Today I have a pretty easy manipulation tutorial for you. You will learn how to create a dark colorful manipulation using only two stock images. The skills that are tested and exercised in this manipulation are lighting and shading. Hope you like it.
Preview of the final result
I only used two stock images for this manipulation but I really like the outcome. The name of it is from a song by Above&Beyond with the same name (see video below) but don’t try to find the relation between the artwork and the name, it’s just a personal thing that has meaning to me.
Start by opening the background stock image. I would have loved to use the full resolution image but unfortunately the stock of the sitting girl is not big enough and I didn’t want to use a commercial stock image because this one is perfect and it’s also better for you not having to buy anything.
So, reduce the image size to 2000×1500. I also cropped a bit of the top part to have a wider aspect ratio but you can do that at the end if you want to, so don’t worry about that.
When the image size is ready, open the stock image of the sitting girl and extract her from the original background using any extraction method. I use the Pen Tool (P) because I like to have perfect edges. Place the girl over the background as shown on image 1.
The scene is already set up so basically, all we will do from now on is add light effects, adjustments and shadows. Let’s start with the shadows first. I used three layers for the shadows and the same process I explained on pretty much all my tutorials. More info here
First let’s cast the shadow of the girls body. Duplicate the girl layer, flip it vertically and reduce it’s Lightness to zero using Hue/Saturation. I also applied 4px Gaussian Blur to soften the edges a bit and reduced the Opacity.
The second type of shadows that I used, is soft shadows which I painted with a soft brush at low opacity. This shadow is quite necessary because it makes the scene more realistic. I painted these shadows on the wall next to the girls back and also on the floor under the girl’s body.
The third and last type of shadows I used is some body shadows. The reason why these shadows are important is because the girl is in a dark environment and her body should also be in shadow.
But parts like the back and the leg should be a bit darker than rest so I used a soft low opacity brush (at about 13% both Opacity and Flow) to paint some shadows with black on a new clipping mask layer which I named body shadows. Painted in green on image 2c is roughly where I painted these shadows.
Let’s go with the adjustments now. You should use adjustment layers as clipping masks as I did, because you will have more control and you will not affect the original image. First I used Color Balance to add more cyan and blue on the Shadows and Midtones, see image 3.
The last adjustment layer used is a Curves adjustment layer to make the girl darker and make her look like she’s really standing under that dark bridge. See image 3c. You can make a comparison between image 1 and image 3c to see what we did to the girl so far.
Now comes the dodging/burning thing. As always I use my non destructive technique of the 50% gray Overlay layer. You can find out more about it here. On the image below you can see where I dodged and burned.
With this, I make the image darker in certain areas and brighter on others, maybe you will understand it better if you watch the video walkthrough. I used an Exposure setting of about 13% on the Midtones range. I also used a clipping mask for this because I didn’t want to worry about going over the edges.
This is my favorite part. I made the light effects on the girl’s body using a small brush. The light is coming from the city lights and it enters under the bridge. The way I simulated that on the girl is by creating some rim lights.
That is, lights on the edges of her body using a small brush and painted along the edges. Using inner shadow like on other tutorials I made was not convincing to me so I went for some manual work here and the result is really nice I think. I made this with a tablet but you should have absolutely no problems doing it with the mouse.
So I created a clipping mask layer, set the blend mode to Color Dodge, and then I used a small brush (8-10px in diameter) and set the Opacity to 40% and Flow to 10% and started painting with the color #d1d1d1 along the edges that I wanted to illuminate. The low opacity is because that way you can make several pases until and slowly build up the brightness of the light. See video walkthrough for more details. These lights really make the image stand out.
It took me 5 steps to explain it but we are finally done with the girl layer. I created another dodge/burn layer for the background and I enhanced the highlights and some shadows on the top part of the bridge and other areas.
I liked the colors of the background image very much so I wanted to make them a bit stronger but not by increasing the saturation. Instead, I used a soft brush and the Color Dodge blend mode to paint a few colors similar to the original colors of the background. I painted these colors onto 4 separate layers so that you can see better but you can paint all the colors on the same layer if you want.
First I used the color #2D2664 and painted a single soft dot in front of the girl’s face and arms, that would tint her face and make it more purple and also make it a bit brighter. I used a 600px brush.
The next color I used is #26120f also on Color Dodge blend mode. See image below.
More color on the bridge arch. This time I used #35124d. The blend mode is Color Dodge again.
And finally some more blue on the bottom part close to the girl’s feet. I used the the color #12194d.
I added a couple more Gradient Maps using the Color Dodge blend mode and low opacity for both. These maps help boost the colors and light even more. See image below.
On the last step, as in many of my manipulations, I created a stamp of all the layers by pressing Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E (select the top most layer first) and on the new layer I used the Lighting Effects filter with the settings shown in the image below.
And that concludes this tutorial which I hope you liked. It would be very kind of you if you would share it so that others can learn something new as well. I also invite you to submit your results or follow me on Twitter or Facebook (links on the bottom bar). Have a great day.