In this Photoshop tutorial, Jenny Le will show you how to create a surreal portal photo manipulation with a leaking light effect. You will learn how to combine stock images and apply retouching, masking, and blending techniques to create this powerful scene.
Preview of Final Results
Create A Surreal Portal Scene with Powerful Lighting Effect
Create a new document and fill it with any color you like. I use white color and the size of 1000×1000 px.
Open background stock. Use Move Tool (V) to drag it into our document. I only use a part of this background that is near the sky but you’re free to choose the one for your liking.
Here is result after dragging:
Name this layer as “land” or whatever you want.
There is a part of sky on the left edge I want to edit as I don’t think it looks very realistic. On land layer, I use Lasso Tool ( press L to active this tool) to make a selection on the right edge of background then right click this selection, choose feather as 0.5:
Right click this selection, choose Layer via Copy and we have a copied part into a new layer. Move it to the left to hide the part which needs to be fixed then choose Edit-Transform-Flip Horizontal :
Click the button of Add layer mask at the bottom of Layer Pallete then use soft black brush to blend copied part with background:
Press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N to make a new layer. To remove the birds on background, I use Clone Tool. Hit S to choose this tool with settings below and make sure that Sample All Layers is checked on property bar:
Hold the Alt key to click on the source then spot over the birds. If you’re not familiar with this tool you may practice it with many good tutorials over the web. Here is my result:
Open sky stock. You can use your own image but better choose a dark one with good contrast so it will save your time. Use Move Tool to drag it into our canvas to replace the sky of background. You can transform and resize it to fit the size of your picture ( press Cmd/Ctrl+T to distort it). Here is the part I’ve chosen after scaling. You can see that I place the bright part of this sky in the middle top to make the light shining from behind for the portal ( we’ll see in next steps).
Add layer mask to clear the bottom of sky. Then name this layer as “sky”.
I notice that there are some noise on sky part. To fix it, I duplicate sky layer ( press Cmd/Ctrl+J), go to Filter-Noise-Dust & Scratches:
Then use soft black brush on layer mask to clear the any parts you don’t want to be blurred:
Now we’ll use a cliff from a stock image to make the portal. Open cliff stock. You can use your own image if you can’t download this image from Photoxpress. Extract it with the method you like ( I use Polygonal Lasso Tool as it’s very easy in this case):
Move it into our picture and place it in the center, remember to scale it as needed:
Duplicate this cliff and apply Flip Horizontal then move it to the right, position it as shown below:
Add layer mask for these cliff layers and use black brush with big hardness ( 70-80%) ( don’t use soft brush as it will leave very soft and unatural look for our picture) to clear some parts of bottom, the top, center. You can see how I applied this brush for each cliff layer ( now I name them as “portal part 1” and “portal part 2” – you can get them as portal doors):
To make some depth for the portal , I make a new layer with Clipping Mask above each portal layer, set to Overlay and fill with 50% gray:
Take Dodge and Burn Tool ( hit O) with Midtone Ranges and medium Exposure ( 50-55% – Dodge tool) and 20- 30% for Burn Tool to darken and brighten some parts of portal parts. I changed the mode to Normal to let you see how I applied these tools ( bright parts-Dodge Tool, dark parts-Burn Tool):
Overlay mode ( result of this step):
In this step we’ll create shadow for portal parts. Make a new layer under “portal part 1”. Hold the Cmd/Ctrl key and click inside the thumbnail of “portal part 1” layer to load its selection:
Go to Edit-Fill and fill this selection with black:
Choose Edit-Transform-Flip Vertical then hit Cmd/Ctrl+T to transform this part:
Lower opacity to 30%:
To get the softer look for this shadow , choose Filter-Blur-Gassian Blur and set radius as 3 :
Add layer mask and use soft black brush with opacity and flow about 50% to blur shadow top and right:
With same technique we make shadow for another part of portal:
To add more light for the portal as it’s shone from behind, I use Inner Shadow effect. Right click each portal layer, choose Blending options-Inner Shadow and fill with settings below:
This is result we have:
To fix some parts of the portal, I use Clone Tool again. Make a new layer on the top and use this tool to remove some unwanted parts as the screenshot below shows:
To change the light and contrast of picture, make a new layer and press G to active Gradient Tool. Choose Radiant Gradient with default color (black and white). Drag a line from center to bottom:
Change the mode of this layer to Soft light 100%:
To darken the land , make a new layer and I use soft brush with color #091425. Paint on the land and leave a small part around the portal. Put the mode as Multipy 100%:
You can see the picture change the mood from day to night.
Open light stock. I found a perfect stock image ( light of fire) for this tutorial purpose. Make selection around light part then copy it into our canvas, resize and transform it ( Cmd/Ctrl+T), position it onto the portal :
Change the mode to Screen 100%. You can see most of dark part disappeared. I add layer mask to remove remained part and some parts of the light to make it look natural. You can vary brush size for different parts of it:
Duplicate this layer and apply Flip Horizontal for it. Use layer mask with same method to make these lights look like going out from the cleft between portal doors. Name these layers as “light 1” and “light 2”:
On light 1 layer, I make selection for a part of light and set feather =0.5. Copy this part into a new layer as we did in step 2. Move it above light layers. Place it on the top of portal. You can use Eraser Tool to clear any unecessary parts:
To make a more visible cleft between portal doors , make a new layer and use white brush to draw a line from the top to bottom of the cleft. Change the mode to Overlay 100%:
In this step we’ll add more light in front of portal. Make a new layer and use soft brush with color #ffd865 painting on this part and then set the mode to Overlay 70%. There is part I paint with brush 100% opacity ( in front of portal) and with 70% opacity ( around this part):
To make some light rays going out from the cleft, I use a new layer. Use brush with color #ffd865 to spot on the picture as shown below:
Hit Cmd/Ctrl+T to stretch it longer:
Set the mode to Overlay 70% and you can use layer mask to clear any unwanted parts.
Duplicate this ray and move it to the right:
Duplicate and move to the center and increase opacity to 100%:
Open man stock. Isolate the man, downsize and place him in front of portal:
Name this layer as “man”.
Create a new layer under man layer. Use same techniques done in step 8 to make shadow on the land for the man. Call it “man shadow 1”:
To create cast shadow to make him really look like standing on the land, create a new layer between man and man shadow 1. Use soft black brush with very small size ( 3-5 px) to paint under man’s feet.
To change color and light/darkness of the man to fit background I use some adjustment layers above man layer with Clipping Mask:
Go to Layer-New adjustment layer- Curves:
On Curves layer, use soft black brush to clear the unwanted effect on man arms:
To darken the shirt as it’s too bright against the dark background I use a new layer with Clipping Mask and take brush with color #202229. Paint over the shirt and change the mode to Multipy 80%:
To darken jeans I use brush with color #1b2030 painting on a new layer and set the mode to Multipy 100%:
In order to make some glowing light for the man , first I use Inner Shadow effect. Right lick man layer, choose Blending options. I use a bright yellow for light effect (# fde6c6) :
To make this light more visible, I use three layers with Clipping Mask for the man. Take soft brush with very small size and color #ffd865 painting over man contour. You should do it gently and subtly and erase any unwanted effects. I change first layer to Color 100%, the rest as Normal 80% and Overlay 80%:
I use some adjustment layers which are set on the top ( non-Clipping Mask) to change color of picture.
To increase the darkness for sky, make a new layer on the top. Use soft brush with color #56707d painting on two edges of sky and put the mode as Multipy 100%:
In final step I use a Levels layer to increase contrast for whole picture, especially the light. Go to Layer-New adjustment layer-Levels, decrease the midtones but increase the shadows and highlights:
Use soft brush on Levels layer mask to clear the contrast of sky and on the land: