This tutorial shows you how to combine different stock photos to create calm landscape manipulation. You will learn different techniques of blending, changing lights and shadows and color adjustments. Let’s get started!
Preview of Final Results
Serene Fantasy Photo Manipulation Photoshop Tutorial
- Background, sky and swan – Pelleron-Art
- Left Mountain – Salsola Stock
- Right Mountain – creativewa on sxc.hu
- Right Rock – irenegirl on sxc.hu
- Left Rock – mdnt on sxc.hu
- Mist Brushes – Pelleron
- Light Rays Brushes – Pelleron
Step 1 – Removing the Sky from the Background
Open the background picture in Photoshop. Right click on the layer and select the option Layer from background.
First thing you need to do with the picture is to remove the uninteresting sky to be able to add the more dramatic one. You can easily do that with Channels.
If you don’t have the palette Channels visible go to Window > Channels and it will appear. On this palette you can see four different layers – RGB, Red, Green and Blue.
Right click on the Blue channel and select the option Duplicate Channel… Make visible only this duplicated Channel.
Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels or press Ctrl + L on your keyboard. Set the Input Levels on 128; 1,00; 232 and press OK. You should get something like on the following picture.
You want to make the picture only black and white without any shade of grey. Things you’ve done before leads to creating the mask for the sky. White color shows part of the picture which will be selected and black part stays unselected. If you let some grey colors in the picture they will be selected e.g. with 50% opacity.
To make the whole ground black grab the Brush Tool (B), pick black color and simply paint over the grey areas of the water.
On the horizon there are some buildings which shouldn’t be in the final picture. Carefully paint over them with white brush. You should get something like on the picture below. On the following picture you can see how the channel should looks like.
Once you’re finished make visible all channels except the one named “Blue Copy”. Go to Select > Load Selection and set the window which appear as on the picture below. Press OK.
It activates the mask based on the Blue copy Channel.
The sky is selected and you want to hide it. First you need to invert the selection. Do that by pressing Ctrl + Shift + I on your keyboard or go to Select > Invert. Then click on the button Add layer mask which can be found in the bottom part of Layers palette.
Thanks to it the sky disappears and you’re able to add another, more dramatic. Below you can see how the picture looks without the sky.
Step 2 – Removing the Cottage
There are fragments of the cottage in the left part of the picture and it doesn’t look nice.
To remove it grab the Brush Tool (B), select one of the round brushes and set the Hardness on 100%. Set the Master Diameter on 5 pixels. Higher the opacity of the brush on 100% too and pick black color.
Click on the layer mask, zoom in and paint over the cottage to make it invisible.
Step 3 – Adding the Sky and Mountains
This will be very quick step. Open the picture of sky and drag it into the manipulation. Name the layer SKY and place it under the BACKGROUND. Press Ctrl + T and resize it on proper size. Once you’re satisfied with the size press OK.
Open the picture of the right mountain, cut out the background and drag it into the manipulation. Place the layer under the BACKGROUND and name it e.g. RIGHT MOUNTAIN. Resize it on proper size.
Then do the same with left mountain.
Step 4 – Adjusting the Right Mountain
Right now the mountains doesn’t fit to the picture. The right mountain should have lower contrast, the left should be lighter and less saturated.
First let’s adjust the right mountains. Add new adjustment layer Levels above the RIGHT MOUNTAIN. You can find the button Create new fill or adjustment layer in the bottom part of the Layers palette.
Set the Input Levels of the adjustment layer on 0; 1,28; 255.
Right click on the adjustment layer and select the option Create Clipping Mask. This way the adjustment layer adjusts only one layer below – RIGHT MOUNTAIN and not the whole picture.
Step 5 – Adjusting Left Mountain
Let’s adjust the left mountain.
First lower the saturation. Add new adjustment layer Hue/Saturation above the layer LEFT MOUNTAIN. Select Cyan color and set the Saturation on -65. Create clipping mask from this adjustment layer.
Mountains should be lighter because they are in distance. Add new adjustment layer Levels above the Hue/Saturation layer and set the Input Levels on 0; 1,49; 255. Create clipping mask from it.
Below it is shown how the image looks so far.
Step 6 – Bottom Part of Mountains
There is missing part of the left mountain. You’ll add it in this step.
Click on the LEFT MOUNTAIN layer and grab the Lasso Tool (L). Select the bottom part of it. Press Ctrl + C to copy the selection and then paste it above the LEFT MOUNTAIN and its adjustment layers.
Name the new layer e.g. BOTTOM MOUNTAIN.
It should be lighter to fit the rest of the image. To do that add new adjustment layer Levels above the BOTTOM MOUNTAIN and set the Input Levels on 0; 1,49; 255. Create clipping mask from it to adjust only one layer below not the whole image.
Below you can see how the adjustment affects the layer BOTTOM MOUNTAIN.
Step 7 – Adding Mist
As I mentioned in my previous tutorials I really like using mist because it creates nice fantasy atmosphere in your pictures. You’ll add it in this step.
Create a new layer under the layer BACKGROUND and name it MIST. Install the mist brushes you’ve downloaded in the beginning of the tutorial. If you don’t know how to install brushes you can take a look at this tutorial.
Select one of the brushes you’ve just installed. Hold Alt on your keyboard which activates the Eyedropper Tool and pick some light color from sky or mountain. Then paint mist arround the mountain.
On the following picture you can see how your picture should look so far.
Step 8 – Adjusting the River
If you try to create an impression of space or perspective you need to keep in mind that objects which are closer to the viewer are darker and objects in the distance are lighter. In your manipulation there is no difference in lightness between distant and close objects so far. You’ll fix it quickly in this step.
Add new adjustment layer Levels above the layer BACKGROUND and set the Input Levels on 0; 0,73; 255.
Because you want to the adjustment layer affects only BACKGROUND and not all the layers below right click on it and create a clipping mask from it.
Below you can see how the picture looks with this adjustment. Such a simply step and the image looks more realistic, isn’t it?
Step 9 – Preparing Trees
As you may notice on the finished picture there are rocks arround the river banks. During the creation of the manipulation I decided to added them to make the landscape more extraordinary.
In this step you will move with the trees to create more space for the rocks which will be added in following steps.
Grab the Lasso Tool (L) and select the trees on the left. Click on the BACKGROUND layer and press Ctrl + C to copy the selection and Ctrl + V to paste it. Name the new layer LEFT TREES.
Then select the trees on the righ, copy and paste it and name the new layer RIGHT TREES.
Grab the Move Tool (V) and move with these two new layers up. Add adjustment layer Levels with the Input Levels set on 34;1,00; 229 above RIGHT TREES and create clipping mask from it. Do the same with LEFT TREES.
You should get something like on the following picture after this step.
Step 10 – Creating the Right Bank
It’s time to create right bank. The rock needs to be added and the trees there needs to be blended. Let’s start with the rock.
Open the picture with the right rock in Photoshop. Cut out the background and drag the rock into your manipulation. Press Ctrl + T and resize it on proper size. Press Enter to apply the resizing.
Name this new layer e.g. RIGHT ROCK and place it under the RIGHT TREES.
As you can surely see the rock should be darker to fit to the rest of the picture. You can easily fix it by adding new adjustment layer Levels above the RIGHT ROCK and setting the Input Levels on 0; 0,65; 255.
To blend the RIGHT TREES properly add new layer mask to the RIGHT TREES. Grab the Brush Tool (B), select some soft round brush, set the Opacity on 100% and pick black color. Now paint over the areas of the trees you want to dissapear. You can get inspiration what to hide on following picture.
Step 11 – Creating the Left Bank
Open the picture with left rock in Photoshop. Cut out the background and drag it into your manipulation. Name this new layer under the layer LEFT TREES and name it LEFT ROCK.
The rock has higher contrast than the rest of the image and also is darker. To fix it you’ll use Levels adjustment layer again.
Set the Input Levels on 0; 0,69; 255 to make the rock lighter. To lower the contrast set the Output Levels on 0; 156.
Don’t forget to create clipping mask from this adjustment layer to adjust only LEFT ROCK and not all layers under it.
Trees on the left side need to be blended as well. You’ll do it the same as you blended the trees on the right side by adding layer mask to LEFT TREES and painting with black over the parts which should be hidden.
On the picture below you can see where you should paint.
After this step your photo manipulation should look as it’s shown below.
Step 12 – Adding the Swan
Open the picture of the swan in Photoshop. Grab the Lasso Tool (L) and select both the swan and its reflection on water. Press Ctrl + C to copy it and then paste it into your manipulation.
Name the new layer SWAN and place it on the top of all layers. Press Ctrl + T and resize the swan on the same size as in the finished picture. To apply resizing press Enter on your keyboard.
The body of the swan fits well to the rest of the image but the reflection needs some adjustment. According to me it should have lower opacity and should be more distorted because there is more waves in the water in the manipulation than it is in stock image.
Let’s start with distorting the reflection. Go to Filter > Liquifity. Grab the Forward Warp Tool and set the Brush Size on 8 pixels.
Move with the tool in the direction of narrows shown it the picture below.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this step the reflection should have lower opacity. To fix it add layer mask to SWAN. Grab the Brush Tool (B), select some soft round brush, pick black color and lower the Opacity of the brush on about 50%. Paint gently over the reflection to make it semi transparent.
Step 13 – Mist on the River
This will be really quick step in which you’ll add mist on the river. There is already some mist in the distance between trees and mountains but to make it believable it should also be on the river.
Add new layer on the top of all layers and name it e.g. RIVER MIST. Grab the Brush Tool (B) and select one of the mist brushes. Press Alt to activate the Eyedropper Tool and select some light color from the picture. Then paint some mist on the river.
To make the mist realistic looking paint it especially in the distance. If you look at some photos with mist you can see that in most cases the mist is thicker in the distance.
On the picture below you can get inspiration how to paint it.
The swan should be in front of the mist. To fix it grab the Eraser Tool (E), lower the opacity on 30% and erase some mist on the swan.
Step 14 – First Color Adjustment
The basic elements are already placed in the manipulation. Let’s focus on first color adjustment to set up the basic mood of the picture. The aim was to create peaceful, calm scenery. Because of that I decided to use warmer tones and lower saturation because more saturated colors feel more energic or dynamic.
First of all lower the saturation of the picture a little. To do that add new adjustment layer Hue/Saturation on the top of all layers and set the value Saturation on -15.
Let’s make the image lighter, with more contrast and more light yellow tones. All this you can do with only one adjustment layer – Gradient Map.
Set the gradient as shown on the picture below and change the Blending Mode of this layer on Soft Light.
To add even moe yellow tones to lights and violet tones to darks add one more adjustment layer Gradient Map and select one of the basic gradients named Violet, Orange. Change Blending Mode of this layer on Screen and lower the Opacity on 35%.
Below you can see how the adjustments affect the picture.
Step 15 – Adding Light Rays
In this step you’ll create light rays to make bit more fantasy feeling.
Create a new layer on the top of all layers and name it SUN RAYS. Download the light rays brushes listed in the beginning of the tutorial and install them into the Photoshop.
Select one of the brushes you’ve just installed and paint rays on the left on the same place as you can see on the final picture. Then paint less visible rays on the right.
To get the most realistic effect be very gentl with the brush. Use lower opacity of the brush and try to avoid using white color. Use light yellow instead. It looks more natural than pure white.
To make the lights even bit more dramatic let’s add lens flare above.
Create a new layer on the top of all layers and name it LENS FLARE. Grab the Gradient Tool (G) and fill this new layer with solid black color.
Go to Filter > Render > Lens Flare and set the window which appears as it’s shown below.
‘To blend the lens flare with the rest of the image properly change the Blending Mode of this layer from Normal to Screen. To make the flare more natural looking lower the Opacity of the layer on about 50%.
The brightest spot of the flare is too bright and it doesn’t look well.
To fix the brightness add layer mask to LENS FLARE layer. Grab the Brush Tool (B), select some soft round brush, lower the Opacity on about 40% and paint with black over that bright spot.
On the following picture you can see how the manipulation looks so far.
Step 16 – Lights and Shadows
In previous step you changed the global light settings of the picture. Now you need to adapt lights and shadows of the whole picture. The main light source is more dramatic which means that there should be bigger difference between lights and shadows than it’s now.
Add new layer on the top of all layers and name it e.g. LIGHTS. Grab the Gradient Tool (G) and fill the layer with solid #808080 grey color. Change the Blending Mode on Overlay. The grey dissapears.
Grab the Brush Tool (B), lower the Opacity on about 40% and start painting over the areas where the light rays hit. Then pick black color and paint on the opposite side where shadows should be.
It would be better to show it on the picture than describe it. On the first picture you can see how the layer LIGHTS should look if the Blending Mode of it is set on Normal and on the second there is shown the same layer with Blending Mode on Overlay.
As you may notice from previous picture I painted not only on the bottom part of the picture but also on sky to increase the contrast between the areas where rays hit and shadows to create bit more drama. You can try it too.
Step 17 – Lights on Right Mountain
There is another problem with lighting which has to be fixed. Lights and shadows on the right mountain don’t fit to the rest of the picture. On the stock photo light source was stronger than in your manipulation which create sharp transition between lights and shadows.
Also light comes from different direction. Position of shadows shows that the sun stood behind the mountain not on the left as in your manipulation. You’ll fix both problems in this step.
Let’s start with two shadows which are circled in the picture below.
Add new layer on the top of all layers and name it e.g. SHADOWS REMOVING. Grab the Stamp Tool (S) and cover those shadows with pattern from the area of mountain where is light. To get better idea of what I mean you can take a look at the following picture.
If you look at some photos of mountain you may notice that there is sharp transition between the part of the mountaion on which the sun is shining and the one which is in shadows. But there is nothing like that in your manipulation. You’ll fix it now.
Add new layer on the top of all layers and change its Blending Mode on Multiply. Grab the Brush Tool (B) and lower the Opacity on about 20%. Press Alt and pick one of the shadow color from the mountain, e,g, #b9b2ae. Paint over the part of the mountain which should be in shadow. Don’t forget to create the sharp transition I mentioned above.
On the following picture you can see how this layer looks with normal and Multiply Blending Modes.
Step 18 – Left Shadow on the River
In this and following step you’ll fix the shadows on the river. Let’s start with the shadow on the left side. Grab the Lasso Tool (L) and select the shadow on the right side. Press Ctrl +Shift + C to copy it merged and Ctrl + V to paste it. Place this new layer on the top of all layers and name it e.G. LEFT SHADOW.
Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal to flip LEFT SHADOW. You need to adjust the shape of the layer to fit the shape of the left bank. To do that go to Edit > Transform > Warp and adjust the grid as shown on the picture below.
After you’re done press Enter on your keyboard.
To blend the shadow properly lower the opacity of the layer on 50 %. Then add layer mask and erase all the unwanted parts – erase shadow which is on the bank and make smooth thransition between shadow and water. You should finish with shadow similar to the one on the picture below.
Step 19 – Shadow on the Right
Let’s focus on the shadow on the right side of the river. According to me it should be narrower than it’s now. To fix it add new layer on the top of all layers and name it RIGHT SHADOW. Change its Blending Mode on Screen.
Grab the Brush Tool (B), select some soft round brush and lower its Opacity on 30%. Press Alt and pick some light color from the river. Now paint over the parts of the shadow to make it lighter.
On the following picture you can see where I painted. On the first picture there is the RIGHT SHADOW layer set on Normal Blending Mode, on the second picture on Screen.
Step 20 – Transition Between Sky and Mountains
According to me there is too sharp transition between mountains and sky which doesn’t look realistic. If you look at some photos you may notice that sometimes it looks like mountains are hidden in the clouds. You’ll create this effect now.
Add new layer on the top of all layers and name it TRANSITION. Grab the Brush Tool (B), select some soft round brush and set the Opacity on 20%. To paint the transition realistic looking always press Alt and pick some color from sky above the part of the mountain where you paint.
Below you can see what I painted to get the inspiration. I put black background under so you can see it better.
Step 21 – Adjustments
All neccessary things are already done. Now it’s time for adjusting the image. Let’s start with increasing the contrast a little. Add new adjustment layer Levels on the top of all layers and set the Input Levels on 15; 1,00; 241.
The picture looks better if it’s more saturated. Add new adjustment layer Hue/Saturation and set the value Saturation on +15.
Step 22 – Vignette
I really like using vignette because it helps to focus viewer’s eye into the picture. Add new layer on the top of all layers and name it VIGNETTE. Grab the Gradient Tool (G) and fill the layer with solid white color.
Go to Filter > Lens Correction. The path may vary in different versions of Photoshop. If you can’t find it press Shifht + Ctrl + R on your keyboard.
Set the window as on the following picture.
To blend the layer with the rest of the picture properly change the Blending Mode on Multiply.
Step 23 – Sharpening
One last thing has to be done – sharpening. Press Ctrl + A on your keyboard to select the whole image and then Ctrl + Shift + C to copy it merged. Paste it on the top of all layers and name the layer SHARPENING.
Go to Filter > Other > High Pass and set the value Radius to be able to see decent edges of the picture.
Change Blending Mode of this layer on Overlay.
Download the PSD
Black Swan.zip | 13 MB