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How to Create a Cerberus Photo Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

Cerberus is a three-headed dog from Greek mythology, the guard of the gates of Underworld. While he’s usually pictured as a furious, blood-thirsty beast, I like to think of him as a good dog just doing his duty. Today I’ll show you how to create Cerberus using the techniques of photo manipulation in Adobe Photoshop.

What You Will Need

You’ll need the following resources in order to complete this project: 

1. How to Prepare the Assets for the Photo Manipulation

Step 1

Open of the rottweiler photos in Photoshop. Take the Magic Wand Tool (W) and select the area outside its body.

photoshop select outside
Tip: hold Shift to add more areas to the selection

Step 2

The automatic selection is rarely perfect, so let’s fix it. Go into the Quick Mask Mode (Q) and use a brush to paint the unselected areas.

quick mask selection

Step 3

Go out of the Quick Mask Mode (Q) and go to Select > Inverse to invert the selection. Then grab the Magic Wand Tool (W) again and select Refine Edge on the top.

photoshop selection refine edge

Step 4

Change the View Mode to On Black to better see the edges.

photoshop refine edge on black

Step 5

Check Smart Radius and increase the Radius. Then play with the other settings until you’re satisfied with the result.

photoshop refine edge settings

You can also use the Refine Radius Tool (E) to make the edge detection more accurate, especially where the fur is visible.

photoshop refine radius tool

Step 6

When you’re done, press OK and invert the selection again to remove the background, or simply copy the selection to another file.

photoshop remove white background

Step 7

Do the same to the other dogs. Use the Quick Mask to remove the parts from the neck down.

photoshop quick mask select
photoshop quick mask remove
photoshop background removal

Step 8

Gather all the dogs in one file.

photoshop manipulation assets

Step 9

The main dog is illuminated in a different way than the others, so let’s fix it quickly. Select its layer and go to Image > Auto Contrast, then Image > Auto Tone.

photoshop auto contrast
photoshop contrast fixed

2. How to Merge Various Photos Into One

Step 1

Use the Lasso Tool (L) to select half of the front of the main dog. We need to make the chest wider to place all these extra heads.

photoshop lasso tool

Step 2

Use the Move Tool (V) to drag the selected half to the right, creating some space in between.

photoshop move tool drag

Step 3

This space must be filled. Select it with the Lasso Tool (L).

photoshop select empty space

Step 4

Go to Edit > Fill and select Content-Aware.

photoshop content aware fill

The chest should get filled nicely!

photoshop conent aware fill empty space

Step 5

Let’s make the body more muscular and intimidating. Go to Filter > Liquify and use the Forward Warp Tool (W) to “sculpt” the body. Use a small brush and be very careful—you can use Undo only once here, and it’s hard to fix a modification. To be safe, press OK after each successful modification and go back to this filter to continue.

photoshop liquify filter

Step 6

After the body is done, remove the head with the Lasso Tool (L) (no animals were harmed in the production of this tutorial!).

photoshop remove head

Step 7

I decided to flip the whole image with Image > Image Rotation > Flip Canvas Horizontal. This isn’t necessary; it just looked better to me.

Time to add the heads of the dogs. Drag one of them over the main body and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to adjust the size of the head to the body.

photoshop free transform tool

Step 8

Use the Eraser Tool (E) or the Layer Mask with a soft brush to subtly blend the overlapping parts. You can learn about the power of the Layer Mask from the quick tutorial below:

photoshop layer mask blending
photoshop layer mask effect

Step 9

Add another head on the side. Adjust its size…

photoshop size modification

… and then use the Liquify filter to reshape its neck. You can show the Backdrop of the body to see the changes better.

photoshop liquify backdrop

Then use the Layer Mask again and continue with the last head.

photoshop layer mask how to use

3. How to Add and Adjust the Background of the Photo Manipulation

Step 1

Let’s add the background now. Drag the photo to the file and adjust its size with the Free Transform Tool (Control-T). Make sure the ground fits the perspective of the dog’s body. Then use the Crop Tool (C) to crop the whole scene.

photoshop add background

Step 2

Open Window > Adjustments and select Hue/Saturation from the panel (with the background layer selected).

photoshop adjustments panel

Step 3

Play with the sliders to make the background dark and mysterious.

photoshop hue saturation adjustment
photoshop dark background

Step 4

Add another Hue/Saturation adjustment, and this time make everything hot orange.

photoshop hue saturation hot
photoshop hot fiery background

Step 5

Use the Paint Bucket Tool (G) to fill the Mask of the adjustment layer with black. Then paint on it with white to “paint” the light coming from the lower right corner.

photoshop fill layer mask

Step 6

This bright light has flattened the ground, so let’s adjust it. Right-click the adjustment layer and select Blending Options. Hold Alt and drag the lower black marker to the right. This will remove the effect of the adjustment over the darker areas of the background.

photoshop blending options how it works
photoshop blending options effect

Step 7

To make the light brighter, change the Blend Mode to Linear Dodge.

photoshop blend mode linear dodge
photoshop linear dodge effect

Step 8

Duplicate (Control-J) the adjustment to make the effect stronger. Then modify it to better fit the environment.

photoshop blending options experiment
photoshop stronger light

Step 9

Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment.

photoshop brightness contrast adjustment

Step 10

Use it to make the whole scene darker.

photoshop darken the scene
photoshop dark background

Step 11

Use the Layer Mask to remove the darkness from the foreground and keep it in the background.

photoshop selective darkness

4. How to Make the Scene Consistent

Step 1

Let’s go back to the dog now. Select its layers and group them (Control-G). Then add the Hue/Saturation adjustment to the group. Don’t forget to clip it (Control-Alt-G) to exclude the background.

Use the adjustment to fit the lighting on the dog to the background without any lights.

photoshop light adjustment
photoshop manipulation light adjustment

Step 2

“Turn on” the lights again, and paint on the Layer Mask of the darkening layer to reveal the light on the dog’s coat.

photoshop reveal light

Step 3

Add another clipped Hue/Saturation layer. This time make the fur bright, as if illuminated by the orange light source.

photoshop warm highlights
photoshop warm light adjustment

Step 4

Use the Layer Mask again to affect the illuminated side only.

photoshop selective warm light

Step 5

Go to the Blending Options and drag the lower black marker to remove the light from the darker parts.

photoshop blending options selective
photoshop textured light

Step 6

Duplicate (Control-J) the adjustment layer and make it affect an even smaller area…

photoshop blending options advanced
photoshop bledning options selective texture

… but make it stronger with Color Dodge Blend Mode.

photoshop blend mode color dodge
photoshop color dodge light

Step 7

Let’s make the eyes glow! Add another Hue/Saturation layer and make it red and saturated.

photoshop bright saturation

Use a Layer Mask to apply it to the eyes only.

photoshop red glowing eyes

Step 8

Change its Blend Mode to Linear Dodge to make it better fit the details of the eyes.

photoshop linear dodge glow
photoshop glowing eyes

Step 9

Duplicate the layer and use this stronger effect in the darker parts of the eyes. If you want to learn how to animate glowing eyes, check out this tutorial:

photoshop red eyes manipulation

5. How to Add the Final Touches to the Photo Manipulation

Step 1

A nice trick to make the new elements a part of the background is to blend some of their parts with it. Add a Layer Mask to the group of dog photos and gently paint over some shadowed areas that still stand out too much (especially on the backs of the heads).

photoshop blend with bakcground

Step 2

The whole dog is also very sharp, and thus still quite flat. Go to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters and then Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Make the dogs blurry, but not too much.

photoshop gaussian blur

Step 3

Smart Filters have a Layer Mask, too! Use it to leave the blur only on the edges.

photoshop selective gaussian blur

Step 4

Let’s add a glow to the sky. Select it with the Magic Wand Tool (W)

photoshop select elements

… create a New Layer and paint the colors…

photoshop paint into selection

… and then use a Layer Mask to clean the effect off the arches.

photoshop clean layer masl

Step 5

Finally, you can add some adjustments to the whole scene. Levels will help you adjust the contrast, and Vibrance will make the colors more vivid.

photoshop final adjustments
photoshop adjusted scene

Step 6

When you’re done, right-click the layers and select Flatten Image. Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise to unify the whole scene with a slight grain. Finally, go to Image > Size and make the image smaller before you publish it.

photoshop add noise
photoshop noise added

Good Job!

If you want to try other dark photo manipulations, try these tutorials:

how to create cerberus in photoshop