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Vexel Style Portraits, Part 2


Vexel Portrait Photoshop Tutorial Title PostWelcome to the second installment of our Vexel adventure, where we’ll be fleshing out the hair in a similar fashion to part 1. The processes used here are a great way to step into the world of digital painting, requiring a certain element of patience and determination. Don’t let that put you off though; great art was never a quick-fix pursuit! This is a great way to hone up your soft-edged brush and pen tool techniques.


Where We’re at..

Using Layer Groups (Ctrl / Cmd¬† G) were an integral part of the workflow in this piece. In the previous installment we made use of the base layer and skin tone groups and adding extra groups where necessary. For this section we will be working within the ‘Hair’ layer group to keep everything organised. Remember, by clicking the ‘eye’ icon on the overall Vexel layer group, you can quickly switch between your art and the source image for sampling and reference. Here’s a look at the layer stack:

Vexel Portrait Photoshop Tutorial 1

..And here’s a look at the art so far:

Vexel Portrait Photoshop Tutorial 2

The Style

The aim of this walkthrough is to achieve a stylised hair effect, as seen in one of my earlier pieces Transhuman Dawn. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to stray off the ‘beaten track’ – and experiment wherever possible :D

Vexel Portrait Photoshop Tutorial 3

As opposed to capturing every individual strand of hair, the technique in this instance relies on capturing the larger, more prominent sections. Not only is this a massive timesaver, it also pushes a unique aesthetic that captures the general energy and direction of the hair.


Doing it

The first step is to flesh out the light and dark tones using a Soft-Edged Brush (B) – creating new layers where neccesary. Experiment with layer modes to see how the colours and shapes react, in order to match the source image. For the example, layer masks were used to tone down and manipulate the brush work. The three screens below show the stages of the tonal build-up, including the layer mode and opacity:

Vexel Portrait Photoshop Tutorial 4

With the base tones in place, it’s time to start laying down the thick strand regions. Using the Pen Tool (P) set to ‘paths’, create shapes that represent the coloured regions of hair. Refer back to the stock image and sample the relevant shades using the Eyedropper Tool (I), and fill your paths with colour. Again, layer masks were used to soften certain areas to match the source image. Here’s the build-up of hair regions with their layer modes and opacity:

Vexel Portrait Photoshop Tutorial 5

Using the techniques outlined above, proceed onto the highlights – fading with layer masks where applicable. In the example, the colour white was used on layers set to Overlay mode in order to achieve a more subtle look:

Vexel Portrait Photoshop Tutorial 6

The final step is to apply the finer, darker strands in a similar fashion:

Vexel Portrait Photoshop Tutorial 7

And We’re done!

Feel free to add any additional flourishes or adapt the technique as you wish. The final result:

Vexel Portrait Photoshop Tutorial 8


On face value this type of technique is somewhat of a gimmick, but the discipline required to execute such a piece is pretty full-on. The artists with the stamina to undertake such tasks are usually more accomplished in their respective fields. I hope you all enjoyed.

Conzz 8-)

Follow on Twitter >> @Conzpiracy


>> Vexel Style Portraits, Part 1 (The Face)

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