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How to Create a Somber Composition in Photoshop

Read Time: 8 mins

This one's another collaboration with my good friend Toma Alin Gabriel. In this tutorial you will learn how to manipulate stock images and turn them into your puppets to express your desired feelings.

Final Image Preview

Take a look at the final result first. You can view the final image preview below or view a larger version here.

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Photoshop CS4
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 7 hours


First of all I would like to thank the authors of these great stock images: Julia Starr, MouritsaDA-Stock, mjranum-stock, mjranum-stock, mjranum-stock, SXC and the brush zigabooooo.

Step 1

Create a new document size 1900x1200 and fill the background with black. Then take 3 of those scratch textures that Julia Star has created, and apply these effect to them. Leave the first texture set's Layer Style to Normal, then set the other two to Multiply. This will darken the background and apply some nice color gradients.

Step 2

Import the woman stock image. Cut her out using the Pen Tool (P). You will have to play with the Color Balance to give the model a reddish color. Play with Red and Magenta, as this should work just fine. Then double-click the layer to enter the Blending Options and add an Outer Glow set to black, Normal, Opacity 50%, Spread 0 and Size 50 px. And the final move on this step is to use the Brush Tool (B) with the brush you have imported from the link above, and use it to erase parts of the model's body.

Step 3

Create a new layer and place it below the model. Now make a selection of the model and set the brush to a blue color #295956 and 2px then stroke the selection. As soon as you have created the stroke just move the stroke slightly to the left and up then apply a wave effect to it.

Step 4

Next, create a pyramid using the Pen Tool (P) and place it onto a new layer. You can fill the layer with black but eventually you will have to use the Brush Tool (B) and apply different colors on the pyramid. Also you will lower the Opacity of the layer so that the background is a bit visible.

Next you will need to Merge the pyramid layers strokes and brush work. Then apply the settings from the image below.

Step 5

Bring in the document with another mannequin image and cut out the lower part of the mannequin, then place it in position.

Using the same technique as you have done with the previous image you need to create some break apart effects. This time you will use the Lasso Tool (L) to erase some bigger portions of the layer.

Step 6

Create a new layer above the mannequin, and while using the Pen Tool (P), brush a few white strokes set to 1px. This will give the impression of the mannequin being under construction.

Step 7

Using the brush that zigabooooo provided, you need to create a few break apart effects using the colors you will pick from the models using the Eye Picker Tool (I).

Step 8

Use the Pen Tool (P) again to create a line along the first mannequin. Set the brush to 3px or 2px then set the Blending Options of this stroke like below. Color does not matter because you will add an effect over it.

Step 9

Again same as you did in step 6 you need to create some more white strokes but this time create them above the second mannequin. Make sure you place this layer in such a manner that the hand of the second mannequin looks like it reaches in there.

Step 10

Now using the Lasso Tool (L) you need to select parts of the original second mannequin and place those pieces over the strokes you have created in step 9. This will give the impression that parts of the statue has been constructed. Also, the hand of the first mannequin looks like it is actually constructing the pieces, or putting them together.

Step 11

Just like you did in step 8 you need to repeat the step and create another stroke. This time make the brush bigger, set the Shape Dynamics of the Brush to Pen Pressure to obtain that nice look and also this time apply a different color to the stroke but the same settings like the first stroke.

Step 12

Use the Pen Tool (P) and create really small strips of strokes using the same color as on the big stroke.

Step 13

Open up the other mannequin image and using the Pen Tool (P) you need to cut out the hand from that image. Then as you did with the legs you need to create the break apart effect over the hand.

Step 14

Next you need to create those small strokes where the arrow point then create the break apart effect around the hand.

Step 15

Go back at the leg of the second mannequin and create another yellow stroke around his leg using the Pen Tool (P).

Step 16

Another yellow stroke that will go from the arm to the legs of the mannequin.

Step 17

What you need to do next is to add the next mannequin in the document. Cut it out using the Pen Tool (P) and place it into the document. You will have to repeat the same steps as you did with the first mannequin. Add same color and play with the levels to darken some areas a little.

To make it a bit different, apply the settings shown below.

Next same as you did before create those nice looking waves around the mannequin. Then, while using the Pen Tool (P), set the brush to white and 1 px then create soft strokes on the edges and other areas to bring in some details.

Step 18

Create another pyramid shape under the third mannequin layer. This time use different colors, then use the Burn and Dodge Tools (O) to give a bit of depth to the shape.

Final result so far.

Step 19

Going back to the hand you will create some more strokes. This time you will not use only the Pen Tool (P) with the stroke effect but this time you will use your tablet too and create some more thin strokes and create that nice looking swirl. For the color use the Eye Picker Tool (I) and chose a color from the white mannequin.

Step 20

Create some more swirls around the mannequins using the same techniques and from time to time use your tablet to create those skinny strokes.

Step 21

Use the Pen Tool (P) and, in a new layer, create a white shape like in the image below. You will then use the Eraser Tool (E) in some locations to make them transparent and erase some areas to make the leg of the mannequin go over the shape.

Step 22

Use the Pen Tool (P) again and create a soft white gradient into a new layer like below. This will give the impression like the pyramid has a bottom for the mannequin to sit on.

Step 23

The result so far must look like this. Also, the next few steps should prove to be fairly easy.

Step 24

In this step you will notice that there are some more new elements added to the document. These are just some simple triangles created again with the Pen Tool (P) and just a text "SAVE US". In all these elements you need to use this brush from Ryoku15 or other clouds you can find for free and place them inside these elements. You do this simply by creating a new layer above the element, apply the cloud and set the layer to Soft Overlay or just lower the Opacity. You can play with the setting and chose the one that suits your work best.

Step 25

Now you need to add the color effects. First you need to add a color fill. Do this by going at the bottom of the layer palette and chose Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer and from that tab choose Solid Color and use the settings below. In the end, set the layer to Screen and Opacity to 30%.

Step 26

Again go to the Create new fill or adjustment layer and from that tab chose Levels and use the settings below.

Step 27

Now you need to add the color effects. First select everything by pressing Command + A (Ctrl + A on Windows) then go to Edit > Copy Merged. This copies every layer that is active. Then, go back to Edit and Choose Paste and this copies every layer that was visible into a single layer, like a jpg file.

Step 28

Duplicate the layer and make it Black & White by pressing Command + Shift + Option + B (Ctrl + Shift + Alt + B on Windows). Then set the layer to Hard Light and Opacity 50%.

Step 29

The final result should look like the image below. The image looks pretty good as it is. The colors are very nice but if you want to change them you can play with the image in Lightroom or simply in Photoshop by applying some Curves effects.


You can view the final image below or view a larger version here.

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