Halloween Photoshop Tutorial: Creating Zombie

This Photoshop CS2 tutorial will show you how to rot people’s face, expose their skull and turn them into zombie.

Video tutorial is also available here

What you need:
+ A portrait of the victim. AKA, the zombie and a picture of a human skull. Ideally in the roughly the same pose as your portrait which can be found on Google images.
+ Download The “Pretty” free brush collection found here. Ideally you will need to grab “Pretty Cuts`n`cracks” & “Pretty Sore”
+ Download The “Veins” brushes here.
+ It would also be nice if you had the `tonemapping` plug-in by Photomatix. Not essential but handy.

Let’s get started!

OK, First off, install the downloaded brushes into your Photoshop brushes folder, we’ll need them a bit later.


Now, we need to prepare your portrait. These next steps are not obligatory, and you can skip to Stage 2 and start to zombify your image.

how to create a zombie

I would recommend resizing the image to roughly 1300 pixels at its longest edge. The reason for this is that some of the brushes we downloaded earlier look a bit crappy if we try to enlarge them to accommodate a bigger image, I found that working on a medium sized image allows us to retain the clarity of the brushes later on. You may crop it to the desired format at this point as well as I have below.

how to create a zombie

Next, and this part is optional, we tonemap the image. So first off you will need to convert the image to 16-bit, the run the tonemapping filter. Play with the sliders until you get an effect you like. I use tonemapping as it gives the image a nice dirty look.

how to create a zombie

Next I duplicate that bottom layer,s o now we have two layers the same. Selecting the top layer You need to Desaturate it (CTRL+SHIFT+U) then set the blending mode of the newest layer to OVERLAY. Set the opacity of the new layer to roughly 70%. You should end up with something akin to this.

how to create a zombie

We need to bring the eye detail back into the image, so we are going to add a layer mask to the top layer. To do this, select the layer and click the little black rectangle with the white circle at the bottom of the layers palette. You should now get a white rectangle alongside the thumbnail of the top layer. Next select the brush tool and select black as your colour. Now click on the white rectangle next to the top layer thumbnail to select it. Now you should be able to `paint` over the eye and you will see the bottom layer appear. Close up view below.

how to create a zombie

OK, now that’s all done, we will flatten these two layers into a new single layer, press CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+N then CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E. this will consolidate all the work we have done so far into a new, single layer. This will now act as our base image. You may hide the previous 2 layers.

STAGE 2 – Adding the skull

Right, now we need to add the skull to the image and fit it to our face. The image of the skull I use in this tutorial was a skull I borrowed from the Oral Surgery department at the hospital where I work. Anyway, I opened the image in Photoshop, cropped the skull to size, then copied it into my base document.­­

I reduced the opacity of the skull to 50%, then hit CTRL+T to enter into transform mode. Move and resize the skull to fit your face. The best way to line this up so it is more realistic is to pay attention to key feature. The most important being the upper ridge of the eye-socket lines up with the same ridge on your face, the jawbone needs to roughly line up as well, and also make sure the teeth and nose are in roughly the right place. This may mean you need to distort the skull image quite a lot from how it originally looked, but since we wont be seeing too much of the skull it doesn’t matter if the rest of it isn’t perfect.. basically the ridges of the eyes/eyebrows, the teeth and the nose are the most important here. See below for example.

how to create a zombie

Once you are happy with the skull placement, hit enter and then set the opacity of the layer back upto 100%. Add a layer mask to the skull layer and mask out the edges around the skull. I also had to mask around the fingers as they would, in real-life(?) be obstructing the face/skull. This is what I have so far, hopefully yours will be looking something like this now.

how to create a zombie

OK, next we need to go back to our base layer, that is the composite of the first two layers, and duplicate it and drag it to the top of the layer stack. Create a layer mask on that layer and get ready to scrape away some of your skin!!

Selecting the newest layer mask, select the brush tool, medium hardness, and select black from the colour palette (remember you can switch between Black and White by pressing the “X” key). Now, when you start to paint on the face, you will see the skull layer beginning to appear, freaky huh? I find its best to completely paint out the nose and one of the eyes and of course the teeth! Another great tip to remember is to use the square brackets “[ & ]” to alter your brush size on-the-fly.

Take you time on this stage and have fun, pay particular attention to the area around the teeth and try to make the skin/teeth blend in nicely together. Hopefully your image will look something similar to this now.

how to create a zombie

Even at this stage the picture looks super gruesome already, but what kind of self-respecting zombie doesn’t have a bit of flesh-rot to really stink up the place!! This is where things get very nasty indeed.

STAGE 3 – Rips and Scars and Veins, oh my!!

OK, next you need to create another layer, name this one VEINS.

OK, here you need to load up the “Pretty Cracks & Sores” brush set we downloaded earlier. These are pretty big brushes, however we really need them to cover the whole face (we will mask out the surplus veins in a minute). Select a brush you like the look of, choose a nice dark, deep red from the colour picker (and RGB value of 74,0,0 works well) and stamp it over your face (on the new layer). Don’t worry if it looks a bit strange at the moment. Add a layer mask to this layer and use the black brush tool to delete the veins’n’stuff from areas that don’t need them (eyes, bits of skull, fingers, teeth etc). Set the layer mode to `Multiply”. Again, spend a bit of time on this to make it look badass. Once finished, right click on the layer. Select “Blending Options” and put a tick in the “Bevel & Emboss” check box, here I used the defaults but adjusted the depth a tiny bit to increase the bumpiness of the veins.

Now, you can add more layers and use more of the brushes we download earlier to add more scarring, tearing and veinage, experiment and have fun, it really is great defacing yourself or a loved one!! Remember to use separate layers for the hands, body etc.

how to create a zombie

So next is just a few more overall cosmetic changes to the image to make it darker & grittier. Basically I just add a gradient map layer (black to white), contrast/brightness layer and adjust to taste!! Now, hopefully you should be zombified up to the max. George Romero would be proud of you! R.I.P.

how to create a zombie

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Creating Zombie Tutorial by Mark Simms [ e-mail | Flickr | DPChalange ]

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140 Responses to “Halloween Photoshop Tutorial: Creating Zombie”

  1. woah buddy! Everyone did a great job. I’m a little envious.:)
    here’s mine.

  2. MonsieurPoot says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial, it was the first time I ever did anything else with PS than zit-removal… 😉


  3. Psyann says:

    So your tutorial was AWESOME!!! I didn’t use the tonemapping filter, but I think it still came out pretty good. The link to the pretty cuts and scraps was 404. 🙁 I used what I could find on deviantart, and am still pleased. Here is a link to my picture. Thanks again for this awesome tut.


  4. Jen says:

    Fantastic tutorial. Never done anything like it before in PS. I think I did well. What you think?



    Hi Guys,

    Could somebody do my picture as a zombie if i send it?


  6. Alex says:

    very good tuturial.. taught me alot ! thanks !!!

  7. daryl lyrehs lelouch says:


  8. Andrea says:

    yes is a great tutorial, i’d like to know if I can do this with PS CS4, and something else I can’t find that layer mask, the problem is that my Ps is at spanish and i don’t how how coul be the right translation

  9. choirul says:

    god job,.,.,.,.,.,

  10. dale says:

    awesome tutorial, man!

  11. 王曼 says:




    还是不能学会。 那个骷髅头的素材也找不到。


  12. cooledit says:

    Yeh.. – cool tutorial

  13. Kimi says:

    Could this be done with photoshop 8?

  14. Littlee Criminal says:

    where can you but photoshop ??
    i want it soo badly :$

  15. jupen says:

    that’s grezy man…. I like it….Good Idea

  16. karos says:

    Genial ‼
    hay esta mi resultado


  17. Sarah says:

    Awesome tutorial!

    Here’s what mine looked when it was finished.


  18. Jason says:

    Thanks for the tutorial, just tried something:


    Looks pretty good.

  19. Felipe says:

    Here’s mine… I also followed some other tutorials on youtube, but this one encouraged me to learn photoshop.


  20. mumm says:

    Pls HELP!

    The needed brushes aren’t online anymore – can some pls upload them? Would be very nice and great!


  21. chris says:

    I couldn’t get the brushes either…how’d you get them? Thanks!

  22. chris says:

    How can we get the brushes nowadays? Tried the links in the tute, but not seeing the files. Thanks!

  23. Ivan says:

    Hi guys!

    I’d be awesome if i could do mine, but i just cannot find the right brushes!

    Can you guys please attach the right links? the ones above just don´t work…

    thanks a lot!

  24. emin daniel says:

    goooooooooood but not that much
    enjoyed it

  25. Rafi says:

    Thanks, great tutorial! heres my result:


    not as good as yours, but its ok :D.

  26. LeoMessi says:

    Where can i get the brushes… i’ve been looking everywhere :S

  27. I had to search like crazy for some of the brushes. They’re out there, you just gotta google the hell out of it.

  28. Gabe says:

    I am kinda new at this and need more explanation on this tutorial

  29. Rubie Spike says:

    You completed a few good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most folks will have the same opinion with your blog.

  30. Desiree Johnson says:

    This is like amazing! I love it. I couldnt click the links for the brushes though so I got my own. Tell me what you think I would love the opinion.http://s855.photobucket.com/albums/ab113/Deme_Fallen_Cuppycake/?action=view&current=Zombie-2.jpg

  31. Emily says:

    Thanks! This was a lot of fun!! Perfect for Halloween!!


  32. J Louis says:

    Hello I Luv Paranormal Activity 3!!(:

  33. Raviscerator says:

    Here’s one of mine for Halloween 2011. Took a while, and I feel it’s overedited, but what the hell.. It’s Halloween!

    Uploaded with ImageShack.us

    Thanks for the tutorial. I think I have a better understanding of masks now 🙂

  34. migisi says:

    the brushes no longer exist

  35. Psdshop says:

    Nice tutorial i will like to upload it on my site also

  36. nicholas says:

    man that is freaky !!!!!!! but its pretty cool

  37. jayden says:

    this was amazing. i did it for a school assignment and i got an A

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