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Create a Racing Snail in Photoshop

We love Photoshop because it allows us to create imagery that can't exist in real life. In this tutorial, we will put the "car" and "go" into escargot by creating a snail so big and fast that you could ride it at highway speeds. In the process, we will explain how to select the proper photos, as well as how to correctly integrate them into your scene using lighting, depth of field, and movement. Let's get stared!


Tutorial Assets

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


Step 1

First of all, we are going to create our document. Use the settings depicted below or similar ones maintaining at least the aspect ratio.



Step 2

Open the source files that are associated with this tutorial and browse to the Photography directory. I shot these photos myself specifically for this tutorial. Sometimes it is easier to go out and shoot the photography yourself than it is to search a stock site for the images that you need. In addition, shooting the images yourself can also save you time that might also be spent correcting incorrect lighting from photos taken from several sources. Drag City #1 onto your canvas and resize to fit.


Before pressing Enter, right-click and select Flip Horizontal, so we will have the light coming from the right instead of coming from the left.


Move the image to the top-left area, more or less until the left streetlight disappears out of the canvas. Press Enter and name this layer "city left".



Step 3

Drag the City #2 stock image to the canvas, and resize it to fit horizontally.


Again, right - click and select Flip Horizontal. Notice that the light focus of our composition is located in this layer.


Press the Shift key to keep the aspect ratio while you resize this layer. Its position should match the one depicted in the screenshot below. When you are done press Enter and name this layer "city right".



Step 4

Let's blend both layers. Click the icon of Add a New Layer Mask at the bottom of the Layers Palette, select the Brush Tool (B), 600 pixels Size, 0% Hardness, 50% Opacity and Flow, pick the black color, and start brushing over the left edge of the layer so it blends with the other part of the city. As you go further, decrease the brush size to avoid masking too much. Pay special attention to the borders of certain things, such as buildings or street lines. Don't worry if both perspectives don't match at all: we'll fix that in the next step.


Click on the layer thumbnail on the Layers Palette to select the layer and not the mask. Go to Edit > Transform > Warp to adapt the shape of this layer to the one shown in the "city left" one. Grab from the pointers and drag a bit to the directions shown below:


We are close to having both layers blended. Return to the mask and use a small, soft brush to refine some details. In the following screenshots, you can see how we are masking the left road area of this layer to make appear the direction arrow of "city left" and also how the facade of one of the buildings is restored:



To make fit all the street lines, go to Edit > Transform > Warp again and drag upwards a bit the bottom center square of the mesh until all lines are coherent. Notice that we are in a traffic circle and in a panoramic image, hence we cannot leave the lines straight and we have to adapt them to the circular direction the street is demanding.



Step 5

But we are not finished with our placement yet. Drag and drop the City #3 stock image to our canvas and resize it to look as follows:


Press Enter and name this layer "city floor". Use the Eraser Tool (E), 100% Opacity and Flow, 0% Hardness, to get rid of all the middle to top area: we are only interested in the road texture to fill the canvas.


Click on the icon of Add a New Layer Mask at the bottom of the Layers Palette, pick the Brush Tool (B), select the black color, 0% Hardness, and subtly erase on the top areas of this layer until the street lines start to appear.


Just as we did before, go to Edit > Transform > Warp to adapt this layer to the rest of our scene. Since we want it to be a bit rounded, drag from the middle of the mesh downward and a bit to the right, and do the same with the right pointer of the box:


Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (or press Command/Ctrl + U) and play with the bar until the color of this layer is more fitting. You will have to increase Saturation and decrease Lightness.


Use the Burn Tool (O) to darken a bit the Midtones lighting Range at the top of the layer to blend a bit more the borders with everything else.


Go to Image > Adjustments > Color Balance (Command/Ctrl + B) to finally adapt this layer. Use the settings below only in Midtones Balance:


It might happen that, while masking this layer, the borders of the layers below might have appeared. If that's the case, go to the layer in question and use the Clone Stamp Tool (S), with small Size and 0% Hardness. Press Alt + click to select a reference point that you will clone from while using the tool. Release Alt and paint over the border until it is not noticeable anymore. Our background is done!



Step 6

Let's start adding our main characters. Put in our file the Snail #1 stock image, resize it to fill all the canvas space. Name this layer "snail".


We have to cut out the snail from its background. We are going to do that using the Pen Tool (P) to create an accurate selection we would be unable to do with other tools. So, first, create a New Layer Mask, pick the Pen Tool and adjust the settings of it as shown in the screenshot below. If you are new to this (very useful) tool, the way of using it requires some practice but it's very intuitive. You will have to click to create the first anchor point over any part of the snail's edges. Then, click and hold in a near edge area, and move your mouse. You will see that the path will take one or another shape depending on how you are moving it. Adapt it to the contour and repeat the process until you have your snail cut out.


When you reach the bottom, there is no need to cut the moss out, just keep on creating the path surrounding the real shape of the snail.


There are certain areas that will be difficult to cut out, like the antennas. Zoom in (Alt + mouse's wheel) as much as you like to be more accurate. Don't stress much with this because most likely you will have to do a second cut later. Pay special attention to the irregular shape of them.


When you reach the first anchor point you created, click on it (you will see a small circle near to your cursor, that will state that you have finished your path). The path will close itself. Now, right - click and select Make Selection. In its dialog window, press OK. When the selection is done, press Command/Ctrl + Shift + I (or go to Select > Inverse) and in the Layer Mask, use the Paint Bucket Tool (G), with black color picked, and fill this area. Deselect (Command/Ctrl + D or Select > Deselect) when you're done.


Hide all city layers to reveal the white background, and Zoom in. If there are any darker areas over the edges of the antennas or anywhere else, use the Pen Tool (P) again to select them. With the white background it will be easier to spot them.



Step 7

Command/Ctrl + click on the layer mask to load its selection. We are going to clone certain areas of the snail and we do not want to paint outside of it, right?


We want to get rid of the moss at the bottom. Select the Clone Stamp Tool (S), 50 pixels Size, 0% Hardness, 100% Opacity and Flow. Alt - click in a near area of the shell to select a reference point to clone from, and then paint over the green moss until it disappears.


Repeat the process over the left part of the snail bottom.



Step 8

We are going to place our snail the right way. For that, we are going to use the rule of thirds (more info here!). If you're not using Rulers, go to View > Rulers (Command/Ctrl + R). Use the Move Tool (V) and drag from the rulers to create guides over the document. You have to divide the canvas in nine equal squares, so divide our document proportions by three to create the grid. Right - click on the rulers and select Percentage. Now, just drag new guides at 33 and 66 both horizontally and vertically.


We want the head of our snail to be in the intersection of right and bottom guides. When you are done, press Command/Ctrl + , (comma) to hide the guides.



Step 9

This step is small, but very important if you usually work in high-resolution or for printing. If when you cut out or mask something, the edges get too sharp, it's better to blur them a bit so they get more integrated in our composition, specially if you're looking forward to create a realistic photomanipulation. So, select the Blur Tool (R), 50% Strength, tiny Size, and brush over the edges of the snail on the layer mask. See the difference in the screenshot. Blur only the borders.



Step 10

We are going to cut out the rider of our snail, but we are not going to drag it to the canvas (yet), instead, open it in a separate window. Why? Because if we drag it to our canvas, we will have to resize it to cut it out, and we want it big to do a more accurate selection. Also, when you resize down a cut out or masked image, tiny errors (like missed pixels) will disappear or go unnoticeable from the borders, so this, at the end, is a time saver. In the new file, double - click on the locker icon of the layer to unlock it, so we will be able to edit the image.


The ideal thing would be to be able to select the background just using the Magic Wand Tool (W)... but that won't be the case, because we will end up selecting areas of her outfit. Anyway, we can select a part of the background with around 45 pixels of Tolerance. Click on the upper left area of the layer to select it.


Invert the selection (Command/Ctrl + Shift + I) and click on the Refine Edge button or go to Select > Refine Edge (or, well, press Command/Ctrl + Shift + R). In View, select On Layers and increase the Radius just 0,2 pixels and click on the brush icon. Now paint over the edges of the hair area. Every time you paint over, it adds the values of the selection again, so be careful and don't over paint it, because you might end up with no hair at all!


Click OK. Invert Selection again (Command/Ctrl + Shift + I). Now press Delete.


Press Command/Ctrl + D to Deselect and use again the Magic Wand Tool (W), but decrease the Radius to 39. Click and select the background area near the hair at the right. Then Invert Selection (Command/Ctrl + Shift + I).


Go again to the Refine Edge window and repeat the process we did with the rest of the hair.


Invert Selection (Command/Ctrl + Shift + I) and use the Eraser Tool (E), 0% Hardness and 100% Opacity and Flow to delete the background area behind the hair and shoulder. Then, Deselect (Command/Ctrl + D or Select > Deselect).



Step 11

Now it's time to use the Pen Tool (P) the same way we have been using it in previous steps to cut out the rest of the woman (take a look at Step 6 if you need to refresh your memory).


Do not select the place where she's sat.


When we reach the bottom area to select the boot, we will see that it's too dark in there, so we cannot see what's the real shape we have to create a path over. The solution is to create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer by clicking on the black and white icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette or by going to Image > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation. Input a value of +40 on the Lightness bar. But, wait, it seems the layer only works on the area in which we have created the path.


Fear not. Go to the snail document and create the same Adjustment Layer...


... and drag it to the model stock photo canvas. Erase the previous Hue/Saturation Layer. Now it affects the entire space. Now, you know that you shouldn't do any adjustments while doing a path!


With this new adjustment, you will be able to see the real shape of the boot, so keep on creating your path.


Close the path and rememeber to select the background in its full. Right - click, pick Make Selection and press Delete.


So, we have our model cut out. It's time to return to our photo manipulation. Don't forget to Deselect (Command/Ctrl + D).



Step 12

Drag the layer to our main file and release it in there above the "snail" layer. Close the stock photo file. Name this layer "rider".


Press Command/Ctrl + , (comma) to reveal the guides we did for the rule of thirds. We want our rider to stay within the first vertical guide. Press Command/Ctrl + T for Free Transform and resize the layer, keeping in mind to press the Shift key to keep the aspect ratio.


As we did with the snail, use the Blur Tool (R) with 50% Strength to blur a bit the borders of the layer, so they get integrated in a better way.



Step 13

To get it real, we need the right leg of our model to be behind the snail. So use the Pen Tool (P) to make a selection and cut it out.


With your path closed, right - click, Make Selection, Command/Ctrl + X to cut it out and then Command/Ctrl + V to paste the leg in a new layer. Name it just "leg".


Zoom In (Alt + mouse wheel) and use the Move Tool (V) to place the leg in the right place. If you have trouble with this, try going to View > Snap and turning this option off or just pressing Command/Ctrl + Shift + ;.


Go to Edit > Transform > Warp or press Command/Ctrl + T, right - click and select Warp from there.


Imagine that the foot of the model that's behind the shell, is closer to the floor than the one we can actually see. Warp the layer with that in mind. Basically, drag a bit from the top-left square, the top middle one and the middle right in the directions depicted below. Don't worry if parts of the leg get over the snail, just keep in mind to avoid ending up with something that looks like anything but a leg.


Press Enter when you are done. Due to this transformation, certain areas of the leg might be a bit blurred. Use the Sharp Tool (R) to brush over the edges of the layer. Remember that these shouldn't be so sharp, just adequate them to the rest of borders in the layer that we blurred before.



Step 14

The perspective of the "rider" layer doesn't seem to be completely similiar to the overall one that is present in our image. So press Command/Ctrl + T, right - click and select Distort. Then move, but just a bit, to the left, the top middle pointer, and then, do the same downward.


Now go to "leg", drag it under the "snail" layer and place it again in the right place with the Move Tool (V).



Step 15

Drag the Saddle #1 stock pic to the canvas, right - click and select Flip Horizontal. Press Enter and name this layer "saddle".


Use the Magic Wand (W) to select the brighter areas of the image background and press Delete. As it happened with the model pic, we will have to refine this layer with the Pen Tool (P).


I guess you know what we have to do now: Create a path with the Pen Tool (P), transform it into a selection and then, delete. Refer yourself, again, to Step 6 if you have any doubts about this.



Step 16

Drag this layer under "rider". Press Command/Ctrl + T to Free Transform the saddle. Press also the Shift key to keep the aspect ratio and decrease its size.


Right - click and select Warp. This one is a little tricky, so be careful. It's better to warp a little, then press Enter, and start again, than trying to get everything just in one try and then mess it up. Follow the directions depicted below. If any arrow is not pointing to a corner square, you have to move the square of the grid to the stated direction by the arrow.



Step 17

Drag the Saddle #2 stock image to the canvas and resize. Name this layer "saddle 2".


As explained in previous steps, use the Pen Tool (P), to make a path over the saddle on the horse.


Right - click, Make Selection, Invert it (Command/Ctrl + Shift + I) and press Delete.


Use the same method to select and delete inner areas of the saddle, as shown below:


Go to Image > Transform > Flip Horizontal.



Step 18

We are going to divide this layer in different ones, so we can adapt the parts better to the shape of the shell. First of all, use the Pen Tool (P) again to select the spur:


When you have the selection done, press Command/Ctrl +C and Command/Ctrl + V to copy and paste in a new layer that you can name "foot", for example. Command/Ctrl +T for Free Transform, right - click, select Distort and move the top square of the box a bit to the right. Press Enter and Add a New Layer Mask. Now, Command/Ctrl - click "rider" to select it and go to the mask of "foot" and use the Brush Tool (B), 100% Opacity, Flow and Hardness, to delete the areas over the boot except the metal spur.


Command/Ctrl - click "saddle" layer and return to "foot" mask and brush over the top area so it looks like it is under the saddle. When you are done, Deselect (Command/Ctrl + D).


Use the Smugde Tool (R), with less than 50% Strength, to paint over the borders of the handle and get rid of the eventual light borders that might have appeared while cutting it out. You can see a difference in the following screenshot:



Step 19

Place "saddle 2" under "saddle" both in layers order and in the composition:


Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to make a selection of the spur area we used before. Press Delete and don't forget to Deselect (Command/Ctrl + D).


Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) again to select the left area of this layer. Cut it (Command/Ctrl + X) and Paste it (Command/Ctrl + V) in a new layer. Name it "saddle 3".


Before continuing with this layer, use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) again and select the fringes. Cut them (Command/Ctrl + X) and Paste them (Command/Ctrl + V) in a new layer. Name it "ropes". Use the Move Tool (V) to move it to the right near the boot.


Return to "saddle 2" layer, Command/Ctrl + T to Free Transform, right - click and select Flip Horizontal.


Right - click again and select Warp. Drag inside top and bottom right pointers and move upwards the left control point of the top right corner.



Step 20

Drag the Collar stock image to the canvas. Name this layer "collar".


Use the Pen Tool (P) once again to select the item and extract it from its background (the end result will be better than with the Magic Wand)..


Don't forget to select and delete also the inner background areas.


Press Command/Ctrl + T for Free Transform, rotate the layer a bit to the right, right - click and select Distort. Move the top right pointer more to the right and the top left one upwards and also just a tiny bit to the right.


Create a new Layer Mask for this layer, and Command/Ctrl - click on the mask of "snail" to load its selection. Use the Brush Tool (B) with black color selected to mask to top area of the collar, so it looks that it's behind the antenna.



Step 21

Duplicate this layer by pressing Command/Ctrl + J or by going to Layer > Duplicate Layer. Command/Ctrl + T for Free Transform and rotate it to the left so the collar gets perpendicular to the antenna. Then, right - click and Flip Vertical (so both collars won't look exactly the same).


Right - click and select Distort. Move the bottom left pointer inside the transform box. Press Enter, go to Distort again and drag the top left corner a bit to the sine as well.


Command/Ctrl - click to select the mask in "snail". Again, use the Brush Tool (B) with black color picked, to mask the bottom spots of the collar.



Step 22

Drag the Belt stock image to the canvas and name its layer "belt".


As always, we will be using the Pen Tool (P) method to extract the item from the layer. Just remember to close the path, Make Selection, Invert it (Command/Ctrl + Shift + I) and press Delete, Deselecting right away (Command/Ctrl + D).


Do not forget the inner area of the ring.


Now, we have to adapt this layer to the shape of the snail. The perspective of the belt is completely wrong according to everything else, so we have to be careful while transforming it, or we will "destroy" the layer. Press Command/Ctrl + T (Free Transform), right - click and Flip Vertical.


Right - click again, select Distort. Drag downward and to the left and move upwards the box perspective by dragging the middle left pointer. Press Enter and Distort again (we do this because sometimes it's not possible to keep on distorting without messing everything up) and repeat the process. Make sure both extremes meet the collars.


Now, right - click and select Warp. This time we have to play with the mesh instead of doing so with the pointers. Basically, drag the middle squares downward and drag upwards the bottom ones.


At the end it should look like this. Use your intuition to make it more fitting if you don't get the expected result. We will leave this layer as it is by now and return to it later, when refining the whole image.



Step 23

Now that we have the first part of the belt that attaches the collars to the saddle, it's due time to do the last junction. Go to layer "saddle 3" and use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to select the belt. Cut (Command/Ctrl + X), Paste (Command/Ctrl + V) and name the new layer "belt2".


Use the Move Tool (V) to fit the belt with the rest of the saddle, press Command/Ctrl + T to Free Transform and rotate just a bit to the left. Right - click, select Warp and drag the right bottom corner to the right until it reaches the other side of the belt. Also, push down a bit the middle squares of the mesh.


Press Enter and then Command/Ctrl + J to duplicate the layer. Drag it under the "snail" one and place it like the ring is attached to the left collar. Use the Eraser Tool (E) to erase everything else.



Step 24

If you are using the feature of Resize Image During Place, which adapts every image you drag to the canvas to its size, be sure it is unchecked to work on this step. You can do so by going to Edit > Preferences > General. We will be doing this to prevent the next image to import to get smaller. We need it at real size.


Drag the Ropes image to the canvas and press Enter.


Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical.


Select the white rectangle with the Marquee Tool (M) and press Delete. Switch to Magic Wand Tool (W), 55 pixels of Tolerance, and press Delete.


Name this layer "rein 1". Use the Move Tool (V) to move downward or upwards to find new parts of the background. Delete them by selecting with the Magic Wand (W) again.


Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (Command/Ctrl + U) and use the following settings:


Rotate the layer (Command/Ctrl + T for Free Transform) so it fits the left hand and the left collar of the snail. Use the Eraser Tool (E), 100% Hardness, to delete the areas over these items.


Go to Edit > Transform > Warp and move the mesh this way to give a natural shape to the rope.



Step 25

Zoom In (Z) and take a look at the slightly green spots. Use the Eraser Tool (E) with very small Size and 100% Hardness to delete them all. There are less than you may think!


Duplicate the layer by pressing Command/Ctrl + J. Use the Move Tool (V) to move it a few pixels upwards. Repeat this until you have 3 copies of the original layer. If you have placement problems, deactivate the Snap option if you are using it (View > Snap).


Select "rein1" layer and press Command/Ctrl + U to go to Hue/Saturation window. Decrease the Lightness:


Now go to "rein1 copy 3" and increase the Lightness. This way we are giving some volume to our rein. Now merge the four rein layers by selecting them all holding Command/Ctrl key, right - clicking and selecting Merge Layers. Name this layer "rein1", again.



Step 26

Duplicate "rein1" by pressing Command/Ctrl + J. Name it "rein2".


Go to Edit > Transform > Warp to give a slight different shape to this second rein. Play as you want keeping the original directions. We just want both reins to do not look exactly the same.


Command/Ctrl - click the mask in "snail" and use the Eraser Tool (E) to delete the part of the rein that is above the snail, but not the one that's above the shell or the antenna. Don't forget to Deselect when you are done (Command/Ctrl + D).


Erase these parts so the rein looks like it's attached to the collar.


Erase also the part on top of the fingers.



Step 27

Go to "rein1", use the Marquee Tool (M) to make a selection of basically any area of the rope. Press Command/Ctrl + C and Command/Ctrl + V to copy and paste. Name the new layer as "rein3".


Drag it to the antennas area. Free Transform it (Command/Ctrl + T) and rotate it until one of its extremes gets in contact with the extreme of "rein2".


Switch to Warp mode and bring down the right area of the rope.


Now, use the Marquee Tool (M) and select the right area of the layer, and copy and paste (Command/Ctrl +C / Command/Ctrl + V) it in a new one, which you will presumably name "rein4".


Return to "rein3". We have done this because we are going to delete the area that goes above the collar, the antenna, and beyond, leaving only a part that will look like it's behind these items. Use the Eraser Tool (E), 100% Hardness, for this matter.


Switch the Hardness to 0% as well as Opacity that should go for a 20% or so. Do multiple clicks over the area in which both ropes get in touch to blend them.


Now in "rein4" layer, go to Edit > Transform > Warp, and try to give it a natural shape. Guide yourself by taking a look at the screenshot:


Use the Eraser Tool (E) again, increase Hardness and Opacity to 100% and delete these areas.


Now we have the basic shape of our reins and they look like they're braided in between the collars.



Step 28

We are almost done with the reins, but we still need another piece between the hands. So copy and paste (Command/Ctrl + C / Command/Ctrl + V) from "rein1" layer again. Name the new one "rein5".


Place it slightly under the hands, and use the Marquee Tool (M) to select the borders and delete the excess of rope by pressing Delete.


Go to Edit > Transform > Warp and make the rope look like it is between the hands, but in a loosing look.


Delete the excess of rope above the fingers with the Eraser Tool (E). We are done with the reins... but only by now!



Step 29

Time to refine the junction of the belts. First of all, go to "belt 2" layer, use the Marquee Tool (M) to select the left area, press Command/Ctrl + T to Free Transform it and drag from the middle pointer of the left side and stretch the box to the right, to make smaller this area of the layer.


Use the Pen Tool (P) to refine the edges of the ring and erase those disturbing dark pixels. Close path, right - click and Make Selection, then press Delete as usual in the inner circle, Deselect (Command/Ctrl + D) and repeat in the outer one.


Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to select this area of the strap:


Then go to Edit > Transform > Warp and adapt it to the shape of the antenna, so it looks more natural.


Do basically the same with the other strap:


Now, select the beginning of the belt, the left strap, and repeat the process. Adapt it so it has the same size as the rest of the belt.



Step 30

At last we have composed our main character in this tutorial, but we are just placing the elements in their right side - the real fun is yet to come. Now we will add some life to our background. Grab the City #4 stock image to the canvas and name it "traffic island".


Place it above all layers and isolate the traffic island on the photo. Use the Pen Tool to cut it out from the middle of it until the right corner. Select also the pole but not the top of the streetlights.


When you have this layer cut out, go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal. For order's sake, place it above all city layers, and then move it to the center - left area of the canvas. Place it like the street lines are coming from the left corner of the traffic island.


Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to select the pole, press Command/Ctrl + T, right - click and select Perspective, and move the top - middle pointer to the left to correct the pole's perspective.


Cut and paste it in a new layer, by now (Command/Ctrl + X / Command/Ctrl + V). Don't even name it, it's just provisional. Hide this layer.


Return to "traffic island", go to Edit > Transform > Warp and adapt it to the ground. Rise a bit from the bottom - middle area making visible the street lines that are below.


Make the pole layer visible again and press Command/Ctrl + E to merge it with "traffic island" layer.



Step 31

Add the Signal stock photo to our file. Place it above the "traffic island" layer and name it "forbidden".


Go to Edit > Transform > Distort and stretch the top left corner. But just a little, to correct the original perspective of the photo.


Use the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M), click somewhere over the center of the signal, press Alt + Shift and move your mouse to create a perfect circle. When it is more or less similar to the signal, release your mouse, and go to Select > Transform Selection and use this box to adapt our selection completely to the shape of the signal, press Enter when you're done, Command/Ctrl + Shit + I to Invert Selection and press Delete.


Free Transform (Command/Ctrl +T), hold Shift key and decrease the size of the layer and place it above the pole.


Now we are going to use the Clone Stamp Tool (S), with a small size and 0% Hardness, to substitute the "13" with the background texture of the signal. We could use the Brush Tool (B) with the same color, but at the end it wouldn't look that accurate. Press Alt + click to select a reference point from where we will clone, and carefully, paint about the "13" until it disappears. You will have to change your reference point many times, to avoid cloning any red or black areas.


Press Command/Ctrl + U to go to the Hue/Saturation window and decrease the Lightness of the layer, remember that the light is coming from behind.



Step 32

Press Command/Ctrl + Shift + N to create a New Layer above "traffic island" and name it "car sign". Select the Custom Shape Tool (U). In the top menu, click on the shape arrow and in the emerging menu choose All and pick the car shape.


Place your mouse pointer more or less at the center of the forbidden signal, and press Alt + Shift + click and move your mouse to create the car.


Then, Shift + right - click, select Fill Path (make sure your Foreground Color is black) and press Enter. Now, decrease the Opacity of this layer to 70%.


Add a New Layer (Command/Ctrl + Shift + N). No need to name it since we will merge it with "car sign" later. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to create a rectangle that will be over the car sign. Use the Color Picker (I) and click on the red color of the signal, and then use the Paint Bucket Tool (G) to fill the selection. Press Command/Ctrl + D to Deselect. Now, press Command/Ctrl + E to merge it with our previous layer and take the Blur Tool (R) to blur the borders of both items.



Step 33

Drag the Snail #2 stock pic to the canvas. Name it "snail 2" and place the layer above "rider" one. Use the Magic Wand Tool, 50 pixels of Tolerance, and select both white and grey areas of the background, then press Delete. Deselect (Command/Ctrl + D) when you're done with this.


Press Command/Ctrl + T for Free Transform, hold Shift key and decrease the size of the snail until it fits properly on the left shoulder of our rider. Don't forget to blur the borders of this layer as we did with everything else, using the Blur Tool (R).



Step 34

Basically, we will be adding a total of six cars, of which five of them will have the same working method. Drag Car #2 stock pic to the canvas, right - click and Flip Horizontal, name the layer "car 2", use the Magic Wand Tool (W), select the white background and subtract wrong selected areas with the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) in Subtract from Selection mode and press Delete.


Use the Magic Wand Tool (W), 50 pixels of Tolerance, and click on the white background. No matter the Tolerance we are using: selecting the background will also take some parts of our car, but fear not: Now select the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) and click the Subtract from Selection icon from the Options Menu, and select the areas inside the car that have been selected. Switch again to Magic Wand, hold Shift, and click inside the windows to select them all as well. Press Delete and Deselect (Command/Ctrl + D). Don't worry if this selection is not very accurate: we will blur the car later.


Press Command/Ctrl + T for Free Transform, hold Shift to keep the aspect ratio and decrease a bit the size of the car, leaving its right area not visible behind the snail. Then, right - click, select Perspective, drag the right - center pointer downward and the bottom - left one, upwards, to make the car follow the street lines in terms of perspective.


Now, go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Use -6º Angle and about 170 pixels of distance to add some movement to our car. We will be doing this with all the cars to emphasize the slow motion of the snail.


Press Command/Ctrl + U to go to Hue/Saturation and decrease the Lightness, since the side we can see of the car is at backlight.



Step 34

Basically, we will be adding a total of six cars, of which five of them will have the same working method. Drag Car #2 stock pic to the canvas, right - click and Flip Horizontal, name the layer "car 2", use the Magic Wand Tool (W), select the white background and substract wrong selected areas with the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) in Substract from Selection mode and press Delete.


Decrease the car's size by using Free Transform (Command/Ctrl + T), place it like it's doing the traffic circle, right -click, choose Perspective and drag upwards a bit the bottom left corner.


Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Change the Angle to 10º and decrease Distance pixels to 60. Why? As further as an object gets, less blur it should have, because it needs more time to cross the frame. Keep in mind we are doing all of this to mirror what would happen if this pic would have been shot with a camera at high shutter speed. So, for example, "car 1" would need maybe one second to go side to side of the frame because it's in second plane, but "car 2" would need two seconds since it's in the background, so it wouldn't get as distorted as the other car.



Step 35

Drag Car #3 to the canvas, name it "car 3" and use the Magic Wand (W) to select the white background, then Delete it.


Drag this layer behind "traffic island". Resize it with Free Transform (Command/Ctrl + T), place it behind the pole, and go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Decrease Distance to 25.


Decrease Lightness and Saturation by going to Hue/Saturation (Command/Ctrl + U), so the car doesn't grab much attention.



Step 36

As usual, drag Car #4 stock pic, name this layer "car 4" and delete the white background by selecting it with the Magic Wand (W). This one should be above "traffic island".


Press Command/Ctrl + T (Free Transform, isn't it?), resize, right - click and select Perspective. Drag upwards the bottom left corner. Press Enter and repeat the process, this time also dragging down a bit the top left corner of the transform box.


Guess what? Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Change the Angle to 5º and the Distance to 112 pixels.


Press Command/Ctrl + U for Hue/Saturation options and decrease Lightness. Again, this car is backlit.



Step 37

Place Car #5 stock pick on our canvas, right - click, Flip Horizontal, and use the Magic Wand (W), this time with 30 pixels of Tolerance, select the white background and press Delete. You can place this layer above the rest of them. Name it "car 5".


Press Command/Ctrl + T, right - click and select Distort. Drag upwards the bottom left corner.


This car is not going to be blurred, it wouldn't make much sense if it's behind our snail, isn't it? It seems it's going to be static and hoping for the snail to rise its speed... Take the Blur Tool (R) and blur the borders.


Switch to Burn Tool with 10% of Exposure, and burn both Midtones and Highlights of the wheel.


Press Command/Ctrl + U for Hue/Saturation options and decrease the lighting.



Step 38

Drag the last car image, Car #6, to the canvas. Place it above all layers and name it "car 6", select the background with the Magic Wand (W) and delete it.


Place the car in the bottom right corner. Go to Edit > Transform > Perpective and drag down the left middle pointer.


Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and use these settings:


Press Command/Ctrl + U for Hue/Saturation options and decrease Lightness as well as Saturation to decrease the visual attention of this item:



Step 39

At last, we have finished our composition, so we have all of our elements placed in the right way. But that won't be all, of course. From now on, we are going to work in lighting specifics, shadows and colors to give a top-notch finish to our piece. Now, create a new layer by pressing Command/Ctrl + Shift + N and place it above all of the rest of them, and name it "light". Use the Paint Bucket Tool (G), which black color picked, to fill this layer.


Switch to Gradient Tool and select Radial Gradient in the Options Menu. Change your Foreground color to white and click and hold your mouse near the top right corner of the canvas, where the light is coming, between the buildings. It might help you reducing the Opacity of this layer to see the source properly. Drag your mouse from that point to the bottom left corner:


Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light, and the Opacity to 46%.


Now, use the Brush Tool (B), 0% Hardness, to paint with black color the areas shown in the screenshot below, to raise the dark parts of them, because they are at back light.



Step 40

We are going to add some layers using digital painting techniques, so I encourage the use of a Pen Tablet here. It's completely doable with a mouse, just more difficult. Create a New Layer by pressing Command/Ctrl + Shift + N above the "snail" one, and name it "snail shadows". Pick the Brush Tool (B), change Opacity and Flow to 30% and use always a 0% Hardness brush. Use a black color for this. Command/Ctrl - click the mask of "snail" layer to select it to avoid leaving painting outside of it. We are going to paint its shadows to give it the appropriate volume according to the light source. First of all, paint the bottom of the shell.


Use a 30 pixels Size brush, more or less, and paint the casted shadows of the saddles. There is no need to do them perfectly by now, just sort of sketch them with a soft brush. The shadows should go downward and a tiny bit to the left.


Now we will add volume to the stretch marks of the snail. Use a smaller brush for this, but always keep the 0% Hardness value. First, paint over the stretch marks, then increase the brush Size and decrease Opacity, and paint a bit to the right side of every stretch mark to add volume.


Add a 5 pixels Gaussian Blur by going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. This way we will homogenize the shadows.



Step 41

Go to "snail" layer, and take the Burn Tool in Highlights Mode, about 30 pixels Size, and as usual, 0% Hardness. Use a safe Exposure of 20%. Use this to darken the foot of the snail and avoid the white borders to remain creating a contrast with the floor.


Now switch to Midtones Range. Paint the casted shadows of the reins and the belts, and also raise the darks in the middle of the antennas.


Be sure you darken enough the already darker area of the snail coming from the shell.


And also paint the casted shadows of the different elements under the saddle. Remember they go downward and a bit to the left.


Now in Highlights Range paint again the casted shadow of the belt to make it more consistent.


Increase your brush Size and give a pair of strokes in the area shown below, to decrease a bit the maximum lights.



Step 42

Select the Brush Tool (B) and go to the Brush Panel Options (F5). Select Brush Tip Shape and change the Roundness to 48%. Set Hardness to 0% and a Size of 800 pixels.


Create a New Layer (Command/Ctrl + Shift + N) under "snail" and name it "casted shadows". Use our custom brush (15% Opacity, 30% Flow) to paint the casted shadow of the snail. Select black color. Since our light isn't hard, the casted shadows will be just blurred dark areas under our items, so subtly brush under the snail and downward. Just darken a bit the floor.


Command/Ctrl - click the mask of "snail" and return to the layer "snail shadow". Use our custom brush to paint the bottom areas of the snail.


Decrease the brush Size to paint over certain details, like the bottom of the shell and the area where the snail and the shell meets.


Also paint over the right and small antenna and with a tiny size on the already casted shadows of the belts and collars.


Can you spot the difference?



Step 43

Duplicate "rein1" layer, press Command/Ctrl + U and set Lightness to -100 to fill it with black color. Name this layer "rein shadow".


Place this layer under all rein layers and use the Move Tool (V) to move it a little downward.


Go to Edit > Transform > Warp and drag the upper left corner more to the left, so the shadow goes further as it gets to the shell.


Zoom In, and select the piece of shadow above the relief of the end of the shell. Select it with the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L), then Press Command/Ctrl + T, right - click and choose Warp: you have to move this area of the shadow to it follow the volumes of the shell:


Add a New layer Mask and use a brush with low Opacity and start brushing over the shadow, keeping more opacity as the shadow gets closer to the end of the rein to the right.


Now go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur ans use an amount of pixels of 3,1.


Finish this by deleting with the Eraser Tool (E) the top left area of the layer.



Step 44

Select the Brush Tool (B), press F5 to display Brush Options Panels and rotate the angle to -30º.


Create a New Layer (Command/Ctrl + Shift + N) under "belt" and name it "belt shadow". Use the new custom brush to paint over the casted shadow we did to make it a bit stronger. At the end its opacity should match the opacity of the shadow of the rein.



Step 45

Create a New Layer above "saddle" (Command/Ctrl + Shift + N), name it "saddle shadow" and Command/Ctrl - click "saddle" to load its selection. Now, we will paint the shadows and hence the volume of this item. From the middle to the bottom it should get all darkened since it is at backlight. Use multiple strokes with soft, big brushes and then switch to smaller ones to paint the details or the borders and sewers of the leather. Paint also the casted shadow (to the left) of the woman's leg and also on the mountry.


Now use the Dodge Tool (O), Midtones Range, 10-15% Exposure, 0% Hardness, and go to "saddle" layer and paint on the two zones were the light is hitting, but just a little.



Step 46

Select "saddle3" layer. Pick the Smudge Tool (R), less than 50% of Strength, and Zoom In quite a lot. I guess you noticed it earlier, but the quality of this stock photo is very low, and it is so pixelated. Plus, after several transformations now it looks terrible. So what we are going to do, is to smudge all of its area to blend the pixels again. Use a soft, small brush and brush over until colors start to get back to normal and there is no pixelation at all, but be careful to do not drag any pixels outside of the original layer shape (you can Command/Ctrl - click this layer to avoid that, if you want).


If the borders of the layer got blurred, use the Sharpen Tool (50% Strength) to pop them out.


Use the Burn Tool (O), Midtones Range, to darken the hanging ropes of the saddle.


Double - click this layer to display Layer Style options panel. Pick Drop Shadow and use the following settings.


A sub item for the Drop Shadow will appear under the layer, right - click on it and select Create Layer: This way we can freely edit its content. Erase (soft brush, always) the top area of the casted shadow with the Eraser Tool (E), then switch to black color with the Brush Tool (B), paint carefully and expand the shadow a bit to the right in the corner between the low parts of the saddle, then paint the casted shadows of the hanging ropes and at last, increase the brush size, decrease Opacity and darken a bit the area of the shell near to it.


Return to "saddle3", and use the Burn Tool (O) in Midtones Range and about 20% of Exposure, and darken the borders and sewers.



Step 47

Select "saddle2" layer, and use the Smudge Tool (R) again to refine the pixel distortion as we did with "saddle3". Remember to be careful and don't smudge outside of the layer shape.


Double - click the layer to open the Layer Styles window, select Drop Shadow and use these settings.



Step 48

Go to "ropes" layer. Use the Burn Tool (O) in Midtones Range and darken them. As you go upwards, switch to Shadows Range and darken the part right under the saddle.


Double - click for Layer Styles and use these settings in Drop Shadow:



Step 49

Go to "foot" layer, and repeat the smudging process as we did with "saddle2" and "saddle3" layers. Command/Ctrl - click the layer to load its selection and so, avoiding to drag pixels outside the original layer's shape.


Switch to Burn Tool (O), Midtones Range. Darken the top part of the area right under the saddle, then use a smaller brush to darken the sewers. Now, darken the left areas of the spur changing the Range to Shadows.



Step 50

Go to "collar" layer. Use the Burn Tool (O) in Midtones Range to darken the layer overall. Then use a small brush size to paint over the borders of the fabric coming from the claps, as shown below. Repeat the process with "collar2". Remember always to use a 0% Hardness brush.



Step 51

Go to "belt" layer. We are going to do basically the same as we have been doing with the rest of layer, so grab the Burn Tool (O) and darken the stripes. pay special attention to the borders at the right areas: they should be a bit darker than the rest to emphasize the volume of the strips.


Double - click to show Layer Styles window and add a Drop Shadow with these settings.


Finish it by Command/Ctrl - clicking the layer to load its selection and use the Smudge Tool (R), with a tiny size to blend the pixels of the ring.



Step 52

Go to "belt2" layer and use the Smudge Tool (R) to avoid the pixelation.


Grab the Burn Tool (O), Midtones Range, and darken, with a tiny brush, both sewers.


Increase the brush size and start darkening the beginning of the layer (left side). Decrease Exposure as you go further to the right. Left area should be darker.


To give some volume to this strip, we will darken right above the bottom sewer, leaving the original light - midtones of the top area between both of them.


At the end, it should look like this:



Step 53

Select "rein1" layer and use the Burn Tool (O) to darken the left part that meets the collar.


Repeat the process in "rein2" layer.


And also in "rein4".


Add a New Layer (Command/Ctrl + Shift + N) behind all rein layers and name it "rein shadows". Use a very, very tiny soft brush, black color selected, to paint a casted shadow on the collar stripes. Brush Opacity should be no more than 20% here. Paint the shadows over the area painted in red on the screenshot:



Step 54

Time to work the lighting of the "snail 2" layer. First, use the Burn Tool (O) in Midtones Range to darken the middle and bottom areas.


Switch to Dodge Tool (O) and paint over the shell borders to add some extra volume to the little snail.


Then, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels (Command/Ctrl + L) and use these settings to add some more dark values to the layer:



Step 55

It's time to refine our rider. First of all, we are going to get rid of the light borders in her bottom. Use the Burn Tool (O), Highlights Range Mode, and use a small brush size to paint over the border until it color matchs the color of the skin. You might need to switch to Midtones Range to make it more fitting.


We don't want either the piercing in her navel, so select the Clone Stamp Tool (S), 100% Opacity, 0% Hardness. Alt - click in a near area above it to take a reference point, and then paint over the top earring. To clone over the second, take the reference point a bit under its placement.


Also, we are going to use this tool to clone over the chin, the right cheek and the sternum. Use close and multiple reference points to avoid having different tonal spots where it shouldn't.


The skin of her left knee looks a bit strange, so we are going to clone that, too. Use a bigger brush to clone over, but this time decrease the Opacity to around 25%, and use multiple strokes. You don't have to cover at 100% the skin, just to make it subtler.


Let's switch again to the Burn Tool (O) and Highlights Range mode. Use a big soft brush and paint over the left areas of the model where the lighting should be lesser. When I say "left areas", I mean the left parts of every element. For example: left part of leg, left part of waist, and so on.


Also, darken a bit the collar of the jacket and the fingers of both hands, that should be a bit more backlit.


Change Burn for Dodge (O). We want to make the glasses and the cap to pop up a bit more. First, use a big soft brush in Shadows range, then use a smaller size for Midtones, and at last, a very small size to rise up Highlights, located always at the right sides of every element.


Press Command/Ctrl + L to display the Levels window. Use the following setting to change slightly the overall lighting of this layer.



Step 56

We are almost done "burning" things. Now it's time for the cars. Go first to "car5" and use the Burn Tool (O) in Highlights Range to darken the entire layer but the very top area. Then switch to Midtones and to a smaller brush size to darken more some details of the car's volume. Then change to Dodge Tool (O), Midtones Range, and rise the lightings of the top part of it. If you need it, darken a bit more the Highlights of the rest of the car, remember it's backlit, and use Shadows for the bottom area. Use Exposures of no more than 15%.


In "car6" layer, burn the Highlights as well.


In "car4" burn Highlights of all of the layer and then switch to Dodge Tool (O) and paint over the top area of the car in Highlights Range.


In "car1" you have to darken everything in Highlights Range as usual.


Burn the Highlights of "car2" and then switch to Dodge Tool (O) in Midtones Range and rise the lighting of the back of the car.



Step 57

Return to "casted shadows" layer. Select the black color and the Brush Tool (B), 25% Opacity and Flow, 400 pixels Size and paint right under the cars. Give some strokes if necessary. Remember all casted shadows in this photo manipulation are diffuse ones, because there's no hard light in our location.


 



Step 58

If you did like me, and one (or more) spot/s of the background are not blended at all because you missed them out, it's time to fix them. In this example, just go to the mask in "city right" layer and use the Brush Tool (B) with white color select, and paint over the tree carefully until in shows the branches we masked by error.



Step 59

We are going to create a New Layer (Command/Ctrl + Shift + N) above all layers to paint some general light with the Brush Tool (B). Name this layer "light2". Select the black color, 25% Opacity and Flow, and about 500 pixels of Size, and paint over the backlit area of the nail and the surrounding area on the floor.


Switch to white, and paint above the light focus and the buildings near it, as well as the road coming from them. Paint also over the car on the right and the light gacing parts of the snail and the rider.


Change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Paint black the back of the snail, including the reins, belts, etc.


Darken the building to the left by painting over it, it shouldn't grab much attention.



Step 60

It's time to do the real thing: we have a snail without slime. After a hard research, no slime photos were found to work with, so we are going to create it from scratch by painting it. A pen tablet is highly encouraged here. Basically, we are going to start to painting roughly the midtones with big and diffuse strokes, and later on, we will be using smaller brushes to define details and so on. First of all, we are going to create a custom brush which we will do a rough sketch of our future slime. Select the Brush Tool (B), press F5, and use these settings:


When you are done, create a new layer (Command/Ctrl + Shift + N) above "city floor" and name it "slime". Paint under the snail with our custom brush creating a trail to the left:


Now go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur, and apply the filter using 0º and 90 pixels of distance:


Then, Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with an amount of 6,8 pixels.



Step 61

Press Command/Ctrl + Shift + N to create a new layer above "Snail" and call it "slime2". With the Brust Tool (B) still selected, right - click on the canvas and select a 80 pixels, 0% Hardness brush, and set your Opacity and Flow at very low values (so we can do things safer and paying more attention). Now, we have to paint smail lines defining the shapes that have been created after applying the blur filters in the layer "slime".


Don't be afraid to take closer looks, and Zoom In the canvas as much as you need, especially if you're using a mouse. Do smaller strokes by decreasing the brush Size (and maybe the Opacity) to define the shapes more accurately. Start doing lines also inside those shapes and fill them with some volume. We won't be using dark colors or blacks to add it, so as more strokes you give in an area and as white as it can get, that will be the highest value of lights. Also, start painting the trails that the slime would leave if coming from the snail, and follow the directions stated by the arrows in the screenshot.


Decrease Size but increase Opacity now, because we're going to rise the level of detail. Define where the slime is coming from (take a look at the arrows, again) and add strokes with more opacity to mark the highlights of every shape of slime. Try to place those usually on the right side as it is where the light is coming from, although the lighting in a mutant substance as slime is highly irregular. Also, give some strokes following the shapes of the stretch marks to set highlights, which should be there because slime is reflectant. You will see that there are some by default on the original snail, but we will add some more, anyway.



Step 62

Duplicate "slime2" layer.


Set its Opacity to 50%.


Add a New layer Mask and use a black brush to paint over the trailt on the left side, but do not erase it at all. Then, select both layers by Command/Ctrl - clicking them, right - click and choose Merge Layers.,



Step 63

The next step can be done with the Mixer Brush (B) or with the Smudge Tool (R), but I'll choose the second. Use a very, very tiny brush here (avoid a Size bigger than 5), Strength no more than 80% and, very important, check Finger Painting and pick white as your Foreground Color. Now, every time we will smudge over what we have already painted, it will add an extra touch of white as we start the stroke, but the color won't follow it, so we can keep on painting and refining the volume by smudging at the same time. Use this as if you were smudging normally.

This will ease the way to set highlights on the slime, but specially, to re-create the wet reflective highlights near most stretch marks of the snail. You might need to click multiple times in the same place to have enough color to smudge and create lines and such. It is very important that you follow the natural lines that you can discover on the snail's "skin". Those will be your best guides.



Step 64

Be patient and take your time for this. That it's shown in few screenshots doesn't mean it will take you less than half and hour, because it definitely won't (unless you are a digital painting experienced user, of course!). When you think you have done your best with the volume and lighting of the painting work, go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise, use an Uniform 82% amount. Why adding noise? This way, we will integrate a bit this layer with everything else, because the rest of resources are photos and all of them have different levels of noise, so this will help the slime to look more realistic inside the terminology we're using in this photo manipulation.


Obviously, we are not going to leave the noise as it is, because that wouldn't be so realistic, either. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and use a Radius of less than a pixel:


Now, the magic touch: double - click on the layer to display Layer Styles window, and check Drop Shadow, Outer Glow and Bevel and Emboss and use the following settings. This will homogenize your painting and will give a discrete touch of sticky and sort of disgusting liquid thing.


Get back to the Smudge Tool (R), but this time, use a 300 pixels Size brush, and smudge over the trail on the left to make it more diffuse and hence less visible.


Now, let's give some final touches to the slime. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask and use these settings:


Then, go to Filter > Stylize > Emboss and put it these values:


Great, we have finished our main work. Composition and lighting is all set, but still, we're saving the best for the end.



Step 65

Post - production is a very fun thing to do. It allows you to change the mood, refine details and enhance the atmosphere, lighting and colors of your piece, without radically changing it, since you can work in separate layers and adjustments ones. I encourage you to experiment with the values of each tip and also to experiment and find your own ways to enhance your image. First of all, click on the top layer and press Command/Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E to Stamp Visible Layers. This means that you will create a brand new layer containing all the information of your whole psd file, leaving the rest of layers intact. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and use an Radius of 50 pixels.


Set the Blending Mode to Screen and Opacity to 45%, and name this layer "blur screen". Lights will get enhanced with this, but shadows will tend to disappear a bit. But there is no problem. Press Command/Ctrl + J to duplicate this layer, and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light, so the dark areas will benefit from this, too. Name this layer "blur soft light".



Step 66

Click on the black and white rounded icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette, and an emerging menu will appear containing the different types of Adjustments Layers. You can also go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer and choose from there. We will be using Black and White. Select the preset Lighter and set the Blending Mode of this layer to Soft Light, and Opacity to 63%. This will enhance the black and white contrast between the colors and will add some more depth.



Step 67

Let's add some chromatic homogenization. Create a New Layer (Command/Ctrl + Shift + N), pick the color #ff3a00 and choose the paint Bucket Tool (G) to fill this layer with this solid color. Put the Blending Mode in Vivid Light, 8% Opacity, and name this layer just "vivid light".



Step 68

Press Command/Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E again to Stamp Visible Layers and call this one "shadows/highlights". Then go to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights. With this tool, we can fill dark areas with lights and bright areas with dark tones. Written, it doesn't sound appealing at all, but it will reveal certain areas and will apply the same light spectrum to the whole image, making it look more real according to how light affects things in reality. If you take a look at some professional photographs, you will notice that their lighting levels usually follow this method. Also, in this image, lighs are very soft so we are not interested in generating a high contrast photo manipulation. Use these settings, by the way:


Decrease Opacity to 80%.



Step 69

Again, Stamp Visible Layers (Command/Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E). Name this "grain". Be sure your Foreground and Background colors are black and white (press D key just to be sure) and go to Filter > Sketch > Reticulation and use these settings. We do this to add general grain to the whole image (will look better printed instead of noise) to enhance the texture and keep it closer to the look of a real photograph. This will only be noticeable at high - resolution or printed.


Switch the Blending Mode to Soft Light and Opacity to 55%.


And go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and use a Radius of 2,4 pixels. This way the grain won't be so aggressive.



Step 70

If your Foreground and Background colors are still black and white, keep them, if not, set them. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map. Set Blending Mode to Luminosity and Opacity to 55%.



Step 71

Let's make some color correction. My favorite tool is Selective Color, but you can try with Color Balance or Channel Mixer, although I think that you can customize in an easier and more intuitive way the colors with Selective Color. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Selective Color and use these values, but feel free to experiment with other color combos.


Decrease Opacity to 66%. As you can see, the color are all warmed up. We will fix that later.



Step 72

Last painting step, this time, to finish at last the lightings on the image. Return to "shadows/highlights" layer, choose the Dodge Tool (O), pick Midtones Range, and Exposure of 10% or less. Knowing where the light is coming from, paint accordingly. We want very subtle changes to find the highest lights in every item. Paint above the model on the right sides of arms, head and chest, leaving the left sides intact.


Switch to Burn Tool, Midtones Range as well, and take a look at areas that are a bit bad exposed, like the little snail or the saddle. Darken them up.


Use a very big brush size, with 0% Hardness, and do simple strokes on the right side of the image as well as the left one to darken buildings and cars by the sides.


Just to make your mind up, take a look to a before/after example:



Step 73

Stamp Visible Layers (Command/Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E), name this "lens blur" and Add a New Layer Mask. Press Command/Ctrl + I to Invert the colors. Yes, this looks weird, but we are doing this because we are going to erase certain areas of the image, and otherwise, we wouldn't be able to see what we are erasing. We will revert this later. Take the Brush Tool (B) and black color (0% Hardness), to create a sort of depth of field. If the snail and the rider are our main focus, they should remain intact, as well as the stopped car. As things get further from our main focus, in both directions, they should get blurrier. We will represent that by painting in the mask. Put an Opacity value similar to the area you want to erase (you have a kind of map below), click, and hold your mouse or tablet and keep on painting the entire area, trying not to release (this way we can avoid over painting an area and getting juction points with less opacity). Anyway, you're free to do that by multiple and smaller strokes, too.


Press Command/Ctrl + I to Invert the image colors again and get back to normality. Be sure you have selected the layer and not the layer mask, and go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. Very important, select as Source the Layer Mask. Now, the lens blur will apply itself more or less strong depending on how the image is masked. Use the following settings:


Unless you masked the layer perfectly, you might end up with some blurry parts over the main focus, like in this case.


Worry not: Command/Ctrl - click the affected layer to load its selection ("rider", "snail", "snail2", or "car5") and mask with black color on "lens blur" layer, so they main focus remains sharp.



Step 74

Stamp Visible Layers (Command/Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E), press Command/Ctrl + Shift + U to Desaturate the layer and name it "BW".


Set it to Soft Light and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and use the maxium Radius, 250.


Decrese Opacity to 35%.



Step 75

Yes, press Command/Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E again and name the new layer as "final". Go to Image > Adjustments > Vibrance and use these settings. This way, we will mute a tiny bit the warms tones we had already, and enhance colors that were on second plane like blues.


Go to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights and use these settings. This will be the final enhancement for lights.



Step 76

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter and choose sepia to bring a tiny touch of homogenization with a non intrusive color.



Step 78

We can mute reds a bit more because they're very prominent. Add a new Color Balance Adjustment layer and in Midtones, switch -10 to Cyan.



Step 79

Now, our image is done! Yes, yes, but wait, there is still a last tip for you. Stamp Visible Layers (Command/Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E), set the Blending Mode to Overlay and go to Filter > Other > High Pass, and use around 2 pixels of Radius.


This will sharpen up your image and will make it pop up more. In Overlay mode it won't affect original lighting or colors, just sharpening. See the difference in the screenshot below. This assures you that your image will look crystal clear if printed.

Congratulations, if you have reached this point and finished your image, you've done a hard work!



Final Image


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