By popular demand, we bring you the complete tutorial for this fantastic portrait effect, revealing the settings that went into its making
We’ll begin by removing our bear from the existing backdrop. This is trickier than it looks as fur has so many stray ends, making edge selection a real battle. We start by selecting the Quick Selection tool at a size no bigger than 20px. The trick is to apply this just inside the edges of the fur.
With your selection active, open the Refine Selection options. Toggle between On Black (B) and Black & White (K) view modes to check your results. Set the Edge Detection Radius to 40px, activating Smart Radius. Set Contrast at 2% to bring back some sharpness to the edges. Activate Decontaminate Colors to combat edge halos.
Apply a pale-blue Solid Color adjustment layer in behind your bear copy layer. Activate your layer mask and choose the Grass brush style. Only have Shape Dynamics active in your brush options. Keep editing the Roundness and Angle of your brush, applying it to fake-looking edges, reproducing fur effects previously missing in these areas.
We’ve enhanced our fur edges further by applying a small Smudge brush at 100% Strength, as well as a 50% Exposure Burn tool set to Midtones. Apply the latter sparingly to again limit contaminated colours in your edges. Duplicate your Solid Color layer and place this at the top of your stack. Hold Cmd/Ctrl+Shift and click between this and the bear copy layer, clipping the colour. Set the duplicate Solid Color layer’s blending mode to Luminosity, with Opacity at 10%.
Add a Color Balance adjustment layer to the top of your stack. Set Cyan/Red at -10, Magenta/Green at +15 and Yellow/Blue at -5. Drop the Opacity of this layer to 50%. Activate the Elliptical Marquee tool with Feather set at 200px. Hold Opt/Alt and draw a circular selection that will be the basis for a spotlight behind our bear. With this new selection active, create a Levels adjustment layer, place this behind your masked bear layer, set Midtones at 2.49 and Highlights at 205. Set the layer Opacity at 90% and blending mode to Luminosity.
After examining the applied Levels the Solid Color backdrop colour looks washed out. We’ve changed this to a dark navy colour. We’ve also create a vignette effect by adding another feathered Elliptical Marquee tool selection, this time closer to the image edges. We’ve inverted this layer’s layer mask and set Shadows at 19, Midtones at 1.00 and Highlights at 255. Edit Levels settings further to perfect your look before proceeding.
Duplicate your masked bear layer. Ctrl-click this new layer’s mask and choose Apply Layer Mask. Select Image>Adjustments> Shadow/Highlights, then set Shadows Amount at 50%, Tonal Width at 50% and Radius at 30px. Add a layer mask to this layer, erasing from the right-hand and bottom edges of your bear with a 50% Opacity soft black brush. Also apply this brush to the inside of your bear’s ears before dropping the layer Opacity to 90%.
Create another feathered Elliptical selection over the bear’s face and add a Vibrancy adjustment layer, placed at the top of the Layer stack. Set Vibrance at +60, activate your bear copy layer and add an Inner Shadow layer style. Set Color to white, Blend Mode to Hard Light and Angle at 107 degrees. Set Distance at 27px and Size at 80px. From the same options add a white Inner Glow, with Blend Mode set to Screen and Opacity at 30%. Set Source to Edge, Size at 100px and Range at 100%.
Here we’ll add a soft focus by hitting Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Opt/Alt+E and choose Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Set Radius at 65px and the layer’s blending mode to Soft Light at 40% Opacity. Press Cmd/Ctrl+U, then set Saturation at -40 and Lightness at 20. We’re now nearing a perfect base for applying enhanced exposure.
Add another Selective Color layer on top of your stack, then set Cyan at 15 and Black at -45. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Opt/Alt+E, press Cmd/Ctrl+U, set Saturation at -100 and apply a Multiply blending mode. Add a layer mask to this layer and invert it. Apply a 15% to 25% Opacity soft black brush to build up shadows and work in facial and fur contours. We’ll duplicate our Multiply layer, reapply a new layer mask and layer more shadow to the cheeks and eyes using a 5% Opacity brush.
Press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Opt/Alt+E and set this new layer’s blending mode to Screen. Add a layer mask and invert this. Place marker lines where highlights should be enhanced using a 100% Opacity soft white brush. This may look odd, but activate your layer mask and apply a 15px Radius Guassian Blur to apply the effect. Hide your highlight and shadow layers, activate your previous Selective Color layer and press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Opt/Alt+E. Name this layer Dodge & Burn. Last, show your highlight and shadow layers.
With your new Dodge & Burn layer active select the Dodge tool with Range set to Midtones. Enhance your highlights further, toggling between of 10% and 30% Opacity to get suitable effects. Activate the Burn tool, set Range to Shadows and again toggle between of 10% and 30% Opacity to get the effects you see in our example. Still with your Dodge & Burn layer active press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Opt/Alt+E to give image exposure a dynamic look. Tweak the opacity of this new layer if you feel the effect looks too harsh.
Apply a Color Balance adjustment layer and set Magenta/Green at -10 and Yellow/Blue at -5. Apply a Selective Color adjustment layer and set Cyan at 65%, magenta at 2%, Yellow at 35% and Black at -8%. This tweaks the blues in your backdrop. Activate your Channels panel and Cmd/Ctrl-click the Blue channel thumbnail, to create an active selection. Now add a Black & White adjustment layer back in your Layers palette, setting its blending mode to Soft Light at 15% Opacity. Finally press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Opt/Alt+E, select Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask, setting Amount at 20% and Radius at 3px.