Part 1 of the Alien Queen tutorial showed how to mirror the thin part of her face and add two more closed eyes with fabulous lashes. No queen is complete without a crown and a golden background. Welcome to part 2.

Extra alien-ness

While the result from part 1 is alien, I decided to get rid of her ears and shoulders. I used a layer mask to hide them. Here’s my starting point.

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Eliminating her shoulders lengthens her neck adds to the otherworldly look.

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The current version doesn’t have enough room around Arra for a crown or the golden background. I need to make the overall image bigger. That’a a job for Canvas Size under the Image menu. It’s shortcut is Command (WIN: Control) + Option (WIN: Alt) + C. The document is called the Canvas. Canvas Size increases and it can decrease the size of the document. This is not interpolation or reduction of the image. It is the size around the image. A canvas size reduction can crop into the image so use minus entries with caution! Increasing the canvas makes are area surrounding the image larger. The first version leaves the Relative box unchecked. Enter the desired size for the canvas in width and height. Press OK. More area appears equally on each side and the same for top and bottom. This does not mean the all sides will be equal. It means that the increase is split between the sides for width and top and bottom for height. I want three more inches on either side and four more inches on the top. I check Relative then click the center box in the bottom row. The arrows show the distribution.

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The increased canvas size.






Extending the background color

This one’s easy. I make a new layer, then move it to the bottom of the layer stack. I choose the Brush tool, then hold down Option (WIN: Alt) and click in the dark area on the right side of the frame. I tap X to exchange the colors then Option (WIN: Alt) click on the dark left side. Next, I use the Gradient tool set to foreground to background in the Options bar. I drag from the left edge to the right one. The background colors fill the new layer. I want to work on a “flattened” layer but don’t want to flatten the image. I highlight the Arra layer, then hold down the left side of the keyboard… not really although it seems like it. Use Command (WIN: Control) + Option (WIN: Alt) + Shift then tap the letter E. All of the visible layers are copied to a new one above Arra. I’ll name it Retouch. Now there’s room to add her crown, and some colorful background imagery. Since a photograph rests on its background, I’ll start there.

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The extended background.

Otherworldly background

I have a sunrise on the left and a sunset on the right, both shot on Corregidor Island in Manila Bay.

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Arra2 by Kevin Ames-006I’ll start with the sunrise. I choose the Move tool with its shortcut, V. I click inside the preview of the sunrise photo and drag it to the tab for Arra’s image. I hold over that tab until the preview changes to Arra, then drag the cursor into the image. I add the Shift key to center the sunrise inside the Arra photo and release the mouse. Half of Arra’s face is covered by the black foreground of the Sunrise photo. I change the Blending Mode in the Layers panel for Sunrise from Normal to Screen. Anything black disappears. The harbor might make a nice frame around her head. I enter Free Transform using the Edit menu. I enter 90º in the angle window in Free Transform’s option bar. Then, I click the Warp tool and drag the center toward the right edge to bend it. Once the shape is to my liking, I click the “Commit” check mark to apply the transform. I duplicate the layer with the shortcut Command (WIN: Control) + J. I put the new layer into Free Transform. I right click inside the bounding box and choose Flip Horizontal. I drag it until it aligns with the left edge of the frame.


I used the Sunset photo to make a pair of golden antennas that emerge from Arra’s forehead. I used exactly the same technique as for the background. I just changed the size and warpping until it looked good. In making benevolent alien goddesses there is no right or wrong.

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Crown of smoke

One day, I went into the studio with some sticks of incense a light and my camera to make a library of smoke trails. I have used these photos on many occasions as steam from a cup of coffee, cigar or cigarette or some other something some one might puff on so the smoke shows. I wrote a post on how to shoot smoke than you might find helpful for this next section. I picked a couple of smoke trails to form Arra’s crown.

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I dragged them both into the Arra photo, one at a time, using the technique described above. Again I change both of their blending modes to screen to make the black transparent. Finally I shaped, sized and positioned them until I had the crown extending from Arra’s head down below her neck. The result is compelling. Making alien queen and goddesses is lots of fun! Maybe I’ll do a villain next.

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What photographs of ordinary subject will you use to make your otherworldly being? Email me your finished alien. If enough submissions come in, I’ll share them in a post. Please include your email, name and website so I can provide proper credit. Keep them under a megabyte in size please. Ill look for them at: [email protected]