Photoshop CS 3 Tutorial: How to Turn a Girl Into a Fairy in 9 Easy Steps

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Have you ever seen a photo of a girl with wings and wondered how the photographer managed to turn her into an fairy? I’ll show you how (it’s easier than you think).

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

Fairies and Art

From Victorian Fairy Art to the Cottingley Fairies to Flickr, paintings and photos of fairies have been part of our visual culture and heritage for hundreds of years. Inspired by both old paintings and modern photos, I decided to turn my model Laura into a 21st century fairy. It turned out to be easier than I thought, and in this tutorial I’ll show you how I did it.

The Tutorial

Here’s the step by step guide to how I created this photo. It’s more of a general guide than a detailed how-to. This is to encourage you to experiment, and try the tools and techniques out for yourself, adapting them to the way you prefer to work. It also assumes at least a basic level of proficiency with Photoshop CS.

Photoshop CS Skills covered in this tutorial:

Layers, selections, curves, free transform, textures, layer blending modes.


1. Choose Your Photos

I deliberately selected a photo of Laura laying on her back to make adding the wings easier. All I have to do is put the wings ‘underneath’ without showing how they join her body.

For the ‘wings’ I took a photo of a feather. It’s up to you what you use, I suggest something natural like a feather or leaves, or you could even draw or paint a set of wings. Let your imagination soar…

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl


2. Make a Selection Around the Feather

There are a LOT of ways to make a selection. Here’s how I did it. First I increased the brightness and contrast to turn the background white. This didn’t go quite far enough so I increased the contrast further using the Curves tool. I then used the Magic Wand tool to select the white background and inversed the selection so the the feather was selected, not the background.

Note that I photographed the feather against a white background so I could use this technique to make a selection. All this was done on a duplicate layer. This gave me the freedom to use the selection I created on the unmodified layer. As it happened, I decided that I preferred the feather with more contrast.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

I started by increasing the contrast with the Brightness/Contrast tool.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

Then I used the Curves tool to increase contrast and turn the background pure white.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

The final selection after using the Magic Wand tool to select the white background and inversing the selection.


3. Copy & Paste

Copy the selection onto the photo of the girl, where it becomes a new layer.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl


4. Free Transform

Now use the Free Transform tool (Edit -> Free Transform) to rotate, resize and reposition the feather. Remember to hold the shift key down when resizing to preserve the aspect ratio of the layer.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl


5. Duplicate and Erase

Once you’re happy with the size and position of the ‘wing’, duplicate the layer (right-click on the layer in the Layers Palette and select Duplicate Layer…). The duplicate layer will become the second ‘wing’.

Erase the unwanted part of the first ‘wing’ using the Erase tool. Make it easy by decreasing the fill level in the Layers Palette so you can see which part of the feather to erase. I used a soft edge on the erase tool and magnified the photo for precise editing.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

Erasing the unwanted part of the ‘wing’ with the fill at 32% to enable me to see the girl’s body.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

The result, with the fill back at 100% once I’d finished.


6. Flip and Repeat

Now repeat the process with the second ‘wing’. Flip it (Edit -> Transform -> Flip Vertical) and reposition it first. But don’t change the size or it won’t match the original ‘wing’.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

Laura with two ‘wings’.


7. Convert to Black & White and Split Tone

Convert the image to black and white (Layer -> New Adjustment Layer -> Hue/Saturation and set the Saturation slider to -100 to remove all the colour) and Split Tone.  Don’t know how to Split Tone an image using Photshop CS? Then read my tutorial How to Split Tone a Photo in 30 Seconds or Less. I split toned the the photo using #4A616F (dusky blue) for the foreground colour and #E6CFAA (cream) for the background colour.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

The split toned photo. Note how I’m using adjustment layers. That way I can go back and change the settings of individual layers afterwards.


8. Add Texture

I added a texture layer to create an otherworldly, artistic effect. Adding textures to a photo is a simple process. First, you need a texture. You can create textures yourself or you can use one someone else has created. I used a texture from Flickr user Skeletal Mess, who has kindly made some textures avalaible for anyone to use.

(Note that a texture is a copyrighted image and you should check the usuage conditions before downloading. Some photographers only permit personal use, not commercial, others request a credit and some have no conditions).

Once you’ve chosen a texture, resize it to match the dimensions of your photo and paste it on top of your image to create a new layer. I positioned the texture layer (click and drag layers to change the order) underneath my two toning layers so that the texture would be split toned as well.

Now change the Layer Blending Mode and Fill on the Layers Palette to blend the texture layer to taste. I ended up choosing Linear Light and setting the Opacity to 58% and Fill to 55%. The settings you select will depend on how your texture blends with your image.

You can also try moving the texture layer to the top of the Layers Palette, so image takes on the colours in the layer. The Layer Blending Modes could take up a tutorial to themselves and there’s an excellent in-depth tutorial here. The key is to experiment, and have fun.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

My photo with texture added.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

The effect was a bit too strong so I reduced the Opacity and Fill.


9. Increase Contrast

Finally I used the Curves tool to increase the drama of the photo.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

Using the Curves tool to increase contrast. Note the ‘S’ shape of the curve.

Photoshop CS Tutorial: How to add wings to a photo of a girl

The final image.

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5 Responses to “Photoshop CS 3 Tutorial: How to Turn a Girl Into a Fairy in 9 Easy Steps”

  1. kombizz says:

    Indeed it is an informative lesson.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Elfengleich says:

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  4. Lee Fuller says:

    Brilliant tutorial.. adds great depth to the image, and is probably one of the simplest fairy manipulations I’ve seen tutorialised.. thanks for sharing!

  5. opey says:

    hmmm……..cool tutor 😀

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