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.
We are going to do the same with the lights. Create a new layer and name it ‘Lights’. Set it to Soft Light with Opacity at 30% and Fill at 70%. Pick the color #e3da9b and paint some lights with a soft brush. Below you can see where I painted (with the layer set to Normal at 100%). And then the result with the layer set to Soft Light.
The creation of the background is ended. Now it’s time to add our subject. Go to File > Place and open the ‘Model’ stock. Name the layer ‘Model’.
Now we have to extract the lady from the background. I will use the Pen Tool. Grab the Pen Tool and place the points around the lady’s edges.
Once the points are in place right click on the image and choose ‘Make selection’.
When you click ‘Make Selection’ a window will pop up. In Radius Feather put 2 (px). Now you have the model selected.
Just click on the Layer Mask button and you’ll have your model extracted with a Layer Mask.
As you can see there are some parts that have to be cut off. You can do it as we did before. With the Pen Tool make a selection of the area you want to delete.
Now select the Model Layer Mask and paint with black in the selected area. The unwanted part will disappear.
Repeat this step until you have deleted all the unwanted parts.
Now that the model is extracted we have to make some adjustments to blend her in the scene. Before doing this I will remove the bracelets. I will use he Clone Stamp Tool.
We want to be safe so we will clone in a new layer. Create a new layer and clip it to the Model layer. Grab Clone Stamp Tool and be sure that in the settings you have Sample: Current & Below (1). Now hold down the Alt key click on the point you wish to use as a sampling point (2). The cursor will change to a target. This area will be used as the reference point for cloning. Click and draw where you want the cloned image to appear.
As you draw, a cross (3) will appear on the original image while a corresponding circle (4) appears where you are drawing. With a little practice it becomes quite clear how this process works and how to achieve the best results.
TIP: If you want to achieve a real effect sample from several point or you will have patterns of skin.
Below you can see my result. As you may notice there are some parts (outside the Model layer) that we can’t clone. Go over the Model Layer Mask and paint with black the areas you want to remove.
Repeat this step until you removed all bracelets.
Below you can see my layers so far.
Now we have to merge the Clone layer with the Model layer. Right click on the Model layer and choose ‘Rasterize Layer’. It won’t be Smart Object anymore. (1) Right click on the Clone Layer and choose ‘Merge Down’. The layers are merged (2) Right click on the Layer Mask and choose ‘Add Mask to Selection’. The model will be selected. Right click on the Layer Mask and choose ‘Delete Layer Mask’. The mask disappears and you have the Model layer as it was at the beginning, but the selection is still active. (3)
In this step we will bring back the selection and re-convert the Model layer to a Smart Object. Right click on the Model layer and choose ‘Convert to Smart Object’. Then click the Layer Mask button. We are done.
Now the we have fixed the Model let’s scale and blend her to fit the scene. To scale the Model go Edit > Transform and choose ‘Scale’. Make the Model bigger to fit the scene. To blend the Model into the scene add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer clipped to the Model layer.
- Hue 25
- Saturation -41
- Lightness -46
Let’s create a shadow for the Model to make the scene more real. Add a layer below the Model Layer and name it ‘Shadow below the Model’. Pick the black color. With a soft brush, with low opacity, paint a shadow like you see below.
TIP: Paint a stronger shadow under her feet. It’s a contact shadow so it has to be stronger.
To complete our blending we will have to add some other shadow to the model. Create a new layer clipped to the Model Layer and name it ‘Shadow Model’. Set it to Overlay with Opacity at 70%. With Black paint some show like you see below.
Let’s enhance the background. Add a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment layer under the ‘Shadow Below The Model’.
- Brightness 25
- Contrast 45
Create a new layer above the Brightness adjustment and name it ‘Color’. Set it to Vivid Light with Opacity and Fill at 80%. Now pick the colors from the background and paint colors around. Use a soft brush (The colors I used are #8caa88 and #caa851). Below you can see where I painted the colors (Layer set to Normal at 100% on the purpose to show to you). And then the result.
Let’s complete our work on the Model with some adjustments. Add a Color Balance Adjustment Layer clipped to the Model Layer with these settings:
- Shadows +11 +8 -4
- Midtones +5 +8 -16
- Highlights -17 5 -15
Add a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer Clipped to the Model Layer with these settings.
- Brightness -89
- Contrast 29
Let’s add some light to the Model. Create a new layer clipped to Model layer and name it ‘Highlights’. Pick #e8dd71 color and brush around the Model edges. Below you can see where I painted (The layer isn’t clipped in my example to show to you)
Now set the ‘Highlights’ layer to Hard Light with Opacity 80% and Fill 75%.
Some adjustments to our work and we have finished. Add a Gradient Map like the one showed below above all layers. The set it to Soft Light with Opacity at 65% and Fill at 80%.
Add a Curves Adjustment Layer and click the Auto button.
Add a Levels Adjustment Layer. Drag the Black output levels slider towards the right until you reach the value 10.
Create a new layer above all layers and name it ‘Vignette’. Pick the color #112703. With a soft brush paint a vignette around the canvas. Then pick the color #f0efb7. With the same brush paint a bit in the middle part. When you are done set the layer to Soft Light with Opacity at 80%.
Make a stamp of all layers by clicking together CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unship Mask and put these settings
- Amount 102
- Radius 1,5
- Threshold 0