This photo manipulation tutorial will show you how to create this realistic fantasy image by combining several photos together and finishing it with water lilies and fairy dust. You will learn how to compose an image using multiple photos, simulate depth of field, and warp a persons ear to an elf ear.
Preview of Final Results
Magical Forest Photo Photoshop Tutorial
- Program: Adobe Photoshop CS2
- Difficulty: Easy
- Estimated Completion Time: 1 to 1.5 hours
- River 12 by rammkitty-stock (Creative Commons License)
- Water Lilies by blackthorness (Creative Commons License)
- Enchanted forest 15 by Michael Vincent Manalo (Creative Commons License)
- Star Brushes by kuschelirmel-stock (Creative Commons License)
Step 1 – Create the Photoshop document
To start, we will need to create a new image file, go to the Menu bar and click File > New, and then input the following values on their respective fields:
- Width: 3000 pixels
- Height: 3000 pixels
- Resolution: 300 dpi
- Color Mode: RGB Color; 8bit
- Background Contents: Transparent
Step 2 – Create the forest background
On this step, we will be creating our background. We will start by opening the stock image: Enchanted_forest 15 and transferring it to our 3000×3000 canvas by dragging it using the Move tool (V). To use the Move tool, simply press V on the keyboard and left-click on the image and then drag that image to the canvas. The image below shows the stock image after it has been dragged to the canvas.
Now that it is in place, we will transform it. To transform we will need the Transform tool (Ctrl/Cmd + T). To use the Transform tool, simply put your cursor on the squares and then drag it to the direction of your choice. In this tutorial, we will follow the direction stated on the images below.
Next, we will be applying a Blur filter to the background to give it a small DOF (Depth of field) to emphasize our subject later on. To activate the Blur filter, go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. Once the box opens, let us apply the following settings:
- Check More Accurate
- Shape: Octagon (8)
- Radius: 41
- Blade Curvature: 0
- Rotation: 0
Once you’re done, the result should be similar to the image below:
Now we will be increasing the contrast of the white areas and dark areas of our image and for us to achieve a good output, we will need a Gradient Map filter. To activate that, just click on the Create New Fill Layer/Adjustment Layer button located on the Layer window which is just on the lower left side of the screen. See image below:
Click on that button and when the contextual menu appears, select Gradient Map.
After clicking on Gradient Map, a box would appear, and then just click on the drop-down button to show the available Gradients. Pick the Black and White gradient as shown below:
You will notice that upon clicking on the B&W gradient, the color of your work is now B&W! To apply the contrast change using the Gradient Map, we will change its Blending mode. The simplest way to change the Blending mode is through clicking on the drop-down menu with the text Normal on the layer window.
Let’s change the Blending mode to Luminosity.
Next, let’s apply a Curves adjustment layer. To activate that just press the Create New Fill Layer/Adjustment Layer button and pick Curves from the contextual menu.
When the Curves tool opens, input the following on their respective fields:
- Input: 115
- Output: 135
Now, we will paint light to amplify the mood the forest creates. To do that, let’s first activate our Brush tool (B).
When you have it activated, we will now change its settings to the settings below:
- Brush size: 600px
- Hardness: 0%
- Opacity: 25%
- Flow: 100%
Note: To reduce the Hardness, right click on the image while the Eraser tool (E) is activated, then you’d see the Hardness scale, which is at default – 100%, just move the slider to the left to get 0%.
Also, we would need to change the Brush color. To change it, click on the Foreground Color on the Tools menu to bring up the Color Picker tool.
When the Color Picker tool opens, input the following values to the “#” box: fffdd9
Before we apply the brush, we would need to create a layer first. To do that, just press Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + N and then a box would come out. It will automatically ask you for the layer’s name; let’s name this layer: Light. Now, we’re all set to paint using the Brush tool (B). Use the brush on the region shown on the image below:
The result should be similar to this:
When you’re done, duplicate the layer “Light” by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + J. We duplicated it to increase the effect. Before continuing to the next step, let’s group the layers that we had just created. To group the layers, click on all the layers that we have made and press Ctrl/Cmd + G. After doing that, you’d notice that all the layers are now inside the group. Let’s rename this group to Background. To rename a group, simply click on the words “group 1” (etc) and a text box would appear and you may now rename it.
Step 3 – Create the lady on the log
Now in this step, we will be adding our subject – the lady on the log. First, let’s open the stock image – River 12. We will only be using the lady, the log and the small part of the river, and to be able to utilize those parts, we will need to cut it from the rest of the image. We can accomplish that through the Polygonal Lasso tool (L).
Now we will be cutting our subject from its original background, and we would need to do it accurately. For us to be precise, let’s zoom in on the image. Press Z to zoom in up to 200% or you may also type in the zoom level you want on the Navigator window. See image below:
On using the Polygonal Lasso tool, you first have to click on a point on the image and drag the cursor to the edges of the subject until you reach your starting point.
Once you’re done, drag the image within the selection (the dash lines from the end result of the Polygonal Lasso tool) to our canvas using the Move tool (V). Then once it is on the canvas, let’s transform it to a scale similar to the image below:
Now we’re going to change her ears to make her look like an elf. To do that, we’re going to utilize the power of the Liquify tool. Open the Liquify tool by pressing FILTER > LIQUIFY and when the box opens, apply the following settings:
- Brush size: 43
- Brush density: 43
Then zoom in to the ear of the girl using the Zoom tool (Z) in the Liquify box. Zoom in to 400% for precision. When you’ve zoomed in, press W to activate the Forward Warp tool – this is the tool that we’re going to use to transform the human ear to an elf ear. Now we’re all set, let’s just follow the instructions on the image below.
Next, let’s brighten up the woman’s face to bring out her beauty and also to enhance the light. We will be using the Dodge tool for this, activate the Dodge tool (O) from the Tools menu.
Use the following settings for the Dodge tool:
- Brush size: 200 px
- Range: Midtones
- Exposure: 15%
Now, enhance the light more by erasing on the edge of the woman’s face to bring out the light from the background. Activate the Eraser tool by pressing (E) and when it is activated, use the following values:
- Brush size: 500 px
- Hardness: 0%
- Opacity: 100%
- Flow: 100%
Use the Eraser on the region shown on the image below: