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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation
Design

How to Create a Dreamy, Emotional Photo Manipulation Scene With Photoshop

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
This post is part of a series called Communication Week.
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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial I'll show you how to use photo manipulation techniques in Adobe Photoshop to create a dreamy scene featuring a medieval woman with a dove carrying a letter. 

First we'll add the sky and landscape, import the bridge, model and castle and blend all of these elements together using adjustment layers, masking, and brushes. After that, we'll work with the flowers, dove, rose, and scroll using a similar method. Later, we'll create some flying petals and paint some dreamy light using brushes and blending modes. We'll use several adjustment layers to enhance the final result.

Tutorial Assets

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

1. How to Add the Sky and Landscape

Step 1

Create a new 2000 x 1333 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:

new file

Step 2

Open the sky image. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the sky only and drag it into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Place it in the upper half.

add sky

Step 3

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and change the Midtones settings:

sky color balance

Step 4

Create a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #00ecd3. On this layer mask, activate the Brush Tool (B) and choose a soft round brush with black color and opacity about 40-45% to reduce the effect on the top.

sky photo filter

Step 5

Make a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the sky a bit. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with a lowered opacity (30-35%) to paint on both sides of the canvas.

sky curves

Step 6

Open the landscape image and place it over the canvas using the Move Tool.

add landscape

Use a layer mask to erase its sky and reveal the existing one.

landscape masking

Step 7

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 14 px:

landscape gaussian blur

Step 8

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Change the Midtones settings to match the landscape's color with the sky.

landscape color balance

Step 9

Use a Curves adjustment layer to make the landscape a bit brighter:

landscape curves

2. How to Import the Bridge

Step 1

Cut out the bridge from the background and place it in the lower half of the canvas.

add bridge

Step 2

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones values:

bridge color balance

Step 3

Use a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #fb5757. This is to give some pink light reflected on the surface of the bridge.

bridge photo filter

Step 4

Make a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness. Paint on the lower area of the bridge to remove the light effect there as it's hidden from the sky.

bridge curves 1

Step 5

Use another Curves adjustment layer to decrease the contrast and sharpness of the bridge to fit the dreamy light of the sky.

bridge curves 2

Step 6

To make a shadow for the lower part of the right parapet, use the Lasso Tool (L) to make a long shape below this area following its shape and then fill this selection with black.

bridge shadow fill

Lower the Opacity of this layer to 60% and apply a Gaussian Blur of 6 px to it.

bridge shadow gaussian blur

Step 7

Add a mask to this layer to reduce the shadow on the lower area.

bridge shadow masking

3. How to Add the Model

Step 1

Isolate the model and place her above the bridge.

add model

Step 2

Use a layer mask to remove the bottom of her dress, making her look as if she's standing on the bridge.

model masking

Step 3

Create a new layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Activate the Clone Tool (S) to remove the tattoo on her back and arm.

remove tattoo

Step 4

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings:

model color balance

Step 5

Add a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the model as she looks too dark at the moment.

model curves

Step 6

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

model DB new layer

Select the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 15-20% to refine the light and shadow on the model. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode:

model DB result

4. How to Add the Castle

Step 1

Cut out the castle from the background and add it to the left side of the canvas. Set this layer below the bridge layer.

add castle

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 12 px as it's in the blurred area.

castle gaussian blur

Step 3

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change the Master settings:

castle hue saturation 1

Step 4

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones values:

castle color balance

Step 5

Create another Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the castle's color.

castle hue saturation 2

Step 6

Make a Curves adjustment layer to increase the light on the castle. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the effect on the shadow areas (to lighten them).

castle curves
castle curves masking

Step 7

Create 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 on the castle, especially to lighten the shadow and reduce the contrast.

castle DB

5. How to Add the Flower Branches

Step 1

Cut out the flowers 1 image and add it to the top right of the canvas.

add flowers 1

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to these flowers.

flowers 1 gaussian blur

Step 3

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the flowers' color:

flowers 1 hue saturation

Step 4

Add a Curves adjustment layer to make the flowers brighter.

flowers 1 curves

Step 5

Place the flowers 2 image in the bottom left of the scene after isolating, and apply a Gaussian Blur of 14 px to it. Set this layer above the model's one.

add flowers 2

Step 6

Use a Hue/Saturation to desaturate the flowers.

flowers 2 hue saturation

Step 7

The flowers look too dark, so use a Curves adjustment layer to brighten them.

flowers 2 curves 1

Step 8

Create a Levels adjustment layer to increase the light more for these flowers. Paint on the details which are too bright (the front).

flowers 2 levels
flowers 2 levels masking

Step 9

Add the flowers 3 image to the bottom right of the bridge and apply a Gaussian Blur of 14 px to this layer.

add flowers 3

Step 10

Match the flowers' color with the rest using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

flowers 3 hue saturation

Step 11

Make a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. The aim is to create some shadow on these flowers. On the layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the front of the petals which are illuminated by the light. 

flowers 3 curves 1
flowers 3 curves masking

6. How to Add the Dove, Rose, and Scroll

Step 1

Cut out the dove and place her in line with the direction of the model's look.

add dove

Step 2

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the Saturation value to nearly the minimum.

dove hue saturation

Step 3

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to add some pink to the dove.

dove color balance

Step 4

Create a Curves adjustment layer to decrease the light on the dove. Paint on the top of the wings so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

dove curves

Step 5

Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool on a new layer and refine the light and shadow of the dove.

dove DB

Step 6

Extract the rose from the dark background and place it in the area of the dove's beak. Use a layer mask to remove some of the leaves and detail to make the rose branch clean and put it in the dove's beak.

add rose

Step 7

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to alter the rose's color. Adjust the Reds and Yellows settings:

rose hue saturation reds
hue saturation yellows

Step 8

Add a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the rose's branch.

rose curves

Step 9

Place the scroll below the claws of the dove after cutting it out from the white background.

add scroll

Step 10

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to change the scroll's color:

scroll color balance

Step 11

Make a Curves adjustment layer to give some light for the scroll. Paint on the lower part of the scroll as it's hidden from the main light source.

scroll curves 1

Step 12

Create another Curves adjustment layer to increase the shadow for the lower part of the scroll. Paint on the upper part so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

scroll curves 2

7. How to Make the Flying Petals

Step 1

Open the petal image. Use the Quick Selection Tool (W) to select one petal in the middle and add it to the lower corner on the right. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) with the Warp mode to bend it a little as shown below:

select petal
add petal

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 8 px to this petal:

petal gaussian blur

Step 3

Duplicate this layer many times and arrange them over the canvas. Make some bigger petals on the foreground and vary the size of the petal as well as the Radius of the Gaussian Blur filter to increase the depth of field.

add more petals

Step 4

Select all the petals layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Change the group mode to Normal 100% and use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within this group to change the petals' color.

petals hue saturation

Step 5

Make a Curves adjustment layer to give the petals some shaded details. Paint on some of their front and left so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

petal curves 1
petals curves 1 masking
petals curves 1 masking result

Step 6

Create another Curves adjustment layer to brighten the petals. The dark areas show where to paint on the layer mask.

petals curves 2
petals curves 2 masking
petals curves 2 masking result

8. How to Paint the Light

Step 1

Make a new layer on top of the layers and use a dark brush with the color #2a011d to paint on the top right of the sky where the light is located, and also paint on the front of the model and the surfaces of the castle and bridge. Change this layer mode to Linear Dodge 100%, and use a layer mask to reduce the light on the castle.

paint light 1
light 1 lineard dodge mode

Step 2

Use another color for the brush (#eba498) to paint more warm light for the model, castle, and some other details. Change this layer mode to Screen 100%. You can use a layer mask to refine the light effect on the unwanted details.

paint light 2
light 2 screen mode

9. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

Create a Photo Filter adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the color #fff373:

whole scene photo filter

Step 2

Make a Color Fill layer and pick the color #280404. Alter this layer mode to Exclusion 100%.

whole scene color fill

Step 3

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones and Highlights values:

whole scene color balance midtones
whole scene color balance highlights

Step 4

Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect. On the layer mask, use a soft black brush to paint on the skin of the model's back so it won't be too saturated.

whole scene vibrance

Congratulations, You're Done!

I hope that you've enjoyed my tutorial and learned something new. Feel free to share your ideas or comments in the box below—I'd love to see them. Enjoy Photoshopping!

final result
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