Photoshop tutorial: Eroded fashion portraits

Pete Harrison radically reworks a fashion shot till the whole look begins to unravel before your eyes


In the third and final tutorial featuring work by members of the Depthcore collective’s Obsolete exhibition (, digital art master Pete Harrison explains how he uses photographs of paint splashes and splatters to add dynamism to a fashion shot.

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The tutorial shows you how to use the Pen tool and colour selection tools to isolate key parts of the composition and then combine them. You’ll also learn to create some grungy and explosive effects, adding oomph to the image. At the very end, Pete shows how adding a gradient map can bring a different look to the work.

While all the sample images you need to create this artwork are in the tutorial’s project files, you can give any subject more dynamism – and a surreal feel – using the effects here. There are two things to bear in mind: it helps if the background is relatively plain and, as always, some experimentation is needed.

Time to Complete

3 hours


Adobe Photoshop

Project files

Files for this tutorial are downloadable from here.

Step 1


Bring the model shot (stock1.jpg) from the project files into Photoshop. This is a great photo, but it needs a little retouching to be amazing.

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Increase the contrast and darken the shot slightly using Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. Also do a Curves adjustment – just keep playing around with the image until you get a strong look.

Step 2


Duplicate the ‘Background’ layer and set the blending mode of the copy to Multiply. This will bring out some of the darker areas of the model and make her stand out a bit more. Set the opacity of this layer to around 60%.

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Merge the two layers (Cmd/Ctrl + E) and call the result ‘grey’ (you’ll see why in a bit).

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Step 3


Next, using the Pen tool (P), click on one part of the model and start tracing around her. Right-click on the model once you have closed the path and select Make Selection. Set the Feather Radius to 0 pixels, check the Anti-aliased box and hit OK.

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Cut and paste the selection into the document, naming the resulting layer ‘model2’.

Step 4


Now we need to edit the background so the model only survives in the ‘model2’ layer. Hide this layer and use the Clone Stamp tool (S) to erase the model from ‘grey’, filling her in with the background.

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Note that I didn’t erase the area around the shoes (inset) so as not to break or alter the model’s shadow at the bottom of the shot. Also note that you might need to restore the background’s vignette using the Gradient tool (G).

Step 5


Go to the stock.xchng site and download the shot of paint splatters at Select just the black splatters in the photograph by going to Select > Color Range... and clicking on one of the areas of black in the image. You can adjust how much black you pick up by adjusting the Fuzziness (I used a value of 150). Copy the selection.

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Step 6


Paste this into the composition underneath the ‘model2’ layer. Duplicate the new layer, go to Edit > Transform > Scale and reduce the size of the copy. Place it elsewhere on the model.

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Now it’s time to experiment. Rearrange the paint splatters as you see fit and, if you need more dots, duplicate more layers and rotate/scale some of them for variety. Take care not to overload the composition, however.

Step 7


Open stock3.jpg – or feel free to use a similar stock image or capture some splatters of your own (you’ll always find a use for them). The colour of the paint doesn’t matter. Go to Select > Color Range… again and select an orange colour (or whatever shade of paint you’re working with), with Fuzziness set to 100. Click on the Add to Sample eyedropper icon (the one with the ‘+’ next to it) and click again on the paint – but on a different hue of orange – until it’s picked up all the orange parts you want. Hit OK.

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Step 8


Copy the selection and paste it in above the ‘model2’ layer, calling the new layer ‘paint’. Arrange the paint over the model and use the selection tool to erase some areas you don’t want to use. Duplicate the ‘model2’ layer, naming the result ‘model2 – original’ and hide it. This is so you have a backup in case you don’t like the way the next step turns out.

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Step 9


Click on the ‘paint’ layer and apply a Color Overlay layer style to it. Select a bright red in the colour picker (this would work equally well with any strong colour that’s not in the original model shot). Go to Select > Color Range… again and highlight the red colour, then hit OK. Hide the ‘paint’ layer, then select the ‘model2’ layer.

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Step 10


Hit Delete and this should erase some of the new model that you created. Repeat this process, using different parts of the paint stock image that you imported to work on different areas of the model. You can transform and scale some for variety.

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Step 11


Use the ‘paint’ layer to create the grunge elements by duplicating it a few times, unhiding each in turn, changing the Color Overlay colour to black and erasing most of it to leave only the small parts you want (as shown). Drag each new paint layer so it is behind the ‘model2’ layer, arranging it in the composition so that it looks like it could be the far side of the model.

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Step 12


Repeat Step 11, but use Edit > Transform and Image > Image Rotation to vary the paint strokes. I arranged one coming down from the top of the model and one on the left, so that it looks like she’s almost exploding.

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Step 13


Place some smaller black paint splatters and strokes on top of the ‘model2’ layer to give more of a 3D look, as if the paint was around her body and not just behind. I also added some paint to areas that I had not erased in Step 10, such as the face and some of the clothing.

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Step 14


Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map. I chose a purple-to-yellow gradient, checked the Reverse option and set this layer’s opacity to around 50%. Feel free to play with different colours or opacities for a different look and feel.

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About the artist: Pete Harrison


Pete Harrison – aka Aeiko – has worked for agencies in London and freelanced mainly in the fields of graphic design, web design and typography. His high-profile clients have included the likes of Samsung, Royal Mail, Guinness and Peugeot. Based in South Devon, he is developing his own clothing label, Funkrush, and says he is the only artist to work with “the coloured illumination of the Jedi light-sabre”.

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