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Welcome to another manipulation tutorial where I’ll show you how to create a simple dark and sad scene in Photoshop. I’ll show you how to use adjustment layers to create nice color effects and get a slightly unsaturated effect in your manipulations.
We’ll start with the stock image of the dramatic background so open it in Photoshop.
Open te stock image of the standing man and extract the man and the pier from the background using the Pen Tool (P) or the Magnetic Lasso tool. After that, copy the extracted image and paste it on a new layer above the background and resize if necessary. I named this layer “man“
Step 3 – Man styles
In order to make the man blend with the background I used layer styles and adjustment layers. Let’s see the layer styles first. I used a Gradient Overlay to change the lighting because I wanted more light on the top part of the image and more shadow on the bottom and some Inner Shadow to mimic some rim lights. See image below for more details.
Step 4 – Man adjustment layers
You can see that the man is still too colored compared to the background so I used a couple of adjustment layers as clipping masks to reduce the saturation and colorize the man so it blends with the background colors.
First I used a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer as clipping mask and reduced Saturation to -75%. Then I used a Gradient Map adjustment layer also as clipping mask. The colors used on the gradient are shown on the image below. The blend mode used on the Gradient Map adjustment is Multiply at 90%. Afte adding the gradient map on Multiply, the back of the man became too dark so I used a soft brush and painted with black and low opacity on the brush to remove some of the effect.
Step 5 – Girl adjustments
Now that we have the man blended with the background, let’s add the girl to the scene. So open the stock image of the girl and extract her from the background using the Pen Tool or any other method that you prefer. Add her to the scene and adjust the size if needed and place her as shown on Image 5.
You’ll need to use some adjustment layers for the girl layer as well in order to make her blend with the background better. I used Hue/Saturation clipped to the girl layer and lowered the Saturation to -40. Then I added Curves to darken her a bit and a Gradient Map on Multiply also as clipping mask for the girl layer in order to match the colors of the background better. Paint some shadows under the girl and on the tree as well for more realism
Step 6 – Falling leaves
Open the stock image of the leaf and place it on your canvas. I just duplicated it a few times, spin it and distorted it with the Free Transform tool in order to add some variation. I also applied a few pixels of Gaussian Blur to some of them to create the sense of depth. The original leaf has too much color and contrast so use Hue/Saturation to desaturate and adjust Luminosity.
Next I used the Dodge/Burn tool on a separate layer filled with 50% Gray on Overlay. Below you can see the areas that I dodged and burned.
Step 8 – General adjustments
I wanted to change the general colorization of the scene so I used a Gradient Map and a Selective Coloradjustment layers.
The blend mode for the Gradient Map was set to Color at 20% Opacity and the selective color on Normal at 50% Opacity. On the selective color layer I only changed the settings for the Neutrals and Blackschannels.