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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation
Design

How to Create a Magical Chest 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 create a dark and magical scene using a range of photo manipulation techniques in Adobe Photoshop. 

First, we'll build the base scene using three stock images. After that, we'll import the chest and blend it with the existing ground. Later, we'll use several adjustment layers to change the light and color of the whole scene. We'll add the crow, paint the light, and create light rays and magical dots to complete the final result.

If you're looking for resources, including stock images, textures, and 3D models for your manipulation projects, you can find them all over on Envato Elements or GraphicRiver.

Tutorial Assets

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

1. How to Build the Base Landscape

Step 1

Create a new 2200 x 1500 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). Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to rotate it a bit.

add landscape

Step 3

We need to reduce the light on the background and particles in the sky. To do it, go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color and pick a similar color to the sky. Remember to set this layer under the landscape image. I've turned off the landscape image to show the result.

color fill

Step 4

Turn on the landscape image and click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Activate the Brush Tool (B) and choose a soft round one with black color (soft black brush) with a lowered opacity (about 70-80%) to paint over the sky and the top of the sun.

landscape masking

Step 5

Create a new layer and select the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to remove the sign and line on the right edge.

landscape cloning

Step 6

Open the mountain 1 image and place it over the canvas and rotate it to fit the existing background angle. After that, add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to erase its ground and the right mountain, make the left one fade into the existing sky.

add mountain 1
mountain1 masking

Step 7

Use the same method to make the right misty mountain with the mountain 2 image. Flip it horizontally (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal) before applying the mask.

add mountain 2
mountain 2 masking

2. How to Import the Chest

Step 1

Open the chest image. As it has a transparent background, you just need to use the Move Tool to drag it into our working document. Place it near the foreground and use Control-T to transform it a bit as shown below:

add chest

Add a mask to this layer and use a medium-soft black brush to paint over its bottom so that this part looks as if it's buried in the ground.

chest masking

Step 2

We're aiming to add a light coming directly from inside the chest, so it will create a shadow dispersed around the chest's bottom. Make a new layer below the chest one and use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to make a slanted rectangle on the ground and fill it with the color #010101.

chest shadow 1 fill

Lower the opacity of this layer to 30% and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 10 px.

chest shadow 1 gaussian blur

The shadow needs to be a bit softer, so use a layer mask to reduce the opacity around its edges.

chest shadow 1 masking

Step 3

To create a shadow for the top of the chest, create a new layer and use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select it and fill it with the color #010101.

chest shadow 2 fill

Lower the opacity of this shadow layer to 30% and use Control-T to transform the shadow, making it narrower and thinner to fit the perspective of the ground.

chest shadow 2 transform

Step 4

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 10 px to this shadow layer and reduce the top's visibility using a layer mask.

chest shadow 2 masking

Step 5

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer above the chest one and set it as Clipping Mask. Reduce the Saturation value to -72:

chest hue saturation

Step 6

Add a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. On the layer mask, use a layer mask to remove the dark effect on the sides of the chest as well as the curvy details inside the top.

chest curves 1
chest curves 1 masking

Step 7

Continue darkening the chest using another Curves adjustment layer. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.

chest curves 2
chest curves 2 masking

Step 8

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

DBnew layer

Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 15-40% to refine the light and shadow of the chest. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

DB result

3. How to Do the Basic Adjustments

Step 1

Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the colors #0d0501 and #0a437b.

whole scene gradient map 1

Step 2

Make a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase around the edges and sides of the scene and make the light visible subtly in the middle.

whole scene curves 1
whole scene curves 1 masking

Step 3

Create another Gradient Map adjustment layer and pick the colors #750909 and #00601b. Lower the opacity of this layer to 20% and paint around the chest's area so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

whole scene curves 2

Step 4

Add a Color Lookup adjustment layer and choose Bleach Bypass.look. Lower the opacity of this layer to 70%.

whole scene color lookup

4. How to Add the Crow

Step 1

Cut out the crow and add him to the higher position of the right side of the chest. Place this layer below the basic adjustment layers.

add crow

Step 2

Make a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the crow. On the layer mask, paint on the shadow areas so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

crow curves 1
crow curves 1 masking

Step 3

Create a new layer and use a small medium-soft brush with the color #1a1a19 to remove the unwanted bright details on the crow's wings.

crow bright details remove

Step 4

Make a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge Tool to paint highlights on the crow's wings and the Burn Tool to strengthen the shadow's details.

crow DB

5. How to Paint the Light

Step 1

In this step, we'll add light to the chest. Create a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #152c3c to paint inside the chest. Change this layer mode to Linear Dodge 100%.

light 1

Step 2

On a new layer, change the brush's color to #85aacb to paint inside the chest and alter the layer's mode to Overlay 100%.

light 2

Step 3

Make a new layer with Overlay mode and continue painting inside this box using a lighter color (#b4d4f1).

light 3

Step 4

Use another color (#c6d7e6) to paint inside the box again, but alter its mode to Soft Light 100%.

light 4

Step 5

Add a new layer and paint more highlight for the contour of the crow and his eye. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100%.

crow light

6. How to Make the Light Rays and Magical Dots

Step 1

Open the smoke image and add it to our main canvas. Change this layer mode to Linear Dodge 100%.

add smoke

Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and fill in the following settings:

smoke motion blur

Step 2

Use Control-T to change the light's perspective, making it look as if it's coming from inside the chest:

turn smoke to light

Step 3

Duplicate this layer several times and move them to the middle and the other side of the box. Use a layer mask if needed to remove any unwanted light details outside the box.

duplicate to add more light

Step 4

Select all the light ray layers and group them into a new folder using Control-G. Alter this group's mode to Linear Dodge 100% and create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the blue light a bit.

light hue saturation

Step 5

Use a Levels adjustment layer to increase the highlight of the effect.

light levels

Step 6

Make a new layer and change the foreground to #b6d4df. Press F5 to change the settings of this brush:

dot brush settings 1
dot brush settings 2
dot brush settings 3

Use this brush to paint tiny dots flying from inside the chest, following the direction of the light rays.

dots paint

Step 7

Hit Control-G to make a group of this layer and change the group's mode to Color Dodge 100%. Now the effect looks a lot better!

dots color dodge mode

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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