Photoshop tutorials for professionals and beginners
Fantasy manipulation tutorial

Don’t Leave Me – Photoshop Tutorial

Welcome to another PSD Box tutorial. In this tutorial I will show you how to turn a free stock image into a beautiful manipulation. You will learn how to manipulate light and how to create beautiful realistic shadows. If you followed my other tutorials you will see that this is actually a revision of previously demonstrated techniques

Resources needed

Download contents

  • PSD File
  • Original video
  • Stock photos
  • HTML step by step version

The model is by Faestock from deviantART but the set that contains this particular stock was removed so I uploaded myself here so that you can follow the tutorial. I don’t want to claim any credit for the stock image whatsoever.

Final result preview

Video Walkthrough

(no audio for this one)

Step 1

I’m will go through the first step quick because it’s an easy one. Just open the background image in Photoshop. Then use the Pen Tool (P) and draw a path around the sky. After you’ve made the selection with the Pen Tool, convert the Path into selection and create a Layer Mask to hide the selected sky or delete it. I prefer to mask it because it’s a non-destructive technique.

After you remove the original sky from the background image, open the sky stock using the link at the beginning of the tutorial and paste it on a new layer below the background layer and flip it horizontally. See the preview below. (Don’t worry about that empty space there, it will not be visible.

Step 2

I made a few subtle changes to the sky to increase the contrast and make the green and blue more visible. As always I used Adjustment Layers to achieve the effect I wanted. These changes are almost irrelevant but I wanted to point it out for you. See the image below.

Step 3

The main secret that makes this manipulation look so nice is the light effects. You will need to shift the lights on the background in order to achieve the same effect. We are going to start working on that right now.

First select the background layer (the one that contains the buildings) and turn it into a Smart Object with the right mouse button on the layers palette. By doing that you make sure you don’t destroy the image and that you will be able to modify the settings of the filters that we are going to apply next.

We want the light to come from the front so we have to create the illusion that the buildings and the road are brighter as they get “closer to the light source” and darker towards the bottom and edges of the image.

Go to Filters>Render>Lighting Effects and apply the light effect as shown in the image below. You will see that a new Smart Filter is created.

Step 4

After applying the lighting filter, use a Color Balance Adjustment Layer as clipping mask to increase the yellows on the same background layer.

Step 5

Still working on the light effects, we are going to make the lights show up even more by using the already discussed Burning Tool technique because the image is too flat.

So, create a new layer, fill it with 50% gray (Edit>Fill) and set its blend mode to Overlay. Than use the Burn Tool and brush over the darker areas of the background. After that use the Dodge Tool and go over the brighter areas.

The objective is to make the center of the mossy road brighter and darken the sides. For a greater detail go over each stone one by one (only the bigger ones). See images below.

Step 6

Moving forward. Time to get the girl on our background. Open the girl stock image and crop it using the Pen Tool (P) as explained on Step 1 when you replaced the sky. Scale down if necessary and place her as shown in the image below.

Step 7

Now we are going cast the girl’s shadow on the alley. Remember that I said that we want the light source in front? Well, that means the shadows are casted on the opposite way. We are going to make the shadow behind the girl because the light comes from ahead.

Duplicate the girl layer, flip it vertically and reduce the lightness to 0 using the Hue/Saturation adjustment. After that, apply a Gaussian Blur of 15px to the dark silhouette of the girl and reduce the opacity to 50%. Position it correctly and there you have the shadow. Use the Distort tool to tilt the shadow and position it better. You can even use the Perspective and Warp Tools for fine tune adjustments.

I explained this technique more more in depth on my Shading and Lighting tutorial as part of the Manipulation Secrets series.

Step 8

I know that masking the hair can drive crazy even the more experienced Photoshop user. That’s why I almost always avoid masking single strands of hair. I will show you my way around this problem.

This is how the hair of the girl looks after cutting it with the Pen Tool when I cropped the image.

That’s not very nice doesn’t it? Let’s see how we can fix this. I prefer to use the Smudge Tool to create the hair back. First use a medium soft brush and about 25% Strength to smudge the sharp edges and make them smoother. After that, increase the Strength to about 90% and use a 1px hard edges brush to make the hair strands. Don’t worry, you can do that without a tablet.

Try to follow the natural flow of the hair using the rest of the hairs as guide. This can be a bit tricky at first but with practice you will get better. This is what I got. I think it looks way better than before.

Step 9

If you’re still here that means you didn’t throw you computer through the window on step 8, great. Let’s move on.

The most difficult part is done, all we have to do now is some adjustments to the girl and create the sun light on her body but first let’s make some color adjustments.

I almost always make slight color adjustments to the elements I add to the scene so that their color fit the background. That’s something I explained on my Manipulation Secrets series Part 2 – Color Matching.

I used a Color Balance Adjustment layer and used the settings shown in the image below.

Step 10

The “structure” of this manipulation is ready. All you have to do now is add the final light effects. The only difference between picture A and B is light effects and some general adjustments. So let’s do that.

The first thing you should do is to recreate the light on the left size of the girl’s body. For that we are going to apply a technique explained on the 2nd part of the Manipulation Secrets Series.

Open the styles window for the girl layer and add an Inner Shadow effect. Use a light yellow color Color Dodge. See image below.

The settings shown in the image above also depend on the size of your canvas. As I said we only want the the light effect on the left side of the girl’s body but because we’ve set a big size value, the light effect is also visible all around her body.

In order to fix that you must turn the inner shadow effect into a layer. You can do that by right clicking the layer on the layers palette and choosing “Create Layer Style“. You may get a warning message, click accept and done.

Now that you have the inner shadow effect on a new layer, create a Clipping Mask for it and use the brush tool to mask unwanted areas.

This is the before and after applying the inner shadow effect to create the light on the body.

Step 11

I used the dodge burn technique on the girl’s dress as well because I wanted to darken some areas on her back and lighten some strands of hair. The dodge/burn tool is really a powerful tool.

Step 12

Let’s go with the final touches now. We still need to add more lights but let’s for some general color adjustments. Again I used adjustment layers.

Create a new Gradient Map Adjustment Layer from the layers palette icons or from the menu Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Gradient Map.

Set the Blend Mode to Color, Opacity to 10% and for the gradient use the colors shown below.

Now add a new gradient map or duplicate the first one and change the settings. The settings for this second gradient map are: Blend Mode – Linear Light, Opacity – 10%, and the gradient colors shown below.

Step 13

We are almost done. In order to apply the general lighting filter I had to create a stamp. This is how you do it. Select the top most layer on your palette and press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E. I know there is a lot of keys but I have no idea if the stamp can be created from the menu, I always made that using the mentioned keyboard shortcut.

Once you press those keys you will see a new layer appears on top of your last layer. we will use that layer to apply the lighting filter on. I turned it into a smart object so that I can modify the filter settings whenever I want but it’s up to you.

Apply the lighting filter from Filter>Render>Lighting Effects applying the settings shown below.

Step 14

The final touch is the sun glare. Create a new layer, get a big soft brush, and stroke once using the color #dca366 and then set the layer’s blend mode to Screen. I called this layer “sun spot”.

Next create a new layer and fill it with pure black. Set the blend mode to screen and the Opacity to 50%. We will use this layer to add a lens flare.

Create the Lens Flare from the menu Filter>Render>Lens Flare. Use the 50-300mm Zoom flare at 100%. Place it somewhere on the top part of the layer where the head of the girl is.

After adding the lens flare you’re done. Hope you enjoyed the tutorial. As always if you like it, you can thank me by sharing it on twitter, facebook, stumble it or whatever network you want. And don’t copy it on other websites.

Final Result

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