First of all you will need to find a nice clean high resolution source. I personally prefer a close up head shot because you can capture a lot more gritty detail, but rather than just a close crop of a face I try and find an image that has a little bit more going on, in this image the way Uma was leaning on that cushion I immediately envisioned her lying on a tombstone (warped mind?)...
The first thing I wanted to do was get some dramatic colour on the image to see if it was going to work. Now I do use a filter outside PS for this in the Nik Software Color Efex range called Bi-Color User Defined. I tried to recreate this in PS using normal gradients / gradient map but I could not get the dark dynamic mood that this filter produces. Basically I used a very dark green for the lower colour and a lighter grey for the top colour to keep it more or less the same as before at the top of the image.
This is how it turned out
The next thing I always do is go straight for the eyes! To me that is what draws you in so I could not resist just smudging out the iris and pupil at this early stage. I will come back to the eyes later on in the tutorial.
Here is how I did it, I just used the smudge tool at 100% smudged the eye whites out and then dodged, burned and patched areas to make it look natural
Next I thought I need to get some zombie torn/rotten flesh going on. I had this image saved in my texture library of a pig with the perfect ripped flesh look.
This is the part that I ended up going with for the face, but I tried every area first to see what would work, while having it set to blending mode overlay.
The problem with setting the pig to overlay as it's original colour was that it clashed with the original image and looked all orange and yellow and completely photoshopped
I did a cycle through Hue/Saturation and bizarrely purple worked...
As you can see setting the pig above to overlay when it was this purple colour made it blend in to the original image a lot better. (A lot of what I do is pure experimentation)
Next to get the fleshy look on the nose and around her eye I used a raw meat source, de-saturated slightly and set to blending mode overlay @ 100%
This is the result (showing around the eye)
For the arm I actually used a rusty/peeling metal texture, but this time set the blending mode to soft light @ 100%
OK going back to the eyes... I wanted to make them even more dramatic so I just took a soft brush with a dark brown colour and painted around them on a new layer. (I have shown exactly what I painted on a white bground below)
This is how it looked in normal mode
Setting this layer to Soft mode @ 100% gives a bruised, sunken, black eye sort of feel see below:
Now to do the highlights on the eyes I took a hard brush with a colour of pure white and painted some little dots over the eyes where I thought the light would fall. I also applied a slight gaussian blur to them. The highlights over the whiter part were set at 100% normal, but over the darker area I reduced the opacity to 58%
Now these are not the exact settings I used, looking at this now I obviously upped the brightness, but I applied a dark contrast filter to make the skin appear more dirty. This filter is again in the Nik Software Color Efex Pro range (I am not on commission for them I swear)
This is the after result:
To add a bit more depth and colour I then applied another filter (Graduated User Defined) This was basically a red gradient coming in from left, which can be achieved in normal gradient maps.
This is the after result:
Next I had to replace the cushion that she was lying on, so I found an image of a tombstone:
I masked the tombstone like so:
I then added some shadow/darkness down the right-hand side of the image:
Next I applied some dirt/soil texture using brushes. The brushes were RON's Dirt and grit brushes and they are awesome. Brushes were applied on a new layer, dark colour, set to multiply @ 100%.
This shows exactly were I placed the brushes on a white bground.
Now for the fun part, adding blood!!! Here is the result..
To achieve this result I used these brushes, with a dark red colour, set to multiply @ 100%
To give the blood more depth I applied the following layer style:
For extra creepiness I bulged out one of her eyes using the liquify bulge tool
I added a little bit of red colour to the tombstone to tie it together better.
Despite all the above when I looked at the final image in contest view I felt it was far too dark and it didn't really pop. I almost didn't bother entering and ran it through nearly every filter/colour adjustment until I came up with this effect:
I think I liked the "greyness" of the hair and death like skin tones, here is the final result.