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50 Cent Album Effect in Photoshop

50 Cent just came out with a new album and we thought we’d give the album cover a shot. Put some lava all up in his grill. Learn advance Photoshop tips and tricks with this tutorial using displacement maps, channels, and blending modes.



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We didn’t have the original photo or the original lava texture but here is what we came up with:

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We think it came out fairly realistic and wasn’t impossibly hard to recreate.

First, you’re going to need to download the following:


50 cent picture

Ground Texture

Now, open up photoshop and open the 50 Cent picture.  Crop the image so his head is the center of focus:

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He looks mean huh?  Well lets adjust the brightness and contrast a bit by clicking the photo layer and selecting Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast and entering the following settings:

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This will give the photo a little more pop.  Now we’re going to switch over to the Channels panel that is grouped in whith the Layers and Paths panels.  Click on the Channels name tab at the top of the group to select it.  You’ll notice 3 different color channels – Red, Green, and Blue… also the RGB composite is found at the top of the list:

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We are going to select the channel that give us the most contrast.  For us this is the Blue Channel.  We will use this channel for our displacement map, which you’ll see in a second.  So make sure you select the Blue Channel so it is the only one highlighted.  Now click the Menu Icon in the top right corner of the Channels panel and select Duplicate Channel from the menu that appears:

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This will bring up the Duplicate Channel dialog box. Select New for the Document option in the Destination section of the dialog box, which will open the copy of the channel as a separate Photoshop document. Don’t worry about naming it:


Click OK to exit out of the dialog box. The black and white image will appear in a separate document window.  Now we’ll prepare our image for use as a displacement map!

For the next few steps we’ll be working with the black and white image we just created, so ignore the original color image for now.  We need to remove much of the detail from the person’s face, otherwise all of the little pores, bumps, stubble and small skin imperfections will cause problems. We’ll use a couple of Photoshop’s filters to smooth things out for us. The first one that we’ll apply is the Median filter, which is great at reducing small details while keeping the edges that define an object intact. Go up to the Filter menu in the Menu Bar at the top of the screen, choose Noise, and then choose Median:


This will bring up the Median filter’s dialog box. Keep an eye on your image in the document window as you drag the Radius slider at the bottom of the dialog box. The slider determines how much detail is removed from the image. The further you drag the slider towards the right, the more detail you’ll remove. The idea is to remove as much detail from the person’s face as possible while still keeping important edges intact. There’s no specific setting to use here since it will depend on the size of the image you’re working on, but I’m going to set my Radius value to around 8 pixels:

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Click OK to exit out of the dialog box. Here we can see that I’ve managed to reduce the detail in the man’s face significantly while still keeping the defining edges nice and sharp:

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Now we’re going to apply the Gaussian Blur Filter to complete the displacement map.  Go back up to the Filter menu and this time, choose Blur, then choose Gaussian Blur:


When the Gaussian Blur dialog box appears, use the Radius slider at the bottom of the dialog box the same way you used it with the Median filter a moment ago, keeping an eye on your image in the document window as you drag the slider towards the right to apply more blurring to the image. Again, there is no specific setting to use here since it will depend on your image, but the goal is to apply enough blurring to smooth things out while still being able to make out important details (eyes, nose, mouth, etc). I’m going to increase my Radius value to around 7 pixels:

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Click OK when you’re done to exit out of the dialog box. Photoshop applies the blurring to the displacement map:

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Finally, let’s convert our displacement map image to the Grayscale color mode. Technically, this isn’t absolutely necessary since Photoshop can use displacement maps saved in other color modes as well, but you can run into problems if your displacement map contains too many channels, so converting the image to Grayscale, which limits the image to a single channel, is a good way to avoid those problems. Go up to the Image menu at the top of the screen, choose Mode (which is short for Color Mode), then choose Grayscale:


Now we’re going to save the image as a Photoshop .psd file.  Go up to the File menu at the top of the screen and choose Save As:


This brings up the Save As dialog box. Name the file “displace.psd”, and make sure you select Photoshop for the Format option so it’s saved as a .PSD file.


We’re done working on our displacement map at this point, so switch back over to your original photo (the one you’re going to apply the texture to). If you’re still seeing the image in black and white in the document window, it’s because we still have a single channel selected in the Channels panel. Click on the RGB channel at the top of the Channels panel to bring back the full color version of the image.

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Switch back over to the Layers panel as well by clicking on the Layers name tab at the top of the panel group. We need to select the area of the photo that we want to map the texture to. Since we want to map the texture only to the person’s face, we’ll first need to select it. Use the selection tool of your choice (Lasso Tool, Pen Tool, etc.) to draw a selection around the area you need. In my case, I’ll use the Lasso Tool to draw a selection around Fitty’s face and the top of his head:

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The only problem is, if I was to apply the texture right now, his eyes would be covered by the texture since they’re currently inside the selected area. I need to remove his eyes from the selection, and the easiest way to do that is to simply hold down my Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key, which temporarily places the Lasso Tool in Subtract From Selection mode, indicated by a small minus sign (“-“) in the bottom right corner of the lasso icon. Drag a selection around each eye to remove them from the selected area. When you’re done, you should see selection outlines around the person’s head and their eyes. Only the area between the selection outlines is now selected, which means the eyes will no longer be affected:

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We don’t need our selection at this very moment but we will need it soon, so let’s save it. Go up to the Select menu at the top of the screen and choose Save Selection:


This brings up the Save Selection dialog box. I’m going to name my selection “face”, then I’ll click OK to save the selection for later use:


Once you’ve saved the selection, press Ctrl+D (Win) / Command+D (Mac) to quickly deselect the selection, removing the selection outlines from the image.

Now, open the lava picture we downloaded at the beginning of the tutorial. You should now have your original image and the texture photo open in their own separate document windows on your screen.

Make sure you have the texture photo selected by clicking on it anywhere inside its document window. Then, double click the texture layer and press enter. This will unlock the layer.  Drag this texture onto the original photo stage.  You’ll now have two layers… the original picture and the texture you just added:

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We now need to rotate and size the picture to his face.  So select the lava layer by clicking on it.  It’s a lot easier if you have the Auto-select Layer and Show transform controls selected in the upper bar:

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Now move the mouse to the upper right of the lava picture and you’ll see a curved arrow showing the picture can be rotated.  Rotate and stretch the picture to cover his face:

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Here’s where we need that selection we created and saved earlier. Photoshop actually saves selections as channels, and if we switch back over to the Channels panel, we can see that our selection appears as a separate channel below the RGB channels. My channel is named “face” because that’s what I named it when I saved the selection. To quickly load the selection, hold down your Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key and click directly on the channel’s thumbnail:

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Switch back over to the Layers panel when you’re done. You’ll see that the selection outlines have reappeared inside the document, although they may be a little hard to see over the texture:

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With the selection loaded, make sure the texture layer is selected in the Layers panel (selected layers are highlighted in blue), then click on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:

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Also, we want to delete the background behind him and to do this, again go to the channels panel and hold down your Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key and click directly on the channel’s thumbnail to get the selection.  Then in the menu bar select… Select > Inverse.  This will invert the selection.  Then, we need to add the eyes to the selection this time because we don’t want to delete them so select the Lasso Tool (L) and holding down the Option Button on a mac, draw a circle around the eye holes and release to remove them from the selection, the background should now be the only thing selected… now press delete. This is what you’ll have:

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To blend the texture in with the Fitty’s face, go up to the Blend Mode option at the top of the Layers panel and change the blend mode from Normal (the default setting) to Overlay:

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Things are looking pretty good already at this point, but to add even more realism, we’re going to use our displacement map to fit the texture around the contours of the person’s face. First, we need to select the texture layer, since we currently have the layer mask, not the layer itself, selected. We can tell which one is selected by looking at the thumbnails in the Layers panel. You’ll notice that at the moment, the layer mask thumbnail on the texture layer has a white highlight border around it. This means the layer mask is currently selected. To select the layer itself, click directly on the layer mask preview thumbnail:

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If we apply our displacement map right now, both the contents of the layer (the texture photo) and the layer mask will be reshaped by the displacement map, and that’s because the layer contents and the layer masked are linked together. We can tell that they’re linked together by the small link icon between the two thumbnails. To unlink the layer contents from the layer mask so that the mask will not be affected by the displacement map, click on the link icon to remove it:

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Finally, we’re ready to apply our displacement map, and we do that using Photoshop’s Displace filter. Go up to the Filter menu, choose Distort, and then choose Displace:


The Displace filter is actually made up of two separate dialog boxes. The first dialog box asks us to set some options, with the two most important options being at the top. The Horizontal Scale and Vertical Scale options determine how much impact the displacement map will have on the image. In other words, they determine how far the pixels in the image will shift horizontally and vertically. Unfortunately, there’s no preview available so the Displace filter usually involves some trial and error until you get things right. The default value of 10 for both the Horizontal and Vertical Scale options is a good place to start, but I’m going to increase mine to 12 for a bit more of an impact. The values you end up using will depend both on the size of your image and on your own idea of what looks “right”, so be prepared to undo this step a few times and try again. You can leave the Stretch To Fit and Repeat Edge Pixels options in the bottom half of the dialog box selected:

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Click OK when you’re done to exit out of this first dialog box, which will bring up the second dialog box asking you to choose your displacement map. Navigate  to where you saved the displacement map we created earlier. Mine was saved to a “displacement maps” folder on my desktop, so that’s where I’ll navigate to, then click on the displacement map to select it and click Open:


As soon as you open the displacement map, Photoshop applies it to the texture and maps the texture to the contours of the person’s face and head. If you’re using a texture like the one I’m using with lots of randomly shaped lines and cracks, the difference may not be quite as noticeable, although things should still look more realistic after the displacement map has been applied. Or at least, as realistic as a rock texture mapped to a person’s face can look.  We’re also going to take the eraser tool and erase the hard line where the image of lava is.  We’re going to use a brush with a low hardness.

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Now we’re going to add the ground texture on top of the lava one so we can get a more cracked effect.  Just as before, download the ground image, open it in Photoshop, unlock it, and drag it into the picture we’ve been working with.  Use the same masking techniques as with the lava.

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Now we’re going to add a slight glow to the forehead for a more reddish lava effect.  Create a New Layer above both the lava and cracked ground layer and select a brush with about 250 px and a hardness of 0.  Select a reddish color and start painting.

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Set this layer’s blending mode to Overlay and adjust transparency until it looks good:

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Now add a drop shadow to the main background layer by clicking the background layer and then clicking the little “fx” in the bottom of the layers palette and selecting Drop Shadow.  Enter the following settings and push enter:

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Now we’re going to create a background so set your foreground color is black and your background color is #454545

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Create a new layer below the original fitty cent picture layer.  Select Filter > Render > Clouds:

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If you want the clouds to look more realistic, create another layer below the clouds layer you just created, fill it with black, and lower the opacity of the clouds layer.  The last thing we did was re-arrange the textures to look the best, used the Burn tool to add shadows and Voila!  You have the final product.

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Feel free to experiment with blending layers, textures, etc. We hope you enjoyed this post.  If you did, you should subscribe to our rss feed and stay in the loop.  If you really want to get professional service.  Sign up for a Royal Membership and get access to all sorts of goodies… not to mention all tutorial source files and bonus tutorials!  Thanks!

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