Learn how to composite landscapes like the ones you see in Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings), add dramatic lighting effects, and more with this Photoshop tutorial. This tutorial will show you techniques such as creating a breathtaking landscape from multiple photos, adding dramatic rays of light, and using foreground/middleground/background to create an interesting scene.
Preview of Final Results
- Background 1, Background 2, Woman, Sky 1, Sky 2 – Pelleron Art
- Fog Brushes
- Sun Rays Brushes
- Bird Brushes
Step 1 – Creating Background
Download two stock photos of background and drag them into a new document in Photoshop. The photo with meadow should be above the photo with mountains. Name the top layer MEADOW and the layer under MOUNTAINS.
As you can see from the photo above some blending needs to be done to make the background realistic looking. Add new layer mask to MEADOW. You can find the button “Add layer mask” on the bottom part of the Layers palette. If you don’t see this palette go to Window > Layers or simply press F7 on your keyboard and it appears.
Grab the Brush Tool (B), select some soft round brush, set its Opacity on 100% and pick black color. Make sure layer mask is active by clicking on it and start painting over the areas you want to make invisible.
You should end up with picture similar to the one below.
Step 2 – Cloning
As you can see there are missing parts of grass in the bottom right and left corner. You’ll add them in this step. And you’ll also clone away the cabin on horizon. You’re making fantasy looking photo manipulation and modern cabin doesn’t fit the concept.
Add new empty layer on the top of all layers and name it CLONING. Grab the Stamp Tool (S), select some grass as cloning source and clone to the empty spaces in the corners. Often change the cloning source to avoid getting repetitive pattern. It doesn’t look realistic.
On the following photo you can see the example of wrong cloning with repetitive pattern (left corner) and correct cloning (right corner).
It’s bit more complicated to clone out the cabin because there isn’t enough cloning sources you could use. Look at the following picture to see how you should proceed.
Step 3 – Adding Castle
This step is really quick and easy. You’ll just add castle on one of the mountains in the background to create more fairy tale-ish atmosphere. Download photo of the castle listed in the beginning of the tutorial and drag it into your photo manipulation. Place it on the top of all layers and name it CASTLE. Press Ctrl+T to activate the Free Transform Tool and resize it on proper size. Hold Ctrl on your keyboard while doing it to remain constant proportions.
To blend it properly with the rest of the image cut out the background. Use any method you’re comfortable with – e.g. the Lasso Tool (L), the Eraser Tool (E) or the Pen Tool (P). As you can see right now castle is too dark and saturated and doesn’t fit well to the rest of the image. Fix it by adding new adjustment layer Hue/Saturation (you can find the button “Add new adjustment layer” next to the “Add layer” button you’ve used in previous steps). Set the value Saturation on -35 and Lightness on +10.
Right now the adjustment layer affects all layers below itself. But you want to adjust only CASTLE and not the rest of the image. To achieve that right click on the adjustment layer you’ve just added and select Create Clipping Mask. After this step your photo manipulation should be similar to the one below.
Step 4 – Adding a Woman
Download photo of a woman listed in the beginning of the tutorial and drag in into your photo manipulation. Place it on the top of all layers and name it WOMAN.
To blend this layer properly with the rest of the image you need to do two things. First add shadow under her and second blend the clothing better because now its obvious that the woman was shot in the studio (see white color behind the fabric). In this step you’ll add the shadow and in next you’ll blend the dress better.
Create new empty layer under WOMAN and name it SHADOW. If you look at the mountains in the background you can see that sun hits them from right side of the image. That is our main light source and shadow of the woman should be casted in the opposite direction.
Grab the Brush Tool (B), select some soft round brush and set the Opacity on about 15%. Press Alt on your keyboard to activate the Eye Dropper Tool (I) and pick some very dark blue color from the picture. Then paint shadow similarly as the one shown on the following picture.
Step 5 – Blending the Dress
As I mentioned before in this step you’ll blend the dress better. From my experience if you try to blend sheer clothing where the structure of it should remain the best way to do it is by using Channels instead of classic Brush Tool (B). On the following picture you can compare results of both techniques.
So how to do it?
First add layer mask to WOMAN. Make all layers except WOMAN invisible by clicking on the eye icon on the left side of each layer.
Go to Window > Channels to make the Channels palette visible. As you can see there are four layers. The first represent the image when all three RGB channels are visible. Next three layers are separately Red, Green and Blue Channel. They’re black and white which means you can use them as a mask! Select channel where the biggest contrast between lights and darks in. In this case it’s Blue channel. Ctrl + click on the Blue channel to activate its mask.
Make the rest of the layers visible again. Go to Selection > Invert or press Ctrl + Shift + I to invert the selection you’ve made. Click on the layer mask of WOMAN. Grab the Brush Tool (B), select some soft round brush, set its Opacity on about 30% and pick black color. Paint over the sheer clothing of the dress till you get something similar to the following picture.
Step 6 – More Dramatic Sky
There is lack of details on the sky and it doesn’t look interesting. You’ll add some cloud definition in this step. Download first photo of sky listed in the beginning of this tutorial and drag it into your photo manipulation. Place it to the top left corner on the top of all layers and name it LEFT SKY. Download the second photo of sky and drag it into Photoshop. Name this new layer RIGHT SKY and place it to the right left corner.
To blend it with the rest of the image change Blending mode of both layers from Normal to Multiply.
To blend it even better add layer masks to both layers. Grab the Brush Tool (B), select some soft round brush and pick black color. Paint over the areas of sky which you want to have invisible (= mostly edges of photos of sky). You should get something similar to the picture below after this step.
Step 7 – Adding Lighting
In this step you’ll start creating more interesting and dramatic lighting and you will continue with it in some of the following steps. In this step you’ll focus on adding more distinctive highlights on those parts of the image where light hits. Add new adjustment layer Levels and set the Input Levels on 0; 4,35; 255.
After adding the adjustment the whole picture is really bright. But you want to brighten only certain parts of it. To hide the adjustment grab the Paint Bucket Tool (G), pick black color and fill the layer mask of this adjustment layer.
Grab the Brush Tool (B), select some soft round brush, lower its Opacity on 5% and pick white color. Paint over the areas you want lighter. You can get the inspiration on the following picture. Areas where you should paint are highlighted with red color.
Step 8 – Local Darkening
Now its time to darken some parts of the image. To do that add new adjustment layer Levels and set the Input Levels on 0; 0,15; 255.
Fill the layer mask of this adjustment layer with black color to hide the adjustment and then grab the Brush Tool. Use the same settings as in the previous step and paint over the areas which should be darker. Take a look at the following image for inspiration.
Step 9 – Increasing Contrast of the Background
Photo of a woman has higher contrast than the rest of the image. You’ll balance it by increasing contrast in this step. Add new adjustment layer Levels on the top of all layers and set the Input Levels on 20; 1,00; 235.
Woman should have the same level of contrast as before the adjustment which means that you have to hide adjustment in that area. Activate the mask of WOMAN by Ctrl + clicking on its layer thumbnail.
Click back on the adjustment layer Levels you’ve added moment ago. Click on its layer mask. Grab the Brush Tool (B), set the Opacity on 100% and pick black color. Paint inside the mask to hide the adjustment there. After you’re done press Ctrl + D to deselect it. Your photo manipulation should be similar to the one below.
Step 10 – Adding Fog
To create more magical atmosphere you’ll add some deep fog in the background. Download the fog brushes listed in the beginning of the tutorial. These brushes are paid but feel free to use any fog brushes you like! Install them into Photoshop. If you don’t know how to install brushes you can take a look at this tutorial.
Add new layer on the top of all layers and name it FOG. Grab the Brush Tool (B) and select one of the fog brushes you’ve just installed. Hold Alt on your keyboard to activate the Eye Dropper Tool (I) and pick some very light cyanish color from the picture. Now simply paint some mist! Be aware of not to paint over the WOMAN.
On the following picture you can see how much fog you should paint.