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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation
Design

Create a Funny Surreal Underground Scene With Adobe Photoshop

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial I'll show you how to create a funny surreal scene using a variety of photo manipulation techniques. 

First we'll combine several stock images to make a natural underground scene. Then we'll add other elements, such as the skull, nest, egg and bird, and blend them together using adjustment layers, masking and brushes. 

Later we'll add more natural elements (a tree and leaves) and use the same techniques to make them parts of the scene. We'll finish it up with several adjustment layers. As you follow this tutorial, you'll learn how to manage your layers, work with groups, and focus on the correct details.

Tutorial Assets

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

1. Setting Up the Base Scene

Step 1

Create a new 1500 x 1500 px document with the settings below:

new file

Step 2

Open the sky image. Select the sky part using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M).

select sky

Drag the sky part into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V), and place it at the top.

adding sky

Step 3

To add some depth to the scene, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 6 px.

blur sky

Step 4

To change the sky hue a little, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance:

sky color balance

Step 5

Open the soil 1 image (choose image 2). Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select the soil part and place it under the sky.

select soil 1
adding soil 1

Step 6

Make a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to darken the soil part.

soil 1 curves
soil 1 curves result

Step 7

To desaturate the soil color, make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and change the Saturation value to -82:

soil 1 huesaturation

Step 8

Create a new layer (set as Clipping Mask), change the mode to Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray:

soil 1 burn tool new

Active the Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 10–15% to darken some areas at the edges of the soil a bit. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode:

soil 1 burn tool normal mode
soil 1 burn tool overlay mode

Step 9

Open the soil 2 image (choose image 4). Select the upper part of the soil with the Rectangular Marquee Tool.

select soil 2

Place this selected part above the soil 1 area.

adding soil 2

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft round brush with black color (soft black brush) to remove the hard edges and blend this soil part smoothly with the rest.

soil 2 masking

Step 10

Make a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to darken this soil part.

soil 2 curves

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the upper part of the soil as it gets some light from the sky.

soil 2 curves masking

Step 11

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value down to -75:

soil 2 huesaturation

Step 12

Open the grass image. Select the grass part with the Rectangular Marquee Tool.

select grass

Drag this selection into our main document and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to enlarge the bottom of this grass part.

adding grass

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to remove the hard edges and blend the grass smoothly with the soil and the sky.

grass masking

Step 13

On the grass layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 3 px.

grass gaussian blur

On this filter mask, use a soft black brush to erase the most of the grass area and make the blur effect only visible at the furthest background.

grass gaussian blur masking

This step is to increase the depth of the scene.

Step 14

There are some unwanted shades on the grass. Make a new layer (set as Clipping Mask) and use the Clone Tool (S) to remove them.

grass clone
grass clone result

Step 15

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and increase the Red, Green and Blue values of the Midtones.

grass color balance

Step 16

I aim to make the main light source come from the left side to the right to fit the sky light. Create a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and increase the lightness:

grass curves brighten

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the lightness at the lower edges, especially the bottom right of the grass.

grass curves brighten masking

Step 17

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the right edge of the grass.

grass curves darken

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the upper left of the grass.

grass curves darken masking

2. Adding the Skull

Step 1

Open the skull image. Select the skull only using the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L).

select skull

Place the skull in the middle of the image, between the grass and the soil, and rotate it using Control-T.

adding skull

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to erase the skull's middle section to make it look as if it's stuck between the grass and soil.

skull masking

Step 2

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and change the Saturation to -52.

skull huesaturation

Step 3

The light on the original skull is from the front and from the lower side. To correct its light and shade to fit the background, we'll use several layers (set as Clipping Mask).

First create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the lower part of the skull (as it's below the soil surface).

skull curves darken

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the upper part to maintain the lightness there.

skull curves darken masking

Step 4

Create another Curves adjustment layer to brighten the upper part.

skull curves brighten

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the front of the skull.

skull curves brighten masking

Step 5

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 15-20% to add more light to the upper part of the skull, and also increase the shade and contrast of the eyes. Here are the results with Normal mode and Overlay mode.

skull dodge and burn normal mode
skull dodge and burn overlay mode

Step 6

Make a new layer under the skull one. Use a soft black brush with the Opacity about 40–45% to paint the shadow of the skull on the grass (it should be thin and long, as the light comes straight from left to right).

skull shadow

3. Adding the Root

Step 1

Open the root image. Place it in the underground area using the Move Tool and rotate it a bit using Control-T.

adding root full

Use a layer mask to erase the hard edges and blend the root with the soil.

masking root full

Step 2

Select a root part from the original image with the Lasso Tool, and then position it in the left of the underground area. Use a layer mask to blend them with the first root.

select root part
adding root part
masking root part

Step 3

Duplicate this layer and move it to the lower middle section of the underground. Use a layer mask to make it blend together with the other root parts.

duplicate root part

Step 4

Select all the root layers and press Control-G to make a group for them. Change the mode of this group from Pass Through (default group mode) to Normal 100%.

Make a Curves adjustment layer on top of the root ones (within this group) and decrease the lightness.

roots curves

Step 5

Use a Levels adjustment layer to make some root areas darker, especially the area below the soil surface.

roots levels

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the lower part, as it should be less dark than the upper one.

roots levels masking

4. Adding the Nest

Step 1

Open the nest image. Use the Move Tool to drag it onto the skull.

adding nest

Step 2

Make a new layer under the nest one. Use a soft black brush with the Opacity about 40–45% to paint the shadow below the nest.

nest shadow 1

Step 3

On a new layer (still under the skull one) use a soft black brush with the Opacity about 30% to paint the shadow of the nest on the skull and the grass.

nest shadow 2

Step 4

Create a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to brighten the nest, as it looks darker than the background at the moment.

nest curves

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the right side of the nest (from the viewer) to maintain the shade there.

nest curves masking

Step 5

To reduce the nest saturation, create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and change the Saturation to -28.

nest huesaturation

5. Adding the Egg and Bird

Step 1

Open the egg image. Select the egg using the Magic Wand Tool (W).

select egg

Place the egg in the upper area of the nest. Use a layer mask with a hard black brush to erase the lower part of the egg to make it look as if it's lying inside the nest (you should pay attention to the tiny holes in the nest).

adding egg
egg masking

Step 2

Create a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to darken the egg. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the upper area to keep the light on this part.

egg curves masking

Step 3

Open the bird image and isolate him from the background using the Polygonal Lasso Tool or any tools you're familiar with. Place him onto the edge of the nest.

adding bird

Step 4

Create a new layer under the bird one. Use a soft black brush with the Opacity about 30–35% to paint the bird shadow on the nest and grass. The thing you should remember is that the bird is on the top of the nest (further from the ground than the skull) so the shadow should be lighter.

bird shadow

Step 5

Create a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to reduce the highlight on the bird's body. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the upper part and the left side, as they should be brighter than the rest.

bird curves

Step 6

Make a new layer (set as Clipping Mask), change the mode to Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge Tool to brighten the tail and the left leg, and the Burn Tool to darken the right leg of the bird.

bird dodge and burn

6. Adding the Tree

Step 1

Open the tree image and use the Move Tool to add it to the top right of the scene.

adding tree

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 5 px.

tree gaussian blur

Step 2

To alter the tree color a bit, use a Color Balance adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and change the Red value of the Midtones.

tree color balance

Step 3

Use a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the tree, as it lacks light at the moment.

tree curves

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to refine the light and shade between the leaves. You can see the result on the layer mask and the result on the picture.

tree curves masking

7. Adding the Leaves

Step 1

Open the leaf image. Drag it into our working document using the Move Tool and use Control-T to rotate it a little. Place it under the tree position (or anywhere you feel suitable).

adding first leaf

Step 2

Duplicate this layer several times and arrange them around the skull, especially placing one to fit the direction of the skull's gaze. On each of these layers, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and change the Radius to 3 px.

adding more leaves
leaves gaussian blur

Step 3

Duplicate one of the leaf layers twice and enlarge them using Control-T. Place them at the right edge and the foreground, and change the Gaussian Blur Radius to 12 px.

big leaves

Step 4

Make a group for the leaf layers as we did with the root ones. To change the color of the leaves, create a Color Balance adjustment layer and increase the Red and Yellow values of the Midtones.

leaves color balance

Step 5

To make some light on the leaves, create a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness.

leaves curves

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with the Opacity varied from 20–100% to erase the right side of some leaves to fit the light of the background.

leaves curves masking
leaves curves result

8. The Final Color Adjustment

Step 1

It's time to color the whole scene. Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer and pick the colors #7d6a51 and #a2b54a. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 50%.

gradient map

Step 2

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Red and Yellow values of the Midtones.

color balance

Step 3

Use a Curves adjustment layer to change the color and increase the contrast of the scene.

curves

Step 4

Make a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect.

vibrance

Congratulations, You're Done!

You can see the final outcome below. I hope that you've enjoyed this tutorial and learned some new techniques. If you have a question or idea, feel free to leave it in the comment box below.

final result
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