Create floating island in a twilight atmosphere with plenty of magical details. Read this tutorial and learn how to combine all those elements to create this fairy tale composite.
What you’ll be creating
Photo manipulation tutorial with simple and advanced techniques. You will need Photoshop CS5 or newer to follow this tutorial.
- New York Skyline – Dreamstime
- Title of DeviantART Resource – DeviantART Username
- Sky – Magikfeller
- Moon Brushes – Ischarm
- Floating Island – Mindsquezedesign
- Desert – stockf8
- Tree – Monglowlilly
- Apple – Monglowlilly
- Bush – Monglowlilly
- Wall Lamp – Monglowlilly
- Walking – GMarshal
- Warmblood – Bundy – Stock
- Wings – maureenolder
- Fantasy Lighting Brushes– KeepWaiting
- Grass– Lemondjinn
- Fern – wolverine041269
- Daisy– wolverine041269
- Fern Brush – fantmayo
- Waterfalls Brush – Midnight’s touch
- Water Brush – redheadstock
- Clouds – redheadstock
- Rainbow – magikfeller
- Birds Brush – Midnight’s touch
- Lens Flares – SaphireDesign
- Castle – skinywitch
- Wizard Duo – ailinstock
- Nebula – freeimages.com
- Nobleman – Grinmir-stock
Open file “Sky”. This will be our background on which we will create our scene.
Import the moon brushes. Choose a half moon brush and on a new layer (to create a new layer press Ctrl + Shift + Alt + N) click once to create a half moon like shown below.
Now let’s create the castles floating in the sky. First open the file “Floating Island”. Select all by pressing Ctrl + A, copy by pressing Ctrl + C. Go back to our scene and press Ctrl + V to paste. Now we could resize the island as it is but it is good practice to convert most of our imported layers to smart objects in order to preserve their original pixel information no matter how much we resize them or apply filters on them. Smart objects and adjustment layers are very important for lossless image editing and manipulation – we will soon use adjustment layers. For now let’s convert the imported layer (our floating island) into a smart object. There are multiple ways to do that but the simplest way is to right click the layer and from the drop down menu choose Convert To Smart Object. After you do that you can safely resize the island (Ctrl + T) as shown below.
Our island is orange but our sky is blue. The island looks like it doesn’t belong here. That is because objects tend to have a hue close to that of the sky. This is generally true for most photo manipulations scenes. Now how should we go about color correcting the island so that it blends nicely with the sky? There are multiple ways of doing that: we could use a hue/saturation adjustment layer, a curves adjustment layer or a solid color layer. We will use the latter since it is the easiest way. First select a brush tool and Alt-click somewhere in the sky to sample a blue color. Create a new layer and press Alt-Backspace to fill the layer with the sampled color. It looks all blue but we want to limit the blue only to the island. We will do that in the next step.
It’s time you get familiar with another very important concept regarding photoshop layers: clipped layers. A clipped layer shows only through the pixels of the layers it clips. It sounds complicated but it’s not. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you created a new layer and on this new layer you draw a horse. Now let’s say you want to apply a texture to the horse. Well, you could copy and paste a texture from somewhere, place it above the horse and painstakingly delete every pixel that falls outside the horse.
Of course there is an easier way to do it and that is by clipping the texture layer to the horse layer. The easiest way is just to do it and see it in action. Hold the Alt key and click once between two layers. The upper layer will be visible only through the pixels of the lower layer – in other words the upper texture layer will only be visible through the lower horse layer. This is how you clip layers. You can have more than one clipped layers – for example you can have a four texture layers clipped to the horse layer and they will all show through the visible pixels of the clipped layer. So from now on you should at least know (and hopefully understand) how to clip layers: simply Alt-click between two layers in order to clip the upper layer to the lower layer in the layer pallet.
Now back to our scene. Clip the color layer to the island layer and change the blending mode of the color layer to Color. Notice how the island suddenly looks very well blended into the scene. If you wanted to retain some of the original color you could simply lower the opacity of the color layer but in our case this is just what we need.
Another very important thing in creating photo manipulations is light direction and shading. Before apply any light and shade to our object it is important to establish the light direction. In our case the light is coming from the middle/lower right portion of the scene. Now it’s time to apply some shading to our island to make it look less flat. Create a new layer and set the blending mode to overlay (a good blending mode for altering the lightness of an object without affecting the colors very much). Clip the layer to the island layer and with a soft round white brush at 30-40% Opacity paint a little on the lower right part of the island. Change the color of the brush to black and paint a little in the upper left part of the island. If you have a tablet this will be even easier but you can also do it fairly well with a mouse. You should have something like the image below.
Open file “Castle”. Using the pen tool or the quick selection tool select the castle. Copy it and paste it into our scene. Convert the castle layer to smart object and resize it like shown below.
Add a layer mask to the Castle layer (Layer > Layer Mask> Reveal All). In the layer mask use a round soft black brush to mask the lower portions of the castle so that it integrates nicely with the island.
Layer Mask quick explanation. Layer mask are one of the most important concepts to understand in order to use Photoshop efficiently. There are plenty of tutorials on internet regarding layer masks but here’s the quick version. Let’s say you have a photo and you set it on a table. This is the layer. Now over the picture you put a transparent paper or foil. This is the layer mask. If you draw with a black marker over the transparent paper you will not see the picture under the black paint. If you erase the black paint you will see the picture. This is painting with black and white in the layer mask.
All this time the photo is unharmed – if you remove the transparent paper the photo is intact below. This allows for a great flexibility when doing any image editing in Photoshop.
For organizational purposes it is a good habit to group your layers. Select all the castle related layers (you can select multiple layers by holding Ctrl and clicking on each layer) and press Ctrl + G to group them. Name the group Castle.
Now it’s time to create our floating road. Open file “Desert”. Using the rectangular marquee tool select the desert, copy it and paste it into our scene. Transform it to smart object and position it as shown below. Also, position the desert layer below the Castle group in the layer palate.
Add a layer mask to the desert layer (Layer > Layer Mask> Hide All). Now the desert will disappear from the scene because the layer mask is all black. With the standard chalk brush and a white color at 100% Opacity draw something resembling a road in the layer mask. Name this layer “Base Dirt”.
Create a new Curve adjustment layer and clip it to the Base Dirt layer. Drag the curve down to darken.
Duplicate the “Base Dirt” layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer) and rename it Base Volume. Drag it above the Base Dirt layer in the layer palate. Press Ctrl + T to Free transform and position it as shown in the image below. With this little trick you have created a very convincing road which we will improve in the next steps.