Halloween Tutorial Tuesday! AKA Creepy Clown Ruins My Day, But Whatever

It’s Halloween! Huzzah! The most wonderful time of the year! I decided to loosely revisit the zombification proccess I went through on my first horror piece and write up a tutorial. Lemme tell you something though… This has been a rough day. Clowns scare the bejesus out of me and I’ve been looking at this photo for about 7 hours now…

Level: Intermediate
Notes: This tutorial assumes a certain level of familiarity with Photoshop and will not cover basic tasks like cropping and using adjustment layers. While I have made most of the resources I used available for download HERE on my Deviant Art account in order for you to follow along, I encourage you to seek out and use your own photos and brushes. You’ll learn more, and faster!

Still in? Sweet. Let’s do this.


I’m starting with this awesome royalty-free photo from gratisography.com, which is already pretty uniquely creepy all by itself. Let’s make it creepier, shall we?78H

1. Load in your photo and crop to the desired size BEFORE making any further adjustments. In my case, I’ll probably want this for my portfolio later, so I’m going with 11″x11″ @ 300dpi because I like square framing.

2. Add a levels adjustment layer. Goose the mid up pretty high, and give the black a little nudge too.02_levels

3. Add a brightness & contrast adjustment layer. Boost the contrast and adjust the brightness as necessary… giving us something a little more horrifying than what we started with.

4. Next we’re going to add a dark gradient to introduce a little subtle color. Create a new layer, set it to “Hue” and reduce opacity. Set your gradient tool to black/green/white gradient, going left to right (like my layer thumbnail, not the gradient editor, lol).
After applying the gradient, select all layers and convert them to a Smart Object.

5. Select the Smart Object and go to Filters > Liquify… We’re gonna get a little freaky with the face. Using the Forward Warp Tool (W), drag down the lower lip of the clown. Adjust the size of the brush and play with the corner of its lipstick. Use it, or the Bloat Tool, to enlarge the pupils in its eyes. You can even use the Twirl tool lightly  to jack up it’s teeth a little. Play around until you’re sufficiently creeped out. Click OK  to apply the changes05_liquify_lip

6. Open your meat texture layer. The one I used is basically just a close-up of beef. 06_meat

Drag the meat onto the clown’s face and add a layer mask. Rezise, rotate, do whatever to make it look its best. Using a soft brush set to black, brush away most of the meat, leaving a patch or two behind.


7. So, the texture looks pretty good, but the color is a bit weird. To correct this, we’re going to apply a Hue/Saturation layer and a little color theory. Slide the hue toggle into the blues to tone down the pinkness of the steak and make it a little more skin-toned. Desaturate it a little to make it more naturally disconcerting. Make sure to clip the layer so it only affects the image directly below it.


8. Next, load up the big rust patch…

…and drop it right on the clown’s face. Set the layer to Overlay.

Resize, rotate, reposition and generally do whatever you need to do to place the rust where you want and get it looking good. Use a soft black brush on a layer mask to get rid of the edges and other bits you don’t want.

9. Next, take the flaky paint texture and do the same, this time over its nose.


Load in paint texture


Set blend mode to Overlay


Use a layer mask to “erase” everything but the nose.

10. Create a new layer and set the blend mode to Soft Light. Using a soft brush set to a muddy red (I used #460201), paint in some depth around the eyes. Switch to some splatter and spray brushes set to a deep red (I used #2510131) and brush them here and there around the face, especially around the base of the nose, cheek and corner of the mouth. Experiment with different blend modes on different layers. Multiply, soft light and overlay modes all do cool things when used in different ways. Play!13_brushes

11. After looking at this creeper from 6 hours I found myself thinking “Yeah, but could it be creepier?”. Turns out it can. Just add a little more Liquify. Using the Warp Forward Tool, lift the top lip a little higher, and the bottom a little lower, creating more of a sneer. Adjust the eyes and teeth more if you like.

12. The last step is optional, but finishes the piece nicely. You can cut out your clown and put them on a new background, but I kinda dig the filthy-looking blue background he’s already on. I just want to add a little extra grunge. I do that by dragging a grungy concrete texture (or more) onto the background area.


I cut this one up and arranged it over the background

Set the blend mode to multiply or overlay (whatever floats your boat) and mask out anything that overlaps with the face.

Et Voila!


That’s it! These techniques can be used in the same way with light, fluffy pics and textures, but yeah… This image will haunt my dreams for a while. Thanks, me.

I would love to see what you make with this tutorial! Comment with your final piece and feel free to ask questions!

2 thoughts on “Halloween Tutorial Tuesday! AKA Creepy Clown Ruins My Day, But Whatever

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