How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

Halloween will be here before you know it, and what better way to shock up your selfies or petrify your pictures (ahem) than to give them a zombie makeover.

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a fun zombie look to your photographs, using the Zombie Photoshop Action by Eugene-design.

If you’d like to practice with the same images I’ve used you can find them for free, here:

When you choose your own image, try and pick something that has clearly defined eyes and a mouth; otherwise the process doesn’t work properly.

Getting Started

There’s very little in the way of prep before using this action, you just need to install the pattern, brush and action files that come with the download.

  • How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait
    Photoshop Actions
    How to Install an Adobe Photoshop Action
    Kirk Nelson
  • How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait
    Brushes
    Photoshop in 60 Seconds: How to Install Custom Brushes
    Melody Nieves
  • How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait
    Patterns
    Photoshop in 60 Seconds: How to Install and Use Patterns
    Melody Nieves

1. Run the Action

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

As you run the action, the dialogue will pause and pop up asking you to paint over first the skin:

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

Then each eye:

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

And finally the mouth:

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

I tried skipping a stage here just to test it and the action really does require you to paint over all of these. If there’s no mouth clearly visible, you could try painting on randomly anyway and then just deleting the relevant layers, later.

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

2. Fix Messy Areas

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

Go through layers and use layer masks to touch up any parts you missed. For now, just concentrate on masking in or out any parts that look wrong. For example, regular skin showing through or ‘zombie’ skin colour on your background.

Now let’s look at some of the details and how we can improve them. Start from the bottom group, ‘Skin’ and work through each layer.

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

I’ve lessened the shadow around eyes (to 50%) as it looked a bit like overdone eyeliner . I also reduced the blue colour cast overall, and added more blue to parts of the face. I’ve hidden the ‘wounds’ for now, as I think we can use the brush to add one or two later, making the effect a little more subtle.

3. Make More Targeted Adjustments

Eyes

I want to adjust the eye colour to come away from being all white, but I don’t want to make changes on the layer itself, in case I want to remove my changes later, so it’s best to create a layer mask on those layers and brush over to bring back the pupils and irises.

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

I’ve left one slightly milky for effect.

Mouth

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

I’ve hidden the wounds and blood around the mouth as again, I think it’s something you can add in later and perhaps to better effect The lips are a bit pink and healthy now but I’ll address that later

Overall Colour

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

The colour adjustments at the top will help you make overall changes to the image. Try increasing the contrast and bringing down the brightness for a moodier look. If you double click on each layer’s icon, you’ll be able to make changes to that layer in the Properties panel:

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

Add Gore

Now we can go back and add some ‘wounds’ and ‘blood.’ Create a new layer and call it something relevant like wounds… or blood.

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

I’ve started with a wound on the head. Not a bullet hole or, I’m guessing, according to zombie lore, our friend here wouldn’t be the living dead. Change the layer’s blend mode to Multiply.

Your placement of the head wound layer will determine how it looks as it will be affected by other layers.

Make some more layers and gradually build up some wounds on your zombie. Use layer masks to reduce and blend your brushed areas better.

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

4. Make Final Adjustments

Now we have the face the way we want it, we can make some changes to the overall look. Use dodge and burn to add localised contrast, and adjustment layers such as Selective Colour to change the overall look and make the backgroud more sinister.

This is supposed to be fun and stylised, so you can really stretch those layers to the extreme.

Here’s the finished image:

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

Pet Pictures

If you’re lucky enough to have animals that let you live with them, you might want to have some fun with their pictures too; this isn’t just for the bipeds.

How to Turn a Photo into a Terrifying Zombie Portrait

Here are some more spooky tutorials you might want to try, and a very happy Halloween from all at ThemeKeeper Tuts+.

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