Create an emotional collage in Photoshop

In this tutorial, I will show you how to create an emotional, surrealistic scene of a girl with a cage. First we will create a background using images of sky and grass. Later we will add a model, a cage, trees and birds. To combine this all in one composition, we will use adjustment layers, masks and brushes. At the end we will add some adjustment layers to get the final effect.

Note: The source of the lesson is missing some images. In the archive you will find an alternative version of the images to perform the lesson.

1. How to create a background

Step 1

Create a new document 2000 x 1800 px with the settings shown below in the screenshot.

Step 2

Go to Layer> New Fill Layer> Solid Color (Layer> New Fill Layer> Color) and select the color # e2ecef:

Step 3

Open image with sky. Drag this image into our work with the tool Move Tool (Move) (V) and lower Opacity (Opacity) of this layer by 90%:

Step 4

Click the second icon at the bottom of the layers panel to add a layer mask to this layer. Use a soft round brush of black color, the brush opacity is about 20-25% to reduce the opacity of the image with the sky. We strive to create a soft, foggy scene, so the details of the sky should not be too obvious.

Step 5

To give softness to the image, go to Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur) and change the radius to 8 px:

Step 6

Create an adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) to discolor the sky. Change value Saturation (Saturation) at -73:

Step 7

Create an adjustment layer Curves (Curves) and increase the brightness. Next on the layer mask of the adjustment layer Curves (Curves) use a black soft brush to erase the edges around the edges so that it remains only in the center.

Step 8

Add another adjustment layer. Curves (Curves) and reduce the brightness. Also on the layer mask, leave the effect of the adjustment layer in some parts along the edges.

Step 9

Open the grass image. Place it at the bottom of the job and using Free transform tool (Free Transformation) (Control-T), in mode Warp (Warp), slightly deform the area in the middle to get a more interesting perspective.

Add a layer mask to this layer and using a soft black brush to remove the sky from the image.

Step 10

Use adjustment layer Color balance (Color balance) and apply it as Clipping mask (Clipping mask) to the grass layer. Change settings Midtones (Mid Tones):

Step 11

Add adjustment layer Curves (Curves) to darken the foreground. After using a soft black brush on the layer mask, erase some of the blackout in the background to leave a soft and foggy effect.

2. How to add trees

Step 1

Open an image with trees and place it at the top of our work. Turn it vertically, to do this, go to Edit> Transform> Flip Vertical (Edit> Transform> Flip Vertically). Change the layer’s overlay mode to Hard light (Hard light) 100%.

Use a layer mask for this layer to reduce the opacity of trees in some areas, especially near the grass, so that they seem to disappear into the clouds.

Step 2

Apply to the tree layer Gaussian blur (Blur according to Gauss) and set a radius of 3 px. On the filter layer mask, erase the blur effect from several trees, as shown in the screenshot below, to highlight them and increase the depth of field.

Step 3

Create an adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) and set the value Saturation (Saturation) to -82:

Step 4

Add adjustment layer Color balance (Color balance) and set the values Midtones (Midtones) as below:

3. How to add a model

Step 1

Separate the model from the background and place it in the middle. Create layer mask and with a stiff black brush, choose a very small size (2-3 pixels), start to wash partially the bottom of the dress so that it seems that the grass covers it.

Step 2

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay (Overlap) 100% and fill it with 50% gray:

Further tools Dodge and Burn tool (Clarifier and Dimmer) (O), set the range to Midtones (Mid Tones) and Exposure (Exposure) about 10-20%, draw light and shadow on the model. In the screenshot below you will see how I did it in the blend mode. Normal (Normal) and in mode Overlay (Overlap):

Step 3

Use adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) and set the value Saturation (Saturation) to -67:

Step 4

Add adjustment layer Curves (Curves) and reduce the brightness. On the layer mask, erase part of the effect on the edges of the girl and on the face.

Step 5

Now create another adjustment layer. Curves (Curves) to lighten the girl around the edges. Erase some of the brightening effect in the middle and from the face.

Step 6

Create another adjustment layer. Curves (Curves) to reduce the contrast of the model and give it a subtle, foggy effect (it stands in a foggy scene).

Step 7

Create a new layer under the model layer. Next, create an active selection around the model, hold down the Control key and click on the thumbnail of the model layer. Fill the selection with black and rotate it vertically. Use the Control-T key combination to change the perspective of the shadow:

Decrease Opacity (Opacity) of this layer to 25% and apply Gaussian blur (Blur according to Gauss) 12 px:

Step 8

Create a new layer above the model layer (do not use it as a clipping mask). Hard brush color # 897068, paint the model’s hair.

4. How to add a cell

Step 1

Separate the cell from the white background and place it over the model’s head. Use the Control-T key combination and turn it slightly to the right so that the cage matches the perspective of the head. Use a layer mask to make a smooth transition between the head and the bottom of the cell.

Step 2

Create an adjustment layer Color balance (Color balance) and change settings Midtones (Mid Tones):

Step 3

Create a Curves adjustment layer (Curves) to darken the cell. On the layer mask, remove some of the blackout from the outside of the cell, so that it looks as if this part is covered in mist.

5. How to add birds

Step 1

Open the “bird 1” image and separate them from the background (you can choose not to make the selection too precise). Take some different birds and add them around the cage. Arrange them so that it seems that a flock of birds is flying up to the trees. Change Opacity (Opacity) layers with birds from 30 to 80-90%, to combine them with a foggy background. Add two larger birds at the bottom along the edges of the job and apply Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur), set a blur radius of 9 px to each of these layers.

Step 2

Select all the layers with birds and press the key combination Control-G to create a group. Change the overlay mode for the group to Normal (Normal) 100% and further use a correction layer. Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) to discolor them slightly.

Step 3

Add an image of birds 2, 3 and 4 on the tree branches. Decrease Opacity (Opacity) of these layers up to 40%.

6. Making the final adjustment

Step 1

Create an adjustment layer Gradient map (Gradient map) on top of all layers. Select colors for gradient # e10019 and # 004660. Decrease Opacity (Opacity) of this layer to 20%.

Step 2

Use adjustment layer Color balance (Color balance) and change settings Midtones (Mid Tones):

Step 3

Add adjustment layer Curves (Curves) to create blackouts around the edges. On the layer mask, erase the effect of darkening in the middle.

Step 4

Create another adjustment layer. Curves (Curves) and increase the brightness. On the layer mask, erase the effect of the adjustment layer, leave it only in the middle at the bottom of the job.

Congratulations, everything is ready!

I hope you enjoyed my lesson and you learned something new. Feel free to share your ideas and results in the comments below – I would like to see them. Enjoy working in Photoshop!

Lesson author: Jenny Le

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