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Create a Fantasy, Nature-Inspired, Out of Bounds Photo Effect

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In this tutorial you will learn how to gather and combine a number of different source photographs and create a magical fantasy scene.


Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.


Step 1

Create a new document with the settings as indicated below in the screenshot and rename this document "fantasy frame".



Step 2

Download and open the image "stone wall". In the "fantasy frame" document create a new layer group and rename this "background wall". Drag the opened "Stone wall" image into this folder and rename it "stone wall".



Step 3

Open the image "Picture Frame" and use the Pen Tool (P) and make sure that the paths option is selected in the options bar. Once you have a complete path around the picture frame generate a selection from this and press Command/Ctrl + Alt + D to get the feather selection options box. Type in 0.5 to soften the feather then press Command/Ctrl + J to put the frame on its own layer. In the "fantasy frame" working document create a new layer group and rename this "picture frame" then drag the isolated picture frame into this layer group and rename "frame".



Step 4

Position the frame as shown in the screenshot below. Duplicate the frame layer and add an Overlay Layer Blending Mode with an opacity of 50%.



Step 5

Open the image "Yoga lotus position" (if you do not want to buy this image you can use suitable images of yoga positions from free stock photography websites) isolate her and the water from the background using the Pen Tool (P). Make sure that the paths option for the Pen Tool (P) is selected in the Options bar. Generate a selection from the path and add a 0.5 pixel feather. In the "fantasy frame" document create a new layer group below the "picture frame" layer group and call this "Yoga position". Drag the isolated Yoga Lady into the "Yoga position" layer group and rename this layer "Yoga Lady".



Step 6

Position the "Yoga Lady" layer as shown in the screenshot, add a layer mask and mask out the overlapping edges of the water that extends past the picture frame. Open the image "dramatic sky". Drag this below the "Yoga Lady" layer and rename this layer "dramatic sky". Again use a layer mask to mask out any of the sky that overlaps the frame.



Step 7

Make sure that the "dramatic sky" layer is active. Hold down the Alt key and add a Colour Balance Adjustment Layer. Make sure that the "use previous layer to create clipping mask" option is checked. Apply the same settings in the colour balance window as indicated below.



Step 8

Make sure that the "Yoga Lady" layer is active. Hold down the Alt key and add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer make sure that the "use previous layer to create clipping mask" option is checked. Apply the same settings in the Hue and saturation window as indicated below. This will change the color of the Greens to a color that compliments the sky.



Step 9

Open the image "water stream" and isolate the selection using the Pen Tool (P) as indicated in red below.



Step 10

Add this to a new layer then duplicate it and flipped horizontally and merge down as shown below.



Step 11

In the working document "fantasy frame" create a new layer group above the "picture frame" group and call this "picture waterfall" and drag in the merged waterfall image. Rename this layer "waterfall". Resize and position this layer as shown in the screenshot below.



Step 12

Duplicate the "waterfall" layer and rename this "waterfall screen" duplicate the "waterfall screen" layer and rename this "waterfall soft light". Apply a Hard Light Layer Blending Mode to the "waterfall" layer with an opacity of 78%. Make sure the "waterfall screen" layer is active and press Command/Ctrl + L to open the levels dialogue box and then apply the settings as indicated in the screenshot below. Apply this same levels setting to the layer "waterfall soft light".



Step 13

Select the "waterfall screen" layer and add a Screen Layer Blending Mode to this layer with an opacity of 43%. Select the "waterfall soft light" layer and add a Soft Light Layer Blending Mode with an opacity of 23%. Please see the screenshot below to see the kind of transparency effect you should achieve by adding these blending modes to the waterfall layers.



Step 14

Open the image "stone vase" and use the Magic Wand Tool (W) to isolate the white background. Click on the white background to select it. Inverse the selection by pressing Shift + Command/Ctrl + I . Add a feather selection of 0.5 pixels then press Command/Ctrl + J to put this on a new layer. Use the pen tool to draw a path around the top section of the vase and delete as shown in the screenshot below.



Step 15

In the working document "fantasy frame" create a new layer group above the "picture waterfall" group and rename this "vases". Drag the isolated vase layer into this layer group and rename the layer "vase". Resize this layer and position as shown in the screenshot below.



Step 16

Duplicate the "vases" layer and flip it horizontally. Drag this layer over to the right of the image so it mirrors the position of the left vase and then merge down. Duplicate the "vase" layer with both the vases on and apply a Multiply Layer Blending Mode. Rename this layer "vases darken".



Step 17

Go to the "bushes" link and download the small sized images "image 1" and "image 2". Open the bush images and drag them into the working document "fantasy frame". Rename these "left bush" and "right bush" and position below the "vase" layer. Finally resize and position as shown in the screenshot below.



Step 18

Open the "Ivy 1" Large sized image and the "ivy alpha channel" image from the source folder. Press Command/Ctrl + A on the "ivy alpha channel" image then copy this and go to the "Ivy 1" image. Add a new channel in the channels palette and press Shift + Command/Ctrl + V to paste the ivy selection into the alpha channel. Command/Ctrl-click on the alpha 1 channel to load the selection then click on the RGB channel. Go to the layers palette and press Command/Ctrl + J to put the selected Ivy on a new layer.



Step 19

In the working document "fantasy frame" create the new layer group above the "background wall" layer group and rename this new layer group "wall details" drag the isolated Ivy layer that you just isolated into this group and rename it "Ivy". Duplicate the "Ivy" layer and rename it "Ivy 2". Flip this layer horizontally and position as shown in the screenshot below. Merge the layer "Ivy 2" down and then duplicate the "Ivy" , rename this to "Ivy darken" and apply a Multiply Layer Blending Mode with an Opacity of 66%.



Step 20

After looking the image I think the "stone wall" layer could do with darkening so the foreground elements stand out. In the layer group "background wall" duplicate the "stone wall" layer and apply a Multiply Layer Blending Mode with 80% opacity. We need to reduce the saturation so open a new Hue Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the saturation by -18.



Step 21

Open the "vine 1" medium sized image and the "vine alpha channel" image from the source folder. Press Command/Ctrl + A on the "vine alpha channel" image then copy this and go to the "vine 1" image. Add a new channel in the channels palette and press Shift + Command/Ctrl + V to paste the vine selection into the alpha channel. Command/Ctrl-click on the alpha 1 channel to load the selection then click on the RGB channel. Go to the layers palette and press Command/Ctrl + J to put the selected vine on a new layer.



Step 22

In the document "fantasy frame" create a new layer group above the "picture frame" layer group and rename this "picture frame elements" drag in the isolated "vine 1" image into this layer group and rename it "vine" duplicate this layer 3 times and rename these layers "vine 2" "vine 3" and "vine 4". Resize and position these layers on the frame as shown in the screenshot below.



Step 23

Apply a drop shadow to all these vine layers using the settings in the screenshot below.



Step 24

Open the small image "hydrangea" and drag this into the layer group "photo frame elements" and rename the layer "hydrangea". Duplicate the "hydrangea" layer and rename this "hydrangea 2" resize and position these layers as shown in the screenshot below. Add the same drop shadows as you applied to the vines step 23.



Step 25

Command/Ctrl + click on both of the hydrangea layers to generate a selection from them. Then add a Hue/saturation Adjustment Layer above the hydrangeas with the settings as indicated in the screenshot below.



Step 26

Command/Ctrl + click on the layer mask of the Hue/saturation Adjustment Layer that you just created to generate a selection from this. Create a new Levels Adjustment Layer with the settings as indicated below. This will slightly darken the hydrangea flowers to give them a nice purple colour.



Step 27

Open the "hosta plant" medium sized image (again you're free to find similar foliage images that you don't have to buy) and the "hosta alpha channel" image from the source folder. Press Command/Ctrl + A on the "hosta alpha channel" image then copy this and go to the "hosta plant" image. Add a new channel in the channels palette and press Shift + Command/Ctrl + V to paste the hosta plant selection into the alpha channel. Command/Ctrl-click on the alpha 1 channel to load the selection then click on the RGB channel. Go to the layers palette and press Command/Ctrl + J to put the selected hosta plant on a new layer.



Step 28

In the working document "fantasy frame" create a new layer group above the layer group "vases" and rename this layout group "plants foreground". Drag the hosta layer that you just isolated into this group and rename it "Hosta plant". Resize and position this layer as shown in the screenshot below. Duplicate the "Hosta plant" layer and drag it over to the left. Rename this layer "Hosta plant 2."



Step 29

Command/Ctrl + Click on the two Hosta plant layers to generate a selection from them. Create a new Levels Adjustment Layer and used the settings below to darken the leaves slightly.



Step 30

Go to the link "morning Glory flowers" and download the "image 1" photo and the "image 3" medium sized photos and isolate these using the Pen Tool (P). Once these are isolated separate them all into single layers. (you could use the alpha channel that I created for you in the "source folder" and apply the same steps as in step 27 but obviously use the appropriate images when indicated). In the working document "fantasy frame" create a new layer group above the "picture frame elements" and rename this "frame flowers". Drag the isolated morning Glory flowers into this layer group.



Step 31

Position the flowers similar to how they are positioned in the screenshot below. Once you are happy with the placement you can merge all the flowers into one layer and rename it "flowers". Add a drop shadow to this layer using the settings that we used in step 23.



Step 32

Command/Ctrl + click on the "flowers" layer to generate a selection from this. Create a new Levels Adjustment Layer and apply the settings as shown below to darken the flowers.



Step 33

Looking the sky behind the main model I think it could do with darkening slightly. In the layer group "yoga position" select the layer "dramatic sky" and duplicate this. Apply a Multiply Layer Blending Mode with an opacity of 54%.



Step 34

To complement the colours in the sky we will now re-color the flowers on the bushes to an orange colour. Select a nice orange color from the swatches palette, I used #f7941d. Create a new layer above the bushes layers in the "vases" layer group, apply a Color Layer Blending Mode to this layer with an opacity of 64%. Rename this layer "orange flower color". Use a soft round brush with a size of 13 pixels to carefully paint in the orange color as shown in the screenshot below.



Step 35

We need to add a subtle shadow below the picture frame. In the layer group "picture frame" create a new layer below the layer "frame" and use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create a selection as indicated in the screenshot below. Select the Gradient Tool (G) hold down Shift and use a foreground to transparent linear gradient to apply a shadow starting from the frame and fading to the bottom of the picture.



Step 36

Open the image "sparkler" and select the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) and hold down the Shift key and drag the circular selection from the centre of the image to about half an inch from the top of the image. Add a feather selection of around 66 pixels to give a soft faded edge. Press Command/Ctrl + J to put this on a new layer.



Step 37

On this new layer apply a Wave Distort Filter by going to Filter > Distort > Wave and apply the same settings as indicated in the settings box below.



Step 38

In the working document "fantasy frame" add a new layer group above the "yoga position" layer group and rename this "model light effects" drag the sparkle layer that you just applied the wave effect to into this layer group. Rename this layer "sparkle effect" duplicate this layer and rename it "sparkle effect 2" resize and position these layers are shown in the screenshot below. Apply a Screen Layer Blending Mode to both of these layers.



Step 39

Open the image "Christmas lights knots" and use the Pen Tool (P) to isolate the sections of the image as indicated in the screenshot below. Generate a selection from the path and apply a 66 pixel feather selection to soft on the edges. Make sure these are on separate layers.



Step 40

In the working document "fantasy frame" drag these layers into the layer group "model light effects". Resize these and position as shown in the screenshot below. Rename these "effect 1" and "effect 2" Finally add a Screen Layer Blending Mode to these layers.



Step 41

The sky layer could do with darkening even more. In the "yoga position" layer group duplicate the layer "dramatic sky copy". Increase the opacity to 100%. Press Command/Ctrl + U and desaturate this layer by -46%. In the layer mask apply a black foreground to transparent linear gradient from the bottom upwards while holding the Shift key.



Step 42

Download and install the "Light Beam" brushes pack. Create a new document that is 1200 pixels wide by 1600 pixels high with a resolution of 72 DPI and a background of black. Create a new layer if this new document and make sure your white as a foreground colour. Select the Brush Tool (B). In your brushes palette, select the brush "Lighthouse-beam2". Rotate the brush 90° and click one time in your document to position the brush as shown in the screenshot below.



Step 43

Create a new Color Balance Adjustment Layer above the new painted brush and apply the same settings as indicated below. This will give the light effect a nice purple tone to complement the sky. Finally flatten all the layers.




Step 44

In the working document "fantasy frame" drag the purple light beam into the layer group "model light effects". Position and resize the light beam so it is shining down on the model. Apply a layer mask to this layer and mask the top section that extends past the picture frame. Finally add a Screen Layer Blending Mode to this layer and rename it "purple light beam".



Step 45

Download and install the "sparkle brushes" and select the brush "sparkle 14". Use the same settings in the brush palette as indicated in the screenshot below and make sure you have white selected as your foreground colour.



Step 46

In the working document "fantasy frame" create the new layer above the layer "purple light beam" and rename this layer "sparkles". On this new layer use your brush tool to draw some sparkles that scattering from the models hands. You have creative freedom here on how you would like the sparkles to look.



Step 47

Create a new layer below the "sparkles" layer and fill this with black. Reselect the "sparkles" layer and create a new Color Balance Adjustment Layer with the settings as indicated below.



Step 48

Merge the color balance layer, sparkles and the black layer into one layer. Rename this layer "colored sparkles" and apply a Screen Layer Blending Mode.



Step 49

We now need to darken some of the elements so it looks like the light source is coming from the picture frame. In the layer group "vases" duplicate the "vases darken" layer. Apply a layer mask to this layer and use a soft 200 pixel brush with black selected in the foreground to paint away the side of the vases that face the picture frame.



Step 50

Do the same effect to the bushes in the layer group "vases" that you just applied to the "vases darken" layer. Be sure to apply a Multiply Layer Blending Mode to the duplicate bushes layers with an opacity of 69%.



Step 51

We will now add some aquatic plants into the picture frame scene. Open the image "iris" and isolate as shown in the screenshot below by using the Pen Tool (P). You could also use the alpha channel that I have provided in the "source folder" and follow the steps in step 18 to save you from isolating the iris with the pen tool.



Step 52

Open the image "iris leaves" and isolate the leaf using the Pen Tool (P) as indicated in red in the screenshot below.



Step 53

In the working document "fantasy frame" create a new layer group above the layer group "model light effects" and rename this layer group "aquatic plants" drag the "iris" and "iris leaf" into this layer group. Resize and position these elements are shown in the screenshot below. You will need to duplicate the layer "Iris leaf" a couple of times and resize and position needs to give a natural look. Rename the leaf layers "leaf 1" "leaf 2" and "leaf 3" also rename the iris flower layer "iris flower". Add these to a layer group named "iris right"



Step 54

Duplicate the layer group "iris right" and drag this over to the left side of the frame and reposition as I've shown. In the layer "iris flower" apply a layer mask and mask out the two lower iris flowers. Reposition the leaf layers so they don't look repetitive as shown in the screenshot below. Rename this layer group "iris left"



Step 55

Open the image "kingfishers" and isolate them using the Pen Tool (P). You could also use the alpha channel provided in the "source folder" as you have done in previous steps. Create a new layer group above the "model light effects" layer group and rename this "kingfishers" drag the isolated kingfishers into this group and rename this layer "kingfishers on branch". Resize and reposition these as shown in the screenshot below. Add a Levels Adjustment Layer above this layer and clip it to the underlying layer using the Alt key. Apply the level settings as shown in the screenshot below.



Step 56

Open the images "Hummingbird 1" and "Hummingbird 2" isolate all these images using the Pen Tool (P). In the working document create a new layer group above the layer group "frame flowers" and rename this layer group "hummingbirds". Drag the isolated Hummingbird pictures into this layer group and resize position are shown in the screenshot below. Rename these layers "Hummingbird 1" and "Hummingbird 2".



Step 57

Duplicate the Hummingbird that is sat on top of the picture frame and fill this with black. Drag this layer below the Hummingbird layer and add a Filter>Blur>Gaussion Blur to this layer with a 6 pixel blur. Rename this layer "bird shadow". Duplicate the Hummingbird sat on the top of the frame and add a Multiply Layer Blending Mode with an opacity of 43%. Rename this layer "bird darken".



Step 58

Create a new layer group at the top of the layers palette and rename this layer group "finishing". Add a new layer into this group and rename it "hard light finish" then go to Image > Apply Image and accept the default setting to merge all the underlying layers onto this layer. Duplicate this layer and rename it "Multiply Dark Edges". Add a layer mask to the "Multiply Dark Edges" layer. Press Command/Ctrl + A to select all. Go to Select > Transform Selection and hold the Alt + Shift keys down and drag the corner point till it reaches just beyond the picture frame I shown in the screenshot below. Press enter to apply this transformation.



Step 59

Add a 66 pixel feather selection to this new selection by pressing Command/Ctrl + Alt + D. In the layer mask fill this new selection with black. Then add a Multiply Layer Blending Mode with an opacity over 67%.



Step 60

Select the layer "hard light finish" and apply a Hard Light Blending Mode with an opacity of 27% to this layer. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussion Blur and add a blur of 22 pixels. This will add some contrast to the main focal point.



Step 61

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer with the settings below and apply a 28% opacity to this adjustment layer.



Step 62

Add a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer with the settings as indicated below.



Step 63

Add to a Curves Adjustment Layer with the settings as shown below. I like to add these finishing steps to the majority of my work as I think it helps combine all the elements into a complete composite.


I hope you found this tutorial useful and you learnt some new techniques you can apply to your own work. Feel free to continue adding elements to this piece such as butterflies and the more flowers around the frame.


Final Image


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