Elements portrait in Photoshop


Now it’s time to achieve some creative effects inside Photoshop! Ever wondered how designers created figures that look just as they came out from a Visual FX teaser? Examples of this are what we can call “Elements portraits”, which are actually photos edited in Photoshop to create Fire, Water, Snow, Leaves, Wind effects on them. Follow up this guide on how to create an elements portrait in Photoshop.

For this tutorial purpose, I am going to pick up some random image at Google of a Street Dancer. If you want to use a photo of your own, make sure it is one with a dynamic pose on it, since it enhances the feel we are making with the element portrait.


After opening the image (best if you work with a PNG file), go to Adjustments and desaturate the image. Next use CTRL+I for inverting the image.



Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, check the Colorize box and apply this tint adjustment on our dancer. Notice that I went to red tints, since I want to add a fire effect to the model. Be sure to also click the “Affect all layers” icon, since you also want this color punch-up when you create the background below.


Create a Levels adjustment layer. Use the values I’ll provide below and be sure to adjust every channel. Also use “Affect all layers” as we did with the Hue/Saturation adjustment.

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Group the adjustment layers with the girl layer. Next, do a copy of that group and combine its layers. We can turn off the original group for now.


Using the Dodge tool, we can paint some areas where we want to bring some highlights. Do this in a way that will suit your needs; remember to work with an exposure value around 30% and with its mode set on Highlights.


Now I want to create the background before applying any further effect. Create a couple of layers at the bottom. Fill the first with a dark reddish tint, and the second with black. Grab the eraser tool, resize it until it almost covers the entire layer, and apply it twice on the black layer. I used a soft brush tool, opacity 100%. Change the layer blending mode of this black layer to Multiply.


I found some cool looking fire images at Google that I am going to use for the fire effect on this girl.

The point here is to keep putting textures around the girl to simulate fire flames wrapping her body. But since I don’t want the effect to look dull or repetitive, I am going to keep rotating, adjusting the size and switching between fire textures to make this effect look dynamic enough.

Start with the first fire texture; make 3 copies and hide 2 of them. On the remaining layer, change its mode to Screen, rotate and apply where you want to. In my case, I am going to start with the bent leg.


As you can see, if we apply the image like that, we will end up with some nasty borders, so grab the brush tool (soft brush would suit better for this adjustment) and start brushing with a black color over the edges and the areas where you don’t want the flames to be. Opacity at 100%.


Keep working your way through the image, remembering to switch textures from time to time, as flames in real life don’t look all alike. Add more flames at critic points of the image, where the movement of the dancer is too much notorious, like her arms and legs.

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Then, at a certain point, you will notice how many textures you ended up having at your scene. For this final texture, I am going to do a little trick that will end up the flame effect. Change the layer blending mode to Overlay; erase some edges with the eraser tool, then switch to the brush tool.
With the black color on, start painting over the dancer under this layer blending mode. You will notice how much life is going to bring to the effect, starting to look like real flames, then paint around the edges, like to add some changes in the overall lighting conditions of the scene.


Now for ending up, I want to add a Gradient Ramp adjustment layer, with a dark reddish color to white and set it to Multiply. Reduce the opacity a little bit. Finally, add a Color Balance adjustment layers with this very values.




And this is our end result. Pretty cool looking right?


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