Create a dramatic landscape in Photoshop

In this lesson, you will learn how to create a landscape resembling Middle-earth from “The Lord of the Rings,” as well as learn how to create dramatic lighting effects and more. In this lesson you will learn the technique of creating a breathtaking landscape using various stock images, including the technique of adding rays of light, as well as using the front / middle / background to create an interesting scene.

Final result

Starting materials

Step 1. Create a Background Background

Download two stock images with the background, move them to a new document in Photoshop. A stock image with a clearing should be on top of an image with mountains. Name the top layer with the glade “Glade”, and the bottom layer with the mountains “MOUNTAINS”.

In the screenshot above you can see that it is necessary to combine images in order to get a realistic landscape. Add a layer mask to the “GLASS” layer. You can add a layer mask through the bottom toolbar in the layers palette. If the layers palette is hidden, then go Window – Layers (Window> Layers) or simply press the F7 key to display the layers palette window.

Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), set a soft round brush, brush opacity is 100%, brush color is black. Make sure you are on the layer layer mask, just click on the layer layer mask. Now, start painting the areas that you want to hide.

The result should be as in the screenshot below.

Step 2. Use the Stamp Tool.

In the screenshot above, you can see the missing areas of grass in the lower right and left corner of the image. We will fix this in this step. In addition, we will hide the house, which is located on the horizon. We create a fabulous landscape, and the look of a modern house does not fit into this concept.

Create a new layer on top of all layers, name this layer “CLONING”. Choose a tool Stamp (Stamp Tool (S), select a piece of grass as a cloning source, and then apply a stamp in the lower right and left corner of the image. Change the cloning source often to avoid repeating the pattern. Because of this, the picture will not look realistic.

In the screenshot below, you can see an example of an incorrect cloning technique with repeating grass texture patterns (left corner of the image) and the correct cloning technique (right corner of the image).

It will be a little harder to hide the house due to the lack of cloning sites that we could use. In the screenshot below, you can see the whole cloning process.

Step 3. Add Lock

This step is very quick and easy. Just add a castle in the background of the mountains to create a more dreamlike atmosphere. Download the stock image of the Castle by the link at the beginning of this lesson, and then move this image to our working paper. Place a layer with a lock on top of all other layers. Name this layer “LOCK”. Press the keys (Ctrl + T) to activate the tool. Free Transformation (Free Transform Tool). Apply appropriate scaling to the lock image. When scaling, hold down the key (Ctrl) to preserve the proportions of the image.

To combine the castle with the entire scene, remove the background on the image of the castle. To do this, use any tool, for example Lasso (Lasso Tool (L), Eraser (Eraser Tool (E) or Pen (Pen Tool (P). Now you can see that the castle is too dark and saturated and does not fit the whole scene. To correct this, add a correction layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation), this option can be activated by pressing the button Add a new adjustment layer (Add new adjustment layer) in the lower toolbar, this button is located next to the button Add layer (Add layer) that you used in the previous steps. Set the value Saturation (Saturation) at -35, and the value Brightness (Lightness) on +10.

At the moment, the adjustment layer affects all layers that are located below. But we want the correction to apply only to the layer with the lock, and not to the entire image. To achieve this, right-click on the adjustment layer in the layers palette and in the appeared window select the option Create clipping mask (Create Clipping Mask). After this step, the result should be as in the screenshot below.

Step 4. Add Model

Download the stock image of the Model from the link at the beginning of this lesson, and then move this image to our working paper. Place a layer with a lock on top of all other layers. Name this layer “MODEL”.

To combine this image of the model with the whole scene, you need to do two things. First, add shadows to the image of the model and second, to carry out an additional combination of the dress, since It is obvious that the model was photographed in the studio (you can see the white color through the fabric of the dress). In this step, we will add shadows and process the dress so that it fits better with our scene.

Create a new layer below the model layer. Name this layer “SHADOW”. If you look at the mountains in the background, you will see the sun shining on them from the right side of the image. This is our main source of light, so the shadow of the model should fall in the opposite direction.

Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), set a soft round brush with an opacity of about 15%. Press the key (I) to activate the tool Pipette (Eye Dropper Tool), next, select a pattern of the darkest shade of blue in the image. Next, draw the shadows as shown in the screenshot below.

Step 5. Combine Dress

As previously mentioned, in this step we will conduct an additional combination of the dress so that it fits better with our scene. From my experience I will say that if you are trying to combine bright clothes, while maintaining the texture of clothes, the best way is to resort to help. Channels (Channels) instead of the classic tool Brush (Brush Tool (B). In the screenshot below you can compare the results of using both techniques.

So, how to achieve this?

First, add a layer mask to the model layer. Turn off the visibility of all layers except for the model layer. You can turn off a layer by clicking on the eye next to the layer thumbnail.

Let’s go Window Channels (Window> Channels) to activate the tab Channels (Channels) in the layers palette. In the Channels tab you will see 4 layers. Layer 1 represents the image when all three RGB channels are on. Further, these three channels are divided into Red (Red), Green (Green) and Blue (Blue) channel. They are black and white, which means that you can use them as a mask! Select the channel with the highest contrast between light and dark shades. In this case, this Blue (Blue) channel. Hold down (Ctrl) + click on the blue channel to activate the mask.

Turn on the visibility of the remaining layers. Let’s go Selection – Inversion (Selection> Invert) or press the keys (Ctrl + Shift + I) to invert the selection that you just activated. Click on the layer mask of the “MODEL” layer to make it active. Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), set a soft round brush with an opacity of about 30%, brush color is black. Paint over the bottom of the model’s dress until you get something similar with the result in the screenshot below.

Step 6. Create a More Dramatic Sky

Due to the lack of detail in the sky, it looks boring. In this step we will create a more dramatic sky. Download the first stock image from the sky at the link at the beginning of this lesson, then move this image to our working paper. Place the image with the sky in the upper left corner of our scene, and the layer with the sky on top of all other layers in the layers palette. Name this layer with the sky “LEFT PART OF THE SKY”. Download the second stock image from the sky, then move this image to our working paper. Position the image with the sky in the upper right corner of our scene. Name this layer with the sky “THE RIGHT PART OF THE SKY”.

To combine images with the sky with the whole scene, change the blending mode for two layers with the sky to Multiplication (Multiply).

For a better combination, add a layer mask to both layers. Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), set a soft round brush of black color. Paint over those parts of the sky that you want to hide (= basically the edges of the images with the sky). The result should be as in the screenshot below.

Step 7. Add Lighting Effects.

In this step, we will start creating more interesting and dramatic lighting effects, and we will continue this work in the next steps. In this step, we will focus on adding peculiar lighting effects to those parts of the image where more light falls. Add adjustment layer Levels (Levels), set the following Input values (Input Levels) 0; 4.35; 255.

After the light correction, the whole image became really bright, but we want to lighten only certain areas of the image. To hide the correction layer correction, select the tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (G), set the color to black and then fill the layer mask of the adjustment layer Levels (Levels) in black.

Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), set a soft round brush, lower the opacity of the brush to 5%, the color of the brush is white. Paint over the areas you want to lighten. Pay attention to the areas of brush processing that are marked in red in the screenshot below.

Step 8. Selective Dimming

So, it’s time to darken certain parts of the image. To do this, add a new adjustment layer. Levels (Levels), install Input values (Input Levels) 0; 0.15; 255.

Fill the layer mask of the adjustment layer Levels (Levels) in black to hide correction layer correction. Next, select the tool Brush (Brush Tool (B). Using the same settings as in the previous step, paint over the areas you want to darken. Pay attention to the brushing areas that are marked in red in the screenshot below.

Step 9. Enhance the Contrast of the Back Background

The image of the model has a higher contrast than the rest of the image. In this step we balance the contrast by enhancing the contrast. To do this, add a new adjustment layer. Levels (Levels), install Input values (Input Levels) 20; 1.00; 235.

The image of the model should have contrast at the same level as before the correction, which means that you must hide the correction in the image area of ​​the model. Activate the mask of the “MODEL” layer by holding the key (Ctrl) + click on the layer thumbnail.

We return to the layer with the adjustment layer that we created recently and, without removing the active selection from the model image, click on the layer mask of the adjustment layer to make sure that it is active. Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), set the brush opacity to 100%, the color of the brush is black. Paint over the active mask to hide the correction layer correction. Next, press the keys (Ctrl + D) to cancel the active selection. The result should be as in the screenshot below.

Step 10. Add Fog

To create a more magical atmosphere, we add a little fog effect to the background. Download Mist brushes from the link at the beginning of this tutorial. These brushes are paid, but you can use any other fog brushes at your discretion! Install the Mist brushes in Photoshop. If you do not know how to install brushes, then you can see the installation of brushes in this lesson.

Create a new layer on top of all other layers, name this layer “MIST”. Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), install one of the Mist brushes that you just installed. Select the tool Pipette (Eye Dropper Tool (I), take a sample of a light blue tint on the image. Now, just draw a fog! Be careful not to paint over the model image with a brush.

In the screenshot below, you can see the saturation of the drawn fog.

Step 11. Add Sunburst

In this quick step, we will add some sunlight to make the lighting more interesting. Create a new layer on top of all other layers, name this layer “SUNNY RAYS”. Install the Sunburst brushes by downloading the link provided at the beginning of this lesson. Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), set one of the brushes of the Sun Rays that you just installed. Select a light yellow sample and then draw the sun rays as shown in the screenshot below. Note that the direction of the sun’s rays coincides with the direction of the main light source to make our scene look more logical and natural

Step 12. Add a Tree

Download a set of tree images from the link provided at the beginning of this lesson. Select the first tree image, and then move this image to our working document. Place the tree layer on top of all other layers, name this layer “TREE”. At the moment, the lighting on the tree creates the feeling that the light falls on the left side, and not on the right side, where we have the main source of light. To fix this, just go Editing – Transformation – Flip Horizontal (Edit> Transform> Flip Horizontal) to expand the image.

Step 13. Add Reeds

Before we continue the lesson, I will give you a little hint as to the composition. If you want to create an interesting picture with a complex composition, it is necessary that there are always three elements of the composition in the picture – the background (in our lesson is the mountains), the middle background (the model and the tree) and the foreground (there is nothing yet, but we add reeds in this step to complete the composition). The reeds will create a depth of field and give volume to our image.

Download the stock image of reeds from the link at the beginning of this tutorial. Move this image to our working paper. Name this reed layer “Kamysh”. Place the reed layer on top of all other layers in the layers palette.

Use the same technique that is described in Step 5 — Combine the Dress to cut the background with Channels (Channels). If you are not satisfied with this technique, then it’s okay, you can use the tool. Lasso (Lasso Tool (L) or Pen (Pen Tool (P) or any other selection tool you used to work with when removing the background.

Once you have created a selection around the background, right-click on the “CAME” layer and in the window that appears, select the option Duplicate layer (Duplicate layer). Name the duplicate of the “CAME II” layer. Next, go Editing – Transformation – Flip Horizontal (Edit> Transform> Flip Horizontal) to expand the image. Place a duplicate reed layer in the lower right corner. Duplicate the “CAME” layer again. Duplicate the layer name “CAMISH III”. Press the keys (Ctrl + T) to activate the tool. Free Transformation (Free Transform Tool), expand the reeds by placing it exactly as shown in the screenshot below.

Step 14. Blur Reed

In this step, we will spread the reed a bit to create a “cinematic” effect, as well as to create a shallow depth of field. Select all three layers with reeds, hold down (Ctrl) + click on each layer to select, then merge these layers into one layer (right-click on the selected layers and in the window that appears, select the option Merge layers (Merge Layers). Next, go Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur), set a blur radius of 1.5 px. Click OK.

Step 15. Add Birds

We have already placed the main elements of our composition. Now let’s get to the details. Download the Birds brushes from the link at the beginning of this tutorial, and then install them into Photoshop. Create a new layer on top of all other layers, name this layer “BIRDS”. Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), install one of the brushes you just installed. Select the tool Pipette (Eye Dropper Tool (I), take a sample of dark blue in the image. Now, just draw the birds around the tree. At this point, the result should be like in the screenshot below.

Step 16. Reduce Saturation

In my opinion, the whole image is too saturated. To reduce saturation, create a new adjustment layer on top of all other layers. Set the settings that are shown in the screenshot below.

Step 17. Add Blue Shades

To create a more interesting atmosphere, in this step we will add bluish tones to our image. First create a new adjustment layer. Gradient Map (Gradient Map) on top of all other layers. Set the colors that are shown in the screenshot below.

Change the blending mode for this adjustment layer to Soft light (Soft Light), reduce the opacity of the layer to about 55%.

Create another adjustment layer Gradient Map (Gradient Map), but this time set the following color shades, which are shown in the screenshot below.

Change the blending mode for this adjustment layer to Multiplication (Multiply), reduce the layer opacity to 80%.

And the last correction we’ll make in this step is the adjustment layer. Color Balance (Color Balance). Set the following values, which are shown in the screenshot below.

After three corrections, the result should be as in the screenshot below.

Step 18. Add Vignette

I like to use vignettes, because this (and very fast) is a great way to focus the viewer’s attention in the center of the image. As you probably guessed, in this step, we will add a vignette effect. Add a new adjustment layer Levels (Levels) on top of all other layers, and then apply the following Input values (Input Levels) 0; 0.6; 255.

We want to make a correction only at the edges of the image. To do this, select the tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (G) and with this tool, fill the layer mask of the adjustment layer with black.

Next, select the tool Brush (Brush Tool (B). Set a soft round brush with an opacity of about 50%, the brush color is white. Make sure that the mask layer of the adjustment layer is active (just click on it). Paint over the edges of the brush. marked in red in the screenshot below.

Step 19: Add Lighting

In this step, we will add lighting effects to the clouds, as well as to the dress where the sunlight falls. By adding lighting, we will add more depth to the image. Create a new layer on top of all other layers, name this layer “LIGHT”. Choose a tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (G) and with this tool, fill the layer with a grayish tint (# 808080). Change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay).

Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), set a soft round brush with an opacity of 10%, the color of the brush is white. Begin to paint over the areas that should be lighter. Pay attention to the areas of processing with the brush, which are indicated in the screenshot below.

In the screenshot below you can see how the “LIGHT” layer will look like in the blending mode Normal (Normal).

Step 20. Another Vignette

In my opinion, the vignette around the image could be even slightly darker. In this step we will make an additional darkening. Add a new adjustment layer Levels (Levels) on top of all other layers, and then apply the following Input values (Input Levels) 0; 0.8; 255.

Fill the layer mask of the adjustment layer with black color to hide the correction layer correction. Choose a soft round opacity about 50%, the color of the brush is white. Paint around the edges of the image to darken them. The result should be as in the screenshot below.

Step 21. Add Depths

In this step we will add more volume to our image. There is a basic rule (which of course has its exceptions): the closer the objects, the darker they appear, and objects at a distance appear brighter. Based on this rule, we need to darken the reeds in the foreground and lighten the horizon. Create a new layer on top of all layers, name this layer “ADD DEPTH”. Choose a tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (G) and with this tool, fill this layer with a grayish tint (# 808080). Change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay).

Choose a soft round opacity of about 15%, the color of the brush is black. Start painting over the areas you want to darken. After you finish, set the brush color to white and also paint over the areas you want to brighten.

You should darken the following areas of the image:
– reeds in the foreground (according to the rule that was voiced at the beginning of this step),
– shadow under the tree
– shadow under the model.

You need to lighten up:
– horizon,
– tree from the side where the sunlight falls,
– dress model from the side where the sunlight falls.

In the screenshot below, you can see the layer where to paint over with black and white brushes to create more depth under blending mode Normal (Normal).

Step 22: Add Correction

In this step, we enhance the contrast by darkening the image and adding shades of blue to the shadows by adding two adjustment layers. Gradient Map (Gradient Map).

First, create the first adjustment layer on top of all other layers. With this adjustment layer, we enhance the contrast of the image and slightly darken it. To do this in the settings Gradient Editor (Gradient Editor), set the black and white gradient and then click OK.

Reduce the opacity of the adjustment layer to 20% to darken the image and add contrast as we want.

Create a second adjustment layer. Gradient Map (Gradient Map).
on top of all other layers. Set the gradient that is shown in the screenshot below.

Change the blending mode for this adjustment layer to Chromaticity (Color), reduce the opacity of the layer to 30%.

In the screenshot below you can see how the image began to look after these two corrections.

Step 23. Final Correction

It remains to make a small additional correction before we complete the lesson.

First create a new adjustment layer. Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) on top of all layers. Set the value Saturation (Saturation) at -25. In my opinion, the colors in the image should be slightly enhanced.

To achieve a more fantastic effect, the image should look a bit softer. We can achieve this by lightening the shadows. To do this, create a new adjustment layer. Curves (Curves) by pulling the curve, as shown in the screenshot below.

And the most recent correction is that we will add shades of blue to the shadows. To do this, create a new adjustment layer. Gradient Map (Gradient Map), set the gradient shown in the screenshot below.

To combine the adjustment layer with the entire image, change the blending mode for this adjustment layer to Multiplication (Multiply).

And we finished the lesson! Congratulations! I hope that you have learned something new today and that this lesson will help you create your picture!

Final result

Link to the PSD file of the lesson

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