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Making a Burn scar or wound texture with Photoshop

Author: Vadlor

Tools Needed

  • Photoshop


This is something I developed for a character I was making, who had his face badly burnt in a magic duel.

I've been using the Liquify tool for quite some time, but always to do funny stuff, like caricatures. Finally I managed to find another use for it.

Step 1 - Prepping the image


Open the selected image. In this tutorial, I'll be working with the Naiar head texture. Then, select the main area you'll be “burning” and copy it into another layer. (Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V will do it, since this will paste it in the same spot but in a new layer).

Step 2 - Desaturating the image.


Desaturate this new layer (Ctrl+Shift+U). Now we're ready for the liquify.

Step 3 - Playing with fire


Apply Auto Levels (Shift+Ctrl+L) and start Liquify (Shift+Ctrl+X). For those unfamiliar with Liquify (or those who don't have Photoshop 7 or higher), this tools is very similar to the smudge (the one that has the Finger Icon), but has some more functions. Smudge should work fine but will not be as good as Liquify. In Liquify, you have a variety of tools to use. The more useful for this effect are the Warp Tool (think of it as SuperSmudge), the Turbulence Tool (be mindful that too much of this will create a hole in your texture), the Twirl Tools (clockwise and counterclockwise), the Pucker Tool (deflates the surrounding pixels into the point you click in), the Bloat tool (inflates the pixels away from where you click), and the Reconstruct Tool (this reconstruct you original image, it's like a gradual undo, very useful to fix the holes Turbulence does). Here's kind off free style. There is no fixed formula, but rather good sense and knowing what you want it to look like.

Some pointers: Start deforming the general area you want to burn, with a big brush (64 Size). Then, start detailing, mainly with the warp tool and a smaller brush (30 or less). Don't be afraid of overdo it. That's what the Reconstruct tool is here for. Play around with deforming and reconstructing, sometime you'll get a better effect than with the other tools alone. The more lines you get, the better the effect looks. For a more realistic look, try to follow the direction of the muscles.

Once you're happy with your deformation, click Ok and let it apply to your figure.

Step 4 - Cleaning up the wound a little bit.


Now, pick up the Lasso Selection Tool and select from the image you deformed the un-deformed skin that might have stayed. Apply a Feather to the selection (Alt+Crtl+F). The size must be according to your image. I used 15 pixels. This will help the burn to blend more smoothly with the main image. Use the Eraser Tool or invert the selection and press the Del button to clear.

Step 5 - Blending


Now, let's change the layer blending mode. This will transfer the burn layer to the main image and give it a livelier look than grayscale. Duplicate the layer at least three times. Name them Layer 1, Layer 2 and Layer 3. Invert the Layer 1, and change the blending mode to Overlay.


In the next layer, apply Levels (Crtl+L) to sharpen it and then change the blending mode to Color Burn.


In the last layer, change the blending mode to Soft Light. Then, play with the Levels (Ctrl+L) until it looks more defined. Use the Eraser tool set to 50% opacity to blend the borders with the main texture.

Step 6 - Bumping it up


Select the layer 3 (Click the layer while pressing Ctrl), and copy it and paste it into an Alpha Channel (Go to the Channels Tab and create a new layer, then paste in it).

Go back to the RGB channel. Select the Third Layer and select Filter/Render/Lighting Effects. This will add volume to it, like a bump map will do in poser. In the dialog box, there is a drop down menu that says Texture Channel. Select the Alpha One and adjust the slider according to the amount of Bump you want to give it. 60 is a good value. Put an Omni light in the middle of your burn and adjust its size until it covers the whole selection. Now, set the Exposure at -36 and the Ambience to -14 to reduce the burn of the light. Value can change according to your image, so feel free to play until it looks right. Apply and you'll have you burn mark in there.


Step 7 - Variants


You can use this to make your bump/displacement map to go with it. All you have to do is hide the second layer (the darker one), duplicate and Desaturate the main texture to turn it to grayscale. You can also play with the Levels to sharpen a little the burn part so it “bumps” better in Poser. You can also hide Layer 1 or 2 to achieve a more healed look.


Step 8 - Done


Flatten image and save. It's ready for use.

I hope you find this useful.