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Design

How to Use Photoshop Adjustment Layers to Create a Fantasy Photo Manipulation

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

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to use Photoshop adjustment layers to create a fantasy photo manipulation featuring a rock goddess. 

First, we'll build the base scene using several arch, rock and landscape images. After that, we'll add the ground, the model's face, and a rock texture. Later, we'll add the trees, man, and hawks. 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 2200 x 1333 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - new file

Step 2

Open the arch image and isolate it from the background using the Magic Wand Tool (W). Drag this arch onto the white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to resize it to fit the size of the main document.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers- add arch

Step 3

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. On the layer mask, turn the foreground to white and use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to select the middle section of the arch. Hit Delete, and we'll have the result below:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - middle arch selecting
Photoshop Adjustment Layers -  middle arch part deleting

Step 4

There are some unwanted details on the top right of the arch. To fix this, create a new layer and select the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to correct the indicated details.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - right arch cloning

Step 5

Return to the original arch image and select the left section of the arch. Place it on the left of the main document and make it bigger than the existing one. The aim is to expand the space between both sides of the arch.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - add  left arch part

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft round brush with black color (soft black brush) to blend the top of this arch part with the existing one. Also, use a hard black brush to remove the ground and the rock details in the space between the sides of the arch.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - arch masking

Step 6

On the original arch image, use the Lasso Tool to select a part on the top right of the arch to add to the lower part near the right side of the arch. The aim is to give this part some details and light. Use Control-T with Warp mode to tweak this part to fit the form of the existing detail.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - select small top arch detail
Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - small arch detail warping
Photoshop Adjustment Layers - small arch detail masking

Step 7

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer above this part's layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Reduce the Saturation value to -25:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - small arch detail hue saturation

Step 8

Make a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to decrease the light of this detail.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - small arch detail curves

Step 9

To reduce the highlights on the lower part on the right of the arch, on the original image, use the Lasso Tool to select a part on the left arch and place it on the indicated bright area.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - right bright area of arch
Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - add arch texture

Add a mask to this layer to blend this part with the existing surface.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - arch texture masking

Step 10

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer for this part and bring the Saturation value down to -28. On the layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the effect on top of this part.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - arch texture hue saturation

Step 11

Create a Curves adjustment layer to brighten this area. On this layer mask, paint on the shadow/hidden details so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - arch texture curves

Step 12

Select all of the arch layers and the related ones 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 arch's color.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  -whole arch hue sturation

Step 13

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones and Highlights settings:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  -arch color balance midtones
Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - arch color balance highlights

Step 14

Create a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the right side of the arch. Paint on the rest so it won't be brightened by this adjustment layer.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - arch curves

Step 15

Open the sky image and use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select just the sky to add to the main document. Place this layer below the arch's group.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - add sky

Step 16

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the sky' s color a bit:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - sky hue saturation

Step 17

Use a Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the top left of the sky to fit the light/shadow on the arch. The selected area shows where to paint on the layer mask.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - sky curves

Step 18

Add the landscape behind the arch and use a layer mask to remove most of it, leaving only the part with bushes and misty mountains visible, as shown below:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - add landscape
Photoshop Adjustment Layers  -  landscape masking

Step 19

Use a Curves adjustment layer to strengthen the visibility of the landscape a bit.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - landscape curves

Step 20

Isolate the rock from the background and add it behind arch 1.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - add rock

Use a layer mask to remove the top and left of this rock, leaving only the right side visible.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - rock masking

Step 21

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate this rock a little:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - rock hue saturation

Step 22

Add a Curves adjustment layer to increase the haze of the rock to fit the atmosphere of the background.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - rock curves

2. How to Add the Ground

Step 1

Open the ground image and use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select only the ground to place in the lower half of our working document. Set this layer above the arch's group.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - add ground

Add a mask to this layer to remove the hard edges and blend the ground with the existing arch and ground.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - ground masking

Step 2

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the ground.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - ground hue saturation

Step 3

Make a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the ground. On the layer mask, paint on the shadow/hidden areas or any details you find too bright.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - ground curves 1

Step 4

Use another Curves adjustment layer to darken the left of the ground a bit. Paint on the right so it won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - ground curves 2

3. How to Make the Rocky Face

Step 1

Open the model's image and isolate her face to place it in the top right of the main canvas. Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to blend the face with the cliff side.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - add model face

Step 2

Make a new layer above the model layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Use a soft brush with the color #675654 and opacity and flow about 34% to darken the side of the nose a bit.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - darken nose side

Step 3

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the Saturation value to -29:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - face hue saturation

Step 4

Use a Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast on the model's face to fit the background.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - face curves 1

Step 5

Use another Curves adjustment layer to brighten the contours of the face. Paint on the rest to reveal its lightness.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - face curves 2

Step 6

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

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - face D and B new layer

Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range and Exposure about 10-15% to refine the light and shadow on the model's face. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - face D and B result

Step 7

To add more texture to her face, use the Lasso Tool to select a part from the arch image and place it onto the face. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 60% and use a layer mask to erase the part outside the face.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - add face texture

Step 8

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the rock texture.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - face texture hue satiration

Step 9

Make a Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the texture. Paint on the shadow/hidden details so they won't be affected or will be less affected by this adjustment layer.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - face texture curves

Step 10

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to enhance the light and shadow on the rock texture a bit.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - face texture D and B

4. How to Add the Trees

Step 1

Open the tree image (feel free to choose the angle you want—it's really not very important), and place it onto the eyelid of the model's face and the left side. Add a mask to the tree layer which is on the eyelid and make its bottom fade into this area of the face.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - add trees

Make a new layer below the tree ones and use a soft brush with the color #140808 and Opacity about 30% to paint shadows for the tree on the face.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  -  tree shadow

Step 2

On the tree layer which is on the left, go to Filter > Gaussian Blur > Blur and set the Radius to 6 px:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - tree gaussian blur

Step 3

Make a group for the tree layers and add a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the trees. On the layer mask, use a soft black brush to reveal the shadow and hidden details inside the leaves and trunk.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - trees curves 1

Step 4

Create another Curves adjustment layer to strengthen the shadow on the trees. The selected areas show where to work on the layer mask.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - trees curves 2

Step 5

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to match the color of the trees with the plants on the ground.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - trees hue saturation

5. How to Add the Man and Hawks

Step 1

Cut out the man from the background and add him to the area near the goddess's face. Go to Edit > Puppet Warp to lift his head towards the model.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - add man

Step 2

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the color of the man's shirt to fit the color of the sky.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - man hue saturation

Step 3

Make a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the back of the model to fit the light source. Paint on the front of the man so that this part won't be affected by the adjustment layer.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - man curves

Step 4

Add 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 on the man.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - man D and B

Step 5

To make a shadow for the man, create a new layer below the man's one. Hold Control and click the thumbnail of the man layer to load his selection. Fill this selection with the color #140808 and move it below the man's feet. Flip it vertically (Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical) and lower the Opacity of this layer to 50%. Use Control-T to change its shape to fit the shadow on the ground.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - man shadow

Step 6

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 1 px to soften this shadow:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - man shadow gaussian blur

Step 7

We'll be adding some hawks to increase the wildness for the whole scene. Isolate hawk 1 and add him to the top left of the arch.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - add hawk 1

Step 8

Create a new layer below the hawk one and make a shadow for him on the arch as we did with the man. After that, use a medium-soft black brush to erase the unwanted shadow part behind the hawk's claws and on the top of it, as that part does not fit the shape of the arch's surface.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - hawk 1 shadow 1

Duplicate this shadow layer and transform it to make the top of the shadow fit the curve of the surface. Use a layer mask to erase the bottom part.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - hawk 1 shadow 2

Step 9

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the hawk.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  -  hawk 1 hue sauration

Step 10

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones and Highlights values:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - hawk 1 color balance midtones
Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - hawk 1 color balance highlights

Step 11

Make a Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the hawk. Paint on the shadow/hidden areas so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - hawk 1 curves

Step 12

Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to enhance the light and shadow on the hawk.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - hawk 1 D and B

Step 13

After cutting hawk 2 out from the original background, add him to the upper part of the space where the man is standing.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - add hawk 2

Step 14

Use a Curves adjustment layer to increase the light and contrast on the hawk.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - hawk 2 curves 1

Step 15

Use another Curves adjustment layer to increase the haze on the hawk to fit the atmosphere of the sky.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - hawk 2 curves 2

6. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

In this section, we'll be using several adjustment layers to enhance the final effect of this photo manipulation. Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the colors #e10019 and #00601b.  Lower the Opacity of this layer to 20%.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - whole scene gradient map

Step 2

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

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - whole scene color balance midtones
Photoshop Adjustment Layers - whole scene color balance highlights

Step 3

Add a Color Lookup adjustment layer and select 3Strip.look. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 30%.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - whole scene color lookup

Step 4

Make a Selective Color adjustment layer and adjust the Reds/Yellows/Cyans values a bit:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  -  whole scene selective color settings
Photoshop Adjustment Layers - whole scene selective color result

Step 5

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to increase the yellow light reflection on the ground. On the layer mask, paint on the sky and the bright parts of the arch and the model's face so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - whole scene hue saturation

Step 6

Use a Curves adjustment layer to increase the vibrance and contrast of the whole scene.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - whole scene curves

Congratulations, You're Done!

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

Love nature? Here's something cool for you:

Photoshop Adjustment Layers  - final result

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