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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation
Design

How to Create a Surreal TV Head Photo Manipulation With Adobe 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 surreal artwork featuring a woman carrying an old television on her head. 

First we'll build the base scene using images of the sky and a field. After that, we'll create some columns, add and retouch the model, and create some branches and the TV. Later, we'll import the flying leaves and finish the tutorial with several adjustment layers. 

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 1440 x 1089 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:

new file

Step 2

Open the sky image. Drag this image into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V) and place it in the upper half. Convert this layer to a Smart Object.

add sky

Lower the Opacity of this layer to 50%.

sky lowered opacity

Step 3

To soften the sky, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 3 px.

sky gaussian blur

Step 4

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation and reduce the Saturation value to -69:

sky hue saturation

Step 5

Create a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness. On this layer mask, activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a soft round brush with black color to erase the left side of the sky. We're aiming to make the light come from the right, so the left should be darker.

sky curves1
sky curves 1 masking

Step 6

Make another Curves adjustment layer to darken the left a bit. Use a soft black brush to paint on the right so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

sky curves 2

Step 7

Drag the field image into the main canvas and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to resize it to fit the canvas. Convert this layer to a Smart Object.

add field

Use a layer mask to remove the horizon and the upper half and reveal the existing sky.

field masking

Step 8

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to this layer.

field gaussian blur

On the filter mask, use a soft black brush to erase the midground and leave the blur effect visible only on the foreground and background.

field gaussian blur masking

Step 9

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Bring the Saturation value down to -79:

field hue saturation

Step 10

Add a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #0665da.

field photo filter

Step 11

Create a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the field. On this layer mask, paint on the left side so it will be less bright than the right.

field curves 1

Step 12

Use another Curves adjustment layer to brighten the right side of the field more. The dark details show where to paint on the layer mask.

field curves 2
field curves 2 layer mask
field curves 2 masking result

2. How to Create the Columns

Step 1

Open the column image. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to select the surface of the right column and place it on the left of the main file.

add column 1

Use a layer mask to blend the bottom of the column with the grassy ground.

column 1 masking

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to this column as it's in the blurred area.

column 1 gaussian blur

Step 3

Duplicate this layer and enlarge it a bit. Move it to the right of the foreground.

add column 2

Step 4

Select the column layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Change the group mode to Normal 100% and make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within this group. Reduce the Saturation value to the minimum.

columns hue saturation

Step 5

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

columns color balance

Step 6

Add a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #dcafaf:

columns photo filter

Step 7

Create a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. Paint on the left of the big column and the right of the small one as they're exposed to the light.

columns curves 1

Step 8

Make another Curves adjustment layer to give more light to the illuminated areas of the columns. Paint on the shadow areas as shown below so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

columns curves 2

Step 9

To make shadows for the columns, create a new layer under the columns one. Hold down Control and click the thumbnail of the left column to load its selection.

load column 1 selection

Fill this selection with black and use Control-T to rotate it on the ground and make it narrower.

transform column 1 shadow

Lower the Opacity of this layer to 30%.

column 1 shadow completed

Step 10

Use the same method to make a shadow for the big column, but increase the Opacity to 50%, and use a layer mask to reduce the shadow opacity on the left side (the darker area).

column 2 shadow

3. How to Retouch the Model

Step 1

Cut out the model from the background and move her into the midground of the main scene.

add model

Use a layer mask to blend the feet with the grass, and remove her head.

model masking

Step 2

Make a shadow for the model as we did with the columns.

model shadow

Step 3

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and set the Saturation value to -74:

model hue saturation

Step 4

Make a subtle color change on the model using a Color Balance adjustment layer.

model color balance

Step 5

The model looks too dark, so use a Curves adjustment layer to brighten her. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.

model curves

Step 6

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

model DB new layer

Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range and Exposure about 20-25% to refine the light and shadow on the model, especially adding some light to the briefcase. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

model DB result

4. How to Add the Tree

Step 1

Open the tree image and isolate it from the background. Use the Lasso Tool to select the branches on the left and place it above the model.

add branch 1

Use a layer mask to soften the bottom of the branches (on the model's neck).

branches 1 masking

Step 2

Take different branches to add more to the model's head. You can use parts of the branches, resizing and transforming them to make them appear different and more natural.

add more branches

Step 3

Create a group for the branches layers and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate them.

tree hue saturation

Step 4

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to add a subtle warm tone to the branches.

tree color balance

Step 5

Make a Curves adjustment layer to make the branches a little brighter.

tree curves

5. How to Import the TV

Step 1

Cut out the TV and move it to the top of the tree. Use a layer mask with a hard black brush to remove some parts of the TV and reveal several branches.

add tv

Step 2

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to add some warm color to the TV:

tv color balance

Step 3

Create a Curves adjustment layer to make the TV brighter. Paint on the shadow areas and the middle of the screen so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

tv curves

Step 4

Make a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge Tool with Highlights Range and the Burn Tool with Midtones Range to enhance the light and shadow of the TV.

tv DB

Step 5

Create a new layer above the TV one. Load the tree selection by holding Control-Shift and clicking the thumbnail of the branch layers, and then fill this selection with black.

load tree selection

Lower the Opacity of this layer to 60% and move it a bit to the left.

tree shadow lowered opacity

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 3 px to this layer and use a layer mask to remove the unwanted shadow parts outside of the TV.

tree shadow gaussian blur

6. How to Add the Leaves

Step 1

Open the leaves image. Select the one you like and place it in the lower part of the foreground. Use Control-T with the Warp mode to bend it as shown below:

add leaf

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 8 px to this layer:

leaf gaussian blur

Step 3

Duplicate this layer many times and arrange them around the whole canvas. Vary the leaves' size and form using the Warp Tool as well as the Gaussian Blur Radius to increase the depth of field.

add more leaves

Step 4

Create a group for the leaves layers and use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the leaves.

leaves hue saturation

Step 5

Add a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the leaves. Paint on the left and the lower side of the leaves as they're more hidden from the main light than the rest.

leaves curves
leaves curves masking
leaves curves masking result

7. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the colors #c598a1 and #114755. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 20%.

whole scene gradient map

Step 2

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

whole scene color balance 1
whole scene color balance 2

Step 3

Create a Curves adjustment layer to increase the light and contrast of the whole scene.

whole scene curves 1

Step 4

Use another Curves adjustment layer and increase the shadow on the left side. Paint on the right as it's the illuminated area.

whole scene curves 2

Step 5

Make a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect.

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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