Futuristic Male Cyborg Photo Manipulation Tutorial

by . October 2nd, 2014

Cyborg-based photo manipulations have been around for quite some time now and still gaining popularity among Photoshop users.

We really just can’t get enough of this futuristic sci-fi craze. All of us are just itching to try it and create our own.

So in this tutorial, you’re going to learn how to create this awesome male cyborg photo manipulation using Photoshop. There are numerous ways to do this but I will show you my own method by which you can learn some tips and tricks. Hopefully, this could help you in your future projects. Intermediate to advanced knowledge in Photoshop will come in handy for this one. Basic stuffs like using pen tool, layer mask, brushes, and smart objects are not covered in-depth in this tutorial. We can have that on other tutorials in the future so make sure to stick around!

Throughout the course of this tutorial, I will show you some tips on how to utilize several tools on Photoshop. Hopefully you’ll learn some valuable techniques along the way.

This is what our final image should look like:


Hit the DOWNLOAD button to access all the tutorial assets/resources you’ll need.


So lets get started!

Step 1 —  Create a new 8” x 12” document in Photoshop. Set the resolution to 300 ppi and color mode to RGB.


Step 2 — Open the “Male Model” stock photo in Photoshop. Place it in the center and change its name to “Background” then lock this layer.

Step 3 —  I prefer to use the same background for this image but still I have to isolate the model from the background. Later in this tutorial you’ll get the idea why we have to do this process.

Now extract the male model from its background using the PEN TOOL. Once you’ve closed the path hit (Ctrl + Enter) to activate the selection. Once the selection was activated. Click (Ctrl + J) to duplicate the selected area. Now that you’ve duplicated the male model onto a new layer, change its name to “Male Cyborg” then hide this layer temporarily by turning off the visibility icon.

Step 4 — Now go back to the “Background” layer. We have to remove/cover up the model from this layer for us to have a seamless, smoky background.

To do this select the CLONE STAMP TOOL  from the tool bar. Then while holding (Alt), click somewhere on the background to sample a texture. After that release the (Alt) and then start covering up the model. Continue this process until the whole model disappears. Then fine-tune the background further using the HEALING BRUSH TOOL to make it really seamless.

4Step 5 — Cyborgs have smooth skin surfaces so we have to clean up the skin of our model and remove all the blemishes to have a flawless skin suited for a cyborg.

Now create a new layer name it “Healing Brush” Select the HEALING BRUSH TOOL and make sure that the “All Layers” option is selected. You can find this option at the top bar. Using the HEALING BRUSH TOOL start cloning/covering up all the blemishes to smoothen the skin. Use the same method from the CLONE STAMP TOOL we’ve used earlier. Take your time finding and covering up all the visible blemishes.

Step 6 — To help further smoothen the skin, duplicate the “Male Cyborg” and “Healing Brush” layers both at the same time then merge these layers (Crtl + E) and change its name to “Surface Blur”.

Step 7 — Now go to FILTER – BLUR – SURFACE BLUR then apply the following settings below and hit OK.

Now at this point our image might look washed up — and we don’t want that! To resolve this, make a CLIPPING MASK on this layer by clicking the “ADD LAYER MASK BUTTON” below the layer’s panel while holding (Alt). This will make this layer hidden temporarily. Then with WHITE BRUSH start painting on the specific areas of the skin you that want to smoothen. This way you can control where you want to apply this effect.

Step 8 — Create a new layer below the Male Cyborg” layer and name it “inner body”. This will serve as the inner body of our cyborg. Parts of this layer will appear when we cut all the grooves from our cyborg’s body. Now go to the “Male Cyborg “ layer and activate its selection by holding (Ctrl) and clicking on the thumbnail of this layer. Running lines should be visible by now.

Now go to SELECT > MODIFY > CONTRACT and set it to 5 pixels. While the selection is still active, go back to the “inner body” layer. Set your foreground color to Black and fill the selection with black by hitting (Alt + Delete). Make sure that the “inner body” layer is below our “male cyborg” layer


Step 9 — This time create a new layer name it “rough sketch” and start making a rough sketch of all the grooves for our male cyborg using black brush. Set the layer’s opacity to 50%. This is when a PEN TAB and freehand drawing skills come in handy. Try to visualize all the cuts, grooves and the overall appearance of our cyborg. (See my sample sketch below).    


Step 10 — Now we have to merge some of the layers for cutting purposes later. Select these three layers (male cyborg, healing brush and surface blur) then right click and choose “convert to smart object”. Then make a duplicate copy (Ctrl + J).  select the duplicated layer and change its name to “male cyborg”. Then on this layer right click and choose “rasterize layer” then hide the smart object layer below. This particular copy is for safety purposes only.

Step 11 —At this point, I decided to isolate some parts from the body and protrude them a bit.

Now starting with the face using the pen tool, make a selection around the face according to the sketch. Activate the selection by pressing (Ctrl + Enter) then press (Shift + Ctrl + J) – (shortcut for layer-via-cut) this will make the face placed into a new layer, thus isolating it. Name the new layer “head”. Hold (Ctrl) then click on its thumbnail to activate its selection. Go to SELECT > MODIFY > CONTRACT and type in 5 px. Then press (Ctrl + Shift + I) to invert the selection and hit Delete. This will create a gap between the two parts. Lastly, nudge the isolated face a bit downwards.

11Step 12 —Do the same method on other parts of the body that you want to protrude. Name each layer properly for you to avoid confusion while working on the layers panel. Nudge them accordingly (see sample below).  

Step 13— Now focusing on the shoulders’ joint, we have to do the same exact procedure above — but this time, we’ll create another groove inside. Once the initial groove is cut, draw a small circle using the ELLIPSE TOOL inside the initial groove. Place it properly then activate its selection by holding (Ctrl) and clicking on the thumbnail. Hide this layer after.

13Step 14— Next press (Ctrl + Shift + J)  (shortcut for layer via cut). Select this layer and activate again its selection by holding Ctrl and clicking on the thumbnail.  Then choose SELECT > MODIFY > CONTRACT.  Set it to 5 px hit OK.  When the selection was activated invert it by pressing (Ctrl + Shift + I) then hit delete. This will create a new smaller groove inside the first one. Nudge it towards upper right.

Step 15— Next grab the PEN TOOL and trace all the remaining grooves.  Make sure that you are on the “Path Mode” and not in “Shape Mode.”  Then also make sure to click the “Add to path area” button above if you’re tracing it part by part. This will make your life easy — trust me.

Step 16 —  Once done, activate the selection by holding (Ctrl + Enter). After that, hold (Alt) then click on the “Add layer mask” button at the bottom of the layers panel to add a layer mask. This way, we’ll just be hiding all the selected parts via layer mask instead of deleting it permanently.

Step 17 —  Now while on the layer mask, we can fine tune the grooves by picking up a brush and painting on the parts where little modifications are needed.  Use a white brush to recover some details and a black brush to hide it. I find rounded corners for the edges quite appropriate.

Step 18 —  Create a new layer on the top of the “male cyborg” layer and change its name to “highlights.” This will be our highlights for the grooves. This will help make all the cuts in the skin look realistic. Then after that, make a CLIPPING MASK by holding (Alt) and clicking between the two layers.  Now grab the BRUSH TOOL, sample a color from the skin by holding (Alt) and clicking on the skin. Don’t forget to change the layer’s blending mode to SCREEN.­ Now start painting on top of the skin edges and wherever you think it is appropriate to put highlights based on the light source.  Remember that you can only paint on the grooves at the main body and not on the isolated parts. Since our “highlights” layer is only clipped in the “male cyborg” layer.

Step 19 —  Now create a layer this time for shadows.  So again create a new layer name it “shadows” make a clipping mask this time attached it on the “highlight’s” layer.  Change its blending mode to MULTIPLY and start painting below where you just painted some highlights. This will give emphasis on the highlights and will make the effect more realistic. Also paint on the lower edges to give the impression of a realistic cut on the skin.

Step 20 —  Notice now that after adding the highlights and shadows, those cuts became more realistic.

Step 21 — Then, of course, we have to add highlights and shadows to all the isolated parts one by one. Apply the same technique to all the other isolated parts. Create layers for highlights and shadows, clip them, then start painting. Don’t forget to sample a skin color and set all the corresponding blending modes. After that, group the layers together with their corresponding highlights and shadow layers and name them accordingly to avoid cluttered layers in the layers panel.

Step 22 — Now for our last machine part. Turn on the visibility of the layer “sketch” and trace the remaining groove on the lower arm. But this time use PEN TOOL  and set it to “SHAPE MODE ”. Basically this will be a huge cut on the arm showing mechanical parts inside our cyborg. Once done, open the “machine” stock photo. Extract the machine from its background, place it on top of our shape layer and make a clipping mask to put the machine inside the shape layer. Then scale, re-size, and rotate the image whenever needed and place it accordingly. You can duplicate it and place the duplicated one on the lower groove to extend the mechanical part downwards. Change its orientation to break the symmetry.


Step 23 — Add a curves adjustment layer and make a clipping mask for it. (see layers arrangement below). Make the machine inside the arm a little darker for it to blend inside. Follow the curves settings below.


Step 24 —  Create a new layer name it shadows”. Grab the black brush and set the opacity around 10%-30% and start painting on the sides of the grooves to place shadows.

Step 25 — Now we will make the light strokes inside the gaps. Set your foreground color to #00e0d3 and brush size to 4 pts.  Using the pen tool create lines/paths inside all the gaps then right click on it choose “stroke path” then hit OK. You now have a lights stroke!


Step 26 — Continue making lines/paths and converting in to “stroke path” until you fill all the light strokes needed for the body.

Step 27 — Now we focus on the light strokes around the neck. Using the same technique (stroke path), make a pattern of thin and thick strokes alternately. Use .5 pt for thick and 1 pt for thin strokes. (See sample screenshot below.)


Step 28 — Now we have to recover some details from the neck to fill in some gaps in the neck thus producing a robotic neck. So go to the “male cyborg” layer and click on its layer mask. Using pen tool, trace around each and every gaps in the neck.  After that, activate the selection by clicking Ctrl + Enter then using a white brush, set to a low opacity, gradually paint, and recover several parts of the neck especially on the upper back part. Once done with all the gaps, deactivate the selection by clicking the Ctrl + D.


Step 29 —  Lastly, go to the “highlights” layer that was clipped into the “male cyborg’s” layer. Then add some highlights and shadows on the robotic neck to have some depth.

29Step 30 — Now filling up the head of our cyborg’s head, duplicate the “machine stock” photo layer that was clipped on the arm. Then place it on top of the “inner body” layer. Make a clipping mask between the two layers.  Create a new layer and name it “shadow.” Make sure to clip this layer together with the “machine” layer to place them inside our cyborg’s head. Change the blending mode to MULTIPLY. Now with a black brush, set to a low opacity and gradually paint on the sides of the head to make some shadows. Then finally add a curves adjustment layer, make a clipping mask and adjust the contrast and lightness.


Step 31 — We will add some additional details on the isolated face. With the “sketch” layer activated I added additional thin grooves sketches, blocking up the eye and also with lines extending towards the edges of the face. Now trace it with the PEN TOOL (Path Mode) then active the selection, Now go to the “head” layer and click Ctrl + Shift + J – (shortcut for layer via cut). This will isolate the selected grooves onto a new layer. Select this new layer and press Ctrl + U then Hue/Saturation panel will pop out. Desaturate the image and make a bit darker by putting in the following settings below. Hit OK.

Step 32 — Go to the “light stroke” layer then add additional light strokes on the face inside the gaps.  Apply the same method we’ve used earlier when we made light strokes.

Step 33—  Create a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and apply the following settings below.  This will desaturate the whole image and will gear us up for a grungy-hard light effect.

Step 34 — Add a Color Balance adjustment layer. Apply the following settings below then set the layer’s blending mode to COLOR.

Step 35 —  To make our light more realistic, we have to add some glow around it. Create a new layer change the name to “light”. Set the blending mode to LINEAR DODGE (ADD). Grab the BRUSH TOOL set the color to #00e0d3 and set the opacity around 20% to 30%. Paint on the light strokes specifically on the parts where highlights must be placed. I purposely painted some light onto the skin surfaces just to have reflected lights (see samples below).

35 - a

35 - b

35 - c
Step 36 — It is really important for a composite image to have a great overall contrast that blends all of the images making it look like as one. So this is when DODGE AND BURN method will be useful. There are numerous ways to do this but I prefer this non-destructive method.

First, create a new layer name it “dodge and burn” set the layer mode to OVERLAY and put a check on the option “Fill with overlay-neutral  color (50% gray)” to fill our layer with 50% gray. Now grab the DODGE TOOL and set it at a low opacity. On this layer gradually paint on all the highlights that we want to emphasize. After that grab the BURN TOOL and paint on the shadows to add depth and contour to our image. Our aim is to have a great contrast to help our image blend together. If you want you can still add a curves adjustment layer to manipulate the contrast.

Step 37 — Now for the final element, open the “smoke” stock photo in Photoshop.  Paste it on our document and place its layer on top. Change the blending mode to SCREEN and set the opacity to 60%. Add a layer mask then pick up a black brush and start painting on the areas of the body where you want to lessen the smoke. 


And there you have it! Our futuristic male cyborg everyone! 


And that concludes our Male Cyborg Photo Manipulation Tutorial. Stick around for more tutorials and creative stuff! You can follow some of my works on Coroflot and Behance.

For questions, suggestions, or any reactions regarding this tutorial, just leave a message by commenting below.


Manila-based multimedia designer specializing in graphic design, illustration and photo manipulations. Fascinated with vector illustrations, minimalist designs, and clever advertising ideas. Always on the lookout for creative stuff serving as his daily dose of inspiration.