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  1. Design & Illustration
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How to Create a Dreamy Glow Effect Photo Manipulation in Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Although Photoshop filters can be very powerful, if you want to create a truly original picture, you need to use various Photoshop effects. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to add a dreamy glow effect to a photo manipulation by using a few different photos and various color adjustments.

What You Will Need

You will need the following resources in order to complete this project:

1. How to Create a Background for a Glow Effect Photo Manipulation

Step 1

Open the spring meadow image in Photoshop and then drag sunset meadow into the file. Drag the latter up to cover the original background, leaving only the grass visible in the foreground.

composite two backgrounds

Step 2

Add a Layer Mask to the top layer and paint on it with a soft, black brush to blend the edge of the image with the one below

blend two backgrounds

Step 3

Click the lower layer. Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment to make the grass darker.

hue saturation adjustment
adjust lightness
darken the grass

Step 4

Add a Color Balance adjustment to make the grass more bluish.

color balance adjustment
make grass bluish
change grass color

Step 5

Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment to make the grass even darker.

brightness contrast adjustment
lower brightness

That should be good enough for now!

darken grass some more

2. How to Add a Cat to a Photo

Step 1

Open the sleeping kitten photo in Photoshop. Use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick a sample of the background, and then go to Select > Color Range. Select Sampled Colors and adjust the Fuzziness until the cat is mostly black inside. Click OK.

select white background

Step 2

Because the kitten has some bright areas on its fur, they might have been selected as well. Enter Quick Mask Mode (Q) and paint with black to cover these areas with red. When you go out of the mode (Q), the selection will appear again.

select cat in quick mask mode

Step 3

Go to Select > Inverse, then Select > Refine Edge. Here you can use a couple of options to select the fur more precisely. Use the Refine Radius Tool (E) to paint on the fur to make the spaces between the hairs transparent. Set Output to New Layer and press OK.

refine edge options
select fur in photoshop

Step 4

Copy and paste the kitten to the previous image. Place it on the grass.

paste cat into photo

Step 5

We're going to need to shade the kitten manually, but this kind of shading usually softens the object and makes it look airbrushed. To avoid it, we can use an alpha layer containing the texture of the fur.

Create a New Layer and fill it with white using the Paint Bucket Tool (G). Duplicate the kitten (Control-J) and drag it to the top. Go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. Merge both layers (Control-E) and go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Sketch > Photocopy. Adjust the settings to turn the photo into mostly a texture of fur. Click OK.

create fur texture

Step 6

Copy the layer and go to the Channels tab. Create a New Channel and paste your selection here. Then select the RGB channel again, go back to the Layers tab, and remove or hide the grayscale kitten.

add alpha channel

Step 7

Add a Color Balance adjustment to the kitten. Clip the adjustment (Control-Alt-G) to affect only the layer below, not the whole background. Make the kitten reddish-blue.

add color balance
make kitten reddish

Step 8

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment, clip it, and darken the kitten.

add hue saturation
darken the kitten

Step 9

There's a layer mask attached to the adjustment. Paint on it with black to reveal the rim light.

paint on layer mask

Step 10

Do you see how soft the rim light looks? Let's add some texture to it. Go to the Channels tab again, hold Control, and click the thumbnail of the alpha channel. This will make a selection.

add texture to layer mask

Go back to the Layers tab and hide the selection (Control-H). Then paint on the layer mask. Now you'll only be able to paint on the white parts of the fur texture, and the dark between them will stay unaffected. When you're done, don't forget to deselect the hidden selection (Control-D).

how to avoid airbruishing effect

Step 11

We're going to use the same method to add more shading adjustments. Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment and make the kitten darker and more bluish. Then paint on the mask, first without and then with the texture, to keep the shadow out of the upper area. Pay attention to the 3D form of the kitten's body.

desaturate the layer
desaturate the shadows

Step 12

Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment to darken the very bottom of the kitten.

add brightness contrast
change brightness of kitten

Step 13

Add one more Hue/Saturation adjustment to make the rim light warmer.

add warm colors
make kitten warmer

3. How to Add Grass to a Photo

Step 1

For now, the kitten seems to be floating on the grass. Let's make the illusion more convincing. Open the grass isolated image in Photoshop and remove its white background, just as we did earlier. Paste it into the photo manipulation and add a Photo Filter adjustment to it.

photo filter adjustment
blue photo filter
make grass blue

Step 2

Resize the grass (Control-T) and place it behind the kitten, between the two backgrounds. Duplicate it (Control-J) to make more.

add grass to photo

Step 3

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the grass to paint a shadow under the kitten.

darken the grass
paint shadow on grass

Step 4

Add bigger grass in the front, above the kitten layer, to create some depth.

add grass in front

Step 5

Darken the grass and add Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur to it to simulate the depth of field.

darken grass
blur grass
grass depth of field

Step 6

Add more grass in the front, with a stronger blur.

add stronger blur

4. How to Add a Girl to the Photo 

Step 1

Open the sleeping girl photo in Photoshop. Use the Pen Tool (P) to select the outline of the girl. Then use the Refine Edge option to select the hair precisely.

select hair in photoshop

Step 2

The foot has been cropped out of the picture, so let's retrieve it. Draw an outline of the missing part with your chosen selection tool, and then go to Edit > Fill > Content Aware.

select missing part of photo
content aware fill
add missing part of photo

Step 3

Select the hair on the right, copy and paste it, and place it on the left, to replace the hair that's missing. Merge the layers.

add missing hair

Step 4

There's some over-exposure in the hair, so let's fix it. Add a Levels adjustment and increase the contrast by dragging the dark marker towards the center.

levels adjustment
increase contrast
make shadows darker

Step 5

Use a Layer Mask to erase the adjustment from most of the body, leaving it only in the over-exposed area.

darken shadows selectively

Step 6

Copy the girl (along with the adjustment: Control-Shift-C) and paste her into the main file. Resize and rotate her (Control-T) so that she fits snugly in the kitten's fur.

add girl to the photo

Step 7

Add a Layer Mask to hide the areas of her body that should be covered.

remove the edges

Step 8

Let's adjust her colors now. Add a Color Balance adjustment and make her bluish.

change the colors
make girl blue

Step 9

Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment and make the girl darker. Use the Layer Mask to reveal the light in the upper part of the body, closer to the illuminated part of the kitten.

change the brightness
make the girl darker

Step 10

Right-click the adjustment layer and select Blending Options. Hold Alt and drag the lower white marker to the left. This will reveal the bright parts of the layer below, making the shadow more realistic.

blending options blend if
make shadows more realistic

Step 11

Add another Brightness/Contrast adjustment and use it on the lower part of the body, deeper in the shadow.

add darker shadows

Step 12

Add a Photo Filter adjustment and make the girl more bluish—but only in the lower part.

add photo filter
make girl more blue

Step 13

Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment to add another level of shadows.

add more shadows
add more shadows to the photo

Step 14

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment and use it to desaturate/darken the hair. It can't stay this red, because it would look confusing in this composition.

change the colors gaian
make the light warmer

Step 15

The girl still looks a little too warm for this environment, so let's lower her saturation slightly. Add a Vibrance adjustment and decrease it.

vibrance adjustment
lower vibrance
make girl less saturated

5. How to Make the Kitten Fluffier

Step 1

The composition looks mostly right, but there are certain details that can be made better yet. Hide the girl layer for a moment and select a part of the fur on the kitten. Copy it merged (Control-Shift-C) and paste it below the girl.

add fur to picture

Step 2

Use the Blending Options to remove the layer's contents from the shadows. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) and Control-drag the corners to change the perspective of the layer.

remove shadows from fur
resize fur

Use a Layer Mask if necessary to make it cleaner.

use layer mask

Step 3

Open the fluffy cat photo in Photoshop. Remove its background and copy a part of its fluffy fur into the main file. Make it reddish-orange with a Hue/Saturation adjustment, and then merge it with the adjustment.

add fluffy fur

Step 4

Duplicate this part of the fur all behind the kitten's back, creating a row of illuminated fur.

add rim light for fur

You can brighten it slightly by adding an adjustment to a group containing the fur.

brighten the fur

Step 5

Drag the tabby kitten into the main file. Lower its Opacity and resize it to place it right over the kitten's back.

add another photo

Step 6

Reset the Opacity and change the Blending Options to remove the shadows from this photo. Then use a Layer Mask to keep only the illuminated fur on the back.

change blending options
clean fur with layer mask

Step 7

Duplicate this layer and place it in other areas that need some illuminated fur. Adjust the Layer Mask accordingly.

add more texture to fur

Step 8

Drag the fluffy kitten photo into the main file. Use it in a similar way to add its fluff to the chin (above the girl) and behind the girl.

add kitten photo
add more fluff
add fur behind girl

6. How to Add a Photoshop Dreamy Glow Effect

Step 1

We're almost done, but let's add some glow effects to our image. Create a New Layer over the background, and use a round hard brush to paint circles of the same size, but different opacity.

add bokeh to photo

Step 2

Go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. Use high Brightness and Threshold to make the bokeh blurry and glowing.

create bokeh in photoshop

Step 3

Change the Blend Mode to Overlay, and lower the Opacity to make the effect subtle.

make bokeh in photoshop

Step 4

Do a similar thing, this time painting very small circles.

add glowing light in photoshop

Step 5

Add Outer Glow to them.

add outer glow effect

Step 6

Right-click the layer and Rasterize Layer Style, adding a blur to it.

blur glow effect

Step 7

The back of the kitten is glowing, but the grass behind is more subdued. Let's fix it. Duplicate the background layer (the one with the sky) and Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. Then go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Brush Strokes > Accented Edges. Adjust the settings to create a black edge around the blades of grass. Click OK.

select the edges

Step 8

Add a Levels adjustment to this layer. Drag both markers to the opposite side to create very strong contrast—with black around the edges of the blades and a white background.

change contrast of edges
increase contrast

Step 9

Copy this layer and paste it as a new alpha channel. Control-click it to take the selection, and then hide the layer, create a new one, and fill it with white. Drag it above the background, but behind the grass.

add new alpha channel
make glowing edges

Step 10

Use Gaussian Blur to make the edges more glowing.

blur the glow

Step 11

Add a Layer Mask to limit the glow to the upper parts of the blades. Lower its Opacity and maybe add a Hue/Saturation layer to make the glow more saturated.

create glow effect photoshop

Step 12

To make the rest of the grass glow, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment in Overlay mode. Use Blending Options to remove the effect from the darker areas.

change colors f glow
change blend if settings
add glow effect

Step 13

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment to desaturate the grass in the background slightly.

change hue saturation
mak background desaturated

Step 14

Add a Selective Color adjustment on top. With it, you can control all colors in the image. Use it to make the blues brighter and the blacks brighter and warmer. This will unify the shadows in the picture nicely.

selective color adjusyment
adust the colors selectively
ho to make photo manipulation look good

Step 15

Finally, let's add some blur. Copy the whole picture and paste it on top. Go to Filter > Blur > Iris Blur. Drag the ellipse to create a blur around it.

add blur ro edges

Step 16

To create a stronger blur, Duplicate the layer and add a Gaussian Blur to it. Then paint on its Layer Mask in the center to reveal most of the image, leaving some blur on the edges.

blur vignette

So Cute!

Now you know how to create a glow effect in Photoshop! if you enjoyed this tutorial and want to learn more about Photoshop effects, try these tutorials as well:

photoshop dreamy glow effect
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