Learning basic collage techniques in Photoshop

Being as popular as before, photomontage (collage) is one of the easiest skills to learn. However, it is difficult to achieve a photorealistic result. In this tutorial, Mike Harrison will show you how to do this by mixing several photos into one image. Such works always have something surreal, but thanks to the materials used, the environment and the composition, the result will always look quite harmonious, adding a special intrigue and drawing the eye.

Specific techniques that you learn about will be to determine the source of light, setting realistic lighting and adding shadows to objects. You will also learn how to use adjustment layers, work with colors and textures to set a certain mood in the final stages of work.

  • Note: All images are clickable. Click image to enlarge.

Download the archive with materials for the lesson

Step 1

The first step in working with photo manipulations is to collect all the necessary stock materials. Do not be afraid to choose, because nothing prevents you from removing or adding another photo.

Sites like iStock and Shutterstock are full of photos of animals. However, on free drains of the necessary materials, no less.

The initial set of materials you can download the link at the beginning of the lesson.

Learning basic collage techniques in PhotoshopLearning basic collage techniques in Photoshop

Step 2

Open the image with the landscape (file Using the tool Crop (Frame), crop the image so that you can get a “landscape” canvas, as in the image. Then go to Image> Adjustments (Image> Adjustments), increase the brightness and contrast.

  • A lesson in help: Tool Crop (Frame / Crop)

Step 3

The sky should be more spectacular, so we will create a new layer with Overlay mode (Blending Mode) Darkening basics (Color Burn) and using a soft round brush with By pushing (Flow) about 40% paint it blue.

Find a couple of photos of clouds, transfer them to a document, set the overlay mode Overlap (Overlay), and then add a layer mask to erase unwanted parts by mixing new clouds with the original photo.

  • A lesson to help: What is hidden under the mask

Step 4

The background is ready. Now it’s time to start filling it with living things. Find an image of a walking man with a flag. Circle it with a tool. Pen (Pen Tool). With active tool Outline selection (Path Selection Tool) right click and select Generate a selection (Make Selection), then copy and paste the person into the main document. Move it and resize.

Note: These lessons can help you create a selection.

  • How to work with the pen?
  • Magnetic Lasso tool
  • Lasso Tool

Step 5

Let’s place our conventional light source on the left side of the document and add lighting effects accordingly. Click with the key pressed Ctrl on a miniature of a layer with a man. Create a new layer and go to the menu. Layers> Layer Mask> Show Selection (Layer> Layer Mask> Reveal Selection). Change the blending mode to Overlap (Overlay), then with a small soft brush white color paint highlights along the left contour of the man. Do the same for the right side, but with the blend mode Normal (Normal) and black brush .

  • Lesson to help: Layer overlay mode “Overlap”

Step 6

Each object casts a shadow, and its correct location will perfectly fit a man into the landscape. Click with the button pressed Ctrl by layer with a man to get a selection. Create a new layer below it and fill the selection with black. Flip the layer vertically, then click while holding Ctrl, along the lower midpoint of the transformation, dragging it up and to the right. Now go to menu Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur), set a radius of 1 px.

Step 7

Change the blending mode to Overlap (Overlay), duplicate the layer and set Normal (Normal) mode. Play with opacity, reaching for a realistic look. Create another layer and use a small soft black brush to draw a shadow around the man’s shoes. Add a mask if you need to correct it.

Step 8

It’s time for the flag. Open up flag.jpg then, using the already known technique, cut it and paste it into the main document. Transform it so that the size and angle of the slope is correct. Repeat the previous steps, adding lighting. Create a layer mask and use a small hard brush, getting a ragged edge at the bottom.

Step 9

Now we’re a little old flag. Using brushes, for example, from this set and layer mask, leave a few strokes on the flag, achieving the desired effect. Then select the logo to your liking, transfer it to the document, set the blending mode Multiplication (Multiply) and go to menu Filter> Plastic (Filter> Liquify) to adjust it to the bends of the flag.

Step 10

Start adding animals. Find the image of the lion — I used this photo with Photolia — cut it out using the same method that was used for the previous elements, and paste it into the document. Increase the brightness / contrast by visually highlighting the animal, then apply the same lighting and shadow techniques that were performed for the man.

Step 11

When drawing shadows for animals, you will get the best result if you work on a new layer with a mask, and then use a soft brush of medium size to add a shadow around the feet.

Step 12

With the help of the techniques we used for the man and the lion, add to the composition flamingo.jpg. Do not worry about the placement, we will correct it in the course of work. I also added other animals.

Step 13

Birds floating in the sky will create an additional sense of dynamism, so add them in the same way.

To blend with the sky, apply a layer style. Gradient overlay with the settings shown in the screenshot.

Step 14

As small final elements add insects and lizards. Open up snake.jpg and “hook” the snake to a stick with a flag hanging on it. Use a layer mask to erase some parts so that it looks like it is wrapped around it. Also add a spider on the flag and apply a layer style for it. Shadow (Drop Shadows), you can use the default settings or apply your own.

Step 15

The man in the picture looks at us, but it would be better to direct his gaze straight to where he is going. To fix this, I found the right head and wrapped it in a handkerchief. Apply a layer mask for a man, hiding his head. Armed with the techniques we used before, repeat the steps for a new head, transform it and place it in the correct position.

Step 16

Add a few final touches, such as decorations and feathers for the standard-bearer. Let’s also change the overall mood of the work. Experiment with color balance by adding adjustment layers. Gradient map (Gradient Map) and Brightness / Contrast (Brightness / Contrast) over all others. Add file texture.jpg with blend mode Overlap (Overlay) and opacity (Opacity) 30%, then place it above the cloud layer.

  • A lesson to help: Gradient Map

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