Learn how to create this beautiful moonlight scene in Photoshop. This tutorial will teach you many great Photoshop techniques such as how to easily mask complex objects using channels, create your own astrophotography-like skies, and add surreal colors to the whole image. A PSD is also included with this tutorial. Read this tutorial and learn how to create your own surreal moonlight photo manipulations!
Preview of Final Results
Create a new document with a trasparent background.
- Width 1500px
- Height: 2000px
Go to File > Place and open the ‘Railway’ Stock.
Go to Edit > Free Transform and choose ‘Rotate’. Rotate a bit the image to through right to fix the Railway prospective. Then choose ‘Scale’ to fit the canvas size. Rename the layer to ‘Railway’.
We are going to select the sky so we can replace it with another one. Go to Channel and select the channel that has more contrast. In this case the Blue one. The image will turn to Black & White but don’t worry, everything it’s normal. If you don’t see the Channels then go to Window and select Channel.
Now right click on the Blue channel and choose ‘Duplicate channel’. Deselect the Blue Channel and select the Blue copy.
To make a selection of the sky we have to paint with black on the copy of the Blue channel. Before painting we can help ourselves running a Level adjustment on it. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels. We have to give more contrast. Put the settings I set below and you will see that the sky will be white.
Now we paint with black over the parts we don’t want. Brush has to be 100% Opacity.
Now we are ready for our selection. Place the mouse on the Blue copy channel. Keep pressed CTRL and press left click on the mouse. The white part will be selected.
We want to keep the part below so we have to invert the selection. Go to Select > Inverse. The selection is now inverted.
Delete the Blue copy channel and go back to the Layers panel. As you can see the image isn’t black & white anymore and the lower part is selected. Now just click the Layer Mask and the sky will disappear.
Go to File > Place and open the ‘Sky 1’ Stock. Name the layer ‘Sky 1’. Put this layer below the ‘Railway’ layer.
Go to File > Place and open the ‘Sky 2’ stock. Put it above the ‘Sky 1’ layer and name it ‘Sky 2’. Then set it to Hard Light.
Go to File > Place and open the ‘Moon’ stock. Name the layer ‘Moon’ and place it above the ‘Sky 2’ Layer.
Set the ‘Moon’ layer to Screen.
Let’s work to blend everything together. Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer above all layers. Clip it to the ‘Railway’ layer.
TIP: To clip a layer or an adjustment to the layer below simply hold ALT and click on the line between the two layers that you want to “clip.”
When you are done put these settings:
Master: Hue: 0; Saturation -40; Lightness: -19
Yellows: Hue 0; Saturation: -44; Lightness: -2
Add a Gradient Map like the one showed in the image below. (Above all layers). Then set it to Soft Light with Opacity and Fill at 80%.
Add another Gradient Map like the one showed below. Then set it to Soft Light with Opacity at 80% and Fill at 90%.
Let’s keep on working on our background scene. Time to enhance lights and shadows. Create a new layer above all layers and name it ‘Light Railway’. Pick the color #69b987. With a soft brush paint some light on the railway.
Set the layer to Color Dodge with Opacity and Fill at 35%.
Create a new layer and name it ‘General Light’. Pick the color #f2f1b9. Paint some light around with a soft brush.
Set this layer to Hard Light with Opacity and Fill at 50%.
Create a new layer and name it ‘Shadows’. Set it to Multiply with Opacity and Fill at 40%. Pick the color #232211. With a soft brush you have to paint some shadows. Below you can see where I painted (with the layer set to Normal at 100%). And then the result with the layer set to Multiply.
Since the shadows are too harsh I applied some blur. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set 10px.