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 portrait retouching methods, including actions, overlays and textures, which will allow you to create unusual and surreal portraits.
Portrait Retouching Workflow
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 photographic narrative and enhance character-driven emotion within her surreal portraiture. 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 portrait 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 photoshop textures to create depth and atmosphere within images.
Finally Kelly challenges you with a homework assignment, providing a RAW image and character story to create an image of your own.
An introduction and overview of the surreal portrait retouching tutorial with photographer, Kelly Robitaille, outlining the goals for the series.
Perspective on Portraits (9:52)
Photographer, Kelly Robitaille gives background and context to her artistic evolution in the genre of creating Surreal Beauty Portraits. From concept, lighting, wardrobe and make up, Kelly gives a closer look at her process and philosophy in creating the characters portrayed in her artwork.
Retouching Plan (2:40)
Kelly gives a brief introduction and outline for her portrait retouching process for a whimsical waif. Gain insight on how to retouch Bluebird, with exercise goals and an overview of her plan for the image.
Facial Enlargements (6:39)
Learn the process of enlarging the head and eyes to create the foundational features of a Whimsical Waif. Use layer masks and the brush tool to composite the image elements.
Within liquify, utilize the bloat, pucker, and forward warp tools to reshape/redefine features of your character in the portrait retouching process.
Background Cleanup (3:37)
Create a more consistent background, develop a cleanup process for flyaways from hair and wardrobe with Photoshop's spot healing brush.
Skin Cleanup (3:40)
An artistic approach to skin cleanup in beauty retouching focusing on character and emotion, utilizing spot healing, patch, and clone tools.
Frequency Separation (7:15)
Use the Frequency Separation action with the clone stamp tool to create a surreal skin aesthetic in portraits.
Dodge and Burn (9:44)
Moving to the second image of the series - Bluebird - use Dodge and Burn to accentuate the shadows and highlights of the image. Create more dimension and emotion to the work. Push the character further into an artistic rendering with painting to accentuate the makeup and achieve a painterly aesthetic. Further hone the overall surreal aesthetic with another pass with the Frequency Separation action. Use masking and curves to further define your character’s eyes.
Color Grading (10:50)
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 a gradient to further enhance the style of the character’s face.
Puppet Warp (8:50)
Apply final modifications to the portrait with painting, blending, and puppet warping.
Final Textures (7:51)
Blending texture, custom brushes, and masking to create the final composition for Bluebird.
Facial Enlargements (8:24)
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.
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 (3:44)
Fill out the background, use the patch and spot healing brush tools to cleanup flyaways in hair and wardrobe
Skin Retouching (9:10)
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 (8:00)
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 details, dimension, and enhance the makeup of the character.
Enhancing Emotion (3:55)
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 (9:40)
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
Homework Assignment (5:56)
Create your own custom interpretation of a Kelly Robitaille original. Kelly will provide a general creative brief and overview of the image assets and recap of portrait retouching techniques, so that you can create your own take on a Whimsical Waif, The Dove.
Negative Feedback (2:58)
Listen to value insight as photographer, Kelly Robitaille, discusses the possibility of negative feedback when using methods like her's within the medium of art. Gain an approach and philosophy for developing your voice as an artist and photographer as well as standing behind your creative decisions.
RGGEDU Podcast (27:32)
Join Rob Grimm and Gary Martin in another RGG EDU Podcast with photographer and artist, Kelly Robitaille. Hear about Kelly's life, background within photography, and her conflict and confidence within creating Surreal Portraiture.
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