Learn how to create this eerie photo manipulation of the Grim Reaper’s side job – mowing! This simple tutorial is great for beginner photo manipulators and will show you how to quickly combine photos, warp them into your scene, and add a cold blue color effect that eliminates all need for color matching.
Preview of Final Results
- Straws -Bergadder, pixabay
- Cloud – lancealot21us, pixabay
- Grim – mjranum, Deviantart
- Scythe – mynoahsart, Deviantart
Let’s start by opening the straw image in the Photoshop.
Activate the crop tool in the tool panel by hitting the short key C on the keyboard. We will crop the image a little bit with this tool.
Start cropping by clicking the tool and drag around the image we want to crop. I started from upper left part of the image and dragged to lower right part. Hit enter to crop the image.
Here is the result of the cropped image now.
We will hide the cloud part of the image. To do this purpose, we will give the image a layer mask by clicking the layer mask icon located in the bottom of the layer panel. There will be a white mask thumbnail next to the layer thumbnail.
Next, start accessing the brush tool by hitting the short key B. Choose a soft round brush at 0% hardness with size of around 900 pixels.
Make sure to set the foreground color to black and the background to white and the layer mask thumbnail is activated. Start masking the cloud part of the image by stroking the brush with black to mask the cloud.
Here is the result
Now point out the cursor on the background layer and double click on it to show up the new layer option box. This will lead us to change background layer into a new layer named layer 0 in option box. I named this layer BG..
Now open the cloud image on the document. This image will be a new layer above the BG layer in the layer panel. I named this layer cloud. Position the cloud layer under the BG layer by clicking, holding and dragging it downward.
Activate free transform tool (Ctrl+T) and scale up the cloud image by clicking one of the transforming points, holding and dragging downward until the cloud cover the blank space in the document.
Here is what I have done:
With the cloud layer still activated, go to filter > blur > surface blur. Set the value of the blur as given below:
Here is what we should have so far:
Proceed to alter the color of the cloud by giving it a new adjustment layer above the cloud layer. To do this purpose, go to layer > new adjustment layer > hue/saturation:
Here is the result.
Give another new adjustment layer above the hue/saturation layer. This time we will give brightness/contrast as the one given in the screenshot below:
Here is what we will have as the result..
I assumed that the light source will come from the upper centered part of the cloud. We will mask the effect of the adjustment layers created before to create the light source.
Select the two adjustment layers and hit ctrl+G to group them into one folder. I named this folder ‘adjustment for the cloud’. Give this folder a layer mask. Take a very soft round brush and mask the areas where the light source will come from.
Here is the result after masking.
Next, we will add some highlight and shadow for the scene. Firstly select the BG layer to activate it. With the BG layer activated, hit Shift+Ctrl+N to create a new layer. On the new layer option box, give the name of this new layer (I named this layer shadow and highlight). Make sure to check ‘use previous layer to create a clipping mask’ to give this new layer a clipping mask. Set the blending to overlay and fill it with neutral color of 50% gray.
Here is the result we should have.
To give the highlight for the scene, firstly we will activate the dodge tool. Set the tool as shown in the option bar below: choose a very soft round brush at size of about 500 pixels, set its range to highlight and exposure of about 10%.
On the shadow and highlight layer, start stroking the dodge to give some highlight for the scene. Here is the result I created set in normal blending and the result set in overlay at 100% opacity.
Proceed to give some shadow for the scene. To achieve this, activate the burn tool and set the tool as shown in the option bar below.
Stoke the burn tool to some areas where needed to give some shadow. Here is the result I created for our inspiration:
Proceed to set the overall mode for the scene. We will give the scene some adjustment layers to achieve this. Firstly we will give it hue/saturation. Go to layer > new adjustment layers > hue/saturation. Set this layer to the value as shown below:
Set this layer to normal at 100% opacity to have the result like this one:
Give another adjustment layer: photo filter
Duplicate the photo filter layer one time. Set the original layer to normal blending at 100% opacity and the duplicate to normal blending at 40% opacity. Here is the result we should have now:
Give the last adjustment layer: Curves
Set this curves layer to normal blending at 70% opacity. Select the three adjustment layers and hit ctrl+G to group them into one folder. I named this folder ‘overall adjustments’.
Open the grim image in Photoshop. Take any extracting tools in Photoshop we are familiar with to cut out the grim from its background.
Here is the cut out of the grim. We will alter the shape of it a little bit. Take free transform tool and choose the warp mode. Click on one of the transform point, hold and drag to the direction needed as shown in the screenshot:
Now take the smudge tool. Set the tool as the setting in the option bar below. Start stroke the tool on the lower parts of the grim’s cloth to alter its shape. Stroke the directions as shown below:
Add the grim image to the document by simply copy-paste it. Create a new folder group for this grim layer. I named this folder ‘grim’. Make sure to place this grim folder under the overall adjustment folder in the layer panel.
Open the grim layer within the grim folder. Give this layer a layer mask. Mask the lower parts of the grim on the areas around the lowest cloth and wheel. Try to use the combination of the soft and hard brush with size varied according to the parts to be mask. For instance, I use a small hard round brush to mask the cloth to reveal the grasses.
Proceed to give the grim layer an adjustment layer: brightness/contrast. Make sure to check the use previous layer to create a clipping mask. This will clip the brightness/contrast layer to the grim layer.
Set the brightness/contrast adjustment layer to one set below:
Here is the result.
Create another layer with a clipping above the brightness/contrast layer within the grim folder. Set this new layer to linear light blending mode filled with neutral color of 50% gray.
On this new layer we will create some highlight to the grim image. So we can guess what we should do next. Take the dodge tool again and set the tool as the one in previous step 9. Start stroking the tool on some areas of the grim to give highlight. Take a look at the screenshot to guide us the parts where the highlight should be given. The parts are indicated with white arrows.
Again, create another new layer below the grim layer within the grim folder.
On this new layer, paint some shadow for the grim figure. Use a very soft round brush set to opacity of around 10-15% with size of the brush varied according to the areas covered. Stroke the areas around the lowest cloth of the grim.
We will add another stock image to the scene. Open the other grim image with a scythe. Cut out the scythe of the image.
Paint over the cut out to cover the unneeded part marked with red X in the screenshot. I simply create a new layer set to normal blending at 100% opacity above the cut out. On the new layer, I painted over the cut out. I used a very soft round brush set to opacity of around 15-20. I used the sample color taken on nearest color round the areas to be painted over.
Copy-paste the scythe to the main document and place this scythe layer below the grim folder in the layer panel. Scale the scythe image to size needed and locate it in front of the main straw as if it is against the straw. Create a group for this scythe layer into one folder. I named this folder scythe.
Create a new layer with a clipping mask above the scythe layer within the scythe folder. Set this new layer to linear light blending mode and fill with neutral color of 50% gray. With dodge and burn tool, create some highlight and shadow for the scythe the same way as we created the one in previous step 9 and 16. The white arrows indicate areas where we should paint the highlight and the black ones are for the shadow.
In this step we will create casting shadow of the scythe. Select the scythe layer and go to layer > layer styles > drop shadow. Set the drop shadow style as the one below:
Here is the result..
Point out the cursor around the drop shadow layer style and right click on it to show up the layer style option box. When the box shows up, choose create layer. This option will change the drop shadow layer style into a new single layer below the scythe layer.
Next select the drop shadow layer. Take the free transform tool (Ctrl+T). Rotate and move the layer to the position where needed to create the casting shadow.
Finally give the drop shadow layer a layer mask and mask the unneeded shadow.
Here is the result should be
We are almost done with the work. In this step we will add more highlight and shadow to the scene to give it more dreamy nuance. Create another new layer between the overall adjustment and grim folder. Set the layer to linear light blending mode at 100% opacity. On this new layer, create more highlight and shadow where needed. Use dodge and burn tool to achieve this. For our inspiration, here is the layer I created when I set it to normal blending..
Here is the result will be when the layer is set to linear light blending at 100% opacity.
Here are several final steps to finish the work. Make sure we are active on the overall adjustment folder which is the topmost position in the layer panel. Now hit Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E to stamp all the visible layers into a single new layer. I named this layer multiply. Then, go to layer > Smart Object > convert to smart object. This will change the new layer into a smart object. Next, go to filter > others > high pass. Set the high pass value as shown below.
Now edit the blending option of the smart filter. To achieve this, point out the cursor on the high pass filter in the layer panel and then right click on it to show smart filter dialog box. Choose edit smart filter blending option… Set it to multiply blending at 70% opacity.
Here is the result so far.
Now activate the smart filter mask thumbnail and mask the filter on parts where needed.
This is what we should have after masking the filter..
Next, give another curves adjustment layer as shown in the screenshot. Fill this adjustment layer to 20% opacity.
Mask the curves layer .
Here is the result.
While we are still active on the curves layer which is the topmost position in the layer panel, hit Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E to stamp all the layers again into a new single layer. Convert this layer into a smart object. Finally, give this layer a smart filter: high pass. Set this filter to overlay at 100% opacity.