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Photoshop Zombie: Undead Eyes


photoshop zombie eyes tutorialZombifiying people in Photoshop is ridiculously good fun, there’s no doubt about it. In this new series of tutorials I will guide you through the various steps for creating top-tier Photoshop Zombies. I wanted to focus on the Undead Eyes look first, as it was an aspect of Zombie manipulations I had a few difficulties with when starting out. The trick here is to replicate the lighting, giving the illusion of glassy orbs as opposed to dull shapes slapped onto the model’s face.


The Stock

For this piece I have selected a quirky alternative model with an engaging pose – the clarity, lighting and resolution is good; which will benefit the final results. For those of you familiar with earlier posts, you’ll know what a stickler I am for using high quality resources! Check out the Selecting Stock article if you would like to get a heads up on stock. Image credit: Goth Girl by Harris Shiffman, Fotolia # 11108768

undead eyes demo

Dodge the Eyes

The first thing I usually do is duplicate the model layer (right click background layer, select Duplicate Layer), that means if anything goes wrong I can revert back to the original. On the duplicated layer use the Dodge Tool (O) to lighten the iris and pupil of your model. The exposure of my Dodge Tool was set to 60%, you may want to experiment depending on the darkness and eye colour of your chosen stock model. Reduce the size of the Dodge brush (you can use the brackets ‘ [ ] ‘ to change brush size) to dodge the dark edges of the iris’.

photoshop zombie eyes 2Creating the Base

Using the Eyedropper Tool (I), select a white midtone from the model’s eye. Using the Pen Tool or your preferred selection method, create a selection of both eyes and fill with your sampled colour, on a new layer. Give this layer a meaningful name, I called mine ‘eyeball base’. Use the dodge tool to subtly lighten the base layer in the centre of each eye (be conscious of matching the lighting of the source image). I used the Smudge Tool set at around 25% strength to gently smooth down the edges of the eyeball base, just to make things a little more natural. Check out the example below to get an idea of what you are after.

I created a layer group (small folder icon at the bottom of the layers palette), named it ‘eyes’ and put my ‘eyeball base’ layer in there. This is good practice as it helps organise your layers and you can easily hide the group from view when you want to check out the original model or sample colours.

photoshop zombie eyes 2

Shading the Base

For this step we hide the ‘eyes’ group for a moment (click eye icon), so we can sample one dark and one light tone from the model’s eye, using the eyedropper tool. You can use ‘x’ to switch between foreground and background colours. Make the ‘eyes’ group visible again and create a new layer above ‘eyeball base’, I called mine ‘light dark’ – this is where we will paint in the shades. The important step here is to create a Clipping Mask for the new ‘light dark’ layer – to do this hold down Alt and click between the ‘eyeball base’ and ‘light dark layers’.

Paint the dark and light tones onto your new layer using a soft edged brush (B). As there is a Clipping Mask in place, all the shading you do will be kept to the confines of the ‘eyeball base’ layer. Pretty nifty. Check out the examples below to get an idea of the brush strokes to use, I always try to mimic the lighting of the source image.

photoshop zombie eyes 4

A couple of Highlights

Create a new layer above the ‘eyes’ layer group and call it  ‘highlights’. On this layer use the Ellipse Tool with the colour set to white to create a few small circles in the centre of each eye. Apply a slight Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) to soften the circles, and set the new ‘highlights’ layer mode to Screen.

This step is crucial in creating the illusion, as glossy objects bounce off a lot of light. The better you can replicate lighting, the more tangible your work becomes.

photoshop zombie eyes 5

Darkening the Sockets

To give the eyes a lot more punch and achieve the classic undead look, the next step is to darken the socket areas surrounding the eyes. In my example, I created a new layer group called ‘eye shadows’ and made some new layers called ‘shadow 1′ and ‘shadow 2′ set to Soft Light layer mode. Sample a dark tone from the eyelid area and use that to paint in the darker shades on your ‘shadow’ layers. Soft Light is great because it brings through a lot of the little details as well as darkening.

As opposed to just having one layer with the shadows, I like to use a few of them stacked up so I can emphasise certain areas – as seen below. Experiment with the opacity of each shadow layer and find the right balance; dark enough to do the job, but not overkill. This step really adds to the drama of the image and creates a lot more menace.

photoshop zombie eyes 6

Finishing Touches

Select your ‘eyes’ layer group, and set it’s opacity to 80%, this allows the vague outline of the iris to show through. Apply a layer mask to the ‘eyes’ group, and with a small soft brush set to black very gently brush the edges of the eyes – this will soften the hard edges and make everything just a bit more natural. See below.photoshop zombie eyes 7

The Result:

undead eyes photoshop final


Be sure to add your own tweaks to improve the effect – as long as you incorporate the lighting principles you can take the work in any direction. I hope you enjoyed part 1 of Photoshop Zombie, head on over to part 2 where we will bring out her skeletal features >>

• Photoshop Zombie Part 2 (Skeletal Features)

• Photoshop Zombie Part 3 (Flesh Wounds)


Feel free to share via the applet below – spread the word!

Conzz 8-)

Follow on Twitter >> @Conzpiracy

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12 Responses to “Photoshop Zombie: Undead Eyes”

  1. Irene says:

    A good tip is to do a light texture on the eyes for a more rotten or blood-shot zombie eye ball. That is if you don’t want that too-white look, like someone just painted the entire eyeball white, with no care for shadows and variations. In reality, the eyelid and potential eyelashes (for example) will always cast a small shadow on the eye. That’s a good thing to have in mind. :)

  2. Andrea says:

    incredible tutorial man!!! thanks for sharing!!! :D

  3. Mike says:

    Wow, awesome!

  4. Rennegade Hunter says:

    I am new to photoshop and I can get the pen tool to work as a new layer. Am I doing something wrong?

  5. Rennegade Hunter says:

    Sorry, I meant, Can’t get the pen tool to work on a new layer.

  6. Nicolas Rao says:

    Excellent. Going places. Thank you Conz. I am off to practice this now.
    Love your site.

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