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Sugar skin

Author: SaraC

Tools Needed

  • Paint Shop Pro 8
  • Photoshop


I've named this magical postwork effect 'sugar skin' because it dusts the skin with a sugary effect. The perfect finish for your striking, high-contrast fantasy renders, portraits and pin-ups. This tutorial is for Paint Shop Pro, but Photoshop has all the same features.


Step 1 - Create overlay layer


Start by adding a new raster layer and name it 'whitepaint':


Set this layer to 'overlay'. If you can't see the Layers Palette, make it visible using View/Palettes/Layers:


Step 2 - Paint shine


Select the paintbrush tool and set it to 'fuzz soft' or some other soft brush:


Paint the areas of your image that you want to highlight. Generally, if you've used a decent set of lights for your render, you can just follow the existing highlighted areas. Change the size of the brush as necessary. The above image shows where I've started on the head.

And below is the image after I've finished painting the body. It looks like a mess just now, but not for much longer…


Step 3 - Blur and merge


Apply a Gaussian blur of about 7.00 (Adjust/Blur/Gaussian Blur). If your paint lines are thinner, user a smaller value. If you used a big brush, use a larger value.

Adjust the opacity. (Here I've used 90% but use a lower value if the image was darker to start with. The effect should be quite subtle.)

Merge the layers (Layers/Merge/Merge Down).

You can stop at this point, or continue with the next steps for a more dramatic effect.

Step 4 - Apply screen and adjust contrast


Duplicate the layer (Layers/Duplicate) and set the new layer to 'screen'.

Adjust the opacity. This time you'll want to bring it right down to 20% or lower.

Merge the layers (Layers/Merge/Merge Down).

The image is now looking a bit washed out, so reduce the brightness and increase contast by going to Adjust/Brightness and Contrast/Brightness/Contrast.


Here I've used values of -10 and 10, but you can fiddle until you get the effect you're after:


For this image, I worked on a PSD file with a transparent background, so the last step is to add in the background.

It's important to make the background match, since we've made the foreground figure so striking, so adjust the brightness/contrast of the background accordingly.

If you rendered your figure with background already included, you can of course apply highlights to the background itself at the same time as you deal with the foreground figure. I prefer to do them separately.

The final 'sugar skin' image is seen below and at the top of the tutorial.