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Hopeless – Photoshop Manipulation Tutorial

Hopeless – Photoshop Manipulation Tutorial

Welcome to another photo manipulation tutorial. This time we will make a simple yet beautiful dramatic manipulation. You will see how to create shadows and how combining a couple of images and the right adjustments you can create a cool manipulation.

Stock images used

Download source files

Step 1

Start by creating the background first. Open the Landscape_Stock_60 image. This is where the woman will sit. I named this layer Rocks.

I cropped the bottom part which contained the author’s credits. The exact dimensions of my canvas are: 2388 pixels wide by 3272 pixels wide but you can work with a smaller document if you prefer.

Now you can open the sea stock image and paste it over the background and if you’re using a smaller document size than me, scale it down a bit. I used the original size. I named this layer Sea.

Now you can create a layer mask for the Sea layer and mask using a soft brush. See image below.

Step 2

The structure of the background is ready so let’s start to create that dramatic mood using adjustment layers.

For the Rocks layer I used a Hue/Saturation to desaturate the rocks and then a Black/White Gradient Map adjustment layer with Soft Light blend mode and Opacity 30% to add more contrast to the rocks.

Rocks adjustment layers

For the Sea layer, I only used a Levels adjustment layer to add more contrast to the water but I didn’t touch the colors.

Sea adjustment layers

We will add more adjustment layers later but for now we got the base ready.

Step 3

Open the woman stock and use any extraction method that you like to extract her from the background. I almost always use the Pen Tool (P) becauseis the most accurate tool in my opinion.

Once you have her out of the background, place it over your background on a new layer. I named this layer Woman. Don’t worry too much if you’re not good at masking hair, we will use another stock image to make the hair look better and hide the edges.

Step 4 – Ground shadow

Time to create the shadows casted by the woman. When we talk about shadows, we also talk about light. On the Manipulation Secrets series I said that when you create the shadows, you must consider the position of the main light source.

In this case I assumed the light comes from the top-right corner of the image (that’s why I placed the woman facing that direction). In this particular case, I only created soft shadows using the brush tool.

So, get the Brush Tool (B), set a medium size, the color black and start painting along the edges of the woman’s dress. For more details about this painting method see this episode of the Manipulation Secrets series.  I painted these shadows on a new layer which I named  Ground shadow, below the Woman layer.

Step 5 – Body shadow

In order add more realism you can add another set of soft shadows on the woman’s dress. For that I created a new layer as Clipping Mask and I named it Body shadows.

Then, I used the Brush Tool again and with a low Opacity (about 30-40%) I painted with black the lower part of the dress where it touches the ground.

Step 6

Now let’s make some adjustments to the Woman layer. I reduced a bit the highlights using Curves and then I desaturated the colors with Hue/Saturation. See image below.

Step 7

In order to fix the hair edges, I used another stock image of some painted hair made by Dezzan (links at the beginning of the tutorial). So I pasted two of the hair stock images over the hair of my model and positioned them to make them look natural and I blended them using a layer mask and a soft brush.

Then, I used the Hue/Saturation adjustment to modify the Hue and Lightness until the painted hair matched the natural hair of the model. I put the painted hair in a group which i named painted hair.

Step 8

Now comes a part that I like a lot: dodging and burning. For this artwork I made it in 2 separate parts. For the woman I created a clipping mask layer which I filled with 50% Gray and Overlay blend mode (more about this technique on this episode of the Manipulation Secrets) and then a separate layer to burn and dodge the background. You can do it all in a single layer if you want.

As you can see, I have a duplicate of the dodge and burn layer for a stronger effect and of course you must use the Overlay blend mode, the Normal blend mode is just for you to see where I dodged and where I burned.

Then I used the same technique to dodge & burn the background.

Time and time again I said that with the Dodge/Burn tool you can create some pretty amazing things. Hover the mouse over the image below and see what this tool can do.

Step 9

I wanted to add another subtle shadow behind the woman so I used a Gradient adjustment layer with Black to Transparent. I set the blend mode to Hard Light and Opacity of the layer to 30%.

Step 10

I created some mist using a soft low opacity brush. You can add some Gaussian Blur and Motion Blur with Angle at 0º to fade the edges. (Sorry for the misspelling on the image)

Step 11

I made a couple more adjustments using Vibrance to create a sort of “reversed desaturation”, in other words I increased the Vibrance and decreased the Saturation.

Step 12

The last touch is given by the Lighting Effects filter, my favorite Photoshop filter. When you’re happy with the result, select the top most layer on the layers palette and press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E (Command+Option+Shift+E for MAC users) to create a new layers with a stamp of all the layers. On this new layer which I named Final result, I applied the Lighting Effects filter with the settings shown in the image below.

And that’s all what it is to it folks. Hope you like the final result. Feel free to comment and share.

About Andrei Oprinca

Yep that's me :) I like Photoshop and Spotify 2 years ago I said to myself I will fill this with some useful info about me but I never had the chance to do it XDDD


  1. hi Andrei,
    Thanks for your wonderful photo manipulation and step by stem process. I have learn lots and this is helpful for a photoshop designer..keep it up!!
    clipping path service

  2. Thank You very Much …learn photo:http://bit.ly/1A0YzlO

  3. Thank You So Much

  4. This is my version…


    Thank you so much !

    Iti multumesc mult pentru ceea ce faci , esti o comoara !

  5. Thank you so so much…. I can’t afford for school so having you here is so great. Thank you thank you thank you.

  6. another great tutorial…thanks andrei…

  7. Followed this tutorial as best as I could, being new to Photoshop I am just a beginner. You would not believe the great fun and pleasure doing this (Hopeless) I had. You definitely have a gift for teaching and to think you are self-taught, it just amazing what you can do. Please, please keep up this great work for as long as you can.
    Thank you so much for this tutorial and for the rest I am going to try.

  8. Can’t thank you enough for your excellent tutorials. I have learned more from your tutorials than any other source (and I have been using photoshop from version 3!). All that remains now is to practice:)

  9. August 9, 2012 at 11:37 pm
    Hello, sorry I posted in the wrong spot – so hope this one is right!

    Oh this was so much fun! here is my finished Hopeless manipulation – Now, I am going to go look at your other tutorials! Thanks you so much for the tutorials!

    Link = http://www.4shared.com/photo/EBDU_y72/HOPELESS_FINAL.html

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