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  1. Design & Illustration
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Design

How to Create an Emotional Autumn Scene With Adobe Photoshop

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to use Adobe Photoshop to create an emotional autumn scene featuring a woman watching falling leaves on a bridge. 

First, we'll build the base scene with the sky and a mountain, and we'll paint light. After that, we'll add the tower, ivy, and bridge, and we'll blend them together using adjustment layers, masking, and brushes. Later, we'll import the trees, retouch the model, and add the falling leaves. We'll use several adjustment layers to complete the final effect.

Tutorial Assets

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

1. How to Build the Base Scene

Step 1

Create a new 2000 x 1286 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:

new file

Step 2

Open the sky image and drag it to the white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Convert this layer to a Smart Object.

add sky

Step 3

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 6 px. This step is to separate the background and the main elements and helps to increase the depth.

sky gaussian blur

Step 4

Select Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance to change the sky's color. Alter the Midtones values:

sky color balance

Step 5

Make a Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast and vibrance of the sky.

sky curves

Step 6

Open the mountain image and place it in the lower section of the main canvas.

add mountain

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft round brush with black color to remove the hard edges of the sky and blend it with the existing background.

mountain masking

Step 7

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to this layer to match the softness of the mountain with the existing sky.

mountain gaussian blur

Step 8

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Alter the Reds values.

mountain hue saturation

Step 9

Make a Curves adjustment layer (set it as Clipping Mask) to brighten the mountain and lower part of the sky. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the left bottom of these areas so they won't be too bright after applying this adjustment layer.

mountain curves

Step 10

To change the light position (I've aimed to lift it up), create a new layer on top of the other layers and use a soft brush with the color #ffafb8 to paint on the middle right of the sky. Alter this layer mode to Overlay 100% and add a mask to this layer. Use a soft brush to remove the light on the lower area.

paint soft light
soft light result

Step 11

Make a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #ffba69 to paint the highlight on the right edge of the sky. Change this layer to Hard Light 90%.

paint highlight

2. How to Import the Tower

Step 1

Drag to find the angle of the tower you want or feel free to use your own. Here is the angle I've chosen.

select tower

Place the tower in the left side of the main canvas and flip it horizontally to fit the light direction on the right (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal).

add tower

Step 2

Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the left of the tower as it's in the shadow area. On this layer mask, paint on the right to keep its brightness.

tower curves 1

Step 3

Use another Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the right side. Paint on the left and the hidden areas so they won't be brightened by this adjustment layer.

tower curves 2

Step 4

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

tower burn new layer

Activate the Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range and Exposure about 10-15% to strengthen the shadow on the windows and fix some light details. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

tower burning result

Step 5

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer to bring some warm tone and light to the tower.

tower color balance midtones
tower color balance highlights

Step 6

Use a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #ec2100 to bring more red to the hidden area of the tower. On this layer mask, paint on the bright side of the tower so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

tower photo filter

3. How to Add the Ivy

Step 1

Open the ivy image and extract it from the background using your own method. Use the Lasso Tool (L) to select the ivy part on the top, drag it into our working document, and place it onto the tower.

add ivy 1

Add a mask to this layer and use a small, hard, black brush to carefully remove some hard edges from the ivy.

ivy 1 masking

Step 2

Take different parts from the ivy image to add to the tower, using layer masks if needed to delete the unwanted details. I recommend you use the hard black brush when masking the edges of the ivy, otherwise the result would look unnatural.

add more ivies

Step 3

Create a new layer below the ivy layers and use a soft brush with the color #16130f and Opacity about 30-40% to paint shadow for the ivy on the tower's wall.

ivies shadow

Step 4

Select all the ivy 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 to alter the ivy's color.

ivies hue saturation

Step 5

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones settings:

ivies color balance

Step 6

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the ivy part on the hidden area. Paint on the rest so that it won't be darkened by this adjustment layer.

ivies curves 1

Step 7

Make another Curves adjustment layer to bring highlight to the front of the tower. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.

ivies curves 2

Step 8

Create a new layer on top of the other layers and use a soft brush with the color #efe29c to paint yellow light for the ivy on the tower's front. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100%.

ivies light

4. How to Retouch the Bridge

Step 1

Cut out the bridge and place it in the lower section of the canvas. Add a mask to this layer and use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select the unmasked background and the higher parts of the bridge. Use a hard black brush to paint within these selections to remove them.

add bridge
bridge selecting
bridge masking

Step 2

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the bridge's color:

bridge hue saturation

Step 3

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer with the same purpose. Change the Midtones and Highlights values:

bridge color balance 1 midtones
bridge color balance 2 highlights

Step 4

Add another Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones and Shadows settings. Paint on the bright section of the columns so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

bridge color balance 2 midtones
bridge color balance 2 shadows

Step 5

Make a Curves adjustment layer to increase the light and contrast of the bridge. On the layer mask, paint on the shadow/hidden areas of the bridge so they won't become too dark.

bridge curves

Step 6

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to refine the light and shadow of the bridge.

bridge DB

5. How to Add the Trees

Step 1

Add tree 1 to the bottom right and tree 2 (I've chosen image 1) to the bottom left of the canvas. On each of these layers, apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to soften the trees.

add tree 1 and tree 2

Step 2

Double click the tree 1 layer, and choose Inner Shadow. Set the color of shadow to white to add some highlights on the tops of the leaves.

tree 1 inner shadow
tree 1 inner shadow result

Step 3

Create two Hue/Saturation adjustment layers to change the color of the trees.

tree 1 hue saturation
tree 2 hue saturation

Step 4

Make a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the top of the tree 2. Paint on the shadow area of the tree to keep its lightness.

tree 2 curves

Step 5

Create a group for the tree layers and add a Color Balance adjustment layer within this group to turn the trees' color to pink.

tree 1 and 2 color balance

Step 6

Add a Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the top/front of the trees.

tree 1 and 2 curves

Step 7

Make a new layer on top of the layers and use a soft brush with the color #efe29c and Opacity about 40-50% to paint on top of the trees. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100%.

tree 1 and 2 light

Step 8

Open the tree 3 image and use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select the tree on the left and drag it to the right of the main canvas. Flip it horizontally and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) with the Warp mode to tweak the tree's form to a curve.

add tree 3

Step 9

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 7 px to this tree layer. The bigger blur Radius helps to increase the depth of the scene.

tree 3 gaussian blur

Step 10

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the tree.

tree 3 hue saturation

Step 11

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to bring red to this tree.

tree 3 color balance midtones
tree 3 color balance shadows

Step 12

Use a Curves adjustment layer to darken the hidden area of the tree. Paint on the front of the tree to keep its lightness.

tree 3 curves

Step 13

Isolate tree 4 and place it on the top of tree 3. Use Control-T to rotate it to fit the angle/pose of tree 3.

add tree 4
tree 4 masking

Step 14

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 9 px to this tree layer to make the tree fit the softness of tree 3.

tree 4 gaussian blur

Step 15

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to alter the tree's color.

tree 4 hue saturation

Step 16

Create a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the front of the tree. On the layer mask, paint on the shadow details to keep its contrast.

tree 4 curves

Step 17

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Burn Tool to darken some details in the hidden area.

tree 4 burning

6. How to Retouch the Model

Step 1

Cut out the model, place her onto the middle of the bridge, and flip her horizontally.

add model

Step 2

Go to Edit > Puppet Warp to lift her head up.

model puppet warp

Step 3

Go back to the original model image and select her cloak to add to the model in the working document. Use Control-T with the Warp mode to tweak the cloak to enlarge its bottom.

add model cloak

Add a mask to this layer to remove the bottom part below the model's feet.

cloak masking

Step 4

Use the Dodge and Burn Tool for each of these layers to paint light/shadow and details of the model and cloak.

model DB

Step 5

Create a group for the model layers and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the model.

model hue saturation

Step 6

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to match the model's color with the rest of the scene.

model color balance midtones
model color balance shadows
model color balance highlights

Step 7

Use a Curves adjustment layer to strengthen the highlight on the front of the model. Paint on the back so it won't be brightened by this adjustment layer.

model curves

7. How to Add the Leaves

Step 1

Open the leaves image. Take the first leaf (from the left) to add to the main canvas and use Control-T with the Warp mode to tweak the leaves and make it much smaller.

add leaf 1

Step 2

Take different leaves to add around the model and distort them into different forms.

add more leaves

Step 3

Add more leaves around the canvas and apply the Gaussian Blur filter to these leaves. Vary the blur Radius from 2 to 12 px to increase the depth of the scene. For the bigger leaves on the edges, use a bigger blur Radius.

add blurred leaves

Step 4

Create a group for the leaves layers and use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the leaves' color.

leaves hue saturation

Step 5

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to bring yellow light to the leaves.

leaves color balance

Step 6

Add a Curves adjustment layer to darken the leaves. Paint on the right of the leaves to reveal the light there.

leaves curves 1
leaves curves 1 masking
leaves curves 1 masking result

Step 7

Make another Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the bright side of the leaves. Paint on their left side to keep the lightness.

leaves curves 2
leaves curves 2 masking

8. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer on top of the other layers and alter the Midtones values.

whole scene color balance 1

Step 2

Add a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #f2eb83.

whole scene photo filter

Step 3

Make a Selective Color adjustment layer and change the Reds, Yellows and Magentas settings. On the layer mask, paint on the top left of the scene to reduce the red effect there.

whole scene selective color reds
whole scene selective color yellows
whole scene selective color magentas

Step 4

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to increase the vibrance of the sunlight and the edges. Paint on the rest so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

whole scene color balance 2 midtones
whole scene color balance 2 highlights

Step 5

Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the edges of the canvas. Paint on the middle to keep its brightness.

whole scene curves

Congratulations, You're Done!

I hope that you've enjoyed my tutorial and learned something new. Feel free to share your ideas or comments in the box below—I'd love to see them. Enjoy Photoshopping!

Still interested in falling leaves? Here's something for you:

final result
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