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Photo Manipulation: Create A Halloween ‘Kiwimouse’ (Say, what!?)

Yes, we are talking about a dramatic and surreal-looking KiwiMouse. This tutorial aims to create a kiwifruit-rat infusion with a touch of realism, by introducing shadows, highlights, and those tiny little details that counts a lot collectively.

Level: Advanced.

We will be using these images.

Rat: Image ID: 4304017 © Vitalik Pakhnyushchyy

Kiwi: Image ID: 813567 © Maxim Petrichuk

Chopping board: Image ID: 6898402 © nito500

Fork: Image ID: 7363484 © Dzianis Miraniuk

Preparing the rat:

We shall extract the rat from its original background, using layer mask. Brush the unwanted areas away, including the shadow. The tricky part is the fur and whiskers. What we can do is use a soft, smudge tool and drag those fine fur and whiskers stroke by stroke. A Graphics tablet is prefered in this area, as we can draw more natural strokes.

Apply the layer mask when you’re sure of your masking. Once done, use the clone stamp tool to give the rat eyelids, as tough its dead.

Next, we shall split the rat into 3 portions. Head, body, and the back. Copy and paste them into 3 different layers with head layer at the top, followed by body layer and then back layer. Try to imagine the rat being sliced up. Example below.

Since, the area behind the ear isn’t available, simply use the clone stamp tool to recreate the surface.

Liquify the 3 layers to a more cylindrical shape. I’ve rotated the head a bit so that it doesn’t look like its still standing.

Then, import the kiwi into your workspace, and transform it match the prespective. Wrong perspective will not yield a realistic result. So it’s important to get this right.

Merge the kiwi and rat together (merge them seperately: kiwi+body / kiwi+back), and burn the edge of the kiwi a little (as shown).

Before proceeding, turn your focus on the back section of the rat. Its as though it is missing a right back leg. We are going to change that. Copy an instance of the of the leg and place it behind this layer. Transform this leg so that it is smaller, then adjust its brightness.

We’ll have something like this at this point:

Preparing chopping board:

Masking chopping board should be straight forward, its a solid object and for convenience purpose, just go with the magic wand. Flip and transform the board to match the rat’s perspective.

Place the 3 sections of the rat on the chopping board accordingly, with the midsection (body) higher than the other 2.

We can then introduce the fork to our image. Place the fork on the body part of the rat, and then mask the edge of fork away.

Use the same technique as before (soft smudge tool) to reveal some fur at where the fork pokes through the rat.

Use the burn tool to darken the fur where the fork pierced through. Creates an illusion that the moist from the fruit is seeping through.

Time to add shadows. This area requires abit of observation and imagination as to where the shadow will fall and how intense it is. I’ve opt to create those shadow with the light source from the front and above.

All the shadow is drawn on a seperate layer with a black brush. Below are the brief description:

  1. Darkest and the nearest shadow to the object, usually have sharper edge and it is harsher than normal, and might seep onto the object.

  2. ‘Normal’ blend mode shadow, is much softer than the shadow above. It adds a degree of darkness to the shadow. Control the darkness by adjusting the opacity of this layer.

  3. ‘Overlay’ blend mode shadow, which is the duplicate of the above layer. This is to give the shadowed areas some color contrast. Control the color’s contrast by adjusting the opacity of this layer.

Lets start off by focusing on the rat’s head section. Create a new layer beneath the head. Get the selection of the head layer, feather it few pixels and fill it with black. Tone done the opacity.

Duplicate the layer. Select the layer that we duplicate from and change its blend mode to ‘Overlay’.

We got 2 layers of shadow now, the ‘Normal’ layer should be on top of ‘Overlay’ layer. Tweak the opacity for both layer until you get the desired tone. This is what it looks like with the rat’s head hidden.


Create another layer to place our darkest shadow. I’ve further added in a softer and faint shadow.

Using similar steps, draw up the shadow that are cast on the kiwi. For this set of shadow, we will only be using 2 layers, 1 for the color contrast, 1 for the darkness. We can use the rat’s head selection as our guide.

Add another shadow on the other kiwi surface. At this point, I would suggest to create a new layer, fill the whole layer with black, and apply a “hide all” layer mask. Using a soft white brush, slowly brush to reveal the shape of the shadow. It’s important to control the hardness of brush.

Since light source is from the front, it will be appropriate to add shadow for the fork. Using same technique as above step, draw dark lines behind the fork, and leave light gaps in between them. As the shadow lenghtens it should be softer towards the end. Also, the light gap would be wider.

Complete the shadow in the back portion of the rat, all in a similar fashion like the previous ones. Add some shadow to the gap in between the back and head portion as well.

Kiwi juice puddle:

Create this layer of texture by merging multiple copies from the original kiwi image. Place it above the cutting board layer.

Create another new layer and place it just above the texture layer. Draw a selection (imagine how the juice will flow on the board). Feather it 1 px and fill this selection with white. Apply the layer style below, change blend mode to ‘Multiply’ and layer opacity to 30%.

Transform the kiwi so that it is large enough to cover the entire shape of the juice. Erase excessive areas. Lower the opacity to 50% and change the blend mode to ‘Multiply’.

The juice won’t look real unless we add highlights to it. Create a new layer above the effect layer and just draw streaks of white lines around the edge.

When done, select the puddle shape and create a new adjustment layer. We can then change the color or contrast of this puddle.

Repeat the steps above for 2nd puddle. Notice the back leg stands atop of the puddle and not within.

We are going to change that. Roughly draw a set of guidelines. These lines shows the depth of the puddle and how much of the toes will be submerged within the puddle.

With the back section layer selected, make a selection around the leg and duplicate it. Move this duplicated leg layer to beneath the ‘puddle’ layer. Select the ‘back’ layer and mask off the areas of the toe under the line. Now select the leg duplicate, and mask the areas above the line away.

Reduce the brightness of this layer, and maybe add some hint of green.

Create a new layer use white brush to roughly draw the shape similar to below. Apply the layer styles and change blend mode to ‘Multiply’ and opacity to 15. This acts as a very faint ripple around the toes.

Further enhancements:

Cleaning up the image, removing the unwanted dirt. Use healing tool to remove those dirt that appear on the rat’s head.

Use adjustment layers to fine tune the contrast and color of the objects so that they are in-sync.

I’ve also desaturated the red color on the rat during this stage so that it doesn’t look too alive.

Try to locate any areas with anomalies, such as missing shadow, or even weird highlights and make appropriate adjustments.

Dodge and burn to further increase shadow/highlights. Add a new overlay layer (filled with neutral gray) at the top most of the layers and brush them as you see fit (White brush to dodge, black brush to burn).

Finally, sharpen the image (by using the un-sharp mask filter) to the image to increase definition.

I’ve added some kiwi juice leak and created a more wallpaper friendly version as my alternate output. Enjoy!


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