Tag Archives: writing tips

Setting a Daily Word Count: Helpful or Hurtful?

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One of the most highly debated things in writing is whether or not you should set a daily word count. Some writers swear it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever implemented, while others curse having a daily target like it slaughtered their first born child.

So, which of these sides are right? Is setting yourself a word count actually helpful or hurtful?

Truthfully, it depends on what kind of writer you are!

If you’re someone who works best or feels more efficient by setting yourself goals, you may find that setting yourself a word count can help keep you on track to get everything want to get, done.

If you’re someone who tends to procrastinate, setting a word count might also be helpful for you. Having that goal might be just enough pressure to nag at you while you’re ‘wasting’ your day watching TV and help you get off your butt and get going.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who has a lot of anxiety or tend to beat yourself up if you don’t make your goals, giving yourself a daily word count might just be setting you up for failure. If you end up being busier than you’d like or something unexpected happens or maybe the words just aren’t flowing that day, having a goal that you’re constantly not reaching won’t do your mental health any favours.

You need to know what kind of writer, and person you are in general, before you can ultimately decide if setting a daily word count is a good or bad idea. All writing advice needs to be tweaked to you, personally. You are the only person who can hold you accountable for reaching – nor not reaching – your writing goals. Advice is just meant to help you, but if you read something that makes you snort and go, “Yeah, right.” then skip that particular thing!

If you’re not sure whether or not setting a daily word count would benefit your writing, test it out for a bit first! There’s no rule that says you have to keep doing a particular thing if you don’t like it. Try it on for a few weeks or months and then see how you feel about it after. If it made you more productive or you liked it a lot, great! Keep it up. If you find it added unnecessary stress to your life or you didn’t actually stick to it, dump it and try finding something else.

You also don’t have to get that specific with setting yourself a word count, either. This might sound cliche, but being a human, setting some sort of goals is just something that makes us function better. We need something to strive toward. It’s unfortunately just the way things work. But, if you know what kind of goal setting works for you, you can essentially hack yourself into being more efficient.

For example, if setting a daily word count is too much pressure, try setting a weekly, monthly or yearly word count. Or, if that still sounds like too much pressure, or you’re worried about little things like spiraling because you gave yourself a 1,000 word count goal and you only managed to write 995 words,  try setting more generalized goals for your writing. Like “I’ll write 2 short stories by the end of the week”, “I’ll write 3 articles a day” or “I’ll finish a chapter each month.” The goals you set will of course depend on what kind of writer you are – blogger, novelist, short story fictionalist (is fictionalist even a word? Well it is now), etc. – but no matter what kind you are, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a type of goal that’ll work for you.

It will also depend on whether or not writing is your career or more of a hobby. I’m not going to say it’s not important to set goals for your hobbies, but if it’s your job and you find yourself feeling behind, you might want to not be as lenient in your goal setting than if you were someone who writes more casually.

Not getting fired or being able to keep a roof over your head are great generalized goals, but you may find getting slightly more specific if writing is your livelihood (or you want to make writing your livelihood) is better for you long-term.

Specifically for me, I don’t set myself a daily word count, or monthly, yearly, etc. Since I’m a blogger and short story writer first (and I have wicked procrastination skills), I give myself more leeway in my goals. Mine are more general: I work on articles and short stories Monday to Friday, then leave the weekends for scheduling promotional posts, working on my current book (or whatever other big yearly project I’m working on, like a text-based game), coming up with new merch designs and socializing.

I find giving myself this more casual weekly goal is great because this means I could for example, write 3 articles one day,  write 2 short stories another, and not feel as badly about ‘only’ getting a Photoshop tutorial done a different day. All my work is still getting done, and it’s enough of a schedule to keep me organized, but not so scheduled I feel suffocated creatively, which in turn minimizes the amount of time I spend procrastinating.

Of course this system isn’t perfect. Unexpected life changes, and/or the holiday season tend to wreak havoc on my work schedule, but if I stay the course for more of the year than I don’t, I tend to stay a few months ahead of when the posts and short stories go up, so I actually give myself some leeway for life events.

It’s like I’ve given myself the gift of time, and honestly, couldn’t we all use a little more of that?


Like this article? Check out more writing tips here!

Sunsets (PHSH Effect #27)

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I was going to say I chose to do a sunset so we could get over our winter blues, but we actually had a pretty mild winter where I am, so not too sure how well that works. Whether or not you also had a mild winter, learning to make a sunset effect in Photoshop can still be fun!

This tutorial is one of the simpler ones, so you’ll have plenty of time to practice, and might pick it up faster than some of the others!

For this tutorial, it’s going to really help you out if you choose an image that’s almost a sunset, anyway. I initially tried this effect myself (as well as some Youtube tutorials) using a picture that had high-noon sun lighting and it just did not work. At all. I’ll show you that disaster at the end of the tutorial, so you can see.

Now normally, I’d consider using a picture that’s already close to what you want to achieve as ‘cheating’ – if you were going to just use the pre-made picture as-is, you might as well go all the way and just find a full sunset picture – but seeing the difference between the high-noon picture and the one I ended up using was so drastic, I’m giving it a pass. (Also because I couldn’t figure out how to make it work on the high-noon picture)

This is the picture I ended up using:

Step 1

After re-sizing your picture to fit your new work document, you’ll want to make a Gradient Layer.

You’re going to have to create your own sunset colour gradient for your image. The specific colours you use will heavily depend on the colours your image already has. If you don’t pick colours that are already somewhat close, it won’t tint the image correctly and will end up looking very fake.

You’ll want to use 4 sunset colours, and then the last colour you’ll need to make light grey.

For my image, these are the colours I used:

1st: Pale Yellow: Colour Code #fffac4

2nd Brighter Yellow: Colour Code #fcf38d

3rd Pale Orange: Colour Code #ffbb5b

4th Brighter Orange: Colour Code #ff8b2e

If you plan on using this effect often, feel free to Save this Gradient by giving it a name and then pressing the New button to add it to your Gradient Presets.

Once you have the correct colours, you’ll want to click on the colour bar to make one of those pointer things show up on the top of the bar, and then change it’s Opacity to 75%. Or, you can just drag the pointer that’s already at the top on the left side (over the pale yellow) over until it’s over the Pale Orange and change that ones Opacity.

You’ll also want to change the Opacity of the pointer that’s over the Grey to about 30%.

Once you’ve changed those Opactities, click the Okay button.

Then once you’re back in the Gradient Fill dialogue box, change the Style to Radial, change the Angle to 130 and change the Scale to between 120-135, depending on what works best with your image. (Mine was 135)

 

Step 2

Now we’re going to change the Brightness of the picture. To do this, go back to the Create New Fill/Adjustment Layer at the bottom of the Layers Panel and select Brightness/Contrast from the menu.

In the Panel that pops up, you’ll either want to slide the Brightness slider down or just replace the value by typing in -26.

After you successfully lower the Brightness, just click on the double arrows at the top right-hand side of the panel to close it.

 

Step 3

Now we’re going to add a filtered look to the whole picture. To do this, we’re going to add 2 Solid Colour Layers.

To make the 1st Colour Layer, go back down to the Create New Fill/Adjustment Layer at the bottom of the Layers Panel and click on Solid Colour.

The first colour we’re going to pick is going to be a darker colour. For my image, I had to choose a shade of Brown (#644503), however in one of the tutorials I saw on Youtube, the person made this colour a pinky Red. This will depend entirely on the image you chose.

If you find it easier, feel free to use the colours I’m using in this tutorial, and then once you’ve gone through all the steps, go back and see if changing the colours will make the image look better/more realistic.

The next colour layer we’re going to add is going to be a bright colour. For my image, I found a bright Orange (#ff7200) worked well. The Youtube tutorial person made this colour a pale yellow.

 

Step 4

Now that we’ve got both the colour layers, it’s time to incorporate them into the image!

Still being on your bright colour layer, change the Opacity to 35% and change the Blend Mode to Soft Light.

Next, go back to your darker colour (Brown) layer and change it’s Opacity to 27%, and then change this one’s Blend Mode to Vivid Light.

 

Step 5

At this point, you should see your image looking sunset-y. If you don’t and you’ve been following the tutorial colours, don’t worry. You might just have to change the colours to suite your own image.

For this step, we’re going to go back to the Gradient layer, and change it’s Blend Mode to Hard Light.

It doesn’t look like my image colour changed because I already had the Gradient layer’s Blend Mode to Hard Light. If it was on Normal (like yours should be), this should be what it looks like:

 

Step 6

Can you believe we’re already at the last step? Yep, it’s true!

The last thing you need to do is drag your darker colour (Brown) layer so it’s sitting underneath the Gradient layer.

To do this, just click on the layer in the Layer’s Menu and then drag it until it’s under the Gradient layer. Once it’s in the right place, take your finger off the mouse button.

Once you’ve got the darker colour under the Gradient, all you need to do is save because this effect is now done! Don’t forget to save both a PHSH file (.psd) and a picture file (.png, .jpeg, etc.), this way you can go back if you need to adjust something and/or to just play around with colours or layers later.

Also, as promised, here are my failed attempts at creating a sunset on a picture with high-noon lighting.

First, the original picture:

And now the first failed attempt. This attempt was the one I did by following a Youtube tutorial.

And this is the failed attempt from after I changed colours to see if that would help.

The 2nd attempt was closer, but no matter how I tweaked the colours – whether making them more red, more orange or more yellow – I just couldn’t make it work with the lighting. No matter what I did, it just kept looking fake/edited. I also had to add the sun to the image, and I feel like that also contributed to the failure of it.

So yeah, in case you didn’t know: just because I make these tutorials doesn’t mean I don’t also still fail at making effects! This is why I always try to remind you guys not to feel bad or get down on yourselves if you try an effect and it doesn’t work. There are many factors that go into making an effect work – the picture you choose, your version of Photoshop, and sometimes I swear just if you’re having a lucky day.

Keep practicing and fiddling around and you should get it eventually!

Also I don’t remember if I’ve ever said, but if you guys ever have questions about any of the effects I share, please feel free to reach out and ask! The whole reason I started this tutorial series was to help people (mainly indie authors) and it wouldn’t be very helpful if you found the tutorial confusing, or come away with more questions than answers.


Like this tutorial? Check out the rest of the series here!

Working From Home: Taking Time Off/Vacation

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Important: This is the last article for 2023. (Aside from December’s Product Review) I’ll be taking the last half of December and first half of January off from posting.

I’ll be back January 12th, 2024 with the first short story of the new year! (The first article will go up January 15th)


Knowing when/if you should take a vacation or time off from work is confusing at best. But it’s even worse when you work for yourself.

It’s not like you can ask the boss and get your request approved or rejected and that’s that because well, you are the boss! And being your own boss, while full of amazing benefits can also muddy the waters on important things.

You’re the boss, so you have to decide how much or how little you work. Not only does this have the potential to muddy your day-to-day life, but what about big upcoming events? A wedding? A funeral? Some kind of emergency?

Outside of emergencies, how do you decide if you’ve ‘earned’ a vacation? Is it once you’ve finished x amount of work? Is it after x amount of ‘work days’? Sure you could give yourself a certain amount of days off at the beginning of the year, but as we’ve established you are the boss. What are the real consequences if you take a not-scheduled day off? It’s not like you can call yourself into your office and yell at yourself.

I touched on this in my Time Management post, but working from home can severely blur the lines between your work and home life. Feeling guilty for not working when you’re trying to relax at 9pm in your living room is one thing, but actually scheduling yourself a vacation for your stay-at-home job?

Unfortunately society doesn’t help with the pressure that if you work from home (as an entrepreneur) you don’t need time off. It’s not ‘real’ work, right?

Wrong!

Running your own business – especially your own in-the-arts business – usually comes with more work related stress. The stress of making it, doing literally all the jobs (boss, social media manager, booking clients/selling pieces, content creation, customer service, etc.), the aforementioned blurred lines of home and work life, convincing the people around you that the work you’re doing is ‘actual’ work… the list goes on.

You also usually have to be more strategic in your vacation/time off planning. Most (good) 9-5 jobs will give you paid time off, but when you work for yourself, when you take time off, you lose money. And not to mention, you also ‘lose’ time to schedule, or update, or whatever your business. Because everything rests on your shoulders, if you decide to take time off, your business essentially freezes until you come back.

Even if you have passive income, you’re still essentially losing momentum.

So what are you to do if you’re a burnt-out artist? Do you just keep ‘sucking it up’ and plowing ahead?

No, you shouldn’t. Not only is that not healthy for you, it’s actually not healthy for your business, either.

You’ll work much more productively after you’ve given yourself a break. But how do you decide when that time is?

Well I can’t tell you definitively. What works for me may not work for you. And what works for you may not work for someone else. That said, you can try one of the methods above and see if they fit:

 

  1. Give Yourself a Set Amount of Days Off

Calculate how many days off you can take without hurting your business/losing too much money to bankrupt yourself, and then write them down either in a list or on your calendar.

If you’re not sure, take a look at some 9-5 jobs that offer vacation days and base your number on theirs. If you think you’ll need more, give yourself more, if less, take less.

This also doesn’t have to be a number you stick with forever. At the end of the year, evaluate yourself. Would you have benefited from taking more or less time off? Readjust the number and try again next year. Keep experimenting until you get it right.

 

  1. Take a Project-Related Vacation

Tell yourself once you finish a certain project, you’ll take a set number of days off. The project can be anything from finishing half your book, to scheduling three months worth of work. This one will depend a lot on the type of business you have.

This type of vacation based days also has the potential to help you be more productive. If you know you get two (or however many) days off after you finish a project, you might be more inclined to not put it off.

 

  1. Calendar Based Time Off

Some companies use quarterly reports to review things like their earnings, productivity, etc. You could give yourself time off the same way. Tell yourself once a quarter (four months), you’ll get a set number of days off.

Or, tell yourself at the beginning or end of the year, you’ll take a set amount of days off. If you’ve been around here a while, you’ll know that with my website, I take the last half of December and first half of January off from posting every year.

For example, this means that this year (2023) I’m off December 13th until January 12th. This gives me about 1 month to relax, go through the holidays, visit family and start gearing up for the next year.

If you decide to try this method, make sure to let your clients/customers/readers know a few weeks beforehand that you’ll be taking time off/away during a certain period of time. This way they don’t wonder what happened/go somewhere else while you seemingly disappeared.

Whatever method you decide to try to give yourself a break, make sure that when those days roll around you actually take them. No pushing them off to a different day, no “oh well after I finish this” – no. Stop. Pushing back vacation days is a great way to put you right back down the path to burn out.

Remember: vacations only work if you actually take them.


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Scars (PHSH Effect #26)

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Important: This is the 4th last article for 2023. I’ll be taking the last half of December and first half of January off from posting.

I’ll be back January 12th, 2024 with the first short story of the new year! (The first article will go up January 15th)


This month, I’ll be showing you guys how to add a scar to a picture. That’s right, I’m bringing you yet another ‘creepy’ tutorial to perfect just in time for Halloween!

As with most other tutorials, this one may seem complicated at first, but once we break it down, it’s actually not too hard to execute. And, like all the other tutorials: it’s fun!

Let’s get started.

Step 1

As always, Step 0 is to open a new PHSH document and to pick a base picture. Because this is a… let’s call it ‘dark’ tutorial, a picture that matches will make the effect look better. Look for something where a person is screaming, in some kind of pain or otherwise terrified.

I for example, found this one.

Feel free to use this same image, or one you find yourself. The steps should be the same, with maybe just a slight tweak of colours depending on the base picture. But don’t worry, we’ll get to that.

Once you find a picture you like, you’ll need to decide where you want the scar to be. On my picture, I’m going to put it on the left side of her forehead. After you decide on the placement, we’ll be drawing the scar.

To do this, first you’ll need to set the Foreground Colour to a faded red. #984A48 will work for the tutorial.

 

Step 2

Once the Foreground Colour is set, create a New Layer, then go over to your Brush Tool. With the Brush Tool selected, go up to the Brush Settings at the top and change Mode to Dissolve.

You’ll also want to change Flow to 50% and leave Opacity at 100%.

Once you’ve changed the Flow, you’ll want to also change the Size of your brush. The size of the brush will be the width of your scar, so make sure you choose one that isn’t too thick or too thin. 6 Pixels should work for today. But once you have the technique down, you can always experiment with different sized brushes to see how the different sized wounds look.

You can leave the Hardness of the brush at 100%. (Or, if it’s not currently set at 100, change it to that)

Now that we’ve got the brush set up, it’s time to make the cut!

Draw a line where you want the scar to appear on your model. Don’t forget that human faces (or bodies) aren’t completely flat, so your scar shape should reflect that.

For example, if you’re drawing the scar on the person’s cheek, the line should follow the curve of the cheek bone.

If you don’t like how your mark comes out, erase it and try again until you’re happy with it. This is why we’re drawing on the New Layer we made and not directly on the model picture.

You can also zoom in on your picture (using the CTRL and + buttons) if needed to help you get the shape you want. (To zoom back out, it’s CTRL – )

 

Step 3

Next, we’re going to draw over the mark again, but with an altered Brush. This time, change your Brush Mode back to Normal, double the brush Size (if you used 6px, make it 12px) make the Opacity 50% and change the Flow to 100%.

You also do not need to trace over the previous line perfectly! Having it a little skewed will help with the end effect. Scars are never perfect, right?

 

Step 4

In the Layer’s Menu, right-click on the scar layer and open Blending Options. Once opened, check-mark Bevel & Emboss to apply the style to the layer.

Once you apply the effect, click on it to open the options. We’ll be changing them to make the scar more life-like.

You’ll also want to apply the Contour and Texture boxes by check-marking the boxes next to them.

Now we’re going to start changing the Bevel & Emboss options. To start, change:

– Style to Inner Bevel

– Technique to Smooth

– Depth to about 285%

– Size to 5px

And Soften to 0px

 

After making these changes, your scar should look like a welt with a nasty line in the middle.

You can also change the Direction and Angle if needed, though 120 should work for a face. You’ll want to change these values depending on the lighting the picture you chose has.

Once you’re happy with how the scar looks, click “Ok” to apply the changes.

 

Step 5

Next we’re going to use the Smudge tool to get rid of any pixelated edges on our darker line.

Set the Strength to 50% and smudge the edges very lightly. We need just enough smudging to get rid of the pixelation. If you smudge it too much, the mark will end up looking more like a smear than a scar.

If needed, you can zoom in closer to help you complete this step.

 

Step 6

After you’re done smudging, make a duplicate of the model layer. The easiest way to do this is to hold down the ALT button on your keyboard while clicking and dragging the model layer in the Layer’s Panel.

If you were zoomed in on the scar to smudge, you can also go ahead and zoom back out now.

Once you’ve made the duplicate, you’re going to Merge the scar layer with it. To do this select both layers (hold down CTRL and then click on each layer) then right-click and select Merge Layers from the drop-down menu.

The option Merge Layers shouldn’t be greyed out if you have both selected. My option is greyed out because my computer is dumb sometimes and won’t show a click drop-down menu when I want it to. The picture above is my options while only having 1 layer selected.

 

Step 7

Now that the layers are merged, go to the Layers Panel and change the Opacity for the layer. You’ll want something fairly sheer so the scar looks faded. Something around 10% should work. For my picture, I made the Opacity 18%.

If you want the scar to look more pronounced, change the opacity to something higher.

Here’s how my scar looked when I changed the Opacity to 30%.

And this is what it looked like at 60%.

As you can see, the higher the Opacity is, the more pronounced the red is but that’s the reason it will start to look fake if it’s too bright.

If you think the dark line in the center of the scar still looks too pixelated, you can go ahead and use the Blur tool on it to smooth it out. Just like with the Smudge tool, you’ll want to do this carefully.

Though it is Halloween, so if you wanted to, you could throw subtly out the window and go in the complete opposite direction.

It all depends on the look you’re trying to achieve.

That’s it for this tutorial! Don’t forget to save your file both as a PHSH file so you can continue to practice and as a picture (JPEG, PNG, etc.) so you can share it with your friends and family.


Like this tutorial? Check out the rest of the series here!

Writing with Music: Crazy or Genius?

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It never fails to blow my mind the way people react when I tell them I write with music on. There’s always some form of utter confusion, as if I’d told them I birthed a puppy or something.

This got me thinking: is writing with music really that weird?

Back when I was on Twitter, I used to see fellow writers debating about this, as well. And while we all know there’s no one size fits all, I found it weird by just how many people said they wrote in silence, or worse: with lyric-less music. It was practically half of the writers I followed!

The other half of writers swore by writing with music on, but only if the music didn’t have any lyrics. Surprisingly, they had the same reason as my friends seemed to: music with lyrics would be “too distracting” to write with.

Uh… what?!

I don’t understand how so many people don’t understand that it’s actually quite easy – and even helpful – to write with lyrical music on. I have music on for any kind of writing I’m doing, whether it’s my short stories, books, or website articles. Hell, I even have music playing right now writing this article! (23.06.26, AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill)

I actually find that not having music on and trying to write in silence is distracting. It’s like my brain can’t think when it’s silent. I need the blanket of music to be able to barf my creative ideas all over the room. Writing in silence just does not work for me.

That’s not to say any music will do, though. I find it especially helpful to have music going that matches the emotional vibe I’m going for in a story. I pull the emotion out of the songs I listen to and inject them into what I’m writing. Every single one of my books has their own playlist. I also have a general playlist for when I’m writing short stories, and if need be, I create special playlists for those, too. Or if I’m basing a short story on just one song, I’ll listen to just that one song until I’m finished the story.

Writing with lyrical music on is something I’ve been doing literally forever and honestly now, it’s just second nature. I don’t even have to think about it. When it’s time to write, I turn on my playlist before even opening Word.

Now, you may be thinking “okay, fine, you write with lyrical music on, but you probably have it so low you can barely hear it, which is why you don’t find it distracting” and if you are, you’re 100% wrong!

I have music not quite blaring, but it’s definitely loud enough to drown out any potential background noise. (And definitely loud enough to not hear if someone calls my name) The perfect level of music for me is being able to hear my fingers hitting the keyboard, and nothing else. Funnily enough, if my music is too loud and I can’t hear myself typing, I get the same type of brain-fart as if I were writing in completely silence. It’s a delicate balance between having it loud enough to suck out the emotions from the songs, and not being so loud that it drowns out my own thoughts.

Y’know when it gets too loud and people say they can’t hear themselves think? That’s exactly what happens if my music is too loud.

Writing, and honestly just life in general is so much better when you give it a soundtrack. Whether you’re doing the dishes, working out, or even just walking down the street. Having music on just brings an extra little boost to your day.

If you’re someone who writes in complete silence (or with lyric-less music) and you find yourself sort of stuttering in your writing, try finding a song or making a playlist of songs that matches the emotions you’re going for. You might just find yourself getting unstuck, and who knows? You might realize you’ve been writing wrong and change your ways. 😉


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Cracked Skin (PHSH Effect #25)

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Since it’s summer, I thought I’d stay on theme and show you how to make a cracked skin effect.

Not only is this effect relatively easy (and fun) but it can also serve as a good reminder to wear sunscreen and lotion!

Step 1

As always, you’ll want to make sure you’re starting in a New Document. You’ll also want to use a picture of a person for this tutorial as well as a cracked texture of the ground. If you missed the first tutorial in this series, you should be able to find either of these pictures on a royalty free image website such as pixabay.com. You’ll need to make sure you’re using royalty free images if you plan on using them for your book’s cover or promotional posters.

If however you’re here just for fun or practice, you can use a search engine to find the pictures you need.

For the cracked ground picture, you’ll want to use one that has no obstructions, many cracks, and is more or less level.

For the person picture, you can use any picture you’d like, as long as there is a clear spot of skin somewhere. I haven’t tried this effect on clothing, but I’d imagine it would still work. Any picture with a clear spot of skin will do.

To keep things simple, these are the pictures I’ll be using.

Once you choose what pictures you’d like to work on and have them in your work document, go ahead and Duplicate the person layer. If needed, you can also rename the layers to keep things straight. I renamed the original person picture “Woman”, the cracked texture “Cracks” and the duplicate layer “Duplicate”.

 

 

Step 2

Now that you have yourself all set up, change the Cracks layer Opacity to about 50% or lower. You’ll want to be able to see the face underneath, but you’ll also want to be able to see the cracks. If needed, you can also Hide the original person layer by clicking the eye next to it’s thumbnail in the Layers panel and/or rearrange the layers so the Cracks one is on the top.

Once you’ve changed the layers Opacity, go ahead and align it over your person picture if you haven’t already done that. If needed, you can also rotate and/or resize the picture. The goal here is to get the best looking cracks over the person’s face.

Make sure you don’t resize the cracked texture picture too much, you’ll want to keep it slightly bigger than your person for the following steps. Don’t forget you can always erase what you don’t need at the end.

 

Step 3

Next, using the Polygon Lasso Tool, select the parts of the cracked photo that are NOT over the face (the ones you don’t need) and then Delete them.

You can Delete your selections by hitting the Delete button on your keyboard.

You’ll also want to make sure you leave some of the texture over the hair and neck (for example) because we’ll need a bit of wiggle room to work with in the next few steps.

 

Step 4

Once you’ve removed most of the unneeded parts of the Cracked picture, right-click on it, and select Warp from the drop-down menu.

Next, Warp the Cracked layer to fit the face on the below layer. Do this part as slowly as you need to, doing a little at a time. If you warp the cracked texture too much, you may end up doing so to the point it doesn’t look good.

Once you’re happy with the amount of warping, click Enter to apply the changes.

 

Step 5

Bring the Opacity of the Cracked layer back up to 100% and change it’s Blending Mode to Multiply.

 

Step 6

Next, you’re going to create a New Adjustment Layer by going to the Adjustments box that’s on top of the Layers panel, and clicking on the Levels button.

In the Properties panel that pops up, check mark the square at the bottom (next to the eye) this will Clip to Layer. (Meaning the effects will only affect the Cracks layer, instead of the whole project)

After that’s checked, drag the Midtones arrow toward the left. You’ll want to drag it until the Cracks are roughly the same shade as the skin of your person. For me, this was about 2.24.

You’ll also want to drag the Highlights arrow to the left to even out the lighting. Again, this will depend on the picture you’re using, but for me, it was 158.

Once you’re happy with the adjustment, go ahead and close the Property panel. Do this by clicking on the double arrow at the top right corner of the box.

 

Step 7

Next, we’re going to create a Layer Mask for the Cracks layer. To do this, head to the bottom of the Layers Panel, and click the Layer Mask button.

Once you have a Layer Mask, make sure your Foreground colour is set to Black, then use your Brush tool to mask the areas of the Cracks picture you don’t want. You’ll want to make sure the Brush Opacity is at 100% and the Hardness is semi-hard. (Anything over 50% Hardness would work)

You can also use this method to get rid of extra cracks that are on the persons face. (If you feel there are too many)

Alternatively, you could just use the Eraser tool for this, but you’d have to be more careful when erasing the cracks over the face.

 

Step 8

After you finish that, we’re going to add another New Adjustment Layer. This time, it’ll be a Hue/Saturation layer.

Just as before, make sure the box on the bottom of the Properties panel is selected so the Hue/Saturation layer is Clipped to the Cracks layer.

You’ll want to change the Saturation to something low (mine looked best at -66) so the Cracks layer is almost indistinguishable from the skin colour of the person on the other layer.

 

Step 9

The next step is to Merge our layers. To do this, hold down Control on your keyboard and click on: the Duplicate, Cracks, Levels and Hue/Saturation layers, then right-click and select Merge Layers from the drop down menu.

After you’ve Merged these layers, you may want to change the Layer name again so you know what it is. I went with Cracked Person, to differentiate it from the original person picture that’s still in the file. However, the name can be anything you want.

And after you’ve done that, you’re done!

You may be wondering: why did I ask you to duplicate the person picture if we didn’t end up using the original?

That’s a good question!

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it in past tutorials, but duplicating your “base” image is a great hack when you’re learning new PHSH skills. In case you mess up, you can just delete the duplicated (messed up) layer, and start over with the original. Keeping it in the work file allows you to keep working without having to stop what you’re doing to go digging through your cache of pictures to find it again.

Don’t forget to save a PHSH file (.psd) of your work, as well as a .jpeg/.png. That way, if you want to go back and edit or change anything (or remember what you did) you can use the PHSH file to help jog your memory.

I hope you had fun with this tutorial. The next one isn’t coming until October, so you’ll have plenty of time to practice!


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Puddles Way 2 (PHSH Effect #24)

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As I said in the first puddle tutorial, I found different ways to make puddles using Photoshop. Today, I’ll be showing you the 2nd way I discovered to make them.

Similar to snowflakes, not every puddle is created the same. This means that you’ll need to use different techniques to get different types of puddles. This technique will show you how to make puddles that work better in a post-rain image. (Apposed to the first way, which works great for active-raining puddles)

Luckily though, none of the techniques are hard to accomplish. As long as you follow the steps carefully, you’ll soon be a master puddle maker!

 

Step 1

For this technique, we’re going to need to start with a picture. You’ll want to use a picture that has a clear foreground object – whether it be a person, building, car, etc. – and you’ll also want to make sure it has a clear view of the ground.

I’ll be using this picture, but as always, feel free to use any royalty free image you have. (As long as it fits the parameters)

After you’ve chosen your picture, you’ll want to go ahead and pull it onto your new work document. Make sure the blank page as space underneath the picture. (We’ll be adding the puddles to this part)

 

Step 2

Now that you have the picture and document set up, you’re going to use your Polygon Lasso tool and select part of the image. This will be the part used as the puddle’s reflection. Since my image doesn’t have too much going on in it, I just decided to make my selection a rectangle.

And since the selected line is hard to see, I’ve outlined my selection for you using red.

Don’t forget to bring your line all the way back to the first point you created. This will ‘close’ off the selection for you. If needed, you can also use a Guide Line to help you.

If you have trouble using the Polygon Lasso tool, don’t have one in your version of Photoshop, or if your image is nice and simple (like mine), you can go ahead and just use the Rectangle Marquee Tool, instead.

 

Step 3

After making your selection, you’ll need to right-click then select Layer Via Copy from the drop-down menu.

Once you’ve made the selection it’s own separate layer, go to the Layer’s Panel (on the right-hand side) and right-click on the selection layer and select Convert to Smart Object.

 

Step 4

Next, using your Transform tool, you’ll want to right-click on the selection again, and this time, you’re going to select Flip Vertical. Do not press Okay after you’ve done this!

Once it’s flipped upside down, you’re going to Skew the layer to make it align under the picture better. If you’re using an image like I am, where you’re not making the reflection in sections, you can just go ahead and Skew the reflection to one side of the document.

Skewing the reflection off to one side will make it appear like it’s spread across the invisible ground of the image, instead of like you Photoshop-ed it in.

 

Step 5

Now that the reflection has been flipped and skewed, you can go ahead and lower it to it’s position under the image.

If you need to reflect multiple parts of your image, you’ll want to do that now. Once you’ve done that, you can Merge all the reflection layers into one layer by selecting them all from the Layers panel (hold down CTRL while clicking on them) then right-click and select Merge Layers from the drop down menu that appears.

Once all your reflections are on one single layer, you’re going to right-click it from the Layers panel again, and select Convert to Smart Object.

 

Step 6

Now we’re going to start the process of making the puddle look realistic. To do this, we’re going to add an Inverted Layer Mask by clicking the button in the Layers Panel.

After you click the button, your reflection layer might disappear – this is okay! It’s not actually gone, as you’ll see in the Layers Panel, we just can no longer see it. But don’t worry, because the next step will show you how to get it back.

 

Step 7

Now we’re going to use the Brush tool. Make sure you’re using a large brush size, and it’s soft. To do this, go up to the top menu that shows you the Brush options, click on it, and then drag the Size arrow to the right-side of the screen, and the Hardness arrow closer to the left-side of the screen.

You’ll also want to change the Brush’s Opacity to 50. (You can also do this in the top Brush options menu)

Now that we’ve got our Brush set up, comes the fun part. Brush over the part of the image you want the reflection to appear over.

It was at this point that I realized the image I chose wasn’t the best option to use for the purposes of this tutorial.

However, instead of starting completely over with a brand new image, I decided to keep this mistake in the tutorial to show you guys that sometimes mistakes happen.

And when they do, you just say “oh, crap” have a little chuckle, make a mental note to not do it again, and then fix it.

In this case, ‘fixing’ my mistake just meant I had to do Steps 1-7 on a new, more appropriate image.

So that’s exactly what I did. And I think you’ll agree, this one came out a lot better.

For reference, this was the original picture.

 

Step 8

Now that we’ve gotten an appropriate picture, let’s continue, shall we?

By this stage, depending on the lighting in your image, the reflections should be looking more or less closer to a mirrored reflection than a puddle.

If you chose an already dark image like my bench picture, you can go ahead and skip this step.

If you didn’t, you’ll want to head to the Adjustments panel and use the Levels Adjuster to darken the reflection.

The actual level you’ll want to adjust will be the Middle Input Slider. To make it darker, you’ll want to go ahead and slide it to your right. You’ll also want to make sure you’re only darkening the one reflections layer and not the entire image.

 

Step 9

If your reflection still seems too opaque, you can go ahead and change it’s Opacity in the Layers Panel. Again, this will depend on the lighting of the image you’re using. Use your best judgment for how low to go. Stop at whatever value makes it look closest to a real reflection.

 

Step 10

The final step to make these reflections look real is to make them blurry. There’s actually three different ways to do this. Which way you’ll want to do will depend on the image you’re using, your comfort level with playing with the different settings, and whichever way you find easiest.

The first way, is to go up to the Filters menu and add a Gaussian Blur.

The second way is by going to the Properties Panel and adjusting the Feather setting.

And the last way, is to just use your Blur tool on the reflections layer.

I personally used all three to see which one gave me the effect I wanted, but ultimately I decided on using the Blur Tool technique.

Feel free to play around with all three to see the different effects they have on your image.

Once you find a method you’re happy with, and the reflection is blurred to your desire, go ahead and save that puppy, because you’re done!

If you made a mistake, or the reflection didn’t come out quite how you thought it would, don’t worry. Just keep practising and you’ll eventually get the hang of it.


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How to Make Water (PHSH Effect #23)

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In this month’s tutorial, I’m going to show you how to make water.

From scratch.

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It may seem impossible, but don’t worry – I’m not talking miracles. This tutorial is a little harder than some of the previous ones, but as long as you follow through the steps (and practice) you shouldn’t have any problems creating water from nothing.

No resurrections required.

Step 1

Create a blank PHSH work document. Yep, we’re not going to be using a picture for this one!

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Step 2

Create a New Layer, then call the layer Water Surface.

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Make sure your Foreground Colour is white, and the Background Colour is black. Also make sure your new layer is white, and not transparent. If the layer is automatically transparent upon creation, don’t worry! You can use the Paint Bucket and dump the white foreground colour onto the layer.

 

Step 3

Next, right-click on the layer and Convert to Smart Object.

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You’ll know the Layer is a Smart Object when this symbol appears in the corner.

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Once the layer’s a Smart Object, go up to the top menu and go to Filter – Blur, then choose Gaussian Blur. The Radius size should be 5.0.

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Step 4

Next, go back up to Filter and this time, click on Sketch, then choose Chalk and Charcoal from the list. If you don’t see Sketch in the drop-down menu (like mine), click on Filter Gallery, then Sketch.

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On the right-hand side, the values for the Chalk & Charcoal effect should be as follows:

Charcoal Area: 6

Chalk Area: 6

Stroke Pressure: 1

Once the values are correct, click the Okay button to apply the effect.

After applying Chalk & Charcoal, you’re going to add a 2nd Gaussian Blur, and make this one’s Radius 7.4.

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Step 5

Now that we’ve got the base done, we can start to make this actually look like water!

To begin the waterfication process, we’re going to add some ripples. To this, go back to the Filter Gallery, Sketch menu and this time, we’re going to use Bas Relief.

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For the Bas Relief, make sure the values are as follows:

Detail: 2

Smoothness: 2

Light: Bottom

Once you’ve added the ripples, we’re going to go back up to Filter – Blur and add a Motion Blur.

For the Motion Blur, the values it should be:

Angle: 0

Distance: 118

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We’re also going to add one more Gaussian Blur, with the same value as before (7.4).

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Step 6

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Hopefully by now you’re starting see the water take shape. Which is good, because the next step is to turn it water colour!

To do this, we’re going to add a Gradient Map. You can do this one of two ways.

The first way is to create a New Fill Layer by using the option at the bottom of the Layers panel.

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Once the Gradient Map Properties panel opens, double click on the Gradient to bring up the Gradient Editor. From here, you’re going to change the white and black colours to the following two blues.

Light: #5394b9

Dark: #18548b

To change the colours to the above, click on the little arrow (called a Colour Stop), then double click on the colour in the below Stops menu. This will bring up the Colour Picker, and allow you to input one of the two blue colours.

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AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - Photoshop Tutorial Series - How to Make Water PHSH Effect #23 - Step 6 3 - phsh, photoshop, photoshop tutorials, indie author, books, writing tips, authors, Canadian authors, author tips, book covers, book cover helpDouble click Colour Stop to bring up Colour Picker

Once you’re in the Colour Picker you can copy/paste the above numbers into the # bar to get the correct colours. Then click Okay to make the colour change take affect.

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Copy/paste the # values into the box in the Colour Picker

Make sure to this for both colours. Once done, you can click Okay in the Gradient Editor for the change to take affect or you can save this Gradient into your presets by giving it a name.

This will allow you to easily add this gradient to future projects without having to add the colours manually.

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If the darker blue is at the top of the gradient instead of the bottom, you can either manually change the colours again so the dark blue is the first Colour Stop on the gradient or, you can check the little Reverse button in the Gradient Map Properties panel.

Whether or not the dark blue is on the top will depend on what you’re adding this Water effect to. The lighter shade of blue is to represent the direction the light is coming from.

 

Step 7

This is looking pretty good, and again, depending on the picture you’re using this water could be done. But, if you’d like to make it look a bit more realistic, we can add some ‘sun’ highlights.

To do this, you’ll need to create a New Layer and call it Water Texture. Just like with the Water Surface layer, you’ll be filling this layer with white, then converting to a Smart Object.

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Step 8

We’re going to add some Noise to the Water Texture layer now, so go on up to Filter – Noise – Add Noise. Make sure the values for Add Noise are 73.02% and Uniform.

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Next, we’re heading back to the Filter Gallery for more Sketch fun! This time, we’re going to select Halftone Pattern from the Sketch menu. The values for Halftone Pattern should be:

Size: 1

Contrast: 50

Pattern Type: Dot

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Step 9

Now we’ve got that done, we’re going to actually create the highlights.

To do this, go back up to Filter Gallery – Sketch – Bas Relief. For this Bas Relief, the values should be the same as before (2, 2, Bottom).

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Once you’ve applied the Bas Relief, we’re going to add another Motion Blur. Adding this will soften the highlights/reflection.

Again, for this Motion Blur, the values can remain the same (Angle: 0, Distance 118).

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Step 10

If you’d like to make the ripples in the water longer, you can do that by applying yet another Gaussain Blur. Then, set the Blend Mode to Soft Light.

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Once you change the Blend Mode to Soft Light, your water should look like this:

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Step 11

Now, we’re going to add a Brightness/Contrast layer to just the Water Texture layer by using a Clipping Mask.

To do this, right-click on the Water Texture layer, then choose Create Clipping Mask.

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For the Clipping Mask, the Brightness should be set at 9, and the Contrast should be 100. If the panel doesn’t come up automatically, go up to the Adjustments panel (it should be sitting on top of the Layers panel) then click on the sun icon.

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Step 12

Lastly, we’re going to add a Gradient Fill to give this water fake depth by adding a yellow tint. To add a Gradient Fill, go to the Solid Fill at the bottom of the Layers panel, then click on Gradient.

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For the Gradient Fill, you should use the following:

Light Yellow: # fbf4cd

Dark: #070605

Style: Linear

Angle: 90

Scale: 100

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Once all these values are correct, you’re also going to change the Blend Mode to Soft Light, then set the Opacity to 50%.

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You’ll also want to make sure this Gradient Fill is on top of all the other layers.

And there you have it!

A not-so-simple, but not-as-complicated-as-you-thought way to create water from scratch in Photoshop!

Don’t forget to save the project both as a PHSH file and flatten the layers before saving as a PNG/JPEG.

This one will definitely take some practice to perfect, but it’s a lot of fun to play around with! You can try changing the Opacity of the Water Texture layer for less intense looking ripples, or even play around with the colours.

Who says water has to blue, anyway?


Like this tutorial? Check out the rest of my series here!

Brainstorming Pros and Cons

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To make any website successful, you need to fill it with content. In most cases, this content refers to articles. And if you want any chance of gaining an audience, you’ll need to upload on some sort of schedule. But, where do these article ideas come from?

Are they hand-chosen by some higher being and plopped into a person’s brain? Do you have a master list of every idea you want to turn into an article that you pick from? Use an idea generator?

While there’s no one way to come up with ideas, I’ve found what works best for me is picking from a master list of all my ideas. To create this master list, I designate one day a year to brainstorm and write down all the ideas I can for the upcoming year (or years) content.

While this might sound like a dream (being able to concentrate your creativity into one super-productive day), it’s not without its downsides.

So today, I wanted to share some of the cons (and pros!) of using this brainstorming method.

Pros:

  • You just have to come up with content 1 day of the year. This eliminates the stress of having to figure out what to post on a week-to-week (or month to month) basis
  • You have more free time to pursue other interests/activities or to be present for the other important aspects of your life
  • Having a master list of all your ideas might help spark new content ideas
  • Having everything in one place will allow you to quickly see whether or not you’ve already done a specific idea

 

Cons:

  • Forcing yourself to be creative on one designated day may have you drawing a blank
  • If something comes up on the day you designated (that you can’t get out of) you won’t end up getting many or possible any new ideas down, which you’ll then have to make up on a different day, or wing it, which as said above, can be more stressful
  • If you don’t have a back-up of your master list, and the file somehow gets corrupted or damaged, all of your ideas are gone with it
  • It can be hard to force yourself to think of different content ideas for multiple topics on the same day

Despite the almost equal amount of pros and cons of brainstorming article ideas, I still feel it’s the best method for me. I feel a weird sense of chaos inside my brain if things aren’t scheduled out. Even without having the articles written, just seeing the ideas lined up nicely on a calendar lends a sense of calm to my life.

And I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way, which is why I recommend you try it! Not only does coming up with ideas all at once save time, but if you do end up having a cool article idea later on, you can add it to the master list – instead of saving it in a separate note.

You’ll also never know if this method works for you until you actually test it. And what better time to test it out than the early days of the New Year?


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Pointy Teeth (PHSH Effect #22)

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Now you can transform yourself into a vampire – just in time for Halloween! 🧛‍♂️

Step 1

Find yourself a picture that has a nice, clear view of the teeth. I was lucky enough to find one that already has a few pointed teeth on it.

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This is the picture I’ll be using. I’d like to note, your picture doesn’t have to already have pointed teeth, just a clear view of teeth, as this will make it a lot easier to attach the points will be making.

Once you have your picture, go ahead and open PHSH, and start a new project. Then, bring your picture onto it.

 

Step 2

Now that you’re ready to start, make a New Layer, and call it whatever you want. For the purposes of the tutorial, I’ll call this layer Tooth Outline.

On the new layer you just created, use your Brush Tool, and make an outline of what you want the pointed tooth to look like. Do this in a colour that is as close to the tooth colour as you can.

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To get the colour of the tooth, you can click on Colour Swatches in the left-hand side Tool Panel, then when the Colour Picker pops up, click on the part of the tooth you want to use the colour from.

 

Step 3

Once you’re happy with your outline, use the Pen Tool, and trace around the entirety of the tooth. Make sure you get both the pointed part you drew, and the tooth that was already there.

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After making the outline, go to the Paths section (one of the tabs in the Layers Panel), and turn it into a Selection by pressing CTRL while you click on the Work Path layer. You’ll know you’ve successfully Selected the outline when the line turns to a dotted, flashing line.

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Step 4

Now that you have the outline selected, make another New Layer. This layer, we’re going to fill in the rest of the tooth’s colour, so you may want to rename it to something appropriate, like Tooth Colour.

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Renaming your layers isn’t necessary – the effect will still turn out if you don’t name them – but I find it’s easier to keep track of which layer is which when you rename them. If that’s not your thing though, you can go ahead and disregard the renaming part of the steps.

 

Step 5

Once you have the entire tooth filled in, and it matches the colours of the tooth that’s already there, you can go ahead and Deselect the outline. (To do this, you can go to the Rectangular Marquee Tool (the tool directly under the Mouse in the left-hand Tools Panel), and right-click on the selection, then pick Deselect from the drop-down menu that appears.

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After you’ve deselected the outline, make another new layer. This layer is going to be the highlight for the tooth. Go back to your Brush tool, and use a very light white colour, then use that colour and paint a highlight down one side of the tooth.

You may have to change the size of the brush, so the highlight doesn’t look too out-of-place.

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Step 6

Once you’re happy with the highlight you made, you can switch back to the Tooth Colour layer. Next, go up to Filter – Blur – Gaussain Blur, and apply it to the layer.

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You’ll want to use something small, around 0.4 – so that it helps blend the colours, without making the tooth look like it’s fuzzy/blurry.

After you’ve applied that to your layer, go ahead and zoom out, to check out your handiwork from a not super close angle.

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Hopefully, the pointed part of the tooth will look like it’s part of the original.

If not, you may have to go back to the Tooth Colour layer and match more of the original tooth colours to the point.

Or, you may just need more practice!

But, not to worry – this is the last PHSH tutorial for the year, so you’ll have plenty of time to practice before the next one!

This was actually the 2nd tooth I vampire-ized on this picture. I used this one for the tutorial instead of the first, because I felt like this one turned out better.

What do you think?

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Like this tutorial? Check out the rest of the series here!