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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation
Design

How to Create a Dark Photo Manipulation 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 use Adobe Photoshop to create a dark photo manipulation called "Temptation". 

First we'll build the base scene using several stock images. After that, we'll retouch the model, paint the hair, and blend her with the background using adjustment layers, masking, and brushes. Later, we'll import the branches, apple, snakes, and particles. Finally we'll use several adjustment layers to enhance the final effect.

Tutorial Assets

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

1. How to Build the Base Scene

Step 1

Create a new 2400 x 2208 px document in Photoshop with the given settings.

new file

Step 2

Open the landscape image. Drag this image into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V) and change the layer mode to Multiply 100%. Convert the layer to a Smart Object.

add landscape

Step 3

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 4 px. Activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a soft round one. On the filter mask, use this brush with black color to paint on the midground and foreground, leaving the blur effect visible only on the background.

landscape gaussian blur
landscape gaussian blur masking

Step 4

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation and set it as Clipping Mask. Change the Reds and Yellows values to desaturate the gold light on the ground. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the upper half (the sky and the tops of the dead trees).

landscape hue saturation reds
landscape hue saturation yellows

Step 5

Open the sky image. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the lower part of the sky and drag it into the main document. Set this layer below the landscape one.

add sky

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft black brush to remove the part covering the ground.

sky masking

Step 6

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and alter the Midtones settings:

sky color balance midtones

Step 7

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the sky as it looks a bit bright compared to the ground.

sky curves 1

Step 8

Add another Curves adjustment layer to darken the edges of the sky more. We're aiming to have the light coming from the top middle, so on the layer mask, use a soft black brush to paint on the middle so it will be less affected by this adjustment layer.

sky curves 2

Step 9

Make a Curves adjustment layer on top of the layers and reduce the lightness of the whole scene more. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the dark effect in the middle, and use a small brush to reveal the lightness of the grass.

whole scene curves 1

2. How to Retouch the Model

Step 1

Open the model image. First, use your favourite method to isolate the model from the background. I've added a new fill layer between the extracted model and the original layers to show the result more clearly in the next steps (we'll work on her hair).

isolate model

Step 2

We'll be painting more hair for the model. Create a new layer and use a medium-soft brush with the color #622d16 to paint the base of the hair following the form and perspective of the head.

paint hair base

Step 3

On a new layer, use a soft brush with the color #3a1a0d to paint shadow for the hair. Remember to follow the flow and direction of the base, otherwise the result would look very messy.

hair shading

Step 4

On three new layers, use the colors #934928, #bf5f36, and #e88b62 to paint small bright strands for the hair.

hair highlights

Step 5

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray.

DB new layer

Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 15-20% to enhance the light and shadow for the hair, making it smoother and more natural. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

hair DB result

Step 6

Hide the fill layer and the original one and hit Control-Shift-Alt-E to merge the extracted model and the hair. Move the model into the main document and place her in the middle of the ground.

add model

Step 7

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change the Cyans and Blues values to remove the blue cast of the model's clothes.

model hue saturation cyans
model hue saturation blues

Step 8

Add a Curves adjustment layer to darken the model a little. On the layer mask, paint on some details of the hair to reveal the highlight there.

model curves

3. How to Add the Branches

Step 1

Cut out the branch from the original background and add it to the top of the canvas. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) with the Warp mode to tweak the branch a little.

add branch

Step 2

Duplicate this layer several times and arrange them over the top of the canvas. Use Control-T with Warp mode to resize and tweak them so they appear different. Add a small branch pointing towards the model face as we're aiming to add the apple there.

add more branches

Step 3

Select all the branches layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Change this group's mode to Normal 100% and add a Curves adjustment layer to darken the branches.

branches curves 1

Use a medium-hard black brush to reveal the light on the top and bottom of the branches.

branches curves 1 masking

Step 4

Use another Curves adjustment layer to increase the light of the branches. The result on the upper part of the second screenshot shows where to work on the layer mask.

branches curves 2
branches curves 2 masking

Step 5

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and alter the Saturation values to match the branches' color with the background.

branches hue saturation

4. How to Add the Apple

Step 1

Open the apple image. Take the apple on the top (or the ones you like) and place it below the small branch above the model's face to fit the direction of her gaze.

add apple

Step 2

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the apple's color. Alter the Hue value of the Master to +19:

apple hue saturation

Step 3

Create a Curves adjustment layer to make the apple darker. Paint on the top of the apple to keep its lightness to fit the light source from above.

apple curves

Step 4

Make a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to refine the light and shadow of the apple.

apple DB

5. How to Import the Snakes

Step 1

Isolate the snake and add it to the top left of the canvas. Go to Edit > Puppet Warp and move the points up/down until you get the form you want.

add snake 1

Step 2

Take this snake again from the original and use the Puppet Warp to change its form. Add it to the right side.

add snake 2

Step 3

Make a group for the snake layers and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Alter the Reds settings to desaturate the red details of the snakes a bit.

snakes hue saturation

Step 4

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the snakes. Paint on the upper part of the snakes to reveal the lightness there.

snakes curves

Step 5

On each of the snake layers, create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to enhance the light on the upper part of the snakes and increase the shadow on their lower side.

snakes DB

6. How to Add the Particles

Step 1

Make a new layer on top of the layers, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge Tool to paint more highlight on the grassy ground.

Ground DB

Step 2

Open the particles pack. Take one image (I've chosen the one numbered 20) to add to the middle of the scene. Alter this layer mode to Linear Dodge 100%.

add particles
particles linear dodge mode

Step 3

Add another particles image to the scene and apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to this layer to soften the effect, making it blend better with the background.

add more particles
particles gaussian blur

Step 4

Create a group for the particles layers and change this layer mode to Linear Dodge 100%. Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the particles' color a bit.

particles hue saturation

7. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the colors #190900 and #fb9c2c. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 30%.

whole scene gradient map 1

Step 2

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones and Highlights values:

whole scene color balance 1 midtones
whole scene color balance 1 highlights

Step 3

Add a Color Fill layer and pick the color #150700. Alter this layer mode to Exclusion 100%.

whole scene color fill 1

Step 4

Create another Color Fill layer and pick the color #a95b3c. Change this layer mode to Overlay 20%.

whole scene color fill 2

Step 5

Use a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #01b4ff.

whole scene photo filter

Step 6

Make another Color Fill layer and pick the color #2c2b19. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 20%.

whole scene color fill 3

Step 7

Create a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the middle a bit. Paint on the rest so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer and give the whole scene a deeper contrast.

whole scene curves 2

Step 8

Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect.

whole scene vibrance

Congratulations, You're Done!

I hope that you've enjoyed the tutorial and learned something new for your own projects. Feel free to share your results or leave comments in the box below. Enjoy Photoshopping!

final result
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