How to Create a Wrapped Ribbon Photo Manipulation in Photoshop

What You’ll Be Creating

Let’s take a look at how to make a red ribbon completely from scratch to bring awareness to World AIDS Day!

What You’ll Need

You’ll need the following resources in order to complete this project:

  • Sky background
  • Woman

Find more resources on Envato Elements!

1. How to Create an Out-of-Focus Effect

First, we will start by creating a simple sunset background, but with a twist! To bring all of the focus onto our subject, we are going to blur the background. 

Step 1

Place your Sky background onto a 3095 x 4637 px canvas.

Enlarge and slant it so that it looks similar to what you see below.  

slant sky

Step 2

Go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur and add a heavy blur and bokeh effect. 

 Field Blur Settings 

  • Blur: 50
  • Light Bokeh 30%
  • Bokeh Color: 30%
add blur

Step 3

Add a Color Lookup adjustment layer above the sky layer.

Color Lookup Settings

  • 3DLUT File: Filmstock 
  • Mode: Soft Light
  • Opacity: 42% 
color lookup

Step 4

Add a second Color Lookup adjustment layer above the previous layer.

Color Lookup Settings

  • 3DLUT File: 3Stripe
  • Opacity: 100% 
3stripe color lookup

Step 5

Finish up the background by adding a Brightness/Contrast layer above all previous layers. 

Brightness/Contrast Settings

  • Brightness: 0
  • Contrast: 24

Group all of your background layers, naming the group “BG” for “background.”

brightness contrast

2. How to Extract Curly Hair

Next, let’s work on our model’s curly hair! Here is my favorite way of extracting black hair that is on a light-colored or white background. It’s both fast and efficient.

Step 1

Extract your model using your preferred method. Mine is the Pen Tool, but any method will work. 

Extract everything but the hair! If you have a layer mask on your subject after extracting their body, go ahead and Right Click > Apply Layer Mask. 

extract subject

Step 2

Duplicate the subject and set their layer mode to Multiply. 

Hide the original subject for now.

multiply layer

Step 3

Go to Image > Adjustments > Black & White to turn the image greyscale. 

greyscale layer

Step 4

Go to Image > Adjustments > levels and increase the contrast of the image. We want to darken the hair while lightening the background. 

Levels Settings 

level settings
level results

Step 5

Add a Layer Mask to the black and white duplicate, and mask out whatever is left visible from the background and the subject’s body. 

mask out body

Step 6

Unhide the original subject. 

Add a Layer Mask to the subject and mask out the outer edge of the hair. Focus on any areas that have the original blue background in it. 

mask hair

Step 7

Duplicate the black and white hair layer. 

Invert the duplicate by hitting Control-I and then set the layer mode to Screen.

Flip the layer horizontally and enlarge it slightly to give the appearance of back-lit hair.  

Add a small about of white behind the hair using a large, soft, white, round brush if you want to add even more glow!

hair backlight

3. How to Light a Subject

Now we are moving on to lighting the subject so that she better fits in with her environment. 

Step 1

Create and clip a Brightness/Contrast layer into the subject. 

Brightness/Contrast Settings 

  • Brightness: 13
increase brightness

Step 2

Create and clip a new layer into your subject.

Use a small 1-3px soft round Brush to paint highlights along the edges of the body and clothes. 

add highlight

Step 3

Create and clip another new layer into the subject, setting it to Soft Light.

Increate the subject’s highlights and shadows by painting white and black on the subject. Use white on the highlights and black on the shadows.

Keep your Brush soft and its Flow low at around 10%. 

Bring down the Opacity of the layer if needed!

add contrast

Step 4

Create and clip another new layer into the subject, setting it to Overlay.

Increase the highlights of the hair by painting white on the lighter sections of the curls. Again, make sure to keep your brush’s Flow nice and low. 

Use Blend If to keep the highlights out of the shadows!

Layer Blend If Settings 

blend if
blend if results

Step 5

Create and clip one last new layer into the subject, setting it to Soft Light.

Create a final wash of light on the subject using a very large white Brush, focusing on the shirt, body, and bag. 

Group all of your subject and hair layers into a group named “Model”.

add light

4. How to Create a Ribbon in Photoshop

Now, on to the large red ribbon! 

Step 1

Create a new layer above all other layers, and sketch out your ribbon. This does not need to look good or be perfect! You just need to know the general shape and flow. 

I will be using this awareness ribbon as a reference for the main portion of my ribbon. 

sketch ribbon

Step 2

Use the Pen Tool set to Shape and trace out a portion of your ribbon. Focus on a single small section at a time. 

create shape

Step 3

Repeat this step until you have a few sections done, refining the shapes as you go. 

If a piece of ribbon is behind another piece of ribbon, you can darken the color to help differentiate the two pieces. 

Turn the sketch layer on and off as you go to help you see your design more clearly. 

create all segments

Step 4

Now that we have a couple of sections done, let’s add some lighting. 

Create and clip a new layer into a section of the ribbon, bringing its Opacity down to 50%.

Paint shadows onto your ribbon using a soft, round brush set to a darker version of the color of your ribbon—in this case, a dark red #400000.

Adjust the Opacity as needed, and set your brush to a low Flow rate to help you control the intensity of the shadows. You don’t want them too dark!

add shadows

Step 5

Repeat the step above, but this time use white to add highlights! 

You can also try using a lighter version of the color of your ribbon if white ends up looking too washed out. Remember to build your lighting slowly, layering it on little by little.

Look at references of ribbon to help you get an idea of where to place your lighting and shadows. 

add highlights

Step 6

Repeat the steps above until you are happy and finished with your ribbon!

finish ribbon

Step 7

To create the effect that the ribbon is weaving through or around a subject, you will want to use layer masks! 

Add a layer mask to the section of the ribbon that will be behind an object—in this case, it’s the dark section of ribbon closest to the subject’s arm. 

Use the Pen Tool, set to Path, to create a path around the subject’s arm. Once finished, Right-Click > Make Selection.

Use a Brush set to black to mask out that section of the arm, giving the appearance that the ribbon is sitting behind the arm!

mask arm

Step 8

If you want to create the appearance that the ribbon is behind your subject, it’s even easier!

Add a Layer Mask to the section of ribbon that you’d like to be behind the subject. 

Go into the “Model” group and then Control-Click on the subject layer. This will create a selection on the shape of the subject. 

Use a black Brush to mask out the areas that you want to be behind your subject. In this case, it’s the arm, stomach, and shirt area.  

Add shadows onto the parts of the ribbon that are directly behind the subject. 

Do this on as many sections as needed! Group all of your ribbon sections into a group named “Ribbon.”

mask body

Step 9

Create a new layer below your ribbon, setting it to Multiply. 

Paint in shadows wherever needed. Use a brush with a very low Flow, and set to a darker version of the color you are painting on. Here, it’s the subject’s skin, and I used a dark brown #301209.

Bring down the layer’s Opacity if needed. 

add shadows and finish ribbon

5. How to Create a Vibrant Color Grade 

Finally, let’s finish everything up by adding a bright and vibrant color grade!

Step 1

First, let’s add our final lighting effects. 

Create a new layer and clip it into your subject, above all other layers inside the subject, setting it to Soft Light.

With a large, soft, round Brush, paint white all around the subject’s edges. 

Keep your brush’s Flow rate low to build up the light slowly, and lower the layer’s Opacity if needed!

soft light

Step 2

Repeat the above step with a new layer set to Overlay to further enhance the lighting around the body.


Step 3

Create and clip a new layer into the subject, setting it to Soft Light. 

With a large, soft, round Brush, paint black inside the subject, focusing on the areas where the ribbon passes over the body.

increase shadows

Step 4 

Repeat the above steps on the ribbon!

light ribbon

Step 5

Finish up the lighting by creating a new layer above all current layers and setting it to Screen. 

Using a very large, soft, round Brush, set to pale orange #ffa472 and with a very low Flow rate, paint a giant orb of light towards the right side of the image. 

Paint a smaller amount to the left of the subject’s face. 

Bring down the layer’s Opacity if needed.

screen light

Step 6 

Add a Color Lookup adjustment layer above all other layers.

Color Lookup Settings

  • 3DLUT File: Filmstock 
  • Opacity: 32% 

Step 7

Finally, add a Selective Color adjustment layer above all other layers.

Selective Color Settings


  • Cyan: -37%
  • Magenta: +14%
  • Yellow: +10%
  • Black: 0


  • Cyan: -100%
  • Magenta: -40%
  • Yellow: +26%
  • Black: 0


  • Cyan: +44%
  • Magenta: 0
  • Yellow: -24%
  • Black: 0


  • Cyan: +35%
  • Magenta: +16%
  • Yellow: -35%
  • Black: 0


  • Cyan: -40%
  • Magenta: +72%
  • Yellow: -56%
  • Black: +31%


  • Cyan: +33%
  • Magenta: -10%
  • Yellow: -22%
  • Black: 0


  • Cyan: -19%
  • Magenta:-4% 
  • Yellow: -15%
  • Black: 0
selective color

We’ve Done It!

There you have it! A way to create a custom ribbon, no drawing skills needed! And just in time to bring awareness to World AIDS Day! This technique can be used to create any kind of ribbon, including for other awareness days, making it the perfect way to show your love and support!

So as always, keep experimenting with different techniques and practicing. Don’t forget to post your version below, along with any questions, comments, or critiques!

final image

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