Erica Larson creates dramatic digital makeup using brushes, masks, and the Curvature Pen tool to design colorful face paint in Adobe Photoshop.

Graphic artist Erica Larson dreams up inspired designs every day as an associate creative director on the Adobe Studio team. In other words, she makes stuff that makes others want to make stuff.

Qué necesita

This sample file has Adobe Stock images you can use to practice what you learn in this tutorial. If you want to use the sample file beyond this tutorial, you can purchase a license on Adobe Stock. Check out the ReadMe file in the folder for the terms that apply to your use of this sample file.

Find a model

Larson worked with a photo that focused on a model’s face. She specifically looked for an image that showed dewiness or detail in the skin to achieve the results she wanted.

Headshot of a model with clear, damp skin, and dark hair tied back, against a yellow background

Paint your design

To design the art for the face paint, Larson chose the Brush (B) tool and set it to a soft round tip with increased Opacity. She set the layer blend mode to Multiply so the paint would “melt” into the skin. Then she brushed with different colors to paint a design over the model’s face.

Photoshop Layers panel over headshot of model shows paint layer with custom gradient and soft brush settings set to 800 px

Make it glitter

Larson imported brushes to add design elements to her art. For this composition, she painted with a spatter brush to add a glitter effect to the cheeks and bridge of the nose. If you’d like to use the same custom brush, click the Gear icon from the Brush properties dialog, select Import Brushes, and find the spatter_brushes.abr file in the practice files. When you import the brushes, they will appear under a category called spatter_brushes.

Brush settings dialog over headshot of model with glitter effect across cheeks and nose, shows a spatter brush selected

Add a mask

The paint spread beyond the model’s face. To fix this, Larson applied a mask to the art layer, then brushed on the mask with black to hide areas of the art — eyes, hair, and finger — so the original image would show through.  She used the [ ] keys to adjust the brush size as she worked.

Layers panel shows Layer mask applied to the paint layer to hide areas where the paint extended beyond model’s face

Highlight for emphasis

Larson used the Curvature Pen tool and set the mode to Path and the Path operation to Exclude Overlapping Shapes to create a custom path around one of the eyes. She clicked to add points for a curved path and double-clicked to create corners. She closed the path by clicking on the original point. 

Selection of the model’s eyelid was made with the Curvature Pen tool, pen options set to Path and Exclude Overlapping shapes

Create a cutout

With the path defined, Larson right-clicked, chose Make Selection, and set Feather Radius to 4. She made sure the mask thumbnail was still selected on the Paint layer then painted with a black brush inside the selection leaving the right side soft for a smoother blend.

Marching ants indicate selection around model’s eyelid to hide gradient on the layer mask and feather radius is set to 4

Perfect the style

Larson wanted the digital paint to look more realistic, as if it were painted directly on the model’s skin. To create this effect, she added a Blending Options layer style from the Layers panel.

Layers panel shows blend mode set to Multiply and Blending Options selected from Add Layer Styles icon

Blend it better

She fine-tuned the effect by using Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS)+click on the Underlying Layer slider and dragged it to the left.

Layer style dialog shows blending options with Blend Mode set to Multiply, Opacity is 100%, and Underlying layer is split

Paint your look

Take your digital makeup artist skills to a whole new level and create dazzling face paint designs with Photoshop brushes and colors.

Finished composition of model with digital face paint displays in cell phone placeholder on a wood deck background

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

09/02/2020

Artist: Erica Larson

Adobe Stock contributors: Jacob Lund, duncanandison

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