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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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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:

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.

Step 3

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

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.

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.

Step 6

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

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

Step 7

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

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.

Step 9

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

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.

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.

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.

Step 5

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

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.

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

3. How to Add the Model

Step 1

Isolate the model and place her above the bridge.

Step 2

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

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.

Step 4

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

Step 5

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

Step 6

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

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:

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.

Step 2

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

Step 3

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

Step 4

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

Step 5

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

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).

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.

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.

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to these flowers.

Step 3

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

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.

Step 6

Use a Hue/Saturation to desaturate the flowers.

Step 7

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

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).

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.

Step 10

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

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.

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.

Step 2

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

Step 3

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

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.

Step 5

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

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.

Step 7

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

Step 9

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

Step 10

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

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.

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.

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:

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 8 px to this petal:

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.

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.

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.

Step 6

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

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.

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.

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:

Step 2

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

Step 3

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

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.

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!