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Grim Reaper Scene Photoshop Tutorial
Open file “Road” in Photoshop. Use the Pen Tool (P) or the Lasso Tool (L) to make a selection of the road. To use the Pen Tool to make selections first draw the selection path then press Ctrl+Enter to transform path into selection. TIP (Hold Shift to add to selection, Alt to substract from selection and Shift+Alt to intersect with selection) After you selected the road press Ctrl+J to make new layer from selection. Turn off the original “Road” layer.
Open file “Desert” and make a selection of the desert. Press Ctrl+J to make a new layer from selection than Ctrl+C to copy and into our document Ctrl+V to paste. Or you can simply drag and drop it into our document. Place it like shown in the image below. Place the “Road” layer above the “Desert” layer. Add a quick layer mask to the “Road” and using the Multi Purpose Brush with a black color mask away the edges of the road so it blends with the desert seamlessly. Lower the opacity and increase the size to mask the middle of the road. Look at my mask below for inspiration.
Open file “Clouds” and press Ctrl+A to select all and Ctrl+C to copy than paste into our document by using Ctrl+V. Resize this layer like shown below than move it below “Road” and “Desert” layers. Because it is below the other layers we can skip adding a layer mask and to obtain the required clouds we will drag this layer up and down until it fits the scene. To blend the various layers into a veridical scene and to set a dark mood let’s add a Curves adjustment layer and drag the curve downward. Because we want to keep the end of the road fairly light let’s select the radial gradient tool and with black and white as our default colors drag from the middle of the curves layer mask to the edges.
Time to add the Grim Reaper! Open file “Black Cape” and make a selection of the Reaper (the person holding a scythe). Ctrl+C to copy and Ctrl+V into our document to paste. You probably noticed that this is a low-res picture with a lot of noise but for the purposes of this tutorial will be okay. To get rid of some of the color noise make a duplicate of the “Reaper” layer and apply Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise. Change the blending mode of this new layer to color so only the color noise will be affected leaving us with a crisp and detailed Reaper.
TIP (Notice that when using a noise removal filter our image will lose some details and became blurred so the blending mode “Color” will do the trick of removing the color noise. If however you would wanted to remove some luminance noise ( black and white ) also then we could do so by using a protective layer mask. Basically you make a duplicate of the image, run a Find Edges filter, desaturate, apply a curves adjustment layer to remove the mid tones and increase the contrast between the dark and white tones, add a 0.4 – 1 px Gaussian Blur, go to the Channels Palette and Ctrl+Click the RGB channel to make a selection of the luminous pixels than in the layer mask of the original layer with the black and white colors as default Alt+Backspace than Ctrl+I to invert. This layer mask will protect the edges of our image from being blured after a Reduce Noise Filter. This is not the case in our image but you can use this technique to reduce noise from other images while preserving details. By inverting the mask we can apply a Sharpening filter and affect only the edges. This is one way to create a protective mask and some of it’s uses.)
Now let’s add 2 Curves Adjustment Layers to color correct our Reaper.
TIP (When importing layer from other images there 2 types of general adjustments you want to make for a seamless blending: color and luminance adjustment. For color adjustment you add a clipped curves adjustment layer and try to match the colors of the surrounding environment. You can measure the black and the white points of the environment and the imported layer for precise adjustments but you can obtain some pretty good results only with visual comparison. So for color adjustment modify only the color channels of the curves adjustment. For luminance adjustment add a curves adjustment layer and increase or decrease the luminosity of the imported layer based on it’s environment. This type of adjustment it’s pretty easy to make. To further increase the separation between the 2 adjustments you can set the first curve adjustment layer to color blending mode and the second one to luminance. )
To make our Reaper more interesting let’s make a medallion. Draw a small shape on the Reaper’s neck with soft grey brush then add the following effects.
Let’s make the shadows. Make a duplicate of the “Reaper” layer, Ctrl+Click this layer to select it than fill it with black (D to set default colors and Alt+Backspace to fill the selection). Deselect than add a 3 px Gaussian Blur. Press Ctrl+T to transform this shape like shown below. Add a layer mask and using the Gradient Tool and black and white as default colors drag from the margin towards the center of the layer mask to partially mask the upper shadow. Also mask the areas where shadow doesn’t supposed to be. Lower the opacity of this layer to 30% and set the blending mode to Multiply.
Make another duplicate of the “Reaper” layer and fill it with black. Add a 2 px Gaussian Blur than free transform it like shown below. Add a layer mask than apply the Gradient tool from margin towards interior using white and black as default colors. Lower the opacity to 84% and change the blend mode to Multiply. Duplicate this layer and press Ctrl+T to Free Transform. Right+Click and choose Flip Horizontally than move the layer like shown below. Lower the opacity to 45%. Group these shadow layers than add a quick mask and if necessary mask away the extra parts. Your shadows should look like in the image below.
Select the type tool and a font of your choice to add a scary message. Rasterize the type layer and press Ctrl+T to transform like shown below. Change it’s bleding mode to Overlay and because the type is barely visible duplicate the layer.
Let’s make some further adjustments to our image to establish the mood and the atmosphere.
First add a Black & White adjustment layer, change it’s blend mode to Color Dodge and using the Gradient Tool mask away the upper parts of the image. This increases the contrast and gives us some interesting lightning . Next add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to decrease the saturation and using the Gradient Tool in the layer mask hide the upper part of the adjustment. If you masked away the medallion than using a round soft white brush and restore it’s saturation by painting with a white brush in the layer mask. Now add a Gradient Map adjustment layer and use the colors shown below. In the layer mask use the Gradient tool to mask away the lower part of the image so only the clouds will get affected. Change the blending mode to Soft Light and lower the opacity to 20%. This step will make our clouds more grim.
Now add a Selective Color adjustment layer and modify the Yellows like shown below.
Add a Curves adjustment layer and drag the curve upward to lighten the image than fill the layer mask with black then make white as foreground color and black as background and drag with the Radial Gradient tool in the layer mask to lighten only the central part of the image. This step will create a focal point and will increase the contrast between the Reaper and the background making him look more dark.
Then add a Color Balance adjustment layer and increase the Cyan. Than use the Linear Gradient Tool to apply this effect only to the right side of the image. This step will add some visual interest.
And the final adjustment is to add a Curves adjustment layer and drag the curve upwards to lighten the image. Than fill the mask wit black and using a round white soft brush paint selectively in the layer mask to further lighten the light areas surrounding the Reaper.
Let’s add some more spooky elements to our scene. First make a new layer and using a Birds brush paint some black birds in the horizon.
Open file “House” and make a selection of the house. Ctrl+C to copy and Ctrl+V to paste into our document. Pres Ctrl+T to free transform the house like shown below. Add a clipped Curves adjustment layer to color correct the house than make a new layer and using a black soft brush at 20% opacity paint some shadows on the left side of the house. Change the shadow layer blend mode to Multiply.
Open file “Cross” and make a selection of the cross. Ctrl+C to copy and Ctrl+V to paste the cross into our document and press Ctrl+T to free transform the cross like below. Add a clipped Curves adjustment layer to decrease it’s luminosity and a clipped Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to decrease it’s saturation. Than make a new layer below the cross layer and paint some shadows. Change the shadows layer(s) to multiply. Use you intuition when painting shadows and consider the fact that we have a multidirectional lightning in this scene but most of the light comes from the left (from the cross point of view). Group all these cross related layers than duplicate this group and free transform it so it seems more distant and different from the first cross. Repeat the operation until you have around 8 crosses.
Open the “Raven” file and make a selection of the raven. Ctrl+C to copy and Ctrl+V to paste it into our document. Don’t worry if your selection is not perfect because we will going to make very small. Press Ctrl+T to free transform the raven like shown below than add clipped Curves adjustment layer to color correct it.
Make a new layer and using a round soft white brush at 5% opacity draw some smoke (or fumes) at the base of the house and at the base of the crosses. Don’t overdo.
Open the file “Van” and make a selection of the van. Ctrl+C to copy and Ctrl+V to paste it into our document. Press Ctrl+T to free transform the van like shown below than add a clipped Curves adjustment layer and a clipped Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to color correct the van. Notice that we don’t take all the color from the van, because we still want some color somewhere in the scene. Make a new layer below the “Van” layer and paint some shadow than change the layer blend mode to Multiply.
Let’s make some creepy dark veins emerging from our dark figure. To do this make a new layer and fill it with white. Than press D to set default colors and choose Filters > Render > Clouds. Now choose Filters > Render > Difference Clouds. Choose Image > Adjustments > Curves and use the settings shown below to get rid of the mid tones and keep only the black lightning. Press Ctrl+T to free transform this layer like shown below and change the blending mode to Multiply. Changing the blending mode will get rid of the white areas. Add a layer mask and mask the obvious lines. You can make a duplicate layer and using free transform (Ctrl+T) flip it horizontally to add even more black veins/lightning .
Time for the final adjustments.
Press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E to make a new layer from all visible then choose Filters > Stylize > Glowing Edges. Change the blend mode to Overlay and lower the opacity to 23%. This step will further increase the contrast and darken the mood. Now add Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to decrease the Saturation of the scene. Note that sometimes less is more and in our case less saturation will make the image darker and moodier. It will also keep the focal interest in the center preventing our eyes from wandering al l over the places.
Press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E again to make another new layer from all visible and apply a 4 px Gaussian Blur. Change it’s blend mode to Soft Light. Lower the opacity to 25%.
Finally add new layer and using the Clone Stamp tool make the scythe wooden handle longer. Than select a soft black brush at 5% opacity and paint some pools of blackness to further increase the moodiness of the scene. And you’re done.