Halloween is not only abut scary things—it’s also about fun! The 1981 movie classic An American Werewolf in London combined these two parts, horror and comedy, into a fantastic mix that’s still very amusing to watch. But that movie is also known for its realistic werewolf transformation scene, achieved with practical effects rather than CGI. And we can use that scene to create our own werewolf!
In this tutorial, I will show you how to turn a human into a werewolf in Adobe Photoshop. I will teach you how to change the shape of the body, combine various stock images into one, and make them look like a whole. Finally, I will show you how to make an atmospheric illustration out of it.
In this tutorial, we’ll be using a lot of stock images. Here’s a list of the ones I’ll be using, but feel free to find alternatives:
- Shirtless shouting man
- Angry dog showing teeth
- Gorilla shoulder
- Gorilla arm
- Gorilla forearm
- Gorilla face
- Monkey mane
- Young lion mane
- Full moon
1. How to Prepare the Main Character
The background of the photo with the main character does not have much atmosphere. We need to remove it. There are two main precise ways of cutting a shape: the Pen Tool (P) and the Quick Mask (Q). I will show you the latter.
Select a hard brush and go into the Quick Mask Mode (Q). Zoom in and carefully draw the outline of the man. This method works the best if you have a tablet, but it can be done quite precisely with a mouse as well. Just switch between black and white (X) to draw/erase.
Fill the outline using the method described in Photoshop in 60 Seconds: How to Properly Fill a Drawn Outline.
Go out of the Quick Mask Mode (Q)—a selection will be created. Delete it.
We don’t need to use the same frame proportions as the stock image had. Use the Crop Tool (C) to create a more interesting composition.
Use the Paint Bucket Tool (G) to fill the background layer with black.
2. How to Modify the Shape of the Body
Click the character layer and go to Filter > Liquify. In this mode you can change shape of the image with a few very powerful tools. Use the Forward Warp Tool (W) to drag the mouth forward. Be very careful—the Undo command works only once here! Also, each click-drag lowers the quality of the picture, so try to do your modification in as few clicks as possible. If you make a mistake, it’s often better to cancel and try again instead of fixing the area.
Press OK when you’re done.
Your modification is now saved, and you can safely go on with adjusting without losing it. Go back into the mode and adjust the shape of the mouth and nose, making it more similar to the muzzle of a dog. Again, press OK when you’re happy with the result.
Go back to the Liquify window and adjust the lips. Press OK.
The “muzzle” is done!
Let’s use the Liquify filter again to adjust the line of the jaw and the shape of the ear.
Time for the hands. In the movie there was that neat sequence when they were getting longer and longer, with the fingers going away from the wrist. Let’s do the same!
Use the Quick Mask (Q) to select the hand that’s closer to us. Go out of the mode, Select > Inverse (Control-Shift-I) and duplicate (Control-J) the selection.
Hide the layer below for a moment to see only the “cut” hand. Use the Lasso Tool (L) to select the upper part of the hand.
Drag the selection slightly forward using the Move Tool (V).
Use the Lasso Tool (L) again to select the gap and a bit of the skin.
Go to Edit > Fill and select Content-Aware. Press OK.
The gap will be filled.
Use the Patch Tool (J) to fix the area. Select the “bad” regions and drag them over the part you’d like to replace them with.
You can also use the Liquify filter to fix this area.
Let’s use the same tool to give the fingers “paw pads”.
Don’t worry about the copied hand being visible below. We’ll fix it later; for now, we just want to make the base for the werewolf.
The claws can be created very easily by dragging and reshaping the nails. This way they’ll already be properly illuminated!
The other hand is less visible, so we don’t need to pay that much attention to it. Just make it longer and quickly fill the gap.
We can copy the claws from the other hand. Use the Lasso Tool (L) to select the prettiest of them, and then copy it and paste it below the other layers.
Adjust the shape and perspective of the claw using the Free Transform Tool (Control-T). Hold Control to drag the corners separately.
Our werewolf looks pretty good from a distance!
3. How to Mix Animal Characteristics With a Human
There’s no werewolf without deadly fangs! Open the photo with dog/wolf teeth and cut the parts you need using the Quick Mask/Pen Tool/Lasso Tool. Then cut one of the parts to have both jaws on separate layers.
Paste the jaws to the main file.
Lower the Opacity of the part you want to adjust to see both it and the area beneath. Use the Free Transform Tool (T) to rotate and resize it if needed.
Use the Eraser Tool (E) or, better, a Layer Mask to remove the part that should be covered by the lips. You can learn how to use a Layer Mask (and why it’s better than the eraser) from Quick Tip: Layer Mask vs. the Eraser Tool in Adobe Photoshop.
Do the same with the other part.
Now that both parts are inside the mouth, look at them and make sure they look correct. If needed, use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) and drag the corners while holding Control to adjust the perspective.
It’s not only about the mouth and the claws—wolves have a pretty different body than humans. Let’s make the neck thicker and higher…
… and the skull more elongated towards the back.
A werewolf must have fur! This part can be done in many different ways, so feel free to use your own images and patterns. I’ve decided to use gorilla fur for most parts, as the werewolf in the movie has long, dark hair, quite different from a real wolf and more similar to what a human-carnivore would look like.
It’s the same process for every image: paste it to the file, lower the Opacity to see what’s beneath, and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to adjust it.
Then use a Layer Mask to keep only the parts you need.
Sometimes you may need to use the Warp Mode of the Free Transform Tool to adjust the shape better.
Hint: if you cover the whole Layer Mask with black, and then switch to white, you can basically paint with texture!
This is what the fur on my werewolf looks like. Don’t worry about colors yet!
4. How to Adjust the Colors and Shading
There’s probably a mess in your layers, so if possible, try to group the similar ones. This way you’ll be able to edit them all at once.
Select the unfitting, bright fur and open Window > Adjustments. Select Hue/Saturation.
Clip the adjustment, check Colorize and try to make the area more similar to the fur around by playing with the sliders.
Add another adjustment called Levels.
Clip it as well and play with the sliders to adjust the contrast of the area.
Use the same set of adjustments to change colors of the rest of the fur. I want my werewolf to have black fur, but you can keep gray if you want.
Use the Patch Tool (J) to fix the gums. They shouldn’t draw too much attention.
Add the Hue/Saturation adjustment to the teeth to adjust their lighting.
Don’t forget to adjust the color of hair to the color of fur. You can use the Quick Mask (Q) to add an adjustment to a part of the layer only.
Let’s darken the skin under the fur to make the blending more natural. Select the area with the Quick Mask (Q)…
… then darken it and make it cooler in shade.
To remove the airbrush effect, hold Control and click the mask on the adjustment. A selection will be created. Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise and select a value that works the best for you.
Merge (Control-E) all the fur layers to edit them together. Then use the Patch Tool (J) to fix the areas that draw too much attention. The fur should be uniform.
It’s starting to look good!
The skin looks too healthy and normal for someone being turned into a monster. Let’s change its color a little.
Time for shading. Take the original picture of the character and place it in the corner. Use it as a reference to adjust the light on the fur to the rest of the body.
First, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the fur to make it much brighter.
Paint on its mask like on a normal Layer Mask to remove the redundant parts. Make a rim lighting effect from this layer.
Even stronger rim light can be created with the Levels adjustment.
Add a darkening Hue/Saturation adjustment to the fur.
Paint on its mask over the parts you want to have in light. Do the same with the teeth.
Because different parts of the fur come from different stock images, their quality may differ. Take a good look and use Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur on parts that are too sharp…
… and Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen on parts that are too blurry.
At this point you can add some other details, like long human hair to blend the fur with the skin. It all depends on what you want to achieve.
5. How to Finish the Scene
The werewolf is done, but it looks quite boring. Let’s create a scene for it. First, use the Crop Tool (C) to create a new frame. Pay attention to the rule of thirds to keep the composition correct.
Paste the moon under all the layers. Resize it and find the perfect spot for it.
Use Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur to put it out of focus and give depth to the scene.
The lighting changed, so we need to change the shading as well. Merge (Control-E) all the werewolf layers and add a Hue/Adjustment to the merged layer. Darken it, and then paint on the mask to reveal the illuminated parts.
Make sure the fur is softly illuminated. If necessary, paint with a soft white brush beneath the layer and use a Layer Mask to make the tips of the hair slightly transparent.
Let’s make the elements look more like a whole by adding a Photo Filter.
Select a Cooling Filter and adjust its density.
You can also add another Photo Filter and clip (Control-Alt-G) it just to the werewolf.
Take a good look at your picture and change whatever needs to be changed. I decided to add some particles in the air (maybe snow, maybe dust, maybe magic) to add more depth to the scene. I’ve also fixed the hands, removing the traces of the third one.
When you’re sure you’re done, merge all the layers and go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. This will unify the quality of the elements.
Go to Image > Image Size and select the final size of the picture. The smaller it is, the more realistic it will look, but you may also lose the details. You need to find a compromise.
The transformation has started! As you can see, Photoshop is quite powerful when it comes to making fantasy a reality. Do you need more proof? Check these out: