How to Create a Surreal Boat Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

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In this tutorial, I'll show you how to use Adobe Photoshop to create a surreal boat photo manipulation featuring a flying boat with birds, a tree, and a house.

First, we'll build the base scene using several stock images. Later, we'll add the boat, tree, roof, and window. We'll retouch the model, ladder, and lamp, and we'll paint the light. After that, we'll import the birds, add ropes, and paint some mist. We'll use several adjustment layers to enhance the final effect.

What You Will Need

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:

1. How to Build the Base Scene

Step 1

Create a new 2052 x 1333 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:

Step 2

Open the landscape 1 image and drag it into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Place it in the lower half of the canvas and flip it horizontally by choosing Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal:

Step 3

Go to Filter > Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and set it as Clipping Mask. Change the Midtones and Highlights settings:

Step 4

Make a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness. On the layer mask, activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a soft round one with black color to erase the left side to reduce the effect there.

Step 5

Make a Levels adjustment layer to increase the light and reduce the contrast of the middle section. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase both sides of the canvas so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

Step 6

Open the sky image and place it in the upper half of the main canvas. Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft black brush to erase the hard edges and blend it with the existing background.

Step 7

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and change the Midtones settings to make the sky more blue.

Step 8

Add a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the sky. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to remove the light effect on the lower section so it won't be too bright.

Step 9

Create another Curves adjustment layer with the same purpose. Paint on the left side so it won't be too bright.

Step 10

Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the color of the sky.

Step 11

Open the landscape 2 image. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the mountains area to add to both sides of the main canvas, as shown below.

Add a mask to each of these layers to move the hard edges and blend the mountains with the existing background.

Step 12

Select the mountains layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Change this group's mode to Normal 100% and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within this group to alter the mountains' color.

Step 13

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer to match the color of the mountains with the background.

Step 14

Use a Curves adjustment layer to decrease the mountains' visibility to fit the soft, misty atmosphere of the horizon.

2. How to Import the Boat

Step 1

Open the boat image (I've chosen the angle below to fit the perspective of the scene) and add it to the middle of the canvas. Add a mask to this layer to remove this detail as this is where we'll be adding the model.

Step 2

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to alter the boat's color:

Step 4

Make a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the front of the boat. On the layer mask, paint on the back side and shadow details to keep some contrast there.

Step 5

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

Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range and Exposure about 10-15% to refine the light and shadow of the boat, especially the bottom part. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

3. How to Add the Tree

Step 1

Open the tree image. I've chosen the angle below and used the Lasso Tool (L) to select the trunk to add to the middle of the boat. Set this layer below the boat's one. The reason I've set the trunk and the leaves on different layers is to resize the trunk separately so it won't be too small compared to the leaves.

Take the leaves part to add to the top of the trunk.

Step 2

Create a group for the tree layers and use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within this group to alter the color of the trunk and leaves.

Step 3

Make a Curves adjustment layer to bring more light and contrast to the tree. Paint on the right so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

Step 4

Use a Levels adjustment layer to give the tree some haze to fit the atmosphere of the background. Paint on the bottom right so it won't be too hazy.

Step 5

The trunk looks a bit too green, so use a Color Balance adjustment layer above this layer (set as Clipping Mask) to give it a more natural color.

4. How to Add the Roof and Window

Step 1

Place the roof image onto the top of the tree, and use a layer mask to blend the hard edges into the leaves.

Step 2

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones values:

Step 3

Create a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the top left of the roof. Paint on the left so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

Step 4

Use another Curves adjustment layer to darken the lower part of the roof and window. The selected area shows where to paint on the layer mask.

Step 5

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to enhance the light and shadow on the roof.

Step 6

Open the window image and select the one you like (I've chosen the right one) to place over the existing window. Use a layer mask to blend it with the existing one.

Step 7

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the color of the red flowers on the window.

Step 8

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to give this window some cyan tones.

5. How to Retouch the Model

Step 1

Isolate the model and add her to the middle of the boat (remember to set this layer below the boat one).

Step 2

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones and Highlights values:

Step 3

Make a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the front of the model. On this layer mask, paint on the shadow/hidden details so they won't be brightened by this adjustment layer.

Step 4

Create another Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the model's body.

Step 5

Add a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to paint more details for the model.

Step 6

Create a new layer and change the mode to Linear Burn 100%. Use a small brush with the color #214358 to strengthen the details on her T-shirt.

Step 1

Open the ladder image and use the Lasso Tool to select the lower section of the ladder to place beside the tree. Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to change the perspective of the top and bottom of the ladder a bit to balance their form.

Step 2

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and alter the Saturation settings:

Step 3

Make a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the front of the ladder. Paint on the shadow/hidden areas of the ladder to keep their contrast.

Step 4

Use another Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the shadow areas. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.

7. How to Add the Lamp

Step 1

Open the lamp image and isolate the lamps from the background. Select the lamp you want (I've chosen the right one) to place beside the window.

Use a layer mask to hide the bottom of the lamp within the leaves.

Step 2

Add a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the front of the lamp.

Step 3

Create a new layer on top of the layers, and use a soft brush with the color #f5bf98 to paint over the lamp area to create a glowing light and the reflection around it. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100%.

8. How to Add the Birds and Ropes

Step 1

Open the birds image and isolate the birds from the background. Add different birds, with their flight matching the movement and direction of the boat. Add three big birds flying ahead of the boat.

Step 2

Make a group for the birds layers and use a Color Balance adjustment layer to change their color.

Step 3

Create a Curves adjustment layer to reduce the contrast of the birds to fit the softness of the background.

Step 4

Use a Curves adjustment layer to brighten one of the big birds more.

Step 5

Use the Dodge Tool to brighten the front of the wing of the big bird.

Step 6

Open the rope image and use the Lasso Tool to select the rope only to add to the space between the big birds and the boat. Duplicate this layer twice and set them as shown below.

Step 7

Create a group for the rope layers and use a Curves adjustment layer to increase the light and haze of the ropes.

9. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

Make a new layer on top of the other layers and use a soft brush with the color #d4d0bc and Opacity about 20-25% to paint on the model, the tree, and the landscape to give them a misty effect. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%.

Step 2

Create another layer and use the same brush with an Opacity of about 5-10% to give the top of the tree a more hazy effect.

Step 3

Make a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the other layers and pick the colors #e10019 and #225c67. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 20%.

Step 4

Add a Selective Color adjustment layer and alter the Reds values to change the leaves' color a bit.

Step 5

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones and Highlights settings:

Step 6

Make a Color Fill layer and pick the color #3a0404. Alter this layer mode to Exclusion 70%.

Step 7

Create a Color Lookup adjustment layer and pick Fuji ETERNA 250D.

Step 8

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

Step 9

Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect.

Congratulations, You're Done!

I hope that you've enjoyed the tutorial on creating a surreal boat photo manipulation and learned something for your own projects. Feel free to share your results or leave comments in the box below. Enjoy Photoshopping!

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