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[Halloween Tutorial] Create Sugar Skull Makeup On Photos!

In today’s tutorial you’ll learn how to apply beautiful sugar skull makeup onto your own photos. Learn how to achieve this unique look using simple illustration techniques in partnership with layer blend modes. Let’s get started!

Software: Adobe Photoshop CS6 & Wacom Pen Tablet

Difficulty: Advanced

Completion Time: 4 hours

Images Used For This Tutorial

Stock Photo - Fashion Beauty Girl with Flowers Hair Bride Creative Hairstyle

Fashion beauty girl with flowers hair bride creative hairstyle:22559242 ©subbotina

Stock Photo - Smoke isolated on black background

Smoke isolated on black background: 33456095 © rangizzz

Create the Makeup Base

Step 1

Open the photo of your model into Photoshop. Use the Lasso Tool (L) to make a selection around all of her skin.

Step 2

Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and bring down the Saturation to -65. Blend out any hard edges using the Brush Tool (B).

Draw the Sugar Skull Makeup

Step 3

On a new layer, draw two black circles around both eyes using the Brush Tool (B) at 50% Opacity. You will need a pen tablet for this in order to give the makeup an organic look.

Step 4

Begin drawing the rest of the makeup. Use references of sugar skulls online to help you. Draw petals around the eyes and a black nose to mimic a skull. If the drawing at anytime needs adjusting, simply Control-T and Warp the drawing into better positioning. Finish the makeup off with delicate lines to represent a stitched mouth.

Step 5

Set all the drawn layers of your makeup to Overlay. The result is sheer at first, so duplicate the layers several times until the makeup has a nice blend against the skin. At this point you can continue to edit the design like I did, adding additional details like dots, swirls, and a spider web on her forehead.

Step 6

On a new layer, use the Brush Tool (B) at 0-30% Opacity to paint soft black shadows all over the face. Contour the face to make it appear more hollow and skull-like and to allow the makeup to pop out.

At this point you can also change the background by painting in soft gray shadows to keep any white from showing through.

Add Color

Step 7

Now for some color! On a new layer set to Pin Light, use the Brush Tool (B) to paint a dark red color (#750b0f) for the eye makeup. Fill another new layer with a purple color (#524ca7) and set it to Overlay.

Step 8

To change the color of the roses, use the Brush Tool (B) to paint a blue color (#317ba1) on all of the roses. Set the layer to Color Burn and duplicate it for a more intense effect.

Add a new layer and fill it with black. Set the layer to Saturation and bring down the Opacity to 50% to help desaturate the colors a bit.

Step 9


Copy and paste your smoke reference onto the canvas. Resize it and set it to Soft Light. Add a New Adjustment Layer for Curves to intensify the overall lighting.

Step 10

Use the Brush Tool (B) to paint white highlights all over the scene. Use both hard and soft brushes to pop out details, add glitter to the eyes, and softly diffuse colors.

Step 11

Finish off your sugar skull by setting a layer to Overlay and outlining her entire body with a bright blue color (#0dfcea). Add color to the smoke and paint lots of sparkles for a more beautiful effect.

I hope you’ve enjoyed creating this enchanting sugar skull. Have fun and enjoy making your own! Do share your feedback with us!

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