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How to Create an Ancient-Egypt-Inspired Cat Photo Manipulation in Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

I wonder what a normal day in Ancient Egypt looks like?

Many fun ideas start with just a simple question. And in today's tutorial, we'll create a detailed photo manipulation inspired by the world of Ancient Egypt.

Let's learn how to create this amazing world from scratch using incredible stock images and Photoshop tools.

Get inspired! Find more stocks for your work on Envato Market.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used in the production of this tutorial.

Design Inspiration

I love learning about the ancient world. And since Ancient Egypt is thought of as one of the most successful civilizations in history, I thought I would honor it with a little art.

This particular tutorial is also inspired by one of my first photo manipulations! This Egyptian Goddess Manipulation helped me understand a lot about photo compositing. So as a result, I'm giving her two adorable cats as pets.

Feel free to view the larger version of this manipulation to take in all the details. We'll need to build an entire scene from scratch using a mixture of free and premium stocks as well as a combination of photo compositing and digital painting techniques.

So keep your pen tablet handy!

But before we begin, let's take a look at the final image up against the original stocks.

Do you like these before and afters? Let us know!

Before and after photo manipulation

1. How to Build a Scene in Photoshop

This photo manipulation depicts an everyday scene of two lazy royal cats. So we'll need to build a believable Ancient Egypt location before adding our pets.

Like many of my photo manipulations, this one will take time. Keep in mind that it took me about a week of chipping away at this idea before I ended on this result, so if you need to take a few days and come back every now and then, this method might work for you too.

Step 1

In order to build a believable scene, let's start by taking apart this Egyptian Column photo.

Egyptian Columns

Create a New Document in Adobe Photoshop at 2000 x 1810 pixels, with a transparent background and 300 dpi.

Then Copy and Paste the Egyptian Column photo onto a New Layer.

Flip it by going to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal and move it over to the right. Name it R Column.

Add the first columns

Step 2

This space is currently too narrow for the cats.

So let's separate the left and right columns.

Separate the columns
  1. Select the Lasso Tool (L) and make a selection around the left four columns. Then hit Control-J to create a copy on a New Layer. These are the new left columns.
  2. Slide the columns copy over to the left. Resize and adjust the shape to match the right side using the Free Transform Tool (Control-T); try to make the columns taller and straighter.

Step 3

Now that we've made a duplicate, we have too many columns.

So get rid of the excess parts of the image on the right side of the R Column layer.

Remove extra columns
  1. Add a Layer Mask to the R Column layer.
  2. Use a Hard Round Brush (100% Opacity, 100% Hardness) to carve out all of the red areas shown. Make sure you only have the right columns and some of the ground showing, as above.

Step 4

Now let's move on to the floor!

To create a new stone floor, we'll need to open the original Egyptian Columns photo again and use the floor from the picture.

Create the floor
  1. Select the Lasso Tool (L) and create a small selection of the stone floor, including the shadows and lower columns seen in the forefront.
  2. Then Copy and Paste it onto a New Layer (below the column layers) and Flip it Horizontally.
  3. Adjust the floor shape using the Free Transform Tool (Control-T). Make it wider to fill in the space. Then create three copies of that floor layer so you can match each column with its own shadow. Stack them and experiment with the layout, Erasing where necessary. The result should look something like above.

Merge the floor layers together when you're finished.

Step 5

Let's add more details!

Next, we'll add the cats and throne.

Use the Lasso Tool (L) to make a selection around the Egyptian Throne. Then Copy and Paste it onto a New Layer above the rest. Center it and resize it (making it a little wider) to fit the scene.

Add the throne

Now you can insert the cats.

For each cat picture, remove the white backgrounds first. Use the Magic Wand Tool (W) to select the white background, and then Delete it.

Once the background is removed, Copy and Paste each cat onto New Layers above the rest. Adjust the size and perspective of each cat with the Free Transform Tool (Control-T).

Add the cats
The following cat layers correspond to each cat shown. Try to make them sit in the environment.

Step 6

Before we move on to the costumes, let's finish the background!

Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to grab a selection of the pyramid, sand and sky from this Egyptian Pyramid photo.

Copy and Paste the selection onto a New Layer at the bottom of the Layers panel. Flip it by going to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.

Position the pyramid as shown, making it a little off center to add more story and realism.

Add the pyramid

When you're through, blur the pyramid picture by going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, adding a Radius of 1.3 pixels.

2. How to Make the Cat Costumes

Step 1

Although Ancient Egyptians never had a PetSmart, I'm sure they probably dressed up their pets too, so we'll create cute costumes next.

Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to grab selections from the Egyptian Costume. We'll need the headpiece and part of the statue's golden fabric. Copy and Paste both pieces onto two New Layers above the cats and position them in place with the Free Transform Tool (Control-T).

Create the costume

Add a Layer Mask to each cat headpiece layer and refine the edges. You may need to Warp them significantly for a better fit. Or feel free to omit these details if you'd like.

Feel free to also take this moment to use these same layers to paint additional jewelry. I painted simple black collars for the cats with a Hard Round Brush (100% Opacity, 100% Hardness).

Here's the result so far.

Result after costume

Step 2

Things seem a little off, so let's clean it up.

Part of the hassle of photo art is setting the images in place. Now we'll work to clean up the environment so that the scene makes more sense visually.

First, add Layer Masks to the throne and cats. Mask away the parts you no longer want for cleaner, more refined edges. Make sure to Mask away the second cat's foot. This will help it appear to be behind the throne.

Refine the edges

I also cleaned up the lower parts of the throne to help make the shadows underneath the legs fit the scene.

3. How to Create Realistic Lighting

Keep going!

Next, we'll focus on creating realistic lighting and color harmony. Let's tackle the shadows for the floor and the composition's sense of depth first.

Step 1

We can start by establishing the foreground.

Create a New Layer above the rest. Use a Hard Round Brush (100% Opacity, 100% Hardness) to paint two dark brown #2c2316 column shapes on the right and left sides These will be pillars that hold fire.

Blur these pillars. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, setting the Radius to 4 pixels.

Create the pillars

When you're through, start using a Texture Brush to balance out the shadows on the floor. First, select the shadow color with the Eyedropper Tool (E), and then use that color to paint with.

Step 2

Add some light sources.

I imagine that this structure would have lots of pockets of light coming through, but I also want to add fire.

Use the Lasso Tool (L) to make a selection of the flames from this Fire photo. Copy and Paste two copies of the flames onto New Layers above the pillar layer.

Add the fire

Position each flame picture over a pillar and set the Layer Blend Mode to Screen. Then add a Layer Mask to help refine the edges with a Soft Brush.

Now we've got flames!

Step 3

Whew! You're doing great.

Here's our result so far.

Result after fire


Time for some color adjustments!

Let's create more intense lighting.

Adjust the sky and lighting
  1. Set a New Layer as a Clipping Mask to the Pyramid photo. Use a Hard Round Brush (90% Opacity, 100% Hardness) to paint blue #0e1a44 over the sky, and then set the Blend Mode to Exclusion and lower the Opacity to 42%.
  2. Then add a New Adjustment Layer of Curves below the throne layer (it should be above the floor/column layers in the panel). Adjust the curves for the RGB Channel like so for more intense shadows.

Step 4

For more balance and harmony, we'll need to adjust the lighting of some details individually.

Let's start with the throne.

Set a New Adjustment Layer of Curves as a Clipping Mask to the throne layer. Adjust the curves for the RGB, Blue, Red and Green Channels as shown for better lighting. 

This will also help recolor the throne to fit our environment.

Adjust the chair lighting

Step 5

Time for some painting!

Let's shade the chair, cats and background details for a more photo-realistic result.

Continue with the throne.

Shade the chair
  1. Set a New Layer as a Clipping Mask above the curves adjustment. Then change the Layer Blend Mode to Linear Dodge (Add)
  2. Use a Soft Round Brush (30% Opacity, 0% Hardness) to paint brown #452812 shadow on the lower parts of the throne and chair legs.
  3. Keep adjusting the lighting. Clip another New Layer to the throne and set it to Multiply. Use this layer to paint dark brown shadows underneath the chair and cats, and consider how nearby elements affect the lighting.

Step 6

Do the same for the cats.

But first, let's finish the costume for the cat on the throne.

Add the fabric and shadow
  1. Set a New Layer as a Clipping Mask to the cat layer. Copy and Paste a small selection from this 3D Smart Object onto the layer and drape the fabric over the cat. Use these curtains (or similar fabrics) for added style and drama.
  2. Set more New Layers as Clipping Masks to both cats. Use a Soft Round Brush (80% Opacity, 0% Hardness) to paint dark brown #332a20 shadows all over each cat. Create more depth and dimension. Take your time with this step.

Do the same now for the headpieces.

Add New Layers set as Clipping Masks to each garment. Use the same color as before to add more realistic shadow to each piece. Keep the shadows soft and light and experiment for the best result.

Shade the headpieces

Step 7

Let's keep going!

Before we color correct this, we'll need to adjust the stone flooring.

Create a New Layer underneath the first curves adjustment (below the throne layer). We'll use this layer to paint over the floor.

Use a Soft Round Brush (Varying Opacity, 0% Hardness) to blend the shadows on the floor and columns. Pick up colors that are already on the canvas to paint with by holding the Alt key for the Eyedropper Tool (I).

First, paint smoother shadows to balance everything out. We'll be adding texture later. Make sure to remember key details like shadows behind/underneath the cats for more realism.

Smooth out the floor

4. How to Color Correct Your Manipulation

Great work so far!

Now that we have the base lighting for this photo art set, it's time to finally bring all the colors together.

Step 1

Create a New Adjustment Layer of Color Lookup at the top of the Layers panel.

Set the 3DLUT File to LateSunset.3DL, and lower the Opacity to 40%.

Then create a New Adjustment Layer of Curves above the previous one. Adjust the curves for the Blue, Red, and RGB Channels as shown. We're looking to add a great sunset vibe to this piece with these steps.

Add color lookup and curves

Step 2

Make a hazy day look for the sky.

Create a New Layer above the rest set to Screen.

Use a Soft Round Brush (10-30% Opacity, 0% Hardness) to paint brown #472c1c haze towards the top of the columns. Adjust the Layer Opacity as needed.

Add a hazy look

Step 3

Remember, the fire will add bright orange colors to the environment too!

Let's follow suit by creating a New Layer and setting it to Soft Light. Use a Soft Round Brush (30-50% Opacity, 0% Hardness) to paint dark yellow #846138 light (from the flames) onto the columns, floor, and nearby details. Lower the Layer Opacity to 40%.

Add flame light

This color will show up as orange, so add more touches of orange to the cat's fur for a beautiful effect.

Step 4

On another New Layer set to Soft Light, paint in some white light towards the foreground. I'll be adding beams of light coming down from the right and left sides.

Paint white beams of light

Step 5

Let's tweak the colors with a few more adjustment layers. I'll run through them quickly.

Set these at the top of your Layers panel in respective order.

First, add a New Adjustment Layer of Levels.

Add a levels adjustment

Set the numbers to the following:

  • RGB: 0, 0.9, 220 Output: 0, 250
  • Blue: 0, 1.14, 255 Output: 0, 255
  • Red: 0, 1, 242 Output: 0, 255
  • Green: 0, 0.94, 242 Output: 12, 255

Step 6

Next, add a New Adjustment Layer of Curves.

Adjust the curves for the RGB, Green and Blue Channels as shown to bump up the lighting.

Add more adjustments

Then add a New Adjustment Layer of Color Balance and set the numbers to the following:

  • Highlights: 7, -34, -8
  • Midtones: -8, 0, -26

Step 7

Continue to tweak the colors.

Adjust the colors
  1. Create a New Layer and set it to Overlay. Use a Soft Round Brush (10% Opacity, 0% Hardness) to paint a brown #6a5749 haze over the piece for a warmer look. Follow it up by painting white highlights all over the floor towards the fire and chair. Adjust the Opacity as needed.
  2. Follow up with another New Adjustment Layer of Color Lookup, set the 3DLUT File to 3Strip.look, and lower the Opacity to 35%.

5. How to Finalize Your Manipulation

Almost there!

Now that we have the colors almost set, we can begin refining our composition a little more.

So take this opportunity to dedicate New Layers to digital painting. Smooth out the shadows how you'd like, paint Egyptian-inspired makeup on the cats, or add more collar details like Ankhs. 

I admittedly got a little carried away here, so feel free to go at your pace.

Smooth out the manipulation

Step 1

Merging all your layers together at some point can really help with fine-tuning your composition. This is also where you can assess mistakes.

For instance, I realized I should widen the chair/cat to fill up the scene better, so I did.

Remember to go back with something like a Hard Round Pressure Size Brush to paint sharpened details around the cat faces, costumes, and environment. A few, simple, crisp lines here and there can do a lot to define the stonework and highlights.

Sharpen the details

Step 2

Let's complete this manipulation with two more color adjustments for added warmth.

First, fill a New Layer with a bright orange color #eb4b20 using the Paint Bucket Tool (G). Set the Layer Blend Mode to Hue and lower the Opacity to 38%.

Add more warmth

Then add a final Adjustment Layer of Color Balance. Set the numbers to the following:

  • Highlights: -7, -1, 8
  • Midtones: -10, -11, -13

Great work!

Check out the final result below!

All Done, Great Job!

You can design beautiful ancient worlds of your own using a few stocks and amazing tools in Adobe Photoshop. I hope this photo art tutorial has inspired you to give this composition a shot using your own details or pets.

How'd you do? Let us know. Share your results with us in the comments!

Learn more about photo manipulations with these helpful tutorials:

Ancient Egypt Cat Photo Manipulation Photoshop Tutorial by Melody Nieves
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