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Quick PS guide to transforming into Drow

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#1 Mayday

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Posted 03 January 2005 - 12:27 AM

Hello there, I realise that I'm new here, but nonetheless I'm posting a guide. Ain't I a rebel? Heh heh.
Anyway, to those of you who aren't Invert happy when making Drow from surface elves, this doesn't apply to you. Although you may garner a couple of pointers for help.
To the rest of you who us the Invert tool on skin, it does.

I suppose it might be an idea to start with looking at one I cooked up earlier, eh? I suppose I could have made it totally perfect, but hey, I'm not Martha Stewart.
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The steps from making it from the original picture into the final picture are pretty easy to accomplish, but they do take time. Assuming clothing remains constant (but then, clothing would require similar techniques for changing colours and such), the background, hair, and skintones all use different techniques.

We'll start with skin tones first. Mainly because I say we will.

When doing skin tones, you must select all the skin that you wish to be blackened. By this I mean, if there are tattooes you want to keep that colour, don't select that part. Same goes with rings and painted nails, and try to go around as much hair as possible. This can be hell with small strands, so just blacken those. We'll take care of them later.
Don't forget to deselect the eyebrows and eyes. Drow can have a few different eye colours, lets not make them all dark grey.

Once you have selected all you intend to be blackened, copy and paste what you've selected (I have reasons for this), and then create a new layer, and paintbucket it black. Technically I suppose you could also paintbucket this part white, but I prefer black because it makes the next step easier on the eyes.

Now proceed to use the pencil tool to go over all the fleshy parts that you've managed to miss with the select tool you used. Erase any parts you paintbucketed that you shouldn't have. You can easily see these by popping it down to, say, 40% opacity for that layer.

Once all this is done, have the opacity set to 100%, and set the layer type to Colour, and duplicate the layer. Set the duplicated layer to Darken, and move the Opacity slider up and down until you find the perfect darkness for your Drow.
Thus the skin should be finished. Select the copy pasted layer of skin, and link all the skin darkening layers. Merge them.

Next: White hair!
Okay, this part is a pain in the butt. Especially if the hair colour isn't already black.
If it is black, select it all, and copy paste it to a new layer. Make it the only visible layer, and start erasing away those bits of background and skin and other such things that were selected at the very edges. Then use Invert to turn it white.

If it isn't white, it's going to be a bit harder. Depending on how well the hair is shadowed, you may need to increase those shadows a bit. But first things first.
First, perform the previous step, but do not use Invert yet. Instead, while the selection area is still selected, make yet another new layer, and make it, say, white. Then change the layer type to colour again, making it black and white. Now, if there is a lack of depth to the hair colour, you may want to increase the contrast.
Go to the menu and create an Adjustment layer which is grouped to the hair layer. Play with the settings until you feel it looks good, and click okay.

Now, select the hair layer, and link the adjustment layer, and the Colour layer. Merge them. Now Invert them. This should leave your character looking distinctly drowish thus far.

Finally, regarding the character themselves... Eye colour!
Well, Drow have white in their eyes, of course, so if the character's eyes aren't quite white, lets make the bits that should be white, white.
For this, I like to make a new layer. It's so much easier to correct when you make a blue.
Select the part that should be white. Paintbucket it white.
Select the part that should be a colour, and decide what colour it should be. They commonly have pale eyes in shades of green, silver (use Black or White), pink (red), and blue.
Depending on the colour you choose, just colour it in.

And now, backgrounds.
For making the character look more at home, they should be shown in a setting that doesn't jar with the character themselves. This means you shouldn't have Drow frolicking in the woods.
You should have kept all the layers I haven't told you to merge. You'll love me for this in a moment.

Find an Underdark scene. I don't care where, do a Google image search if you like.
Once you find a good one, copy it into a new image in PS. Don't put it in the Drow pic yet.

Before we can do that, we have to get rid of the old background. If the drow's main bits are still on the Background layer, duplicate the background, and delete it.
Now you have him on a layer that will allow transparency properly.
Get rid of all the bakground. You'll surely have to go around clothes and stuff to get rid of it all, but because the hands, face and hair are on other layers, you can just delete that from the background duplicate layer. Aren't you happy about that?
Now that you've got all this transparent space, it's time to put something behind it.

You may need to increase the size of the background pic you have, so do it, and paste it to a new layer in the Drow image. Put this new layer at the bottom.

Now, it may seem too in focus when compared to the Drow himself.
Use a Gaussian blur, but don't make it too strong. You'll know when you've got it right.

Finally, because its the underdark, it's actually kind of dark. ('Whoa, really?' I hear you say?)
So, lets make an adjustment layer, grouped to the new background layer.
Turn down the brightness, and, if it becomes too hard at the appropriate lighting level to make much out, turn up the contrast a bit.

Now you should have a Drow in the underdark, and it should all fit together marvellously.

Flatten the image.

If the edges are a bit sharp with the Drow against the background, you will have to use a normal Blur or two to fix it up. Apart from that, it should come up looking bonza.

I hope this is a help to at least some of you.
The steps look more detailed than they actually are. But they do demand some level of attention to detail.

#2 Plasmocat


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Posted 03 January 2005 - 01:58 PM

Another way you can approach the hair is to select the hair, copy it & put a copy into a separate layer. Desaturate all color from the hair so that it's B&W, then use the bright/contrast function to get a look you like.

If you want to provide a more natural look, after you desaturate the color from the hair adjust the hue/saturation to suit either what you would consider the natural shadows or underlying skintones of the figure you're representing. For example, if you are making a Drow with skin that's more blue than black, set the hue to match the the shadows of his/her skin.

You may also want to repeat this process for two or three layers so that you have some texture and highlights in the hair.

Check out ol' Cernd here to see how it turns out.

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Edited by Plasmocat, 03 January 2005 - 02:01 PM.

All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. -- Albert Camus

#3 Mayday

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Posted 04 January 2005 - 02:02 AM

Nice alternatives.

There should no longer be a reason for people to simply invert an image, causing a sense of wrongness about it.

#4 Plasmocat


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Posted 04 January 2005 - 06:29 AM

Thanks for providing those instructions, Mayday. It's something I'd like to try myself when I have some spare time. :)
All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. -- Albert Camus

#5 Mayday

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Posted 04 January 2005 - 06:57 AM

Thanks for providing those instructions, Mayday.  It's something I'd like to try myself when I have some spare time.  :)

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No worries. I've been using photoshop for some time now, and am only just beginning to get a real grip on it all. But I was mostly prompted to make those instructions by figuring out a good way to make it all dark to a darkness of a drow, while not making the shadows look awful, like Invert tends to do. Invert will simply flip the colours, which is not a good way to make it pretty.

You're right though, it's not exactly a walk in the park to do all that, since there is simply so much in need of recolouring.

And great suggestions for getting the hair just right.

#6 Celestine


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Posted 04 January 2005 - 09:34 PM

great guide, even better if you can provide screenshots of steps. I really suck at Photoshop but I'm keen to learn. thanks for posting.

#7 Mayday

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Posted 05 January 2005 - 06:41 PM

great guide, even better if you can provide screenshots of steps. I really suck at Photoshop but I'm keen to learn. thanks for posting.

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There's really not that much there in the way of steps.
Essentially, it is:
Select all skin tones.
Copy paste.
Make layer, paintbucket black, set mode to colour.
Copy layer, set mode to darken, play with opacity slider.
Merge extra skin layers.

Select hair, and copy paste.
Make a layer, paintbucket white. Set mode to colour.
Create adjustment layers if necessary.
Merge extra hair layers.
Invert unless already very white.

Select background layer, copy paste to a new layer
delete original background layer
paste in new background
move new background layer to bottom.
Use blur and brightness/contrast adjustment layers to place background out of focus.

So in effect, each part of the picture has 5 steps, and the hardest part is using the selection tool. I'm not kidding, it really is. I prefer to use the polygonal lasso selection tool. However, I suppose I can certainly post a bit later showing the steps. Maybe using a different image, even.

#8 Mayday

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Posted 05 January 2005 - 07:02 PM

Okay, I've chosen the image. From the FW Portraits section even. Hooray for Photoshopping already photoshopped images. Who'd have thought that that would become a verb, huh? Not me!

Posted Image
This image was kindly submitted by Elimae, and seemed perfect for being changed into a drow. For some reason, it just looked right.
Anyway, as I have a job interview right now, I'll get onto it when I return.

#9 Mayday

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Posted 05 January 2005 - 11:54 PM

Okay, now commences the extra long version. (Apparently even with a mistake included, no worries though, I fixed it too.)

The original image was shown above.
But here it is again.

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Generally, the very first thing I like to do is triple the size of the image. This is not strictly necessary, but I find it makes it easier to edit. This is extremely important for hiding errors when you shrink it back down.

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Here is the tripled sized image. I've done some by-the-by editing that doesn't concern you in this guide. All I did was fill up a patch of hair that Elimae must have missed, as there seemed to be a block cut out of it on the right hand side. This would obviously be less noticable at smaller scales.

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Now, I find here that the hair will be hell to do, on account of it blending into the background like so. So I create an adjustment layer temporarily, to allow me to see the outline of the head more clearly. This is a brightness/contrast kind of adjustment layer.
It looks hideous like this, doesn't it? No matter, we'll delete it later on.

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We've selected the hair and made a new layer with it by copy pasting it all in.
Truth be told, I copy pasted a section at a time, and then merged the sections.

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Here I've kept the same selection field active, and have created a new layer, and filled it with white. But it could have been filled with black, for all it matters. Layer type is set to colour.

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Here I've inverted the selected area. I've also done a bit of clone stamping and smudging, to fix the ear up a bit and to fill up a bit of a brown patch on the armour that seemed to come off of the hair. I also deleted the adjustment layer, since I'm done with it. I've also used a gaussian blur at 0.4, so as to soften the edges a bit. Then I grouped a new brightness/contrast adjustment layer to the hair, and deepened the shadows by decreasing brightness by 15 and increasing contrast by 25.

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Now, the face.
Because I've done the hair, and it is a seperate layer, I don't have to take as much care with selecting the face, except in key spots such as where it joins the armour and the earring.
I proceeded to copy this layer, and make two new layers, filling each of them with black in the selected area. The first area I changed to be a colour layer type. The second I changed to be a darken layer type, and used the slider to get the right darkness. Then I merged these layers.

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But I felt this was a bit odd looking, and the armour didn't look like it joined properly. So I cleaned the armour part up with the eraser tool, and I grouped yet another brightness/contrast adjustment layer with the face layer, increasing brightness by 10 and contrast by 35. I also proceeded to select the eyes and make them their own layer for a later step.

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Here I've done the eyes. They were kind of hard to get right. Here's what I did:
First I created a layer of colour type. Then I went over the irises in green, and over the whites of the eyes and pupils in white.
Then I created another layer, and set it to Luminosity at 26% opacity. I used white and went over the whites and corners of the eyes. Finding this looked off, I applied another Brightness/contrast layer and decreased contrast and increased brightness significantly. I then merged all eye related layers.

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The background layer here was copied, and the original deleted, allowing me to have transparent squares. Because I've already done the entire head, and it is all on other layers, I my only worry is not chopping off any armour, or the earring, which was easily accomplished. Then I simply found an underdarkesque picture, in this case the cover of Menzoberranzen. I made the part of that cover I used very big, and placed it to be the new backdrop. I then used a couple of different sorts of blurs to make it look less pixelated.

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And this would be where I suddenly realise I forgot the eyebrows. I should read my own instructions dammit.
Anyway, to fix it I simply selected the eyebrows from the darkened face, and made them a new layer, which I inverted. Then to give them a little depth I applied a brightness/contrast adjustment layer to them, and decreased brightness by 5 and increased contrast by about 20. I clonestamped the eyebrows a little to make them about the same length, and then merged all face, hair, eye, and eyebrow layers.

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The final step is to change the colour of the armour.
Since drow seem to have nice, dark armour, I'm selecting the armour, making sure not to get the earring, or any of the background, in my selected area, and making a new layer, and filling it with dark purple. Then I duplicate this new layer. I set the first layer to be a Darken type, at 50% opacity. And the second is made a luminosity type layer, at 30%.

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And finally, completed, I set it back to its original portrait size, but hardly looking like it at all.

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Of course, I am not a photoshop god like some people, so if you have tips on how to do things better, this is the place to say them. Photoshop is a powerful tool, and extremely easy to use, but it's damn hard to master.

Also, in case you're wondering, that job interview went very well.