As some of you may know, I participate in an online roleplaying game that is based in the Star Trek canon, called USS Talon. As we are required to have images for our characters, and because I choose to make signatures for many of them, I’ve gotten somewhat passable at making people look like Star Trek characters.
Here are a few of the one’s I’ve done:
The source image is this one, so as you can see a lot of work needed to be done.
The source image is here. It still needs a lot of work, but I’m lazy.
Anyhow, I get asked with some frequency how to make these sorts of images, so I figured I’d make a tutorial starting with something simple – Bajoran noses. Not sure if there’s much interest, but this is without a doubt pretty geeky, so we’ll see how it goes! I’m not an expert in the least, but I think it’s a pretty decent end result.
Click the jump below to see how Mila Kunis looks transformed into a Bajoran.
This tutorial is for CS5, and assumes a small, but basic, knowledge of Photoshop. This is a relatively “basic” tutorial. If there is interest, I’ll discuss more difficult mods.
This is by far the MOST important part of your process, so don’t skip down to the “good stuff” quite yet. Getting a good source nose not only makes your effort a lot lower when editing time comes, but it also makes successive Bajoran noses easier.
The number one rule of searching for Bajoran noses?
Major Kira is nearly always not the best character to get your noses from.
Yes, I know, she is in every episode of DS9, and there’s a plethora of images of her. But THAT is the intrinsic problem. Kira’s nosepiece is used in every episode. It’s custom fit to Nana Visitor’s face. It is designed to be visible, but not to be particularly protrusive. 90% of the time, you will get a more usable nose from a guest character. These noses are a lot more noticeable (and most relevant for our purposes – higher contrast) than what Kira normally has. If you need something particularly majestic, take a look at Vedek Bareil, and the male Bajoran from the episode Covenant. They have very prominent nose pieces since the make up artist didn’t have to be arsed with making them pretty.
For this tutorial, we’re using this screencap from the DS9 episode Covenant. It’s ideal because it’s a straight shot of the nose, it’s evenly lit, and there is good contrast in the ridges.
Prepping the Image
Our first step in editing is to get the Contrast and Brightness as ideal as possible. The skintone at this point is irrelevant – we will match it at a later stage. What we want right now is for the light parts of the ridge to be lighter than the skintone on the destination image. It’s very difficult to put something dark on top of something lighter and have it look natural. I used a Brightness of 101 and a Contrast of 100 in this example.
Merge the Contrast/Brightness layer down, so your image becomes a single layer.
Make a basic rectangular selection of the nose. Try and get a bit of area around it for blending later.
Open your destination image. In this example, we will be using Mila Kunis. Because I’m sure no one likes seeing images of her, I’m not going to show the original. Instead, here’s this improved image of her with a big nose pasted on her face! (Sarcasm guys, of course.)
With the nose layer selected, use the rotate/scale tools (Edit > Transform > Rotate, and Edit > Transform > Scale), and the Move tool to get the nose more or less the size and orientation that you want it. In order to keep your proportions constrained when Scaling, hold down the Shift key. Please note – perfection is unnecessary at this stage. We’ll tweak later. In this particular case, everything managed to work out really well, and I didn’t have to change much in this stage.
It’s kind of hard to tell, but notice that I kept the corner of the eye from the actress in the original picture? I use this to “ballpark” where the nose should go on the destination, because I am lazy, and have absolutely zero artistic ability regarding anatomy. This “trick” will not work in all instances, and is most successful when the source and destination actors have similar facial sizes.
Using a eraser set to 100% opacity, but with a blurred edge, erase some of the extraneous material. Your key is to ensure there are no “hard” lines left. Still, you want a bit of excess for later blending.
Making sure that the nose layer is selected, create a Layer Mask from Transparency.
Your layer will now have a black and white image next to it representing the Layer Mask. Right click this, and select the option to Add the Mask to a Selection. Under the Select Menu, choose the option to Save Selection.
Modify the Hue and Saturation, until it looks somewhat coordinated with the end image. I try to pick a color that looks like the shadowy parts of my image – it’s generally somewhere in the Red/Orange area of the spectrum. I select the “Colorize” option as it makes it easier for me to gauge where on the spectrum I want to be. This is particularly useful trick when you do edits on aliens with different skintones. Again – this image ended up being pretty spot on, so I left Hue alone, Went -9 on Saturation, and +8 on Lightness.
As explained earlier in the tutorial, merge the Hue/Sat layer down so your whole nose part is on one layer. Then, Right Click your Layer Mask, and select the option “Add Mask to Selection.”
Mila Kunis has a relatively short nose, and at present, your ridges go pretty far down. While that’s somewhat consistent with Background Bajorans, Kira’s nose normally doesn’t extend that far. Plus, I kind of like my ridges more densely packed. I’m going to use the Scale tool in order to condense the nose a little bit, but this is more personal preference than necessity.
Set your nose layer opacity. In my case, it’s 57%. Trust me. The number one thing that I see people do (outside of using horrible source images) is set the opacity on the nose too high. Basically, the method of my madness is this – I spend a lot of time on Brightness and Contrast from the beginning so in the end I can turn the opacity super low and not have to be arsed with fixing complicated shadows. The less time I can spend with the burn tool, the less likely I am to do something absolutely horrible with it. As ridges protrude somewhat from the nose, it’s natural for them to be slightly lighter than the regular nose underneath – even when in shadow.
As you can see, there is still a lot of lightness on the right hand side that needs to be cleaned up. So using a fuzzy eraser brush at 40% opacity, I am going to erase the weirdness above the (viewer’s) right eyebrow, and to the right of the ridges.
Then, using the burn tool, set to Shadows, Exposure of 50% and Protect Colors Off, carefully trace over the right side of the ridges. Trace over any part of the ridges that would be in shadows. I highly recommend toggling the visibility on the nose layer frequently, so you can make sure that all the ridge sections in the shadows to the right of the nose are darkened. Do not go too far. Burn is a dangerous tool. A little goes a long way. You should really only need one pass to get it a bit darker.
Keeping your Eraser on a Fuzzy brush, and using 20% opacity, slowly run the eraser over the shadowy sections to the right of the nose. Once again, toggle the visibility on the nose layer on and off to make sure that you do not erase too little. You don’t need to get crazy with it – as mentioned before the nose ridges do protrude somewhat, and will naturally not be as dark as the rest of the shadows.