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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation

How to Create an Emotional Fire Scene Photo Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial I'll show you how to use Adobe Photoshop to create an emotional fire scene featuring a brave little girl. 

First we'll isolate the model and paint light, color, and shadow for the background. After that, we'll add the fire, the reflections in the eyes, and the barbed wire, as well as retouching and blending the model. Later, we'll add the rose and create the fire sparks. We'll paint the light for the model and use several adjustment layers to enhance the final effect.

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 Isolate the Model and Prepare the Base Background

Step 1

Create a new 2000 x 1333 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:

new file

Step 2

Open the model image. Drag the image into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Convert this layer to a Smart Object.

add model

Step 3

We need to isolate the model to be able to work easily in the future. Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. On the layer mask, use the Quick Mask Tool (Q) or any tools you're familiar with to isolate the model from the background. You can see the model with the white background after being masked out.

isolate model

Hold Control and click the mask thumbnail of the model layer to load her selection.

load model selection

Press Control-J to paste the model into a new transparent layer. Right-click the mask of the original model layer, and choose Disable Layer Mask. Now we can work on the background behind the model, and the model won't be affected.

copy model into a new layer

Step 4

Hit Control-Shift-N to make a new layer. Set this layer between the original model layer and the extracted one. Activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a red/orange color (#f95915) to paint over the background. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%.

paint background with red
background color

Step 5

Make a new layer and use a soft black brush to paint shadow for some areas on the background. It helps to increase the depth. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%.

add background shade
background shade result

2. How to Make the Fire Effect

Step 1

Move the fire image into our main document and place it below the model's layer. Change this layer mode to Screen 100%:

add fire

Step 2

Duplicate this layer and move it to the right. Make it in a lower position to show different flames from the original one.

duplicate fire

Step 3

Select the fire layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Set this group's mode to Screen 100% and add a Levels adjustment layer to remove the unwanted white edges. You can see that the fire becomes redder.

fire levels

Step 4

Add a mask to each of the fire layers to remove some small details in the middle.

fire masking

Step 5

On each of the fire layers, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and change the Radius to 15 px. It helps to separate the fire effect from the model and increase the depth of field.

fire gaussian blur

Step 6

To make the reflection of the fire in the model's eyes, use the Lasso Tool (L) to grab two parts of the fire image and add them to the eyes area. Set the mode of these layers to Linear Dodge 100%. Remember to place these layers above the model's one.

add fire reflection

Add a mask to each of these layers and use a soft black brush to remove the unwanted edges outside the pupils' area.

fire reflection masking

Step 7

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 8 px to soften the fire's reflection.

fire reflection gaussian blur

Step 8

Make a new layer below the model's one. Use a soft brush with the color #fbe43e to paint on both edges of the background (the fire area). Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100% to add more glow to the fire's effect.

paint fire glow
fire glow result

3. How to Import the Barbed Wire

Step 1

Cut out the barbed wire from the background and place it at the bottom of the canvas. Set this layer above the model's one and use a layer mask to remove the part covering the model so the wires appear behind her.

add background wires
background wires masking

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 15 px to the wire so that it blends well with the softness of the background.

background wires gaussian blur

Step 3

Add a part of the wire to the front of the model and make it a bit bigger than the one in the background.

add front wire

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 9 px to this layer.

front wire gaussian blur

Step 4

Create a group for the wire layers and change the group's mode to Normal 100%. Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the blue cast on the wire. Bring the Saturation values down to -100:

wires hue saturation

Step 5

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer to give the wire some warm red from the fire. Alter the Midtones and Highlights values:

wires color balance midtones
wires color balance highlights

Step 6

Make a Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the wire. On the layer mask, paint on the wire part on the front and the right edges to reduce the brightness there.

wires curves

4. How to Retouch the Model

Step 1

On the model's layer, select the lips area and make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and set it as a Clipping Mask. Adjust the Reds settings to change the lips' color, making them redder.

change lips color

Step 2

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer to give some warm red to the model.

model color balance

Step 3

Create a Curves adjustment layer to make the left of the model (from the viewer) a bit brighter. Paint on the rest of the model so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

model curves

Step 4

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

model DB

Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 20% to paint highlights for the contour of the model, as well as more details for the headscarf. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode:

DB normal mode
DB overlay mode

5. How to Add the Rose

Step 1

Cut out the rose and place it on the hidden side of the model's head.

add rose

Step 2

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

rose hue saturation

Step 3

Add a Curves adjustment layer to darken the rose.

rose curves

6. How to Create the Fire Sparks

Step 1

Place the fireworks image onto the whole canvas and change the layer mode to Color Dodge 100%. Choose Edit > Transform > Rotate 90 Clockwise to change its perspective.

add fire sparks 1

Add a mask to this layer and remove the sparks covering the model and some bright details.

sparks 1 masking

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 12 px to make the effect appear subtle and soft.

sparks 1 gaussian blur

Step 3

Add more sparks using the same method. I've applied the Gaussian Blur and Motion Blur to this layer.

add sparks 2
sparks 2 gaussian blur
sparks 2 motion blur

Step 4

Continue adding the sparks around the model. Place some big sparks on the front of the model and apply Motion Blur and Gaussian Blur with the same settings to make the effect look more dynamic.

add sparks 3
sparks 3 gaussian blur motion blur
add sparks 4
sparks 4 blurs

7. How to Do the Final Adjustments

Step 1

Make a new layer on top of the layers and use a soft brush with the color #e97a37 to paint red highlights on the model's hair. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100%.

hair highlights

Step 2

On a new layer, use a medium-soft black brush with the color #f7cf79 to paint highlights for the model's contours, the nose bridge and lips. Change the layer mode to Overlay 100%. Make the left side contours brighter than the right to fit the main light source.

modell light effect
model light result

Step 3

Use a hard brush with the color #cf683d to paint some bright red hair strands around the model's face.

ligh hairt strands

Step 4

Create a Color Fill layer on top of the layers and pick the color #240203. Change this layer mode to Exclusion 70%.

whole scene color fill

Step 5

Make a Curves adjustment layer to increase the whole scene contrast. On the layer mask, paint on the background, especially the right so it becomes darker than the foreground.

whole scene curves 1

Step 6

Use another Curves adjustment layer to make the background darker. Paint on the foreground, model and the lower left so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

whole scene curves 2

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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