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Photo Realistic Avatar Self-Portrait

In this tutorial you will learn how to create a realistic Avatar photo-manipulation in photoshop.
Some say the special effects were a little dated, and it came under a lot of criticism for its unoriginal plot, but with the insane amount of money being spent on it, Avatar needed a tried and tested story guaranteed to appeal to everyone. For those with a romantic side there is a nice love story, for those with a childish side there are some unusual intimate scenes, for those interested in politics there is a strong political message, and for those with an artistic side Avatar gives you one of the most beautiful films ever made. And for those who embrace all these things, you are well on you way to being a Na’vi already. Now lets take it a step further…
If you would like to use your own face or a friends, here are some tips on taking a good portrait photo to work with.

Tips on taking a good portrait photo:
1.The avatar you will be creating will be ouside, therefore  it is preferable that you photograph is taken outside.
2. The photograph must be high resolution in order to capture as much texture as possible. The higher the resolution, the more realistic the final outcome will look.
3. Keep the hair tidy or tied back.
4. Have a background that is one solid colour, and contrasts with your skin/hair colour (eg. wall, sky.)
Step 1: Shaping the face
At this point you may choose whether you want remove any blemishes on your skin with the spot healing brush, but I would discourage any heavy airbrushing, or you will loose texture and decrease the realism of the final picture.
So cut out you portrait from the background using the pen tool, and refine selection (it is also helpful to save this selection as a layer mask) Copy this layer as backup.
Now use the marquee tool to select an eye.
Copy and paste it onto the same layer, then move it as close to the side of the face as you can. Repeat this with the other eye.
Now use the eraser tool with the hardness set to 20% and erase the edges, blending the eye back into the face.
Now you will use a similar technique for the nose. Other tutorials might suggest you use the liquify tool to shape the nose, but this is not necessary if your photo is facing head-on. My technique is much quicker and less messy.
Using the poly-lasso tool select the ridge of the nose and a small section of the forehead, as shown below.
Copy and paste this selection. Use the transform tool to stretch the nose horizontally so that the top lines up with the eyes. You may also need to stretch it vertically just a tiny fraction.
Now, like we did with the eyes, use the eraser tool to blend the nose back into the face. Easy, right?
Step 2: Colouring the face
Create a Solid Color adjusment layer. The colour I used is 0f638d. However you may find this doesnt work with you skin tone, so have a play around. Change the blending mode to Color, and take the opacity down to 75%.
Now create a layer mask for this layer. Select the layer mask thumbnail in your layers box, then fill it with black. Using the eraser or a white brush paint in the blue.
Now with a black brush with its hardness taken down to 10% and its opacity down to 7% paint (still in the layer mask) the forehead and cheeks to bring back a very faint pink colour of your skin underneath.
And use the same process for the lips and the end of the nose, but using a smaller brush.
Now for the eyes you want all of the colour to come through so bring the opacity of the brush back up to 100%.
Doing the finer hairs on the eyebrows and hair is a pain. You will need to reduce the size of the brush to about 2 pixels and put the opacity at about 30%. Now bring back the colour in each hair individually.
Step 3: Eyes
For the eyes you will place your avatar contact lense over your eye. I took this from the final moment of the movie when we get a close up on Jake’s eyes. (If you would like the psd files for any of the resources used in this tutorial please email me at Use the transform tool to bring it down to the correct size, hold the shift key.
Very carefully erase any parts of the lense than overlap the eyelids. Then using the smudge tool move the edges of each eye down slightly.

Step 4: Stripes
The zebra stripes that I used can be found at
Place this image into your document. Now desature it and bring up the contrast a little. You can now use the magic wand tool to easily select the stripes and place them on your body.
Have a look at some reference photos of Na’vi characters from the film to give you an idea of where to place the stripes. It’s a good idea to copy and paste each stripe from one side of the body to the other, but make sure each stripe looks different to the other by adjust its scale and position slightly.
Once you are finished placing the stripes merge them all into one layer. Set this layer to Soft Light. Now use the eraser at 30% opacity and 0% hardness to blend the stripes in.

Step 5: The Ears and Braids
Erase your ears.
Place the Na’vi ears onto you image. Adjust the scale. You may also want to adjust the colour of the ears a little so that they match the colour of the rest of your face. To do this use the color balance tool.
Place the braids in the same way. The ones I used are in fact from Sigourney Weavers avatar, but they look nice on me too, I think.

Step 6: The Spots
If you look at the Na’vi, their spots aren’t randomly spread across their face, they are mostly confined to the centre, arranged in lines.
Drawing your spots will be easier if you have some guides to help you. Create a new layer then use the paintbrush to draw some brightly coloured guidelines. Reduce this layers opacity to about 50%.
Now select your base layer again. Change the colour of your brush to white, reduce its size to 15 pixels, its opacity to 30%, and change its mode to Color Dodge. You can now begin to paint on your spots.
Now your avatar will be looking just about done. You can zoom in and out to inspect it for a while, and see if there are any improvements you can make.
To bring out the shadows a little and to give some definition to the more detailed areas like the eyes and nose, use the burn tool set to about 10%. Use a very small brush to build up shadows around the edges of each eye, and you can also trace over each eyelash to bring them out a bit more.
Now using the dodge tool and a much bigger brush with the hardness at 0%, bring out the highleghts on the forehead, nose, and cheeks. I also brightened up the ears a little to simulate light passing through them.

Step 7: Final Touches
To finish off we will add a background and use some lighting effects that will give the final image a more cinematic look.
The background I chose was Hometree. I blurred it a little by going Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and set it to 3.5. And I also Auto corrected the Levels.
To help blend the avatar into the background, and to give the image a more three dimensional appearance, I duplicated the base layer and gaussian blurred this copy at 8.0. Then, using its layer mask, I erased away just the front of the face and hair, to bring back the detail of the layer behind.
Then I added a lens flare in the top left side of the image (Soft Light, opacity 70%)
Thats all guys. If you have any questions or feedback please use the comments section below.
And if you would like the psd files for any of the resources used in this tutorial please email me at