Photography • How-To How to Make High-Fashion Face Paint in Adobe Photoshop

Add digital makeup designs to fashion photography.

Accentuate fashion photography with dramatic digital makeup. See how you can use brushes, masks, and the Curvature Pen tool to design colorful face paint in Adobe Photoshop.

Headshot of Kendall Plant

My name is Erica Larson. As a creative director at Adobe, I get to dream up inspired designs every day. I hope the stuff I make gets you dreaming, too.

Headshot of a model with clear, vibrant skin and a gradient pattern around cheeks, nose, and forehead

Take a one-minute look at my technique; the steps are written out below.

Before You Start

Use this sample project if you’d like, or practice with your own.

Step 1: Find a Model

For best results, work with a photo that focuses on a model’s face. I specifically looked for an image that showed dewiness or detail in the skin to achieve the results I wanted.

Headshot of a model with clear, damp skin, and dark hair tied back, against a yellow background

Step 2: Paint Your Design

To design the art for the face paint, choose the Brush (B) tool and set it to a soft round tip with increased Opacity. Set the layer’s blend mode to Multiply so the paint “melts” into the skin. Then brush with different colors to paint a design over the model’s face.

Photoshop Layers panel over headshot of model shows paint layer with custom gradient and soft brush settings set to 800 px

Step 3: Make It Glitter

Consider using imported brushes to add special design elements to your art. For this composition, I painted with a spatter brush, which applied a glitter effect to the cheeks and bridge of the nose. If you’d like to use the same custom brush, click the Gear icon in the Brush properties dialog, select Import Brushes, and find the spatter_brushes.abr file in the practice files. After you import the brushes, they will appear under a category called spatter_brushes.

Brush settings dialog over headshot of model with glitter effect across cheeks and nose, shows a spatter brush selected

Step 4: Add a Mask

The paint effect spreads beyond the model’s face. To fix this, apply a mask to the art layer and then brush on the mask with black to hide areas of the art—eyes, hair, and finger—so the original image shows through. Use the [ ] keys to adjust the brush size as you work.

Layers panel shows Layer mask applied to the paint layer to hide areas where the paint extended beyond model’s face

Step 5: Highlight for Emphasis

To create a custom path around one of the eyes, I used the Curvature Pen tool and set the mode to Path and the Path operation to Exclude Overlapping Shapes. Click to add points for a curved path and double-click to create corners. Close the path by clicking the original point.

Selection of the model’s eyelid was made with the Curvature Pen tool, pen options set to Path and Exclude Overlapping shapes

Step 6: Create a Cutout

After you define the path, right-click, choose Make Selection, and set Feather Radius to 4. Make sure the mask thumbnail is still selected on the Paint layer and then paint with a black brush inside the selection, leaving the right side soft for a smoother blend.

Marching ants indicate selection around model’s eyelid to hide gradient on the layer mask and feather radius is set to 4

Step 7: Perfect the Style

I wanted the digital paint to look more realistic, as if it were painted directly on the model’s skin. To create this effect, I added a Blending Options layer style from the Layers panel.

Layers panel shows blend mode set to Multiply and Blending Options selected from Add Layer Styles icon

Step 8: Blend It Better

Finally, you can fine-tune the effect by Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS)-clicking the Underlying Layer slider and dragged it to the left.

Layer style dialog shows blending options with Blend Mode set to Multiply, Opacity is 100%, and Underlying layer is split

Paint Your Look

Take your digital makeup-artist skills to a whole new level and create dazzling face paint designs with Photoshop brushes and colors. Tag @AdobeCreate so we can see how colorful you get.

Finished composition of model with digital face paint displays in cell phone placeholder on a wood deck background

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

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