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How to Make a Terrifying Zombie Portrait in Photoshop

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Read Time: 5 mins

Halloween will be here before you know it, and what better way to shock up your selfies or petrify your pictures (ahem) than to give them a zombie makeover.

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create a fun zombie look to your photographs, using the Zombie Photoshop Action by .

If you'd like to practice with the same images I've used you can find them for free, here:

When you choose your own image, try and pick something that has clearly defined eyes and a mouth; otherwise the process doesn't work properly.

Getting Started

There's very little in the way of prep before using this action, you just need to install the pattern, brush and action files that come with the download.

1. Run the Action

This is the image I'll be running the action on

As you run the action, the dialogue will pause and pop up asking you to paint over first the skin:

paint the skinpaint the skinpaint the skin
First paint over the skin

Then each eye:

paint over eyepaint over eyepaint over eye
Paint each eye seperately, when prompted

 And finally the mouth:

paint the mouthpaint the mouthpaint the mouth
Finally, paint over the mouth

I tried skipping a stage here just to test it and the action really does require you to paint over all of these. If there's no mouth clearly visible, you could try painting on randomly anyway and then just deleting the relevant layers, later.

after actionafter actionafter action
This is the image after the action has finished running

2. Fix Messy Areas

Go through layers and use layer masks to touch up any parts you missed. For now, just concentrate on masking in or out any parts that look wrong. For example, regular skin showing through or ‘zombie’ skin colour on your background.

Now let’s look at some of the details and how we can improve them. Start from the bottom group, ‘Skin’ and work through each layer.

fixed messy skinfixed messy skinfixed messy skin
Fix any 'messy' areas where skin still shows through. Hide any layers you want to adjust later.

I've lessened the shadow around eyes (to 50%) as it looked a bit like overdone eyeliner . I also reduced the blue colour cast overall, and added more blue to parts of the face. I’ve hidden the ‘wounds’ for now, as I think we can use the brush to add one or two later, making the effect a little more subtle.

3. Make More Targeted Adjustments


I want to adjust the eye colour to come away from being all white, but I don’t want to make changes on the layer itself, in case I want to remove my changes later, so it's best to create a layer mask on those layers and brush over to bring back the pupils and irises.

eye adjustmentseye adjustmentseye adjustments
You can have the eyes completely milky, translucent or even one of each!

I’ve left one slightly milky for effect.


mouth adjustmentsmouth adjustmentsmouth adjustments
I've removed the blood effect around the mouth for now

I’ve hidden the wounds and blood around the mouth as again, I think it’s something you can add in later and perhaps to better effect The lips are a bit pink and healthy now but I’ll address that later

Overall Colour

The adjustment layers at the top will help you make changes to your whole image

The colour adjustments at the top will help you make overall changes to the image. Try increasing the contrast and bringing down the brightness for a moodier look. If you double click on each layer’s icon, you’ll be able to make changes to that layer in the Properties panel:

properties panelproperties panelproperties panel
Use the Properties panel to see the adjustment layer options

Add Gore

Now we can go back and add some ‘wounds' and 'blood.’ Create a new layer and call it something relevant like wounds… or blood.

I've started with a wound on the head. Not a bullet hole or, I’m guessing, according to zombie lore, our friend here wouldn’t be the living dead. Change the layer’s blend mode to Multiply

Your placement of the head wound layer will determine how it looks as it will be affected by other layers.

Make some more layers and gradually build up some wounds on your zombie. Use layer masks to reduce and blend your brushed areas better.

Add woundsAdd woundsAdd wounds
The image once some blood and wounds have been added

4. Make Final Adjustments

Now we have the face the way we want it, we can make some changes to the overall look. Use dodge and burn to add localised contrast, and adjustment layers such as Selective Colour to change the overall look and make the backgroud more sinister. 

This is supposed to be fun and stylised, so you can really stretch those layers to the extreme.

Here's the finished image:

The finished image

Pet Pictures

If you're lucky enough to have animals that let you live with them, you might want to have some fun with their pictures too; this isn't just for the bipeds.

More Halloween Resources

If you want to try making Halloween videos, why not start by downloading some of the scary Halloween clips on Mixkit, a new site offering free HD video for you to use wherever you want. Enjoy!

And finally, here are some more spooky tutorials you might want to try, and a very happy Halloween from all at Envato Tuts+.


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