The Making of Sour Grapes


This page describes roughly how I made the photo Sour Grapes which is one of a series of faces on fruit photos that I have made. Sour Grapes was accepted in Sydney Harbour International Exhibition of Photography 2013.

Sour Grapes

Provided that you are familiar with layers, it is not particularly difficult to make images like this, but it takes a lot of thought and attention to fine detail to do it well. My shot was entirely made with Photoshop Elements 6. Only recently did I get the full Photoshop which I love, but don't underestimate what you can do with the simpler Photoshop Elements.

This explanation is abbreviated, but I hope to convey the main ideas so that you can make something similar. To put a face on fruit, I use 4 layers. In this case, I have 3 faces so when I built it, I used more than 4 layers. But for brevity, I will describe it as it only used 4 layers. When you first try it, just do one face at a time. After you finish that, it will be clear what layers you need for the other faces.

Step 1: Take Some Pictures

You'll need to take some pictures of some grapes and yourself (or somebody else) making silly faces. You won't need to worry about background or combing hair, but you will need to be consistent on your lighting and your point of view. For the Sour Grapes image, drinking lemon juice helps bring out that silly face:

Step 2: Cut out Faces, Paint Green, and Put on Top of Grapes

First open the grapes photo which will be your background layer. Then open each face image, one-by-one, and cut out everything except the inner face. To do so, I used the polygonal lasso tool and just made a very rough selection around the face. Then I inverted the selection hit delete key so that the only thing that remained was the inner part of the face. Using the move tool, I placed each face where I wanted it to be on the grapes. As I illustrate it below, you will see all faces together as if they are one layer, but this is only for brevity of explanation. In reality I kept them separate.

Before going any further, make a copy of each face layer and hide them from view. You will need these copies in step 4.

Then, for each viewable face layer (i.e. not the copies that we just made and hid from view), you will need to change the colour. First you need to set the foreground colour to a colour from the grapes. You can do that by using the eyedropper tool on the grapes (background) layer.

Return to one of the viewable face layers. We are going to make it green like the grapes, but we only want to paint the faces and not anything outside of them (which is empty space). To make sure I do not write over the empty space, I select the face. To do so, I use the magic wand tool with a low tolerance (for example, 1) and select outside the face. Then invert it and then the face is selected.

To paint it green, use the brush tool but set the mode (drop-down menu at the top) to color and set the opacity to 100%. Paint over the face until it is as green as can be. Repeat for each viewable face layer.

The last part of this step is to make the faces blend in better. I like to use the polygonal lasso tool again to select the parts of each face that I am interested in (see picture below for examples). Then I select inverse so that everything except those parts is selected. Then, I feather the selection: you will need to experiment with how much feathering works well for your image, but maybe start with a value like 20 and take more or less depending upon the results. Hit the delete key so that all of the non-interesting parts of the face are removed. Hopefully, the face blends in fairly well. If not, you can either try changing you feathering value, or using the eraser tool at a low opacity to try to fix up the rough parts, or decrease the opacity of the face (which is the least desirable option but I have done that on some images). Step 3 will also help the blending, but do the best you can in step 2.

The hard part of this is doing it well, and you just need to fiddle to get it right.

Step 3: Add Multiply Layer on Top

Go to your background layer containing the grapes. Duplicate the layer and move it to the top. Then set the layer blending mode to multiply. This will help your faces blend in even better because it will bring the grape texture through to the face. On the other hand, it will likely mess up your colours. To fix, increase brightness on the multiply layer aggressively.

Step 4: Add some Colour to the Eyes and Mouth

To really get the image to pop, you need to add some colour to the eyes and mouth. In step 2, we made copies of the faces before we painted them green and then hid them from view. Now, we're going to unhide the copies of the original faces layers and move them to the top. This will cover up all the blending you did in the previous step, but we'll fix that now.

For each face, select only the eyes and mouth parts using the selection tool of your choice. I used magnetic lassoo tool for this, but you could also use quick selection tool if your Photoshop has it, or simply the polygonal lassoo tool. Then invert the selection and feather by 1 or 2 pixels. Last, hit the delete key to remove everything except the colours from the eyes and face on this layer. Doing that for each face layer gave me the Sour Grapes image at the top of the page.

Copyright Notice

Sour Grapes is registered under US Copyright law, registration number VAu 1-069-333. You may use it for non-commercial purposes provided that you acknowledge me as the author. For commercial purposes, a license is required.

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