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Create a Hot Air Balloon Scene From The Wizard of Oz in Adobe Photoshop

This post is part of a series called The Wizard of Oz.
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Click Your Heels Twice: How to Draw Sequin Ruby Slippers
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In celebration of our Wizard of Oz week here at Envato Tuts+, I wanted to create a vibrant and colorful scene of the Great and Powerful Wizard's entrance into the land of Oz. 

This tutorial features work with Photoshop's 3D tools to create the balloon, a highly useful technique for masking cloud images, and other methods for creating a soft, dream-like appearance. Follow along and get lost in our magical world of layers, and masks and filters... Oh My!

1. Gather Resources

Before getting started, be sure to download the attached file WizardofOzBalloonTutorial.zip containing four custom files to be used for this project:

  • BalloonDecal.jpg
  • CityOutline.png
  • OzLandscape.jpg
  • Tornado.psd

The following stock resources are also used to complete the project:

2. Flying the Balloon

Now that we have all the elements ready, let's set the wizard's hot air balloon in flight.

Step 1

Open the OzLandscape.jpg file in Photoshop. This will serve as the setting for our magical, technicolor, airborne adventure.

Open the OzLandscapejpg image

Step 2

Go to 3D > New 3D Layer From File and select the balloon.obj file. When prompted for a size, just accept the default values. Photoshop imports the 3D model and switches to the 3D workspace.

Import the 3D balloon model

Step 3

The ropes of the balloon are very distracting, so hide them by finding the mesh in the 3D panel called Kanapi and toggling the visibility eyeball next to it.

Hide the ropes

Step 4

Select the Scene layer in the 3D panel and use the Move Tool to position the scene view so the balloon is at the top right of the composition. Rotate the view so the balloon appears to be at a lower elevation than the camera.

Move the scene view to place the balloon at the top right

Step 5

In the 3D panel, switch to the Materials tab and select the second material in the list, which should be the main balloon material. In the Properties panel, click on the document icon next to the Diffuse color and select Replace Texture. Direct Photoshop to the BalloonDecal.jpg file to map the illustration onto the balloon.

Map the decal texture onto the balloon

Step 6

Click on the same document icon again and select Edit UV Properties. These settings will adjust how the texture is stretched over the balloon surface. In the tile section, change the U/X to 2 and the V/Y to 1.3. This should set the texture at the appropriate size. Then use the Offset values to slide the texture around on the surface to place it in a location that looks good.

Edit the UV properties

The texture placement on the balloon should look similar to this.

Texture placement on the balloon

Step 7

Go back into the Materials. The first material in the list should be the base of the balloon and the majority of the basket surface. Change the Diffuse color to #8a504b.

change the color of the basket

Step 8

Click on the Lights tab of the 3D panel and select Infinite Light 1. Use the Move Tool (V) to adjust the light indicator so the light is coming from behind the balloon. The goal is to match the light direction in the scene. Set the light Intensity to 144% and the Shadow Softness to 25%.

Set the light to match the photo

Step 9

Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create a selection completely around the balloon. Then press the Render button at the base of the 3D panel. Be patient while Photoshop renders the balloon—it could take some time!

Render the balloon

Step 10

When the render is finished, copy the rendered pixels to a new layer with Layer > New > Layer Via Copy (Control-J). Then hide the original 3D layer. This makes sure the rendered pixels are preserved while still maintaining an editable 3D layer.

Step 11

Enhance the colors of the rendered balloon by adding a Vibrance adjustment layer. Clip the adjustment layer to the rendered layer with Layer > Create Clipping Mask (Alt-Control-G). Then set the Vibrance to +21 and the Saturation to +39.

Enhance the balloon colors with a Vibrance adjustment layer

3. The Emerald City

With the wizard making his grand entrance, we need to see his destination, the Emerald City! I've already prepared a city image for you to use. It's part of the original attachment downloaded at the beginning of the tutorial.

Step 1

Go to File > Place Embedded and select the CityOutline.png file from the set of files in the attached zip folder. The city image is imported as a Smart Object. Scale the image down and position it in the background of the scene.

Add the city to the background

Step 2

We can't have an Emerald City that's blue can we? Change the color of the city by going to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Check the Colorize box and set the Hue to 116, Saturation to 41, and Lightness to +24.

Change the color of the Emerald City

Step 3

Add a Layer Mask to the city layer and use a Soft Round Brush with black paint to mask out the bottom edge of the city so it blends more evenly into the landscape.

mask out the bottom of the city

Step 4

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and clip it to the city layer with Layer > Add Clipping Mask (Alt-Control-G). Set the Saturation to -56 and fill the adjustment layer's mask with black. Then use the brush with white paint to apply the desaturated effect to the sides of buildings so the city isn't all the exact same tone of green.

Add a destaurated effect to give depth to the city buildings

Step 5

Add a new layer for City Gleams and set the blending mode to Screen. Then use a soft brush at 40% Opacity with a pale yellow tone of #eaf669 to add some strokes of glowing light around some of the city spires.

add some glowing yellow lights to the city

Step 6

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the blur Radius to 3 pixels. This gives the city a soft, glowing light effect over the buildings.

Blur the city gleams

Step 7

Add a City Glow layer beneath the city layer and set the blending mode to Screen. Use the Gradient Tool (G) with the Foreground to Transparent preset, the Radial shape and Opacity at 60%. Start the gradient directly behind the city and pull it out to be about three times the size of the city layer.

Add a gradient glow

Step 8

Add a new layer over the City Gleams layer for the Color Wash effect. Set the blending mode to Color Dodge and use a Soft Round Brush (B) with 20% Opacity. Set the paint color to a bright green hue, #a7e31d. Softly build up the color glow effect on the city and the tops of the surrounding hills.

Adding a soft color wash

Step 9

Add a new layer for the City Clouds and set the blending mode to Screen. Use the Brush Tool (B) with the Chalk 36 pixels brush preset. Use a tan hue of #aea058 and build up a layer of clouds around the base of the city. With this brush, don't click and drag, but rather use several clicks to "dab" with the brush.

Paint in some cloudy areas at the base of the city

4. Twister!

Step 1

Open the Tornado.psd document from the attached files. This file contains a folder that includes three layers for the tornado. Use the Move Tool (V) to drag the entire folder over onto the main project document and position it in the top right corner of the composition.

Bring in the twister from the attached file

Step 2

Open the fantasy-220092.jpg file and use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the sky area of the image. Then go to Edit > Copy (Control-C).

Open the fantasy-220092 image and copy the sky area

Switch over to the main project file and go to Edit > Paste to deposit the copied clouds as a layer. Drag this layer beneath the balloon layer. Then change the blending mode to Multiply and use Edit > Free Transform (Control-T) to scale the layer up and position it so the brightest spot aligns with the city.

Paste the clouds into the main composition

Step 3

It's time to start building up some serious clouds! Go to File > Place Embedded and select the thunderstorm-567678.jpg file. Photoshop places the image as a Smart Object. Turn it around with Edit > Transform > Rotate 180. Then use Edit > Transform > Warp to get the warp cage. Use the warp handles to wrap the cloud layer around the bottom portion of the image.

Warp the thunderstorm image around the scene

Step 4

To get the clouds to look right, here's a really useful masking trick that uses the layer's own brightness to define the transparency. Go to Select > Select All (Control-A) and then Edit > Copy (Control-C). Use the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers panel to create a mask for the thunderstorm layer.

Copy the layer pixels then add a layer mask

Step 5

Alt-click on the mask thumbnail to view it directly. Then go to Edit > Paste (Control-V) to paste the copied pixels into the mask. Use the Move Tool (V) to snap the copied pixels to the bottom edge of the mask. Then go to Select > Deselect (Control-D) to cancel the selection.

Paste teh copied pixels into the mask

Step 6

Alt-click on the mask thumbnail again to see how the mask is affecting the layer. Go to Image > Adjustments > Invert (Control-I) to swap the lights and darks of the mask. Then use a large Soft Round Brush on the mask to adjust the appearance by painting out the edges with black paint and making the corners more opaque with white paint.

Step 7

The clouds are a bit too dark, and should appear more grayish. Add a Curves adjustment layer and clip it to the thunderstorm layer with Layer > Create Clipping Mask (Alt-Control-G). Grab the left-most control point of the curve and slide it upwards about two-thirds of a grid space. The black areas of the clouds should lighten.

Step 8

Place the sunset-383072 file and use Edit > Transform > Warp to wrap it around the bottom right corner of the image just in front of the balloon.

Insert the sunsett-383072 image and wrap it around the balloon

Step 9

Then use the same masking technique as before by copying the layer pixels and pasting them directly into the layer mask. Invert the mask and touch up by hand to achieve the soft cloud effect.

Use the masking trick to get a soft cloud effect

Step 10

Open the vermont-482945.jpg image and use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to create a selection of the sky area. Then copy those pixels with Edit > Copy.

copy the sky area of the vermont-482945 image

Paste those pixels into the main project with Edit > Paste, and position the clouds in the foreground of the image. Then use the same copy/paste masking technique used on the previous cloud layers. Set the blending mode to Screen and enjoy the amazing clouds we've added to our fantasy scene!

paste the vermont sky into the project

5. Extra Effects

The major parts of our image are done now, so all that's left to do is create some final effects to add a bit of finishing polish to it.

Step 1

The balloon render could benefit from some accentuated shading on the shadow side. Add a new layer for Shading Gradient and clip it to the balloon render layer with Layer > Add Clipping mask (Alt-Control-G). 

Set the foreground color to black and use the Gradient Tool (G) to with a Foreground to Transparent preset and the Radial shape. Add the gradient over the dark side of the balloon and set the blending mode to Multiply.

Additional shading on the dark edge of the balloon

Step 2

We need a wizard to ride in the balloon. While the basket is mostly concealed by clouds, there needs to be some shape there to indicate that it isn't empty. Open the horse-411644.jpg image and use the Quick Selection Tool (Q) to select the driver of the carriage. Then go to Edit > Copy (Control-C) to copy the selected pixels.

Copy the top hat wizard

Step 3

Switch back to the main project file and paste the pixels in as a new layer with Edit > Paste (Control-V), and then use Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal to turn the wizard to be facing to the left. Use Edit > Free Transform (Control-T) to scale and position the wizard into the basket. Use the Eraser (E) to remove areas that shouldn't overlap the balloon pixels.

Paste the wizard into his basket

Step 4

To help enhance the dreamlike quality of the image, we will use a few color wash layers. Start with a new layer at the top of the stack for Color Wash Warm and the blending mode set to Screen. Use a Soft Round brush with Opacity at 20%. Sample a yellow/green color from the city area, or use #cfe472. Then gently build up a back lighting effect on the balloon edge, the side of the tornado, and a few scattered hilltops.

Add a backlighting color wash effect

Step 5

Add a new layer for Color Wash Cool and use a bluish grey color, #414754, with the same brush settings to add a cooler hue to the darker clouds, balloon shadow, and valley areas. If the effect is too strong, reduce the layer Opacity to 50%.

Add cooler tones with a hand painted color wash layer

Step 6

Add a bit of contrast with a Curves adjustment layer. Create a very subtle S-shape to the curve by adding two points and moving them slightly as shown here.

Increase contrast with Curves

Step 7

Create a Merged layer at the top of the layer stack by holding down the Alt key while going to Layer > Merge Visible. Convert the layer to a Smart Object with Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object.

Create a merged layer as a Smart Object

Step 8

Go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter. In the Basic tab, set the Temperature to -10 to add a bit of cool hues to the predominantly warm image. Then increase the Clarity to +33 and the Vibrance to +24. This enhances the colors and adds a touch of sharpening to the image.

Run the Camera Raw Filter

Switch to the Effects tab of the Camera Raw Filter, and go down to the Post Crop Vignette section and set the Amount to -33 to add a darkening effect to the image corners. Then click OK to apply the filter.

Step 9

This next step is completely optional, but does add a subtle finished effect. Add a new layer for Dodge/Burn and go to Edit > Fill and fill choose 50% Gray for the fill Content. Then set the layer blending mode to Overlay to render the grey invisible. 

Use the Dodge Tool (O) with a small soft round brush and Exposure at 10% to enhance the highlight areas. Likewise use the Burn Tool (O) with the same settings to deepen the shadow areas.

Dodge and Burn to enhance highlights and shadows

You Did It!

Great work! Our fantasy Oz piece is now done.

Final product image of Wizard of Oz hot air balloon

I hope you picked up a few new techniques that will be helpful in some of your own work. I'd love to see your final pieces, so post them in the comments below!

Want More?

Want to learn even more about what you can do with Photoshop? I've got several other Photoshop oriented tutorials and courses here at Envato Tuts+. Be sure to check out my profile to see more!

Envato Market also has a large collection of different resources that you might want to use for a variation on this tutorial, including hot air balloon models, cloud photographs, and plenty of landscape backgrounds.

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