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In this Photoshop tutorial, I will show you the process of creating this Photo Manipulation and Digital Painting of a Surreal “Man on Fire” in Photoshop. We will use watercolour brush to paint its background, manipulate a model image with image adjustments in Photoshop, as well as apply fire stock image to form the final effect.

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Here is a preview of the final effect I have for this tutorial: (click to enlarge)

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OK Let’s get started!

To complete this tutorial, you will need the following stocks:

Watercolor Brush set

Grunge Brush set (Pick one from the list)


Hair Brush set

Fire Stock

Step 1

Create a document sized 800px * 1131px with white background. Use the Grunge brush set downloaded, paint some grunge texture over the background. Make sure you reduce the brush opacity to around 45%:

Make sure you use a combination of grunge brush, also utilise the eraser tool as you paint to fine-tune the effect. Here is my painting result:

Step 2

Load the model image into Photoshop and cut out the model, paste it onto our document:

Apply the following layer mask (in red) around the model – I used a combination of soft edge eraser, and watercolour eraser (use the watercolour brush set downloaded):

Here is the layer mask details:

You will have the following effect so far:

Step 3

Apply the following 3 image adjustment layers to this model layer, set all 3 adjustment layers to clipping masks:

Black and White



Layer mask on levels adjustment layer:

and here is the effect so far:

Step 4

We will work on more digital painting in this step. Use another set of grunge brushes, paint some pattern around the model. You don’t have to limit yourself to a particular style, and please feel free to choose any brush you see fit. Make sure you make a layer below the model layer and paint behind the model’s body.

There are areas that I would recommend to paint regardless what brush you use. Such as:

The left shoulder area:

Left leg:

The head and right shoulder area:

Also use the hair brush you downloaded, paint some hair pattern in the left: (use Free transform tool to rotate your painting)

and here is the effect I have so far:

Step 5

We will add some fiery particles in this step. Load the fire stock image into Photoshop. Here you can use two methods to select small pieces of fire:

  • Use the quick selection tool and hold down the Ctrl key. Copy and paste your selections to our document.
  • Use a particle brush, create a new layer and use this particle brush to paint on the new layer, select this layer and go back to this background fire layer. Copy and paste your selections to our document.

Add the fire particles to the following areas: (use free transform tool to adjust their sizes)

Step 6

We will add the main fire effect to our design in this step. Use the Lasso Tool with 40px feather, select a portion of the fire as shown below:

Copy and paste your selection to our document, and set the new layer blend mode to “Vivid Light”:

Move the fire to the left edge of the grunge painting, use the free transform tool to adjust its size:

Repeat the step above, add 2 more fire textures to the positions shown below:

Step 7

For final touches, we can flatten the image, and use the Dodge Tool to highlight parts of the man’s face:

We can add the following 2 adjustment layers on top for some colour:

Selective Color


and here is my final result: (click to enlarge)

That’s it for this tutorial! Hope you enjoy it and find it useful. Till next time, have a great day!

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