Create a winter landscape in Photoshop

In this lesson we will create a winter fantasy. Our goal is to create a magical, soft atmosphere and balanced composition. I will share with you the advanced technique of working with channels and blending modes. I hope you enjoy this lesson as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Final result

Source materials:

STEP 1. Open the “Dawn in Finland” image and resize the image to: 2000 x 1333 px. This step is optional, but to illustrate this lesson, this size will suffice.

STEP 2. We will remove the sky using the channel mask. Go to the bookmark Channels (channels) and create a copy red channel (red channel). You can simply right-click on the channel and select the option Duplicate channel (Duplicate channel). Now select only a copy of the red channel and then go Image – External Channel (Image> Apply Image). Set the blending mode Bright light (vivid light), opacity (opacity) 100%.

STEP 3. Highlight the bottom of the copy of the red channel, as shown in the screenshot below. Press the D key to set the foreground and background colors to default, then press the ctrl + Backspace keys to fill the selection with black.

STEP 4. Highlight the top of the red channel copy and press the alt + Backspace keys to fill the selection with white.

STEP 5. Press ctr + D to deselect. Select a round brush and set the following settings:
The size(Size): 200 px
Rigidity(Hardness): 0%

Change the blending mode for the brush to Overlap (overlay), by pressing the alt + Shift + O keys, make sure that the foreground color is set to a white color tone. Smooth with a brush several times to remove gray shades and try not to touch the trees so that they remain black.

STEP 6. Press ctrl + I to reverse the channel. A copy of the red channel should look like the one shown in the screenshot below. This will be our distinguishing mask. This mask highlights white shades and hides black shades.

STEP 7. Ctrl + click on the red channel copy to load the selection, then press ctrl + 2. Next, press ctrl + J to create a new layer with the image of what was selected. Voila, you skillfully cut out an object using a channel mask. Now, you can turn off the visibility of the background layer.

STEP eight. Create a new fill layer, go Layer – New layer fill – Colour(Layer> New Fill Layer> Solid Color). Choose the next color cast to fill: # 434952. Right-click on the fill layer and select the option Create clipping mask (Create clipping mask). Change the blending mode to Chromaticity (color). This will remove the orange hues in our image.

STEP 9. Next, we add some color to our proscenium. Create a new adjustment layer, let’s go Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Photo Filter (Layer> New adjustment layer> Photo Filter). This adjustment layer will be applied as a clipping mask, place it on top of the previous adjustment layer. Apply the following settings:
Colour (Color): # bfd500
Density(Density): 93%
Save glow (Preserve Luminosity): Tick (checked)

Change the blending mode to Lightening basics (Color dodge) and reduce Fill (fill) up to 40%.

STEP 10. Press D to set the default colors, then press G to select the tool Gradient (gradient tool). In the gradient settings, set the Linear gradient. Hold down the Shift key and create a gradient as shown in the screenshot below.

STEP 11. Create another adjustment layer Photo Filter (Photo Filter) and place it on top of the previous adjustment layers, apply the following settings:
Colour (Color): # 08eefc
Density(Density): 93%
Save glow (Preserve Luminosity): Tick (checked)

Change the blending mode to Overlap (Overlay) and reduce Opacity (opacity) layer up to 20%. Hold down the alt key, then drag with the mouse the mask layer of the Photo Filter 1 adjustment layer and release the Photo Filter 2 on the mask mask layer. A window appears Replace Layer– mask? (Replace Layer Mask?). Click Yes (yes), then press Ctrl + I, to reversal the layer-mask.

STEP 12. Next, create another adjustment layer. Color balance (Color Balance) and apply the settings as shown in the screenshot below. Change the blending mode Soft light (Soft Light) and reduce Opacity (opacity) layer to 44%.

STEP 13. Select the foreground or upfront layer and all adjustment layers, then press ctrl + G to group them. Name this group Foreground.

STEP 14. Let’s go File – Open (File> Open), open the image “Panorama of the sky with clouds.” Next, we transfer the image with the clouds to our document, scale it and place it as shown in the screenshot below, press Enter. Make sure the sky image is below the Foreground group. Rename the sky layer to “Sky”.

STEP 15. Create a new adjustment layer. Gradient Map (gradient map), make sure that it is created as a clipping mask. Apply the settings as in the screenshot below. For the foreground color, apply a black tint, and for the background color use # 0ef0f8. Change the blending mode to Soft light (Soft Light) and reduce Opacity (opacity) layer up to 40%.

STEP 16. Create a new adjustment layer, as a clipping mask to the sky layer. Apply the settings as shown in the screenshot below. Do not change blending mode, leave Normal (normal).

STEP 17. Select the sky layer and all adjustment layers, then press the ctrl + G keys to group them. Name this group Sky. You can select multiple layers by holding down the Ctrl key with a mouse click to select the layers you want to select.

STEP 18. Open the Full Moon image. Highlight the moon with the tool Oval area (round marquee selection tool), then press the ctr + C keys to copy the image and then paste it onto our document. Place the moon layer between the sky layer and the foreground layer. Name this layer Moon. * Tip * When you need to create a complex selection, for example, objects in a perspective or in an ellipse: 1. Create a selection using the selection tools. 2. Press the Q key to enter the quick mask mode. 3. Press Ctrl + T to transform the selected selection. So, you can adjust the selection as your heart desires, using perspective, distortion, etc. 4. Press enter to apply the transformation and then press Q to exit the quick mask mode. In order for this to work properly, double-click on the Quick Mask icon in the left pane of settings and select the option Masked areas (selected areas).

STEP 19. Double click on the Moon layer to open layer styles. Apply the settings as shown in the screenshot below.

STEP 20. Position the moon as shown in the screenshot below. Add a layer mask by clicking on the icon. Add layer mask (Add Layer mask) in the bottom panel of the layers.

STEP 21. Select the layer mask so that the layer mask is active. Choose a tool Gradient (gradient tool) and in the settings set mirror gradient (reflected gradient). Press D to set default colors. Draw a mid-moon gradient towards the bottom. So, the upper and lower parts of the moon smoothly mixed with the sky. Choose a tool Brush (brush tool) with the following settings:
The size (Size): 100 px
Rigidity(Hardness): 0%

Install Opacity (opacity) brushes at 50% and make sure that the layer mask layer of the moon is active. If the layer mask is not active, just click on it. Next, gently brush the areas where the clouds overlap the moon. We see that the Moon began to fade slightly, so increase the opacity of the layer with the Moon to 80%.

STEP 22. Press ctrl + shift + N to create a new layer, place it on top of the Moon layer. Press shift + F5 to fill a new layer and select 50% gray (gray). Next, go Filter – Noise – Add Noise (Filter> Noise> Add noise) and apply the Amount value to 4%, then select according to Gauss (Gaussian) and put a tick in the window Monochrome (monochromatic). Press ctrl + M to correct Curves (curves), when the curves window appears, pull the black slider and the white slider towards each other, so that the sliders meet in the middle. Now we have a black sky with white stars. If you can not see the stars, your image scale is greatly reduced. This is because Photoshop hides “unnecessary” pixels when zoomed out, but this is only temporary. When you save the document, the stars will be on the image. You can also press ctrl + 1 to scale to the actual image size, and you will see stars.

STEP 23. Name this layer Stars and change the blending mode to Lightening (screen). So, the black shades disappeared and only white stars are visible. Add a layer mask, select a brush and apply the following settings:
The size (Size): 100 px
Rigidity (Hardness): 0%

Install Opacity(opacity) brushes at 100%. Make sure the star layer layer is active. Carefully traverse the brush on the layer mask in those places where the stars overlap the moon or clouds. You can use 50% brush opacity in places where clouds are barely visible.

STEP 24. Change the brush settings on the following:
The size (Size): 6 px
Rigidity (Hardness): 100%

Click randomly several times on the star layer to create several larger stars. Increase the brush size by 2 px and once again randomly click several times around the layer with the stars.

STEP 25. Now, we will create the Northern Lights. Download brushes Northern Lights through Editing – Manage Sets (Edit> Preset Manager). Create a new layer, name the new layer “Northern Lights”. Place this layer on top of the Sky group. Select brush 4 and increase the size to 1000 px. Select # da9c1c as the foreground color, and draw a shine.

STEP 26. Double-click the Northern Lights layer to display the Layer Styles window. Apply the settings as shown in the screenshot below. Check out the combination of sliders in the screenshot below. By moving these small triangles to the left, we enhance the white hues of the underlying layer, in our case, the cloud layer, so that it appears on the current layer. We will make the clouds appear through the lights, the task is difficult to implement using basic selection and tools for creating masks. To break the sliders, hold down the Alt key, then drag them.

STEP 27. Open the image “Polar Bear Oso”. Highlight the bear using your favorite selection tools. I used the tool Fast allotment (quick selection tool). Do not worry about sharp edges, we will solve this moment later.

STEP 28. Press ctrl + C to copy the selection, then go back to our document and paste the copied image ctrl + V. Place this layer on top of all layers, name it Polar Bear.

STEP 29. Hold Ctrl + click on the bear layer to load the selection, then press Ctrl + R to open the window Refine edge (refine edge). You can use any settings to make your bear look more realistic or you can use the settings shown in the screenshot below.

STEP 30. Remove the old bear layer and rename the new layer to Polar Bear. Add adjustment layer Color balance (color balance), as a clipping mask and apply the settings that are shown in the screenshot below. Change the blending mode to Chromaticity (color) and reduce Opacity (opacity) layer up to 70%.

STEP 31. Select the bear layer. Press Ctrl + T to activate the tool. Free transformation (free transform). Holding down the shift key, pull the square toward the center to scale the bear image proportionally. Without exiting the free transform mode, right-click and select Flip horizontally (Flip Horizontal). Position the bear as shown in the screenshot below.

STEP 32. We will create a shadow falling from the bear so that it does not look fake. Select the bear layer and press ctrl + J to create a duplicate. Rename the duplicate to Shadow and move this layer below the bear layer. Our adjustment layer Color balance (color balance) is no longer a clipping mask for the Polar Bear layer, so hold down the alt key + click between the Color Balance layer and the Polar Bear layer. Press D to set default colors.

Translator’s Note: make sure you are standing on the Shadow layer.

Now press alt + shift + Backspace to fill the dim pixels in black. You may not see any change, because the shadow layer is located below the bear layer. Press ctrl + T to transform our shadow layer. Pull the center point to the bottom left corner. Transform the shadow as shown in the screenshot below.

STEP 33. Apply to shadow Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian blur). Next, select a brush with the following settings:
The size (Size): 9px
Rigidity(Hardness): 0%

Install Opacity(opacity) brush at 30% and gently add a little more shadow under the paws of our bear. Decrease Opacity (opacity) layer up to 30%.

STEP 34. Add a layer mask to the Shadow layer. Press D to set default colors. Press G to activate the tool. Gradient (gradient tool). Select a gradient, make sure it is set to From main to background (Foreground to Background). Click on the layer mask to make it active. Press the X key to switch the main and background color. Draw a gradient to blend the very top of the shadow with the environment. Change the blending mode of the layer with the shadow on Multiplication (Multiply).

STEP 35. Let’s create traces of the bear’s paws. Create a new layer and place this layer on top of all layers. Name this layer Traces. Select the Chalk brush 17 px and lower the brush opacity to 50%. Draw traces of the bear in the snow, as shown in the screenshot below.

STEP 36. Apply to the Traces layer Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian blur). Reduce the layer opacity with traces up to 60%. Hold ctrl + click on the trail layer, on the polar bear layer and Color Balance to highlight them. Press ctrl + G to group them. Name this group a polar bear.

STEP 37. Now we will add some color to our image. Create a new adjustment layer with the settings as in the screenshot below. Select a round brush with the following settings:
The size (Size): 60px
Rigidity(Hardness): 0%

Make sure the mask layer is active, then press the D key to set the default colors. Press ctrl + I to invert the mask. Reduce the opacity of the brush to 10% and carefully brush around the trees. Leave some trees intact and try not to color the sky. Increase brush size to 200 px and brush a couple of times in the snow in front of the trees. Next, go Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian blur) and apply the settings as in the screenshot below. Change the blending mode for the layer color balance to Chromaticity (Color).

STEP 38. We will reduce the saturation of the image. Add a new adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) and place it on top of all our layers. Apply the settings as in the screenshot below. Choose a soft round brush, reduce its opacity to 90%. Stand on the layer mask, press D to set the default colors. Next, press X to invert. Randomly brush around the trees, then carefully walk around the northern lights, the moon and the bear. Reduce the brush opacity to 50% and increase the brush size to 200 px. Once or twice brush with wide strokes in front of the trees, but do not go far, leave the bottom third of our image intact. Apply Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian blur).

STEP 39. Now, we will make our image more interesting by adding light effects. Add a new adjustment layer Curves (curves) and place it on top of all our layers. Apply the settings as in the screenshot below. Click on the layer mask to make the layer mask active, then press Ctrl + I to invert the mask. Choose white as the foreground color and select a soft round brush. Reduce the opacity of the brush to 90% and carefully walk in the area of ​​trees. Try to leave the snow and sky unchanged. Also, carefully brush over the polar bear. Reduce brush opacity to 70% and increase brush size. Gently brush over the radiance and the moon. Also randomly brush over the white clouds. Try not to touch the sky. Apply Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian blur).

STEP 40. Press ctrl + J to duplicate the layer. Curves (curves). Make sure that you set the black color as the background color, then press ctrl + Backspace to fill the mask in black. Choose a soft round brush, set the foreground color to white. Reduce the brush opacity to 50% and increase the brush size to 500px. Carefully rub the brush several times in the snow. Reduce the brush opacity and brush size and retry the operation. We mainly want to create a lake of soft white light over an area of ​​snow. Be careful and do not overdo it. Next, go Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian blur). Use any settings to make the transition smooth and seamless.

STEP 41. Add a new adjustment layer Curves (curves), place it on top of all our layers. Apply the settings as in the screenshot below. Change the blending mode to Glow (Luminosity) and reduce the opacity of the layer to 50%. This will add a bit of contrast to our image.

STEP 42. We will now apply the old compositional trick to direct the observer’s gaze to the center of our image: a vignette. Create a new layer and place it on top of our layers. Change the blending mode for this layer to Multiplication (multiply) and reduce the layer opacity to 30%. Choose a large soft round brush, set the opacity of the brush to 50%. Gently rub the brush several times along the sides and top of the image. Use a smaller brush at the bottom of the image, since the lower part is already dark.

STEP 43. Add a new adjustment layer Gradient map (gradient map). Change the blending mode to Glow (luminosity) and reduce the layer opacity to 70%.

STEP 44. Let’s give our image a dreamy and mysterious look. Make sure that the topmost layer is active, press ctrl + alt + shift + E. We will merge all visible layers into one new layer, while the remaining layers will remain unchanged. Apply Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian blur), then change the blending mode to Overlap (overlay) and reduce the layer opacity to 40%.

Final result

Author: Adrian Scheff

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