In this tutorial, I'll show you how to use Adobe Photoshop to create a dark, surreal piece featuring a giant underground eye.
First, we'll build the base scene using several stock images. After that, we'll add the eye and the root and blend them together using adjustment layers, masking, and brushes. Later, we'll paint the stream and add the paper boat, tree, bird, and falling leaves. We'll use several adjustment layers to complete the final effect.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
1. How to Build the Base Scene
Create a new 1500 x 1333 px document in Photoshop with the following settings:
Open the sky image. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the sky area, and move it into our white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Place it in the upper half of the canvas.
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue Saturation and decrease the Saturation value to -44:
Place the landscape image in the upper of the main document and convert this layer to a Smart Object. Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a soft round one with black color. Use this brush to erase the sky part and a hard round one to work on the bottom of the landscape.
On the landscape layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 4 px.
On the filter mask, use a soft black brush to erase the foreground and midground, leaving the blur effect visible on the background. This step is to separate the main objects from the background to increase the depth of the whole scene.
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer above the landscape layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Alter the Midtones values to match the color of the landscape with the sky.
Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the foreground. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to remove the effect on the background.
Move the soil 1 image (I've chosen image 5 from the collection) into the lower section of the main canvas. Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to erase the hard edges and blend the soil with the existing ground.
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings:
Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the soil. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with Opacity about 10-15% to reduce the dark effect on the middle section of the soil.
Place the soil 2 image above the soil 1 area. Use a layer mask to remove the hard edges on the upper section and the middle.
Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the soil. Paint on both sides of the soil's area with a soft black brush and Opacity about 10% to decrease the dark contrast there and reveal some details and textures.
2. How to Retouch the Eye
Open the eye image and use the Lasso Tool (L) to select the eye and move it into our main document. Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to blend the eye with the underground soil.
Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the eye.
Make a new layer, and use a soft brush with the color
#0d0806 and Opacity about 30% to remove the details inside the pupil and on the sclera.
3. How to Add the Roots
Move the roots image into the underground area and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to rotate it as shown below:
Use a layer mask to remove the lower section and blend the roots with the existing ground. Lower the brush opacity when blending the roots to make them fade out into the wall.
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to give the roots a warm tone.
Create a Curves adjustment layer to match the lightness of the roots with the soil.
4. How to Paint the Stream
Make a new layer on top of the other layers and use a soft brush with the color
#8e8c8f to paint the base of the stream inside the eye. Add a mask to this layer to make the result subtler.
Add a new layer and use the same brush to paint small details, highlights, and drops on the stream. Lower the brush's opacity when painting inside the eye.
Increase the brush's size to paint the base of the flow coming out from the eye.
Lower the brush's size to paint more details inside and smaller flows outside the eye.
5. How to Import the Paper Boat
Open the paper boat image and cut out the red boat. Place it onto the stream and use a layer mask to soften its bottom to integrate it with the stream's surface.
Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the boat.
Create a Color Balance adjustment layer to alter the boat's color.
Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the boat. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with Opacity about 15-20% to reduce the dark effect on the front of the boat.
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. You can see how I made it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.
6. How to Add the Tree
Cut out the tree and a part of the ground and place it above the existing ground. Use Control-T to narrow its width a bit.
Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to soften the hard edges around the tree.
Take the tree from the original without the ground to add it to the existing tree. Use Control-T with the Warp mode to tweak the tree as shown below:
Use a layer mask to remove the bottom and the left side of the tree.
Create 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 this tree.
Select all of the tree layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Change this group's mode to Normal 100% and make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within this group to desaturate the tree.
Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the tree. Paint on the middle and on both sides of the tree to reduce the dark effect there.
7. How to Add the Bird
Isolate the bird and place him onto the left side of the tree. Flip him horizontally by choosing Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.
On the original image, select the bird's tail and place it below the bird in the existing document. Resize it to fit the size of the bird and set this layer below the bird's one. This step is to make the tail of the bird in the main document a bit bigger.
Use a layer mask to blend the tail with the bird.
Make a group for the bird layers and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the bird.
Use a Curves adjustment layer to make the bird darker to fit the lightness of the scene.
8. How to Add the Leaves
Open the leaves image (I've chosen the default angle) and take different leaves to add around the tree and underground area, especially at the bottom of the tree.
Add some bigger leaves around the bottom of the scene. On each of these layers, apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to soften the leaves.
Add another leaf to the middle section and apply a Gaussian Blur of 8 px to this layer. This step is to increase the depth of the scene.
Create a group for all of the leaf layers and make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the leaves.
Add a Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to some of the dark leaves. On the layer mask, paint on the brighter leaves so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.
Use another Curves adjustment layer to darken some leaves, especially the ones in the underground area. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.
Make a new layer below the leaves' group. Use a soft brush with the color
#0c0a0d and Opacity about 20% to paint soft shadows for some leaves on the ground and on the tree.
9. How to Make the Final Adjustments
Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the colors
#ff7c00. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 20%.
Make a Color Fill layer and pick the color
#110405. Change this layer mode to Exclusion 100%.
Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones values:
Make a Photo Filter adjustment layer and select the color
Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the underground section and the top of the sky. Paint on the rest so it won't be darkened by this adjustment layer.
Congratulations, You're Done!
I hope that you've enjoyed the tutorial and learned something new for your own projects. Feel free to share your results or leave comments in the box below. Enjoy Photoshopping!
See how dark things inspire you. Or learn something cool with tree, bird, and surreal things here: