Chris Carter (aquamarcia) wrote in icon_tutorial,

Pattern/silhouette tutorial using a layer mask

A day or two ago, olsen_systa posted a question about how to get a certain effect applied to what was once a photo of one of the Olsen twins. It's taken some time and experimentation to develop an answer, but I've developed a technique which closely approximates the desired effect and have turned the experiment into a tutorial, making a different Olsen image into something like this.

About this tutorial:

  • Made in/for Photoshop CS, compatibility with earlier versions dependent on availability of a certain filter.
  • May not be translatable to other software due to the above dependency.
  • Skill level: intermediate (layer mask, saved selection, filter use)
  • The results of the tutorial are highly dependent on the source image possessing certain characteristics. Expect your results to be different if your source image doesn't have lighting and color qualities very similar to the source image in this tutorial.
  • Dialup users should be able to load this tutorial without difficulty. Most images are linked to rather than loaded inline.


I stumbled upon an image of one of the Olsen twins (don't know which one, don't normally pay enough attention to them to be able to tell them apart) different from the source for olsen_systa's sample image, but well suited to this task. Note the white background, good range of highlights/midtones/shadows, and the lack of a shadow obscuring any part of the face. This image is ideal because it requires no manipulation prior to using the Threshold command (coming up soon). Other images may need a lot of color correcting before they could be made suitable for use in this tutorial, especially as regards shadows on the face. Choose your images wisely.

Step 1: Open your image. Duplicate the background layer and give it a useful name. (I named mine 'olsen, threshold'.) Save to PSD to get your working file established.

Step 2: Make sure your new layer (not the background) is highlighted and run menu option Image » Adjustments » Threshold... The default value in the Threshold dialog box is 128. For this image I increased it to 151 and, satisfied with the way it looked, pressed OK.



At the end of step 2 you should have something resembling the image to the left.

Step 3: With the threshold layer highlighted, run menu option Filter » Stylize » Diffuse... Select Anisotropic mode and press OK.

Step 4:Run menu option Select » Color Range... Use the eyedropper to sample the black portion of the image, then run the Fuzziness slider in the Color Range dialog box up to 200. Press OK. The black portion of the image should now be surrounded by marching ants.

Step 5: Run menu option Select » Save Selection... Give the selection a name and press OK. Press CTRL-D to deselect. We'll reload the selection later.

Step 6: Make a new layer on top of the others. Select the Paint Bucket tool. Set the tool to fill with a pattern rather than a color and fill the new layer. I used one of Photoshop's built-in patterns. You may use any pattern you like. (See the Layers palette at the end of step 6.)

Step 7: Make another new layer on top of the others and fill it with white. Add a layer mask to this layer by pressing the Add Layer Mask button on the Layers palette.

Step 8: Run menu option Select » Load Selection... Choose the selection you saved earlier from the dropdown menu in the Load Selection dialog box and press OK.

Step 9: Run menu option Edit » Fill... Fill the selection with black (which should correspond to your current background color if the mask layer is highlighted). Though you've filled the selection with black, you won't see black in the image. What you should see is the pattern fill from the layer below showing through where the selected mask was filled. Press CTRL-D to deselect. (See the Layers palette at the end of step 9.)



At the end of step 9 you should have something resembling the image to the left.

Step 10: With the mask layer still highlighted, select the Brush tool and choose a large, hard-edged brush. (I used the size 19 brush.) Painting on the mask with white as the foreground color, paint over those parts of the image you might not need, assuming you see extra stuff that doesn't need to be there. In this case, I cleaned up the lower part of the image. Here's my image after cleanup.

Adding text which shows the same properties as the image is done in much the same way the image itself was made.

Step 11: Select the Text tool, get a font you like and add some text. I chose Porky's and added a silly comic sound effect word to the image.

Step 12: Run menu option Select » Load Selection... The correct entry will already be selected by default in the dialog box, so just press OK. The text should now be surrounded by marching ants.

Step 13: Turn off visibility of the text layer. The text will disappear but the marching ants will be left behind. (Deselecting right now would be bad.)

Step 14: Highlight the mask layer and make sure the mask portion of the layer is selected. Run menu option Edit » Fill... Fill the selection with black (which should correspond to your current background color if the mask layer is highlighted, just like the last time we did this). Once again the pattern fill should show through the mask, making the text look just like the rest of the image. Press CTRL-D to deselect. (See the Layers palette at the end of step 14.)

Step 15: Save the PSD, then Save For Web in your preferred format, and you're done!



Here's the final image...

Translation note: The Diffuse (anisotropic) filter may make translation difficult, but you might be able to replace the use of that filter with Gaussian Blur, which I think is more widely available. When I tried using Gaussian Blur it didn't work particularly well due to my source image being relatively small. If you use a very large, high quality image and leave it at the very large size while working on it, Gaussian Blur may work well.

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