Making a surreal collage with a turtle

This lesson shows the creation of one of my collages. It shows how I adjusted the lighting and color. I hope you can apply these methods in your work.
I use Photoshop CS5 in Macbook Pro, so some steps may differ from yours.
Here are the photos that I used when creating the image, a special thanks to Night Fate for providing the background.

Materials for the lesson:


The result of the lesson:


Step 1. I rarely sketch my ideas because I mix sources. It is not difficult, but it is important to feel the atmosphere and to clearly represent the final result.

Image selection is only the first step. We want to create our own composition from them.
Below you can see the images that were taken as the basis of the composition.

Step 2. When an image is opened in Photoshop, it is used as a background layer, which means that there are no layers below it. To remove the sky from this image we need to make the layer work.

Step 3. Tool Pen tool (pen) – My favorite tool for selecting objects, because it is a very versatile tool, having mastered it you will be able to achieve anything. Draw a path around the area you want to delete. The selection does not have to be exact, Photoshop has a large selection of tools to remove any errors.

Step 4. Delete the sky as shown below so that we can insert a new sky. An interesting sky is very important for most images, because it helps to create the right atmosphere. For a bright image, a clear or partly cloudy sky is great. However, for a dark, oppressive image more suitable stormy sky. For this image, I chose sunset, as it shows a slow passage of time.

Step 5. Once the original sky has been removed, select a new sky, select it and click Ctrl + C, to copy it. Then go back to the background image of the desert and click Ctrl + V.
Once you have inserted a new sky, press Ctrl + T and change its size.
It is VERY important to hold the SHIFT key while resizing, this will preserve the original aspect ratio of the image.

Step 6. Move the layer with the sky under the desert layer and click Ctrl + J, to duplicate the sky layer.
Then go FilterBlurAverage(filter – blur – average).
A copy of the sky is now “medium” color, without different tones. We will use this layer to match the shades of the desert and sky.

Step 7. Move the copy of the sky to the top while holding the ALT key. Then click on the dividing line between the sky copy layer and the desert. This will create a linked layer that acts as a mask layer.
Usually, I change the blending mode to “Soft light“(soft light) or”Color“(color), but in this case these blending modes are not suitable. Here it is more suitable ‘Overlay‘(overlay).

Step 8. My selection of the sky was rather rough and parts of the original sky are visible around the edges.
It is time to use one of the hidden features of Photoshop, the function of the layer “Defringe“(edge ​​processing). Defringe almost perfectly removes any things around selected objects.
Go through Layer – Matting – Defringe (layer – edge processing – to eliminate the border).
We select value in 1 pixel

Step 9. Below you can see what I did. As you can see, the white halo is gone. Now we need to do a little background editing and adding the rest of the source.

Step 10. The perspective of the desert layer and the turtle layer are different. It is very easy to fix, click Ctrl + T,then right-click and select “Perspective“(perspective) and stretch the base as shown below.

Step 11. Using the tool Pen tool (feather) make a selection around the turtle, then click Ctrl + T, resize and move the turtle to the desired position.
Now we need to change the lighting of the turtle. Create a new layer and name it “lighting”, then associate the layers with the tortoise and the lighting as described in step 7.

Step 12. Using soft brush With approximately 70% opacity, draw lighting (white) and shadows (black). Once you’re done, change the blending mode to “Soft Light” (soft light).
This will create a subtle change in lighting.

Step 13. Now create a new layer above the layer with the lighting, name it internal shadows, create a clipping mask. And then, using low opacity, draw shadows at the base of the turtle.

Step 14. Of course, the image will not be realistic without shadow. Draw a shadow on a new layer under the turtle layer along the base of the turtle. Name layer shadow.
Once you have done this, blur this shadow as shown below. This helps add realism (Filter – Blur – GaussianBlur) (filter – blur – blur by gauss).

Step 15. Most of my shadows consist of several layers. Add a new layer of “shadow 2” above the layer shadow. Then draw a shadow that covers a large area around the turtle, as shown below. This shadow should be almost twice as large as the first shadow.
Once you do this, change the blending mode to “Soft light” (soft light).

Step 16. This step shows what the turtle should look like. The lighting closely matches the background lighting and the shadow is in place.

Step 17. The next few steps are very similar to those described earlier. Select a part of the sand and copy it, and then paste it under the lighting layers of the turtle.

Step 18. Resize the sand and add a mask to the layer. Use mask, to remove sand where it is not needed. Do the same with grass.

Step 19. Use a layer mask to make the transition between grass and sand soft.

Step 20. Import trees to the turtle. I added trees to show the difference in size, they help to convey the huge size of the turtle.

Step 21 Remove the bottom of the trees with grass and add shadows to them in the same way we added shadows to the turtle.

Step 22 Using a soft brush, add new lighting to the trees in the same way.

Step 23 Below you can see how I did it.

Step 24 Select the image of the river and paste it into the image, and then resize it to the shell. Add a layer mask.

Step 25. Remove unwanted parts using layer mask, and change the lighting.

Step 26. At this stage, I added gazelles and elephants. I also grouped the layers in the layers palette.

Step 27. The next few layers will be used to match the color of the scene, as well as create the mood of the image.
Add a new adjustment layer Gradient map (gradient map) on top of all other layers, click on the gradient image to enter the gradient editor.

Step 28. Add two adjustment layers, one from black to brown and white, and the other from black to blue and white.
Change the blending mode of the brown gradient to “Color“(color) and place it below blue by changing the blending mode of blue to”Soft light” (soft light).

Step 29. Now select these two gradients and group them by pressing Ctrl + G. Change the opacity to 37%.
Then add another gradient as shown below. Change the blending mode to “Color“(color) and lower opacity (opacity) to 38%.

Step 30. Now add two more gradients. The black and white gradient should be below the purple-orange gradient. Change the blending mode of both gradients to “Soft light“(soft light) and lower opacity (opacity) to 26%.

Step 31 Now add a layer Color Balance (color balance), change the blending mode to Darken (blackout).

Step 32 Add a Black and white (black and white) adjustment layer and apply the settings shown. Lower the opacity (opacity). Then add Photo filter (photo filter) keeping the default values.

Step 33 Using soft brushwith low opacity, on the new layer, draw the general lighting as shown below. Change the blending mode to “Soft light“(soft light) and slightly reduce the opacity (opacity).

Step 34 On a new layer with a large soft brush, we make a simple vignette and lower the opacity (opacity) to 78% (note of the translator: I personally did not understand what the author of the lesson did here, I think this step can be skipped).

Step 35Now merge all the layers in one above the other layers. To do this, simultaneously press Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E.
Now apply a filter to the resulting layer. Gaussian blur (Gaussian blur).
Change the blending mode to “Soft light “(soft light) and lower the opacity to 50%.

Step 36 Below you can see the difference before and after.

Step 37. Well that’s all! The image is finished.
I hope this lesson helped you understand how I picked up the colors and the combination of images.

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