Photoshop tutorials for professionals and beginners

Create a post apocalyptic scene in Photoshop

In this manipulation tutorial I’ll show you how you can use a few stock images to create a post-apocalyptic scene in Photoshop using manipulation techniques to change the lighting of a scene. Enjoy.

Final Result

Stock used

Step 1 – Remove the original sky

Open the image of the man with the gas mask and use the Quick Selection tool (or any selection tool that you like) to select the sky and them mask it.

Step 2 – Add a new sky

We are going to replace the original sky with a new one with a bit more details and clouds. So open the provided sky or another sky image of your choice and paste in on a new layer below the image of the man and the background.
If you use another sky image, try using a sky image that’s not too colored because it will not fit the background and you will have extra work if you want to make it fit your background.

Step 3 – Smoothen the edges

As you can see on image 2 the edges of the background are a bit too hard and they don’t blend too well with the new sky. In order to fix that use a layer mask and brush the edges with a soft brush or use the Gradient Tool and draw a linear gradient. Try to get something like you see on image 3.

Step 4 – Some details

Copy the pillar from the provided PSD file and paste it on the canvas as shown on image 4. Create a layer mask and mask the bottom part to make it blend with the grass. I used the default grass brush to mask.
You can place a destroyed car or damaged buildings on the background to add to the post-apocalyptic ambient.

Step 5 – Dead tree

Place the isolated dead tree stock on the canvas leaving part of it outside the frame as shown on image 5 and resize as needed. Again, use a layer mask to blend the bottom part of the tree trunk with the grass.

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer as clipping mask on the tree and reduce the Saturation to -35 because the tree will blend a lot better with the background that way.

Step 6 – General adjustments

Add a Photo Filter adjustment layer above all the layers on the palette and choose the Orange preset, set the Density to 25% and change the layers blend mode to Darken.

Step 7 – Global lighting

The way I changed the global lighting of the scene was using the Lighting Effects filter. I created a new layer and filled it with white. Then I went to Filter>Render>Lighting Effects. I applied the settings shown in the image below.

This is how the layer looks on the layers palette with the Overlay blend mode. If the light is too hard, try changing the settings on the filter, use the Softlight blend mode or reduce the Opacity which is less recommended but quicker.

Step 8

Download the crows stock images and place them on the branches of the dead tree. I also added a flying one to give a bit of motion to the scene.

Step 9 – Dodging/Burning

This is something I do on almost all my manipulations. See these tutorials for more info:

  1. Tutorial 1:
  2. Tutorial 2:

Step 10 – More adjustments

From now on it’s just about your own preferences. I added a new Photo Filter using the Sepia preset and Density 25% using the Normal blend mode. You can use the Variations adjustment, add gradient maps or Color Balance or whatever you want in order to get the color effects you want.

Step 11 – Final light effect

Create an empty layer above all the other layers and press Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E to create a stamp of all the layers merged and apply the Lighting Effects filter again to add a bit more darkness on the edges and add more light where the tree is.

Thank you for following my tutorial. If you liked it, make sure you share it, it helps a lot. For any questions please post a comment below.

Final result