Learn how to create a beautiful Arabian night photo manipulation with Photoshop. You will learn several blending tricks and composting tips that will help you create a vivid vector-like landscape.
What you’ll be creating
This photo manipulation is my vision on how the desert should look in a story: mysterious and welcoming. You will need Photoshop CS5 or newer to create this tutorial..
- Mosque. – freeimages.com
- Moon.– Wikipedia
- Desert. – freeimages.com
Create a new document 3797×2440 px. Using the Gradient Tool to create a nice gradient with #04243f as foreground color and #0e74d6 as background color.
Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + N), set the foreground color to white and using the stars brush create some stars.
Create a new layer and using white and white-orange draw a comet coming from above. It’s not that hard really, just draw with the white brush a couple of short diagonal lines and draw a loose circle at the end of those lines (head of the comet).
Open the clouds image and choose Select> Color Range. Click with the marker once on a bright spot in the picture to select most of the white clouds. Click Ok. Press Ctrl + C to copy the selection and close the clouds document. Go back to our document and press Ctrl + V to paste. Rename the pasted layer Clouds to keep layers from cluttering. Right click the Clouds layer and choose Convert To Smart Object. Press Ctrl + T to enter Free Transform and resize the clouds as I did in the image below. Finally, set the blending mode of the layer to Lighten.
Add a layer mask to the Clouds layer (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All). With a soft black brush mask the edges of the clouds so that they integrate flawlessly with the sky.
Create a new layer and set the blending mode to Overlay. Choose #e37952 as foreground color and with a soft brush paint lightly in the area indicated below. Lower the opacity of the layer to 40-50 %. This will be the horizon diffuse light later when we will add the terrain. You can also group all the layers we created until now. To group layers select them by shift- clicking each and press Ctrl + G.
Open the file Moon and using the Elliptical Marquee Tool select the moon. Copy (Ctrl + C) and paste (Ctrl + V) into our document. Right click on the pasted layer and choose Convert to Smart Object. Resize and position as I did in the image below.
Double-click the moon layer to enter Advanced Blending Mode and apply a color overlay (#71a8e3) set to Overlay Blending Mode.
Add a layer mask to the layer moon and using a round black soft brush mask the lower and the left side of the moon.
Let’s add some highlight to our moon. Create a new layer and add a layer mask (Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All). Ctrl- click on the moon layer to make a selection than press D to set the default colors. Finally, press Alt + Backspace to fill the selection with white. Click on the layer again to select it and with a white brush paint some highlights on the right and up side of the moon.
Now let’s create the terrain. Open file “Desert” and using the quick selection tool select the terrain only (not the sky). Copy and paste the terrain into our document. As you already guess now you should right click the desert layer and convert it to a smart object. Resize it and position the terrain as shown below. If your selection was imperfect feel free to add a layer mask and mask the
In this step and the following steps we will apply some adjustment layers to the desert layer in order to blend it better with our image. Usually almost any imported/pasted layer is often more saturated than the rest of the composition (not only in this case but in general) so let’s add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer and tweak with the values. We notice that the terrain looks much better if we decrease slightly the saturation. But in order to apply the effect only to the terrain layer we must clip the Hue/Saturation to the Desert layer by Alt-clicking between the two ( and we will do so for the rest of the adjustment layers applied to the terrain). If you notice the a group called City and wonder why you don’t have it don’t worry about it, you will find out why in the future steps.
Now let’s color correct the terrain a bit. Add a curve adjustment layer and use the settings shown below. Clip this layer to the layer below (it should be clipped to a Hue/Saturation layer which in turn is clipping the desert layer). Lower the opacity to 32%.
Now let’s add some selective lighting. We will make the foreground part of the terrain darker. Add a Curves adjustment layer and drag the curve down to darken. Click on the layer mask and with a black brush paint on the top part of the terrain to keep it untouched by the darkening effect. Lower the opacity until you achieve a pleasant effect (40%). Clip the layer to the layer below.
And as a last adjustment layer applied to the desert create a Brightness/Contrast layer and drag the Contrast slider to the right until a value of 70 is reached. Clip the layer to the layer below.
Group the terrain layer and the all the adjustment layers we applied to it into a new group.
Now we’ll create a city in the distance. Create a new layer and press Ctrl + G to add it to a group. Name the group city and move it below the terrain layer.
First of all be careful to put all city related layers inside the group City or else we will have a messy document. Our city will have three layers of building outlines to simulate depth. First outline will be dark and it will sit in front, second will be a little lighter than the first and sit in the back of the first outline and third will be even lighter and will sit behind the two other outlines. If you followed the step 17 you should have a single empty layer inside the City group. Select this empty layer and group it again by pressing Ctrl + G. Name the group Dark Buildings. Choose the Mosque Brush and with click a couple of times using a variety of mosque buildings to create a something like I did below.
Now we will add some highlights to our dark outlines in order to give them some 3d volume. Create a new layer in the Dark Buildings group and name it Highlight. Clip this layer to the outline layer we created in step 18 (for clipping refer to step 12). We assume that the light comes from the left up side of our image so the highlights will have to be on the left side of the building outlines. Select a white round soft brush at 10% Opacity and paint some highlights on the left side and top of each building. Don’t overdo, be subtle.
When light hits an object we usually notice a very sharp bright line on the corner or top of it. This is called specular highlight and it gives our objects a nice look. Create a new layer and clip it to the highlights layer. Name this layer Specular Highlight. With a white brush at 30-40% Opacity and 1px size paint some subtle specular highlights on top and left side of the buildings. Again, be subtle.
Now let’s create the second city outline. Repeat the steps 18 to 20 but increase the size of the Mosque brushes and place them a little higher than the Dark Buildings outline. Name the newly created group Medium Dark Buildings and place this group below the Dark Buildings group in the Layer Palette. Lower the opacity of the Medium Dark Buildings to 85%.
For the last city outline we will use a mosque from a picture. Open file Mosque and make a selection of the mosque using the Lasso Tool or the Pen Tool. Copy and paste into our image. Right click the pasted layer and choose Convert To Smart Object. Use Free Transform (Ctrl + T) to place the mosque behind the two other building outlines.
Now let’s fill the Mosque with black color in order to make it an outline. There are multiple ways to do that but I went for a Adjustment Layer solution. Create a new Curves Adjustment layer and place it above the Mosque layer. Clip the Curves layer to the Mosque layer and drag the right point of the curve all the way down.