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How to Create a Shadow Conceptual Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial I'll show you how to create a dark conceptual work featuring a scared man who's trying to hide from evil forces. 

You'll learn how to make a simple environment by combining two stock images, and create devils using some cosplay images and liquify filters. You'll also learn how to make some unusual effects using particles and Photoshop basic filters, adjust colors, enhance the depth of field, and more.

Short on time? Try out these great Shadow Photoshop Actions on GraphicRiver.

Tutorial Assets

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

1. How to Add the Ground

Step 1

Create a 2000 x 1333 px New Document in Photoshop with the given settings:

new filenew filenew file

Step 2

Open the ground image. Use the Lasso Tool (L) to select the ground only and drag it into the black canvas using the Move Tool (V). Convert this layer to a Smart Object.

select groundselect groundselect ground

Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to Rotate it a bit to the left.

add groundadd groundadd ground

Step 3

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a Mask to this layer. Use a Soft Round Brush with a black color and a lowered Opacity (20-30%) to soften the edges of the ground, making it fade into the background.

ground maskingground maskingground masking

Step 4

Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Bring the Saturation value down to -85:

ground hue saturation adjustment layerground hue saturation adjustment layerground hue saturation adjustment layer

Step 5

Make a Curves Adjustment Layer to bring more light to the ground.

ground curves adjustment layerground curves adjustment layerground curves adjustment layer

Step 6

On the ground layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and change the Radius to 5 px.

ground gaussian blurground gaussian blurground gaussian blur

On the filter Mask, use a Soft Black Brush to erase from the mid-ground to the background, leaving the blue effect visible only on the foreground. It'll help to focus on the main subject (model) and enhance the depth.

ground gaussian blur maskingground gaussian blur maskingground gaussian blur masking

2. How to Add the Sky

Step 1

Drag the sky image into our document and place it under the ground layer.

add skyadd skyadd sky

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 9 px to the sky layer to soften it.

sky gaussian blursky gaussian blursky gaussian blur

Step 3

Use a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and set the Saturation value to the minimum.

sky hue saturation adjustment layersky hue saturation adjustment layersky hue saturation adjustment layer

Step 4

We'll follow the light of the ground (from left to right). Make a Curves Adjustment Layer and decrease the light. On this Layer Mask, use a Soft Black Brush to paint on the left to reveal the light here.

sky curves 1 adjustment layersky curves 1 adjustment layersky curves 1 adjustment layer
sky curves  1 maskingsky curves  1 maskingsky curves  1 masking

Step 5

Use another Curves Adjustment Layer to bring more light to the left.

sky curves 2 adjustment layersky curves 2 adjustment layersky curves 2 adjustment layer

3. How to Make the Devils

Step 1

Open the devil 1 image. Use the Lasso Tool (L) to select the devil's head and place it in the top-left corner. Flip it horizontally by choosing Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.

add devil 1add devil 1add devil 1

Place this layer above the sky layer but below the ground one.

Step 2

Go to Filter > Liquify and select the Forward Warp Tool. Use this tool to tweak the head, making the face details such as the eyes, chin, forehead and mouth thinner and longer, in order to make the devil scarier.

devil 1 liquifydevil 1 liquifydevil 1 liquify
devil 1 liquify resultdevil 1 liquify resultdevil 1 liquify result

Step 3

Add a Mask to this layer and Use a Soft Black Brush with a lowered Opacity (about 50-55%) to soften the edges and make the devil fade into the background.

devil 1 maskingdevil 1 maskingdevil 1 masking

Step 4

Make a Hue/Saturation to desaturate the devil. Change the Saturation value to -80:

devil 1 hue saturationdevil 1 hue saturationdevil 1 hue saturation

Step 5

Create a Curves Adjustment Layer to darken the devil a bit:

devil 1 curves adjustment layerdevil 1 curves adjustment layerdevil 1 curves adjustment layer

Step 6

Add the devil 2 image to the top right of the canvas and tweak his head using the Liquify Tool. Use a Layer Mask to blend him with the background.

add devil 2 add devil 2 add devil 2
devil 2 maskingdevil 2 maskingdevil 2 masking

Step 7

Make a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and reduce the Saturation value to -89:

devil 2 hue saturation adjustment layerdevil 2 hue saturation adjustment layerdevil 2 hue saturation adjustment layer

Step 8

Use a Curves Adjustment Layer to decrease the lightness on the devil.

devil 2 curves adjustment layerdevil 2 curves adjustment layerdevil 2 curves adjustment layer

Step 9

Create a New Layer, change the Mode to Overlay 100%, and Fill with 50% gray:

burn tool new layerburn tool new layerburn tool new layer

Use the Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 10% to darken the sockets of the devils' eyes. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay Mode:

burn tool resultburn tool resultburn tool result

Step 10

Make a New Layer and take a Hard Round Brush with about 2 px and the color #f5f5f5 to paint a small line along the form of the devils' eyes. After that, use a Layer Mask to refine these lines, making them fade into the eye sockets.

devils eyes paintingdevils eyes paintingdevils eyes painting

Step 11

Use a Hard White Brush with a very small Size (1-2 px) to paint highlights in the middle of the eye sockets. It will increase the evil look for the devils.

devils eyes highlightsdevils eyes highlightsdevils eyes highlights

4. How to Create the Devils' Effect

Step 1

It's time to decorate our devils! Duplicate the sky layer and set it above the devil's layers but still below the ground one.

duplicate sky layerduplicate sky layerduplicate sky layer

Select the Liquify Tool and use the Twirl Clockwise Tool to tweak the clouds on the top left and the middle to create some twirls on this sky part.

sky tweakingsky tweakingsky tweaking
sky tweaking resultsky tweaking resultsky tweaking result

Move the sky part until the brighter twirl on the top left fits the head of the first devil.

result with devilsresult with devilsresult with devils

Step 2

Use a Layer Mask to erase the effect on the middle and right, making it visible only around the first devil.

Layer mask result with devil 1Layer mask result with devil 1Layer mask result with devil 1

Step 3

Tweak the sky image more to get something similar to the image below, and then mask off the hard edges and the unwanted parts.

more details for devil 1more details for devil 1more details for devil 1
more details after maskingmore details after maskingmore details after masking

Step 4

Continue adding the details to the devil 2 image using the Twirl Clockwise Tool and Layer Masks.

more details for devil 2more details for devil 2more details for devil 2
devil 2 result maskingdevil 2 result maskingdevil 2 result masking
lower details for devil 2lower details for devil 2lower details for devil 2

Step 5

Select all the sky effect layers and press Control-G to make a Group for them. Change this group Mode to Normal 100% and make a Hue/Saturation adjustment within this group to desaturate the effect.

sky effect hue saturation sky effect hue saturation sky effect hue saturation

Step 6

Create a Curves Adjustment Layer to reduce the effect's visibility. Paint on the top left as it's in the illuminated area.

sky effect curves adjustment layersky effect curves adjustment layersky effect curves adjustment layer

5. How to Import the Model

Step 1

Cut out the model from the background and place him in the middle of the ground. Use Control-T to Rotate him to the left a bit to fit the ground's perspective.

add modeladd modeladd model

Step 2

Make a New Layer and activate the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to remove the text on his clothes.

model cloningmodel cloningmodel cloning

Step 3

Use a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to desaturate and change the model's color:

model hue saturation adjustment layermodel hue saturation adjustment layermodel hue saturation adjustment layer

Step 4

Make a Curves Adjustment Layer to brighten the model. On this Layer Mask, use a Soft Black Brush to erase the lower and right side parts of the model to fit the light source.

model curves adjustment layermodel curves adjustment layermodel curves adjustment layer

Step 5

Create a New Layer, change the Blend Mode to Overlay 100% and Fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge Tool to give more light and bring more details to the lower part of the model.

model dodgingmodel dodgingmodel dodging

Step 6

To make a shadow for the model, create a New Layer under the model one. Hold down Control while clicking the model thumbnail layer to load his selection. Fill this selection with black and lower the Opacity of this layer to 70%. Use Control-T to Rotate it to the right of the model, on the ground.

load model selectionload model selectionload model selection

Use a Layer Mask to clean the shadow parts covering the gap on the ground and below the model.

shadow maskingshadow maskingshadow masking

Step 7

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 3 px to the shadow layer.

shadow gaussian blurshadow gaussian blurshadow gaussian blur

Step 8

Create a New Layer and use a Soft Black Brush with the Opacity of about 60% to paint the missing shadow between the legs of the model. Lower this layer's Opacity to 80% to match the existing shadow.

paint missing shadowpaint missing shadowpaint missing shadow

6. How to Create the Dark Abstract Circle

Step 1

Create a New Layer on top of the layers and change the Foreground to black. Activate the circular strokes brushes and select the one numbered 700 to spot on the canvas. Use Control-T to make it much smaller and narrower, and then place it above the model's head.

add circleadd circleadd circle
circle transformingcircle transformingcircle transforming

Step 2

Duplicate this layer several times and Flip them horizontally, Rotate them, and use Layer Masks to Fill them in and make the circle bigger and more proportional.

more circlesmore circlesmore circles

7. How to Make the Evil Particles

Step 1

Drag the particles image into our working document and use Control-T to make it a bit narrower. Use a Layer Mask to reduce the intensity of the particles on the edges, making them visible mostly in the middle as shown below:

add particlesadd particlesadd particles
particles maskingparticles maskingparticles masking

Step 2

Go to Filter > Distort > Twirl and apply the following value:

particles twirlparticles twirlparticles twirl

After that, apply a Gaussian Blur of 8 px to this layer:

particles gaussian blurparticles gaussian blurparticles gaussian blur

Step 3

Add the particles image again to the main file and Flip it horizontally and Mask it off. Apply the Twirl filter with the same settings. I turned off the first particles layer so you can see the second more clearly.

add second particlesadd second particlesadd second particles

Step 4

Make a Group for these particles layers and alter this group's Mode to Multiply 100%.

group multiply modegroup multiply modegroup multiply mode

Create an Invert Adjustment Layer within this group to make the dark edges disappear and reveal the particles.

particles after invertingparticles after invertingparticles after inverting

Step 5

Use a Curves Adjustment Layer to increase the particles' visibility:

particles curvesparticles curvesparticles curves

Step 6

Grab a part of the particles image and place it in the foreground. Use Control-T with the Warp Mode to bend it as shown below:

select a particle areaselect a particle areaselect a particle area
particles warpingparticles warpingparticles warping

Step 7

Apply a Motion Blur to this part with the following settings:

particles motion blurparticles motion blurparticles motion blur

Change this layer's Blend Mode to Multiply 100% and create an Invert Adjustment Layer to reveal the particles' effect:

invert adjustmentinvert adjustmentinvert adjustment

Step 8

Add more particles around the dark circle and the model's head using the same method but without applying the filters.

add more particlesadd more particlesadd more particles

8. How to Add the Crows

Step 1

Isolate the crow 1 and place him on the left side of the turning particles. Set this layer below the particles ones.

add crow 1add crow 1add crow 1

Step 2

Apply a Motion Blur with the given settings to this crow:

crow 1 motion blurcrow 1 motion blurcrow 1 motion blur

On the filter Mask, use a Soft Black Brush to erase the crow's body and leave only the wings moving to match the motion of the particles.

crow 1 motion blur maskingcrow 1 motion blur maskingcrow 1 motion blur masking

Step 3

Make a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and bring the Saturation value down to -82:

crow 1 hue saturation adjustment layercrow 1 hue saturation adjustment layercrow 1 hue saturation adjustment layer

Step 4

Brighten the crow using a Curves Adjustment Layer:

crow 1 curves adjustment layercrow 1 curves adjustment layercrow 1 curves adjustment layer

Step 5

Add the crow 2 to the right side, in a higher position than crow 1. This is in order to match the scene's perspective.

add crow 2add crow 2add crow 2

Step 6

Apply a Motion Blur filter to the crow and then erase his body on the filter Mask.

crow 2 motion blurcrow 2 motion blurcrow 2 motion blur

Step 7

Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to desaturate this crow:

crow 2 hue saturation adjustment layercrow 2 hue saturation adjustment layercrow 2 hue saturation adjustment layer

Step 8

Use a Curves Adjustment Layer to darken the wings of the crow as they're in the shadow area. The selection in the screenshot shows where to paint on the layer mask.

crow 2 curves adjustment layercrow 2 curves adjustment layercrow 2 curves adjustment layer

9. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

Create a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer on top of the layers and pick the colors #e10019 and #00601b. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 20%.

gradient map adjustment layergradient map adjustment layergradient map adjustment layer

Step 2

Add a Color Balance Adjustment Layer and change the Midtones and Highlights settings:

whole scene color balance midtoneswhole scene color balance midtoneswhole scene color balance midtones
whole scene color balance highlightswhole scene color balance highlightswhole scene color balance highlights

Step 3

Make a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer and pick the color #ecc800:

whole scene photo filter adjustment layerwhole scene photo filter adjustment layerwhole scene photo filter adjustment layer

Step 4

Use a Vibrance Adjustment Layer to enhance the final effect:

whole scene vibrance adjustment layerwhole scene vibrance adjustment layerwhole scene vibrance adjustment layer

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!

Shadow Conceptual Photo Manipulation Photoshop TutorialShadow Conceptual Photo Manipulation Photoshop TutorialShadow Conceptual Photo Manipulation Photoshop Tutorial
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