks and lights to be a little more intense, because I am going to delete most of the black area. To do this I’m adjusting the Levels (Image>Adjustments>Levels or CTRL+L).

Once I’ve adjusted the intensity a little, I used the Magic Wand and clicked in the black areas and deleted them.

I want the image of the girl to blend into the tree a little better than it currently is, so this is when you start to play with your Blending options in your Layers window. I’ve gone with “Lighten” as the one I want to use for this layer.

Next, I don’t want her head to be overlapping the tree on the left side, so I’m going to delete that section of her. To do this, I’ll make her layer invisible, and then use the Magnetic Lasso Tool, click and then outline the edge of the tree. Once I have the selection, I select her layer again, and delete (or use the Eraser) to take that part away from her.

For my next trick, I’ll use the burn tool, with an opacity around 25% and darken the areas of her face that would be behind the edge of the tree there.

We are finished with our prepping.

Step 2: Retexturing the Skin for Blending

I want the girl to look like she is a part of the tree, not a child’s face on the tree, so to do this I need her skin to be made of bark. I’ll select a large area of bare tree and copy that section. Once I’ve gotten it copied, I’ll select the girl’s layer, then hold CTRL down and click on the layer once more. If it’s done right then it will select the parts of the face behind from before. Once the selection is active, go up to the menu: Edit>Paste Into. When you Paste Into something, you have to have an active selection. It then creates a mask for you on another layer, and you can scale, rotate, do whatever to it on that layer. So, at this point I will have three layers total.

Now that she looks like a block of wood, we want to be able to see her face, so we’ll change our newly created layer’s Blending option to “Darken”.

Step 3: Burning, Dodging and Erasing Are Your New Best Friends

To make some of the areas of the tree bark blend better with the tree, and the face, we’re going to have to burn, dodge and erase our way into details. We’re not going to be adding anything else to this photo, it’s more of a take-away method from here on out.

I can’t tell you exactly what to do to make it look just right, so it’s going to be a mix of things here and there. I’m going to be adjusting both the girl’s face layer and the layer with her bark-skin. We’re not going to even touch our tree-background photo, so if you want to you can lock that right now so you don’t mess it up.

As a precaution if this is your first time doing this, I would recommend duplicating the face and bark layers, then making them invisible. This is incase you do ‘something that you really don’t like and it’s too far back in the history to change it, or you’ve since closed your file and can’t undo anything anymore. I do this a lot when I’m not so sure how things are going to turn out and am afraid I will mess something up.

And now, onto more image adjustments…

I’m going to use the Burn tool and with a low opacity go over sections of the bark that I can see too much face coming through (like on the left side). Darkening these areas will make them more visible.

Zooming into the picture, and making the brush size of the Burn tool much smaller, I’m going to darken the cracks in the wood, and give little bits of shadow here and there… she is after all in a darker section of the tree.

I’m going to want to subtly erase sections of the bark now. The best way to do this is to select a random brush like one of the chalk ones, something that isn’t round, and keep the opacity between 15 and 30%. The key to this is the grain of the wood isn’t round, so the brush shouldn’t be either.

As some of the bark is erased, it will start to appear lighter, as you’ll be able to see some of the flesh of the girl showing through.

Up the opacity of the Eraser (probably about 40 to 60%) to make intense areas. With a mix of the Eraser and Burn tool on both layers (opacities between 15 and 60%), there will be some dramatic effects.

For a final touch, I want the child’s eyes to show up a little better. On the bark layer I’m going to use the Dodge tool to lighten up the color. A Soft Round Brush with a 25% opacity and some careful clicking will do the trick.

Finished and with Detailed shots!

Like I said, it’s really about experimenting to see what you like and don’t like when it comes to something like this. The grain of the wood is not uniform, so it takes some playing around with it to make it just right.

Here are two variations of this tutorial. Working through it three times ended me with different results each time.

Hope you like this tutorial!

By Kirin Knapp

Kirin Knapp is a graphic designer for the iEntry Network, publishing company of FlashNewz. A flash animator and illustrator, she is the creator of her home site, Inkdu.com.

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