In this tutorial, I will show you how to combine photos with simple 3D elements to get realistic images. I will also show you various ways to set light and shadow and how to adjust colors and apply textures to unify the look. Let’s start!
Materials for the lesson:
Step 1 – Removing the sky from the background
Download the image of the earth and open it in Photoshop. First of all, we need to remove the current sky, which looks dull and uninteresting, in the next steps we will replace it with a more dramatic one. Sky highlighting with tools Lasso (Lasso Tool) or Pen (Pen Tool) difficult and take a lot of time. To avoid this, we use feeds.
Click on the palette Channels (Channels). If you do not see it, go to Window – Channels (Window> Channels) and it will appear. On the palette, you can see the separation of the red, green and blue channels.
Duplicate that layer where the highest contrast is between heaven and earth. I am duplicating the blue channel. Click Ctrl + L. It activates Levels (Levels) to adjust color. Set the input values as shown below.
Take Brush (Brush Tool) (B), Choose black and fill the gray areas. You should have something like this:
Click back to Rgb channel to see the image in color again.
On your layers palette, right-click on the background layer and select the option From the background (Layer From Background). Name the layer “Soil”.
Now go to Selection – Load Selection (Select> Load Selection) and set up a copy of Blue in the channels. Click OK. This step will create a selection based on a channel copy of Blue that you created some time ago.
Click Ctrl + Shift + I to invert the selection and add Layer mask (Layer Mask). Button Add layer mask (Add layer mask) can be seen on the bottom of the palette. Layers (Layers).
This led to the disappearance of the sky.
Step 2 – Land Deviation
At this stage you will deviate the earth, giving it the best form in order to put the skeleton. Go to Image – Rotate the canvas – 90 degrees counterclockwise (Image> Rotate Canvas> 90 ° CVV) and then on the menu Filter – Distortion – Curvature (Filter> Distort> Shear) and set the curve as shown below.
Select an option Repeat boundary pixels (Repeat Edge Pixels) instead Paste clipped fragments (Wrap Around) and click OK. Go to Image – Rotate canvas – 90 ° clockwise (Image> Rotate Canvas> 90 ° CV) to return the canvas to its original position.
Step 3 – Square Format
As you can see, the final image has a square format. We will fix this in this step. Take Cropping (Crop Tool) (C) and set to Width (Width) and High (Height) value of 1 cm.
Below you see what the selection looks like.
Press key Enter, to apply it.
Step 4 – Land Setup
In this step, you will increase the contrast of the earth and add detail using textures.
First of all, it is necessary to correct the contrast. To do this, add a correction layer Levels (Levels). Using the adjustment layer is really useful, because all your settings will not become destructive, and you can always go back and change them. It is almost impossible to do if you correct your photos with Image – Correction – … (Image> Adjustment> …). Also, thanks to the adjustment layers, you can only correct part of the image.
Button Create a new fill or adjustment layer (Create new fill or adjustment layer) located at the bottom Layers palettes (Layers).
Set the input values to 0; 0.63; 255 and click OK.
Now download the grunge texture and drag it to work. Place this layer on top of the layers and change the blending mode to Overlap (Overlay).
Add a layer mask. Make sure the layer mask is active (just click on the layer mask icon), take Brush (Brush Tool) (B) select a soft round brush, set black and paint over those areas of the texture that should be hidden.
Step 5 – Adding Sky
Load the sky image and drag it into the image. Name the layer “Sky” and place it on top of the layers. Click Ctrl + T and resize it to the desired size. Set the blending mode Multiplication (Multiply). Add a layer mask and use a black brush to erase the part of the sky that should be invisible.
Step 6 – Reduce Saturation
To unify the appearance of the sky and the earth, as well as to create a stronger atmosphere, we will slightly discolor the whole picture. Add a new adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) on top of the layers and set the value Saturation (Saturation) at -50. Click OK.
After these six steps, your picture should look like this.
Step 7 – Adding a Skeleton
Open the skeleton image and drag it to work. Name the layer “Skeleton”. As you can see, the skeleton does not fit the rest of the image, because it is too rich and dark. We will fix it now. Add a new adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) and set the value Saturation (Saturation) at -35. Click OK. Right-click on this layer and select the option Create clipping mask (Create Clipping Mask). Thus, the adjustment layer will only affect the skeleton, and the rest of the image remains intact.
To make the skeleton brighter and more contrast, add an adjustment layer. Levels (Levels) and set the input values to 8; 1.29; 205. Click OK and also create a clipping mask.
Step 8 – Adding Parts to the Skeleton
Since the skeleton is very simple in its texture of bones, it looks not very beautiful. We will now add some details.
Open the grunge texture you used to add detail to the ground and drag it again into the image. Place on top of the layers and create a clipping mask so that the effect is only on the skeleton. Change blending mode to Overlay.
Open another texture from this pack and do the same with it.
Step 9 – Adding Fog
Mist always creates a good, mysterious atmosphere. To create a fog, add a new layer at the top of the layers. Call it Fog. Take Brush (Brush Tool) (B), select a soft round brush and lower Opacity (Opacity) by 20%. Holding Alt Click on the bright parts of the sky to select the appropriate color, and then carefully paint over the horizon. Change color frequently to get a more realistic result.
Below you can see what I have described. The fog layer has a normal blend mode, I just put a black layer under it so that you can see what the fog layer looks like.
Below is what our image looks like now.
Step 10 – Adding Colors
Upload a flower image and drag it to work. There is nothing special about this step. Simply duplicate the original image, resize it, flip it and position it in the same way as you can see in the final result.
To add more depth to the photo, I made one flower in front a bit more and blurred it Gaussian Blur (Gaussian Blur), so it looks out of focus. You can do the same. Just go to Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur) and set the diameter to about 1 pixel.
Step 11 – Adding Shadows
Since we want the picture to look realistic, we need to add shadows from the colors. I will show you the process on the main flower that grows around the hand of the skeleton. This process must be done with the other colors.
Duplicate the flower and flip it vertically (Editing – Transforming – Flip Vertically (Edit> Transform> Flip Vertical). Click Ctrl + T and turn this layer in the direction in which the light falls.
Click on the shadow layer while holding Ctrl. It activates the selection. Take Brush (Brush Tool) (B) select black and fill the selection. Click Ctrl + D to deselect. Now go to Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur) and change Radius (Radius) 2.5 pixels. Click OK. Reduce the opacity to 60%.
Do the same with the big colors that are in front of the image.
After this step, your image should be similar to the bottom.
Step 12 – Improving the Light
The lighting is still pretty boring. It deserves more contrast. Add a new layer at the top of the layers and name it “Multiple Lights”. Take Fill (Paint Bucket) (G) and fill the layer with black.
Now go to Filter – Rendering – Blick (Filter> Render> Lens Flare). Choose one of the types of lenses (I chose 105mm) and in Center of flare (Flare Center) post the same as you can see below.
Change blending mode to Lightening (Screen). It turns out that the black color will become invisible, and the highlights will be beautifully combined with the rest of the image.
Place the highlights in the area of the light source. Click Ctrl + T and rotate the layer in the direction shown below.
Glare is too bright and it does not look good. To make them a little darker, add a layer mask. Take Brush (Brush Tool) (B) select a soft round brush, lower the opacity by 30%, select black and carefully paint them.
Step 13 – Adding Birds
This is another very simple step. Download brushes with birds and set them in photoshop. If you do not know how, then you can look at this lesson).
Create a new layer at the top of the layers and name it “Birds”. Take Brush (Brush Tool) (B) and select the brushes that you just installed. Choose a dark gray color. I do not recommend that you use pure black color for objects at a distance, as a rule, they are lighter, and also because black color in most cases is harsh and not very realistic. In nature, you will not see many purely black things — they are dark brown, dark green, etc.
You can choose some dark colors from the sky, for example. Now we draw the birds.
Below you can see how the image looks now.
Step 14 – Global Color Change
All the main elements of the photos are posted. In this and the next steps we will change the color of the tone, brightness and contrast to convey the desired mood.
We will start with global color correction. For this we use Selective color correction (Selective color). This is a great tool that allows you to change each color tone separately, which gives you much more freedom than using, for example Color balance (Color Balance). If you are not familiar with this correction tool, I would recommend you to watch this video, which explains its main features and shows with practical examples how Selective color correction (Selective color) works.
Add a new adjustment layer Selective color correction (Selective Color) on the top of the layers and adjust the colors as shown below.
The image below shows how the picture looks before and after. Selective color correction (Selective color)
Step 15 – Adding Brightness to Colors
To add contrast and make the flowers more expressive, we need to make them red. Add a new adjustment layer Selective color correction (Selective Color) on top of the layers. This time we will change only red, other colors remain the same as before.
Set the parameters as shown below and click OK.
As you can see, the setting also influenced the skull, and it was not beautiful. To fix this, add a layer mask to this layer and paint over the skull area with black. Unwanted red tones will disappear.
Below you can see how the image looks after these steps.
Step 16 – More Global Adjustments
I think the current image is too bright. To fix this, add a new adjustment layer with Levels (Levels) on top of layers and set input values to 0; 0.79; 255. Click OK.
The previous blackout makes the yellow tones too saturated, which ruins the cold atmosphere that we tried to create in the previous steps. To correct this situation, add a new adjustment layer. Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) on top of layers. AT Edit (Edit) select the Yellow option and lower Saturation (Saturation) at -30. Click OK.
Below you can see how these adjustments affect the image.
Step 17 – Apply Textures
Adding texture to your work is a great way to standardize the look of a photo, add detail, and also add a slightly colored look.
Download interesting grunge textures. I used the grunge package textures that were already used in the previous steps, but you can take any texture you like. The grunge textures used in this tutorial are good because they are slightly darker at the edges and brighter in the middle. They will add plasticity to the image, as well as help in creating a decent vignette.
Drag the texture that you selected into your work. Name the layer “Textures” and place it at the top of the layers. Now experiment with blending modes and opacity to get your favorite look. I changed the blending mode to Soft light (Soft light) and lowered Opacity (Opacity) by 45%.
Step 18 – Changing lighting
There is still something wrong with global lighting and shadows. The light source is on the right side of the horizon, but if you look closely at the earth near the horizon, it is darker than it should be. We will fix it now.
Add a new layer at the top of the layers and name it “Horizon Light”. Take Brush (Brush Tool) (B), Choose a soft round brush and a few bright colors from the sky. Lower the opacity by 30% and carefully paint the ground next to the light source.
Then select dark colors from the sky and paint over areas farther from the light source.
Below you can see exactly what I described. So that you can clearly see, I added a gray layer under the bottom.
And now you can see what the whole landscape looks like.
Step 19 – Last color change
It remains a little bit. We will change the color a bit, add a vignette and adjust the levels.
Let’s start with a color change. Add a new adjustment layer Gradient map (Gradient Map) on top of layers. Select Red and Green as primary colors and click OK.
Blend mode for this layer change to Soft Light and lower Opacity (Opacity) by 30%.
Step 20 – Adding Vignettes
Vignette is a great tool if you want to attract more viewer attention in the image. She directs his gaze to the center of the picture.
Add a new adjustment layer Levels (Levels) at the top and set the input values to 0; 0.77; 255. Click OK.
Take Gradient (Gradient Tool) (G) select black and fill layer mask from this layer. Our adjustment will disappear. Take the Brush Brush Tool (B), choose a soft round brush in white. We paint on the edges of the image. The adjustment is manifested and turns a beautiful vignette.
Step 21 – Level Adjustment
The last thing you need to do is to tweak the levels a bit. Take Rectangle selection (Marquee Tool) (M) and highlight the whole picture. Click Ctrl + Shift + C, to copy the image. Now click Ctrl + V, to insert it. Place this layer on top of the layers. Now go to Image – Correction – Automatic tone correction (Image> Adjustments> Auto Levels) or just click Ctrl + Shift + L. This will add a bit more contrast to the picture.
Best wishes! You are done. Thank you for reading this lesson and hope you have learned something new or found inspiration for a new job. I would like to see your work based on this lesson!
Have a great day everyone!
(click on image to enlarge)
Author: Jarka Hrncarkova