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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation
Design

How to Create a Honey Bee Themed Photo Manipulation in Photoshop

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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Today, I will be walking you through how to create a bumblebee themed photo composite with a surrealistic edge. We will be taking a more in-depth look at high-end editing techniques such as color grading, hair extraction, and how to incorporate both painted and photo elements into one cohesive photo.

Along with the "hows", we will also be talking about the "whys" and "why nots" for a truly comprehensive look at fine art photo manipulation!

What You'll Need

In order to complete this project, you will need the following resources:

Find more resources on Envato Elements!

1. How to Replace the Background

First, we are going to extract our subject, the girl lying on tulips, from her original environment and place her into a sprawling field of flowers.  

We won't be extracting the subject's hair just yet!

Step 1

Place the subject onto a 2738 x 3510 px canvas with a 300 DPI.  

Shrink the subject down slightly, around 200 px. This is important for when we enlarge the subject's eyes later on. 

base image

Step 2

Using the Magnetic Lasso Tool, create a rough selection around the model's background, excluding any flowers and the model's hair. 

Add a Layer Mask to the subject to automatically mask out what we have selected. Press Control-I to invert the mask if necessary. 

rough selection

Step 3

Using a combination of the Blur Tool and the Brush Tool, blur out the edges of the flowers. 

Take the Blur Tool and run it over the edges of the layer mask to help bring back the flower's blurry edge created by the depth of field. 

Use the Brush Tool, set to a low Flow rate, by painting black on the layer mask to lightly fade out the edge of the flowers. This will make them blend smoothly with lavender flowers.

Also, carve the flowers out more and give them more shape if needed.

Blur Tool Settings

  •  Strength 100%

Brush Tool Settings 

  • Flow: 20%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Black

Make sure to zoom in very close, making sure all of the edges are as they should be. Some edges will need to be softer than others; attention to detail is key! 

blur edges

Step 4

Place the lavender field stock image behind the subject and enlarge it significantly. 

We want to make sure the perspectives of both photos match and stay consistent, so pay close attention to how the tulips behind our subject blend in with the lavender in both size and perspective.    

add background

Step 5

To give the lavender depth of field, we can use either Field Blur or Shape Blur. Today, let's use Shape Blur as it's a great alternative if field blur is unavailable to you!

Go to Filter > Blur > Shape Blur to access Shape Blur. 

Shape Blur Settings: 

  • Radius: 11 px
  • Shape: Circle 

If a circle is not an option, click on the right-hand Settings Wheel Icon > Shapes. 

blur background

Step 6

Create a New Layer above the "lavender field background", but below the subject layer.

Set the layer to Screen.

With a very large, soft, round brush, paint a red-purple light coming from the upper right-hand side of the screen. 

Brush Settings 

  • Flow: 20%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Red-Purple #b1475a
add light

Step 7

Create a Selective Color adjustment layer above the "red-purple light" layer. 

Use this layer to color match the lavender to the same shade of purple as the tulips.

Selective Color Settings

Reds

  • Cyan: -10
  • Magenta: +61
  • Yellow: -73
  • Black: +13

Yellows

  • Cyan: +100
  • Magenta: +23
  • Yellow: +31
  • Black: -19

Cyans

  • Cyan: +100
  • Magenta: +52
  • Yellow: +100
  • Black: +100

Blues

  • Cyan: +61
  • Magenta: +16
  • Yellow: -33
  • Black: -9

Magentas

  • Yellow: +100
color correct

Step 8

Create a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer, placing it above the "selective color" layer. 

Brightness/Contrast Settings 

  • Brightness: 50
add light

Step 9 (Optional)

Create a New Layer set to Color. 

Place it above the "Brightness/Contrast" layer. 

With a medium, soft, round brush, paint green in between the gap of flowers located on the right-hand side to help further blend the background if needed. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 100%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Green #405222
add green

Step 10

Create and clip a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer into the subject. 

Brightness/Contrast Settings

  • Contrast: 16

Group all of the lavender field layers together into a group named "Field". Do not add the subject and its clipped layers.

final layers

2. How to Enlarge the Eyes of a Subject

Next, we are going to enlarge the eyes of our subjects to give her a more surreal and doll-like appearance. This is my personal favorite eye-enlarging technique as it allows me to enlarge the eyes as much as I want without losing any of the detail or clarity of the original eyes! 

Step 1

Open up a separate document with the original full-sized subject image. Remember how we shrank our subject down before? We will be using the eyes of the original unshrunk image! 

Using the Lasso Tool create a large selection around the model's eyes, including the eyebrows.  

Step 2

Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste the larger eyes onto our main canvas, clipping them into our subject, and placing them below the previously clipped "Brightness/Contrast" layer. 

Using the Lasso Tool again, arrange and position each eye individually to where they aren't too far apart or too close together. 

paste eyes

Step 3

Add a Layer Mask to the larger eyes.

Using a soft, round brush, mask out the harsh and excess edges of the enlarged eye, blending them into the face. 

Brush Settings

  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Black 
blend eyes

3. How to Extract and Paint Hair

Extracting hair is one of the more frustrating parts of photo compositing, especially with every image being different so no single technique will work on every image. However, this technique is my go-to process, and I find it works on most images! As I said, you'll always need slight variations, but it's a good starting point.  

I recommend looking at photographs of backlit hair, as that is what we will be replicating.

Step 1

Right-Click > Apply Layer Mask to the subject layer. Using the Magnetic Lasso Tool, create a rough selection of the model's hair. 

Create a new Layer Mask on the subject to mask out the hair selection.

rough cut hair

Step 2

Double-click the subject's layer mask, or hit Control-Alt-R, to open up Refine Edge.

Refine Edge Settings

  • Radius: 6 px
  • Smart Radius: Checked

The rest of the settings will vary from use to use. Normally I leave them all at zero; however, the best way to master Refine Edge is to play with its settings! 

Select the Refine Edge Brush Tool, located on the left-hand side, and brush around the edges of the subject's hair.

This is done best with a medium to large brush size. Change the size of the brush using [ and ].

If an area you don't want selected becomes selected, press and hold Alt to change the brush from add to subtract/deselect. You can also Control-Alt-Z to undo a selection or deselection.

Keep running the brush over the edges of the hair, paying attention to how the hair strands come and go until you are satisfied.

refine edge

Step 3

With a semi-hard round brush, mask out any unwanted edges or leftover background. Also mask back in any section of hair that may have been removed by accident. 

Brush Settings

  • Hardness: 75%
  • Color: Black/White 

Mask back in some of the longer and finer hair strands using a very small, hard, round brush, or better yet, a hair strand brush. 

You can find one online, or learn to create your own (located under Step 3.3)!

Hair Strand Brush Settings

  • Flow: 75%
  • Size: 1–2 px
  • Hardness: 100%
  • Color: Black

We will be filling the edges of the hair with white, so don't worry if some of the hair strands have portions of the background in them—it's the shape that matters!

Feel free to just freestyle in some hair—just make sure to match the shape and texture of the original strands of hair.

hair strands

Step 4

Create and clip a New Layer into the subject, placing it above the "Brightness/Contrast" layer. Set the layer to Soft Light and 50% Opacity.

With a large, soft, round brush, paint a soft wash of light onto the hair, starting from the edges and working your way down. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 50%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: White 
soft light

Step 5

Create and clip another New Layer, placing it above the "Soft Light" layer. Set the layer to Overlay and 70% Opacity.

With the same brush as before, paint white on the edges of the hair and on the more prominent highlights in the curls of hair. The key is to build up light very slowly and softly. 

overlay

Step 6

Create and clip New Layer above the "Overlay" layer. 

Fill in and paint the outermost hair strands with white using the same hard round brush or hair strand brush, as before.

Focus on painting hair strands on the very edges of the hair, bringing in some solid white strands of hair towards the middle of the head. 

paint hair strands

Step 7

Create and clip a New Layer into the subject, placing it above the previous layers. Set the layer to Soft Light.

With a large, soft, round brush, paint a golden orange wash of light, starting at the edge of the hair and fading out towards the middle of the hair. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 50%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Golden Orange #ff9962
orange light

Step 8

Create a New Layer below our subject. Set the layer to Screen. 

With a very large, soft, round brush, paint a bloom of pale yellow light coming from behind the subject. 

Brush Settings

  • Color: Pale Yellow #ffe9a6
add glow

Step 9

Create one more New Layer below the subject. 

To finish up the hair, use the hard brush or hair strand brush from earlier and paint white strands of hair behind the subject. Try not to make them too thick. A good trick is to use a soft Eraser Tool at the apex of a curved strand, very lightly partially erasing the curve, which will thin out its appearance.

The hair should be light, wavy, and frizzy. Keep that in mind when painting!

final layers

4. How to Paint Wounds and Tears

Next up, we will be adding a bunch of little details to our subject's skin. Adding small details is essential when it comes to adding story and depth to an image. For instance, here our subject will be surrounded by bees, so naturally, she may have acquired a few bee stings which often cause inflation and watery eyes. 

When painting in details like this, always look up references to help bring in some accuracy, even if you are going for a more stylistic look as we are today! 

Step 1

Create a New Layer above our subject and all of its clipped layers. Set the layer to Screen. 

With a large, soft, round brush, paint a pale yellow haze around the model's hair and head.

Brush Settings

  • Color: Pale Yellow #edd4a9
add haze

Step 2

Create a New Layer above the "Haze" layer. Set the layer to Soft Light.

Using a medium, semi-soft, round brush, paint around the eyes and nose with a deep red color. Focus the color more towards where the eye creases and wrinkles to enhance the look of puffiness of the eyes. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 30%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Deep Red #9b0000
add redness

Step 3

Create a New Layer, bringing it above the "Face Redness" layer. Set the layer to Overlay. 

Using a small, soft, round brush, paint white on the highlights of the eyes and eyelids. Then paint black on the shadows. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 15%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Black and White 

This will give the eyes a "glassy" appearance. When painting, use a very light touch and build the light and dark up slowly. Focus on bringing out the natural details of the eyes, such as the puffiness under the eyes and the eyelid fold. 

add contrast

Step 4

Create a New Layer, bringing it above the "Eye Highlight" layer.

The trick to painting watery/teary eyes is to keep the brush set to a very low Flow rate and to build up the light slowly, pressing hard in some areas and lightly in others. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 10%
  • Size: 1–3 px
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: White

Tips for Painting Tears

Focus the tears in the inner eye ducts and the lower lash line, and remember tears are mostly transparent, so don't make them look too solid or milky. Think of it like this: we are just painting light that is reflecting off water, nothing solid.

Look up references of tears to help you! 

paint tears

Step 5

Finish the eyes by creating a New Layer above the "Tears" layer. Set the layer to Color and the Opacity to 30-35%

Paint a light baby blue color over the outer portion of the iris to bring some blue to our model's eyes. This will tie the subject's face in nicely with her baby blue sweater.  

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 100%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Baby Blue #4e7bc2
blue eyes

Step 6

Now on to painting our bee stings! Most wounds consist of the same three things:

  1. Irritation or redness around the wound area. 
  2. Raised or inflamed skin. 
  3. The actual point where the skin was broken.

Keeping these three things in mind will make the painting of at least smaller wounds, such as stings and bug bites, pretty simple. 

Create a New Layer above the "Blue Eyes" layer. Set the layer to Soft Light.

With a medium, soft, round brush, paint blotches of red around the area where the bee sting will be. Build the color up slowly, making fairly distinct blotchy spots. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 15%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Red #932119
redness

Step 7

Create a New Layer above the "Soft Light Redness" layer. Set the layer to Multiply.

Again, paint darker red splotches around the area of the sting. Also, lightly sketch out where the stings' bumps will go, including the sting spot. This will act as a shadow in the next step. 

redness

Step 8

Create a  New Layer above the previous "Redness Layer" that we just painted. Bring down the layer Opacity to 65%

Using the Eyedropper Tool, eyedrop a color from someplace on our subject's skin that is slightly brighter than the patch of skin you are currently working on. 

With a small, semi-hard, round brush, paint a small bump using the lighter skin tone color.  

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 75%
  • Hardness: 70%
  • Color: Subject's Skin Color #d39992 (will vary)

Paint in a circular motion, making sure the bump is not too harsh or too bright. If the bump looks too flat, add in a very soft highlight using an off-white color.

Look up bee sting reference photos to help you! 

add bump

Step 9

Create a New Layer above the "Bump" layer. Set the layer to Multiply. 

Using a very small, hard, round brush, paint a tiny dot of blood red right in the middle of the bump.  

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 100%
  • Size: 1–2 px
  • Color: Blood Red #630700

Bring down the opacity of the sting wound if it's too dark. 

add blood

Step 10

Repeat this step several more times, placing bee stings on the face and arms of the subject. 

Keep in mind that you will have to use variations of colors, opacities, brushes, etc., depending on the location of the sting. 

Don't just copy and paste! You can always tell when someone took the easy way out, and it will never look as good as when you paint each detail individually.

I do recommend grouping all of the different bee-sting layers into their own separate groups, for easy access, alterations, and expert organization! 

add more stings

Once satisfied, group all of the detail and bee-sting groups/layers into a group and name it "Face Details/Bee Stings".

final layers

5. How to Create a Surreal Honeycomb Effect 

Next, we are going to create the impression of our subject being slowly turned into a beehive by making her part honeycomb. As we want the overall feel of the image to stay calm and serene, we want to shy away from making the honeycomb look like a wound or painful. 

Keeping the mood and expression on the subject's face in mind is extremely important when illustrating a scene that tells a story.

Step 1

Create a Curves adjustment layer above all previous layers created thus far. 

Curves Settings

curves setting

Step 2 

Create a New Layer above the "Curves" layer. Set the layer to Soft Light and 50% Opacity. 

Using a medium, soft, round brush, paint more contrast onto the model's face. Focus on the shadows located towards the lower portion of the face and the highlight on the nose and forehead.

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 15%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Black and White
add contrast

Step 3

Create a New Layer above the "Face Shadow/Light" layer. Set the layer to Color and the Opacity to 73%. 

Lay down a base color of golden yellow using a large, soft, round brush. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 70%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Golden Yellow #ffbb5c
yellow base

Step 4

Very roughly cut out the honeycomb stock image using the Magnetic Lasso Tool. Shrink and position the honeycomb in the middle of the subject's forehead. 

place honeycomb

Step 5

Duplicate the honeycomb layer four times. Hide the second, third, and fourth duplicates for later. 

Change the first honeycomb's layer mode to Soft Light. Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to desaturate the honeycomb. 

Hue/Saturation Settings

  • Saturation: -100
soft light

Step 6

Add a Layer Mask to the honeycomb and gently mask out the outer edges.

On the very outer honeycomb cells, closer to the hairline and eyes of the subject, completely erase the inner portion of the cell so that only the outer white edges remain. 

We are going to slowly build up the transparency and solidness of the honeycomb; this will act as our outermost base and lightest layer. We want it to almost melt into the skin. 

blend honeycomb

Step 7

Unhide the second honeycomb duplicate, and change the layer mode to Overlay and the Opacity to 65%. 

Just like before, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to desaturate the honeycomb. 

Add a Layer Mask, and then fill it with black by inverting it with Control-I. 

Using a medium, semi-hard, round brush, paint back in some of the honeycomb cells. Focus more on the area towards the middle grouping of cells, leaving at least one row of "Soft Light Honeycomb" cells showing. Paint each cell back in individually. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 100%
  • Hardness: 70%
  • Color: White
overlay

Step 8

Create and clip a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer into the "Overlay Honeycomb" layer. 

Brightness/Contrasts Settings

  • Contrast: -50

This will create a very subtle change, but it's import for blending purposes. 

Step 9

Unhide the third honeycomb duplicate, and change the layer mode to Soft Light. Add a Layer Mask to the honeycomb and fill it with black.

Paint back in some of the cells just like before, still focusing on the innermost cells, but this time you can paint back in a small amount of the outermost cells to add more contrast and color. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 20%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: White

Remember, keep everything a smooth transition!  

soft light

Step 10

Turn on the fourth and final honeycomb layer, keeping the layer mode set to Normal. 

Repeat step 7 on this honeycomb, using the same technique, only this time focusing on only the innermost cells.  

add more honeycomb

Step 11

Create and clip a Color Balance adjustment layer into the last honeycomb layer. 

Color Balance Settings 

  • Red: +75
  • Green: -4
  • Blue: -17
adjust color

Step 12

Create and clip a Curves adjustment layer, and bring it above the "Color Balance" layer.

Curves Settings

curves settings

Mask out any harsh edges of light using a soft brush with a low Flow rate if needed. 

curves results

Step 13

Create and clip a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer above the "Curves" layer.

Brightness/Contrast Settings 

  • Brightness: 80
  • Contrast:-50

Once again, mask out any harsh edges of light using a very soft brush if needed. 

Group all the honeycomb layers together, not including the "Curves", "Face Shadow/Light" or "Yellow Skin" layers from earlier, and name the group "Honeycomb Cells". 

brightne

Step 14  

Create a New Layer above the "Honeycomb" group. Set the layer to Multiply. 

Using a medium, semi-soft brush, paint in some more face shadows over the honeycomb. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 10%
  • Hardness: 30%
  • Color: Skin Shadow Color #552a13

Tips for Painting Shadows

When painting shadows, it's important to mimic the existing shadows in the image and to avoid using flat black. A good trick is to use the Eyedropper Tool to color-pick colors from existing shadows that are close to the area that you will be painting on. 

It's also important to give shadows structure and not to make them too soft or formless. 

Finally, I normally recommend painting shadows on a layer set to Multiply as it best mimics how shadows darken and desaturate areas. I would use Soft Light very sparingly and pretty much completely avoid using Overlay for shadows. 

paint shadows

Step 15

Create a New Layer above the "Forehead Shadow" layer. Set the layer to Soft Light and 77% Opacity. 

Paint back in some of the forehead highlights over the honeycomb using a large, soft, round brush. 

Brush Settings

  • Flow: 50%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: White 

Group all of the honeycomb layers together into a group and name it "Honeycomb".

final layers

6. How to Create Dripping Honey

Next, we are going to add some honey to our living beehive. While we will be using the honey as is, the techniques used here can also work for any viscous liquid, such as spit or slime, with just a few small tweaks.  

It's always important to look at something and think of what else it could become with some alterations!

Step 1

Extract and place the dripping honey over the model's forehead. 

Use the Move Tool's Warp Mode function to better shape the honey to fit the forehead's natural curves. 

add honey

Step 2

Set the "Honey" layer to Multiply. Clip a Color Balance adjustment layer into the "Honey" layer.

Color Adjustment Settings

  • Red: +100
  • Blue: +35
multiply

Step 3

Create a New Layer above the "Honey" layer. Set the layer to Soft Light.

Using a small, semi-soft, round brush, paint highlights and lowlights onto the honey to add contrast.

Brush Settings 

  • Flow: 30%
  • Hardness: 30%
  • Color: Black/White

Try and focus the white where the forehead of the subject would be highest, along with bringing back any natural highlights in the honey.

Focus the black around the lower bottom-left portion of the forehead and towards the hairline. 

ad contrast

Step 4

Create a New Layer below the "Honey" layer. Set the layer to Multiply and down to 30% Opacity. 

With a semi-hard, round brush, paint using golden oranges and yellows to give our honey more depth and to create shadows.

Brush Settings 

  • Flow: 100%
  • Hardness: 70%
  • Color: Golden Yellow #f8c039, Warm Orange #e95d00, Dark Orange #933b00

Use the Smudge Tool to blend the colors together if needed! 

Below is an example of my layer set to Normal, 100% Opacity and over the top of my "Honey" layer so you can better see where and how I painted! 

add color

Step 5

Create a New Layer above our "Honey Contrast" layer. Set the layer to Soft Light.

With a semi-soft, round brush, paint more highlights onto the honey using a pale yellow color.  

Brush Settings 

  • Flow: 30%
  • Hardness: 30%
  • Color: Pale Yellow #ffecba

Slowly build up the color, creating a soft top edge that blends, and then a semi-hard bottom edge that has a bit more shape. It's almost like painting a semicircle or a crescent moon.

add light

Step 6

Create a New Layer above our "Honey Highlight" layer. Set the layer to Multiply and the Opacity to 56%.

Using a soft, round brush, paint dark brown shadows into the hairline of the subject to help blend the honey and forehead together.

Brush Settings 

  • Flow: 70%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Dark Brown #1c0e01
add shadow

Step 7

Go back and Duplicate the "Honey" layer, including the clipped "Color Balance" layer. Bring the duplicated "Honey" layer above all previous honey layers. 

Set the duplicate to Overlay and its Opacity to 41%. This gives our honey more light, depth, and a deeper golden color. 

duplicate honey

Step 8

Create a New Layer above our "Honey Overlay" layer. Set the layer to Overlay. 

With a small, semi-hard, round brush, paint smaller, more concentrated highlights onto the highest points of the honey using a pale yellow color. 

Brush Settings 

  • Flow: 50%
  • Hardness: 10–30%
  • Color: Pale Yellow #ffecba

Again, you can use the Smudge Tool to blend out the highlights if needed, but make sure not to make them too blurry! We want them to have a partial structure and shape. 

add highlights

Step 9

Create a New Layer above our second "Honey Highlights" layer. Set the layer to Soft Light. 

With a small, soft, round brush, paint some darker, more defined shadows into the honey using black. 

Brush Settings 

  • Flow: 20%
  • Hardness: 10–30%
  • Color: Black

Keep these a bit softer than the highlights, painting them in places where the honey would be thinner or sloped down. 

Also, keep in mind, I rarely recommend using black paint for shadows, but because of the shiny nature of honey, it works in this instance. 

Group all the forehead honey layers together into a group named "Forehead Honey".

add shadows

Step 10

Add more honey around the cheeks and also some onto the nose and fingertip of our subject using the same method as above!

The steps are essentially the same, but with some slight variations because no technique works exactly the same on all images in every scenario. So here are some tips to pair with the above steps for creating honey!

Tips and Reminders

  • Set the honey layers to Multiply to create a base. 
  • Bring back highlights by duplicating the Multiply layer, placing it above, and setting it to Screen. 
  • Use the layer mode Multiply to paint shadows.
  • Use the layer modes Soft Light and Screen to paint highlights.
  • Use Warp Mode, located inside the Move Tool, to warp and shape the honey. 
  • Use a mixture of Color Balance, Brightness/Contrast, Vibrance and Hue/Saturation adjustment layers to match colors and hues and get nice golden tones. 
  • Add a Layer Mask to a "Honey" group to mask out parts you want to hide after you've finished the honey. 
  • Look at reference photos of honey.
final layers

7. How to Add Bumblebees to a Photo

Next, we will be adding some bees to our composite using this Bumblebee 3D render. The cool thing about this stock is that because it's a 3D render, you can choose multiple different angles, so you won't just be copying and pasting the same repetitive bee everywhere!

Also, as it's a 3D render, the bee comes pre-extracted and includes a shadow!   

Step 1

Go to the Bumblebee 3D render and hit the View 360 Render button located below the bee image. Drag and rotate the bee so that you have a few different angles, downloading them all as PSD. 

Open up the PSD in Photoshop. Feel free to delete all the layers inside the "Bubblebber Pose" group, located within all the bee PSDs, except for the "Subject [Flat]" and the "Shadow" layer. 

Step 2

Drag, drop and position the first bee onto the subject's forehead. Remove the "shadow" layer out of the group, dragging it downwards. 

Set the "Shadow" layer to Multiply and change the Color Fill layer to a dark orange color #9b3e00.

Link the "Shadow" layer to the "Bumblebee Pose" group. This makes it so that if you move one, the other will move as well without having to be selected. 

add bee

Step 3

Create and clip a New Layer into the "Bumblebee Pose" group. Set the layer to Soft Light. 

Using a small, soft, round brush, paint some basic light and shadows onto the bee using black and white. 

Brush Settings 

  • Flow: 30%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Black and White 
add light

Step 4 

Create and clip a second New Layer into the "Bumblebee Pose" group. 

Paint solid white on the bee's wings to brighten them and help them to stand out. Remember, we are going for a more stylistic look! 

brighten wings

Step 5

Create and clip a Curves adjustment layer into the "Bumblebee Pose" group, above the two lighting layers. 

Curves Settings

curves settings
curves results

Step 6

Create and clip a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer into the "Bumblebee Pose" group, above the "Curves" layer. 

Brightness/Contrast Settings

  • Brightness: 26
  • Contrast: -50

Group all of the bumblebee layers together into a group named "Bumblebee". 

finished  bee

Step 7

Repeat step 2 through 6, adding a few more bees to the model's face and body. Remember, just like with everything, you will have to make slight variations depending on where the bee is located! 

For example, you'll have to change the shadow of the bee to a dark sky blue color #364974 if the bee is standing on the girl's blue sweatshirt.

add more bees

Repeat steps 1-6 for our Flying Bees as well! 

add flying bees

Step 8

Go into the "Bumble Bee Pose 2" group, aka the flying bee, and Right-Click > Convert to Smart Object the "Subject [Flat]" layer if it's not already a smart object. 

Add a Motion Blur to the bee. Note that the angle setting will vary with each bee! 

Motion Blur Settings

  • Angle: -68
  • Distance: 11px
add motion blur

Step 9

Select the Smart Filters layer mask and invert it using Control-I.

Using a soft, round brush, mask back in small portions of the blur around the wings and outer body. 

Group the flying bee into its own group, naming it "Flying Bumblebee".

mask blur

Step 10 (Optional)

Add an Outer Glow to the "Bumblebee Pose 2" group. 

You won't need to add this to every bee. In my personal image I only added the outer glow to a single bee.

Outer Glow Settings

  • Blend Mode: Screen
  • Opacity: 20%
  • Color: White
  • Size: 84 px
add glow

Step 11

Add more motion to the other flying bees using the same technique as above. Keep each bee inside its own group, or else your layers will get very confusing very quickly!

Step 12

Add a Shape Blur to any bees that are located in the foreground.

Shape Blur Settings

  • Shape: Circle
  • Radius: 7
blur bee

Group all of the "Bumblebee" and "Flying Bumblebee" groups together into a group named "Bees".

final layers

8. How to Add Haze and Depth to a Photo

Now that we are reaching the end, we will be adding in the final details such as haze, air particles, and a leafy foreground. 

I prefer to save these details for last, after I have all my main details in their final positions and I know I won't be moving anything around too much. 

Step 1

Create a New Layer above all other previous layers. Set the layer to Screen at 70% Opacity. 

Using a medium, soft, round brush, paint a light wash of gold over anyplace with honey. 

Brush Settings 

  • Flow: 40%
  • Hardness: 0%
  • Color: Gold #ffa616

Create a New Layer set to Lighten and repeating the step above, painting more gold around the bees on the subject's face and the honey directly under the eye. 

add glow

Step 2

Using any kind of dust, speckle, particle or debris brush, paint a mix of small white and brown dust particles floating in the air. 

Focus the particles around the subject's head and background. Think of them as dust floating on the wind. 

Brush Settings

  • Brush: Any kind of dust, speckle, particle or debris brush
  • Color: White and Brown #52453e
add dust

Step 3

Using the Magic Wand Tool, select some of the tulips' green stems and leaves and Copy and Paste them, bringing the pasted layer to the top, above all other current layers. 

Shape and enlarge the leaves as needed, bringing them to the lower right corner of the image. 

Add a Shape Blur to the leaves. 

Shape Blur Settings 

  • Shape: Circle
  • Radius: 30 px
add foreground

Step 4

Add several more bunches of grass using the same method as above. Use a combination of the Move, Transform, and Warp Tools to create variation. 

Group all the leaves together inside a group named "Leaves".

add more foreground

Step 5

Create a New Layer above all previous layers. Keep the layer set to Normal at 70% Opacity. 

Using a very large, soft, round brush, paint a gradient of white light in the top-right corner of the canvas.

We want this to be a very subtle gradient of light. However, below I have increased the light's opacity so you can see more clearly where it starts and where it fades.

add haze

Group all of the final details together into a group named "Final Details". 

final layers

9. How to Achieve a Vibrant Springtime Color Grading

Finally, we will bring everything together using some color grading techniques. While sometimes I will do this earlier on in the process, most of the time it tends to be towards the middle or end.

Color grading not only helps bring your color palette together, but it also brings the lighting and contrast together, creating a cohesive image.

We will be using multiple different adjustment layers—nine, to be exact—with a majority of them being Photoshop CC's default color lookup adjustment layers. Photoshop CS6 has some of these settings, but not all!

Step 1

Note that each layer will be created on top of the last. We are building from the bottom up!

Create the first Color Lookup adjustment layer. 

Color Lookup Settings

  • Opacity: 10%
  • 3DLUT File: EdgyAmber
color lookup 1

Step 2

Create a second Color Lookup adjustment layer. 

Color Lookup Settings

  • Opacity: 18%
  • 3DLUT File: FoggyNight
color lookup 2

Step 3

Create a third Color Lookup adjustment layer. 

Color Lookup Settings

  • Opacity: 33%
  • 3DLUT File: Kodak 5218 Kodak 2395
color lookup 3

Step 4

Create a fourth Color Lookup adjustment layer. 

Color Lookup Settings

  • Opacity: 70%
  • 3DLUT File: 3Strip
color lookup 4

Step 5

Create a fifth Color Lookup adjustment layer. 

Color Lookup Settings

  • Opacity: 37%
  • 3DLUT File: FallColors
color lookup 5

Step 6

Create a Solid Color Fill adjustment layer. 

Color Fill Settings

  • Layer Mode: Lighten
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Color: Brown #381400
color fill

Step 7

Create a Selective Color adjustment layer. 

Selective Color Settings 

  • Colors: Blues
  • Cyan: +100
  • Magenta: +20
  • Yellow: -10
selective color

Step 8

Create a second Selective Color adjustment layer. 

You could do this on the same selective color adjustment layer, as we did earlier, but I actually tend to recommend giving each color its own separate layer. This will give you more control and the ability to rearrange the different colored layers. 

Selective Color Settings 

  • Colors: Reds
  • Cyan: -14
  • Yellow: +20
selective color

Step 9

Create a Curves adjustment layer. 

Curves Settings 

curves settings

Adjust the "Curves" layer Blend If settings so that the blue no longer appears in the darker shadows. 

Blend If Settings

blend if settings

Group all the color grading layers together into a group and name it "Color Grading". I also went and grouped together all my "Subject" layers!

final layers

We've Done It!

Paying close attention to detail and being patient are some of the key components when creating fine art photo composites or photo manipulations. You'll notice that none of these techniques are all that complicated and that it's more about using simple and basic tools efficiently, as opposed to a bunch of gimmicks and shortcuts.  

There's not a day that goes by where I don't use most, if not all, of the techniques shown here today. Truthfully, it's the same process I have used for years now, but as with everything, the more you do it, the better you get at it. And there will always be room for improvement! 

So as always, keep experimenting with different techniques and practicing, and don't forget to post your version below, along with any questions, comments, or critiques!

End Result

Looking to learn more? Why not check out the following tutorials:

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