Before you start reading this tutorial let me show you the final result that I got. Take a look at the preview image below. I will try to make a detailed explanation of how to achieve the same result or at least something similar.
Resources you will need
- Background – http://night-fate-stock.deviantart.com/art/premade-22-175922996
- Dead tree – http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1082530
- Iron heart – http://deadeyedstock.deviantart.com/art/Iron-heart-stock02-21680861
- Model – download from here by http://rammkitty-stock.deviantart.com
- Pyramids – http://keirper-stock.deviantart.com/art/pyramids-63936802
- Planet – http://commandereve.deviantart.com/art/Desert-Planet-Stock-185395704
- Hair render – http://shoofly-stock.deviantart.com/art/Hair-Stock-request-39673062
- Sky – http://phatpuppy.deviantart.com/art/Nothin-but-Blue-Skies-149184973
Start off by opening the girl stock image in photoshop. Cut the girl and the rocks she’s sitting one using the Pen Tool (P). When you’re done drawing the path around the girl’s body, convert the path into a selection and delete the background. I usually work with high resolution images so I pasted the girl and the rocks on a 2600×2500 pixels document but if you have a slow PC with less RAM memory you can work with a lower resolution canvas.
So create a new document, for example 1000×1000 pixels and paste the girl in.
Then, open the desert background layer an paste it on a new layer below the layer with the girl.
You can leave the same sky if you want but I wanted to have some more color on the artwork so I changed it with blue sky. So, open the blue sky stock image and paste it on a new layer above the 2 other layers (the girl and the background). Name the layer blue-sky and scale down the image if needed. Then I blended the blue sky using a Layer Mask and a linear gradient but you can use a big soft eraser brush or a soft brush and a layer mask, it’s up to you.
If you read my Manipulation Secrets part 2, you will see that once you have the basic elements of your artwork (background and model) you must start the process of color matching and blending. We have the base of this manipulation so lets start with the color matching.
As I mentioned on my Secrets of Manipulation series, I usually use Gradient Map Adjustment Layers for color matching. So create two gradient map layers from Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Gradient Map or from the icon located on the bottom of the Layers Palette. Play with the colors of the gradient map to get different color tones. I liked the ones that I indicated in the image below.
Now that the background looks a bit better it’s time to do the same for the model. In this case I used a lot of adjustment layers to make the girl look like I wanted. If you’re new to photo manipulation, you will get used to using lots of adjustment layers for a single layer. Even though each adjustment layer makes little changes to the image, together they create an incredible change.
Allow me to explain why I made adjustments to the girl layer and what adjustments I did. First, I made the adjustments because the face of the girl and some other parts of her body are too bright (too much exposure) and I wanted to correct the blue color bleeding on her skin, boots and on the rocks.
Basically, what I did to correct the image and adapt it to my background is reducing the highlights using Levels. I also used a Color Balance Adjustment Layer to get rid of the blue tone on the skin and boots and then I used a Color Filter layer and added some yellow to match the deserted background.
Next, I increased the Saturation to 24 with another adjustment layer. Then I reduced some of the blue tone of the model with a Color Balance adjustment layer. You can learn more about how the Color Balance in my Manipulation Secrets part 2. See image below.
The final touch is the Gradient Map. I added a three colors gradient, see image below.
If you end up with a lot of adjustment layers, you can group them for a easier navigation on the layers palette
Open the pyramids stock image and subtract them from the original background like you did with the girl. Place them on a new layer above the blue-sky layer and below the girl layer.
Paint with a black soft brush on a layer mask to blend the edges of the pyramids and the ground. Then add inner glow to the pyramids to create the illusion that they are far away in the dust.
Open the planet PNG image, paste it in your artwork and decrease the size. Flip it upside down because that part has more details and you will only use that part. As you see, parts of the glow of the planet are clipped.
To fix that, I used the elliptical marquee tool and pressing down the Shift key to make a perfectly round selection, I made a selection around the planet excluding the glow. I deleted the glow and I added back in using styles, in this case Outer Glow. See image below.
Add the dead tree on your scene. Use the Pen Tool (P) to subtract it from the background or use channels or any other tools or techniques that you know. I wrote a tutorial about how to use Channels and the Image Calculations option in Photoshop to make complex masking easier. See the tutorial here.
After adding the tree, duplicate the layer and apply the filter called Find Edges from Filter>Stylize>Glowing>Edges. Set Edge Width to 1, Edge Brightness to 5-7 and Smoothness to 5-6.
Apply the filter and after that desaturate from Image>Adjustments>Desaturate or with the shortcut Shift+Ctrl+U. You should end up with a black tree and some white lines like in the image below. Set the blend mode to Screen and right click the layer and choose Create Clipping Mask.
Doing this you will give the tree a sort of cartoon effect. If you want an even better effect, duplicate the normal tree layer and place it as a Clipping mask between the normal tree layer and the screen mode tree layer that you just created. Then apply some Surface Blur.
These effects are not really that important but paying attention to details is what makes an image look unique and overall it makes it look better.
Just to make some details, I added an iron heart tied to the tree. You can use a different item if you want because cutting this will take your about 30 min. depending on your skills.
Making the rope is really easy. Just use a small hard brush and press the Shift key when you draw to make a straight line. Try to replicate a knot and make it look like it’s tied to the tree. Then add some Bevel to give a 3D look. See image below.
I noticed the hair of the model was wet and the artwork is called dry world so I wanted to change that. I went on DA and searched for some hair renders. I found a few ones and I picked one that looked OK. I download the pack (the link is on the beginning if the tutorial) and I added the hair. You can try other hair cuts if you don’t like this one hehe.
I decreased the lightness of the hair and changed the color with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
Now comes a very important step which is Dodge&Burning. I just recently discovered how powerful this tool can be and how brilliant results it can generate. It can truly change the look of your artwork, specially if you use it well and your patient enough.
I will show you how to use this tool non-destructively. Create an empty layer above all the layers on your palette and go to Edit>Fill. Choose 50% gray from the drop-down list and change the layer’s blend mode to Overlay. Now, get the Burn Tool (O) and set Range to Midtones and Exposure to about 8%. Use a soft medium size brush and start brushing all the areas that have shadows. For areas like small cracks like on the tree for example, use a small brush. Then use the same setting on the Dodge Tool and brush the areas that have highlights.
See the image below for reference.
Hover your mouse over the image to see the before and after. The result is pretty stunning, and I only used the Dodge and Burn Tool.
I also added a lens flare on the right of the pyramids on a black layer and set the blend mode to Screen.
Now, as I always do with my manipulations, add some general adjustments using Adjustment Layers because they are non-destructive.