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Beautiful light effects, fantasy Photoshop tutorial

Lonely – Manipulation Tutorial

I’m back with another manipulation tutorial. This time we will use less stock images and focus more on the effects, blend modes, and illumination. This is medium-advanced tutorial but I think you can do it because I will give you as many details as I can.

Stock images used

Download tutorial, PSD file and resources

Final result

Lonely .- Photoshop manipulation PSD Box Andrei OprincaIntroduction

Although we only need a few stock images for this manipulation, the real challenge will be to create the illumination and the night ambient. It took me a while until I found the right combination of blend modes and Adjustment Layers that worked.

If you’ve already seen my Manipulation Secrets episodes, many of the techniques used here will make sense for you because I’m applying the same ones here. I will try to give you as many details as I can anyways. If you’re not advanced, try to use the same layer names as me because it will be easier for you to follow along. Let’s start.

Video walkthrough

Step 1

I created a new document with the dimension settings set to 2500px width and 2800px height and then I pasted the deserted stock image over it. I renamed the layer background. This will be our base for this manipulation but we don’t need the sky (we will add it on Step 2). I could have masked it but in this case, since I want to create a night scene, I added a Black to Transparent Gradient Overlay style to cover the sky and part of the ground. You will see the effect of this gradient on the next step.

Step 2

Now open the sky stock image and paste it on a new layer above the background layer, name it Sky and increase the size to cover the canvas sides because this stock image is not wide enough to cover it. Then create a layer mask for the Sky layer and using a soft brush, mask the bottom part.

On the screenshots below you can see the effect that the Gradient Overlay has over the background. If it doesn’t look right you can now change the Scale or the position of the gradient.

Step 3

Open the girl stock image and extract her from the background using any technique that you want. I often use the Pen Tool to trace a Path around the edges and then create a selection and mask the background. You can use the Magic Wand, the Quick Selection or whatever you prefer but make sure you leave nice and clean edges (you can use the refine edge for that: see this tutorial).

Once I had the girl extracted from the background, I pasted her on a new layer which I named Woman, converted the layer into a smart object and resized it. I use smart objects just in case I want to change the size of the layer later on and that way I don’t lose quality.

Step 4

Now we have the basic structure of this manipulation. Time to start working on the ambient. We will start making adjustments to the ground first and as usual we use Adjustment Layers.

  • Curves – To darken the ground

  • Photo Filter – To warm the ground

  • Color Balance – To add more “drama” to the ground

  • Gradient Map – To darken and colorize the ground

On the image above you can see the layers palette, this is how you should have it so far.

Step 5

Now let’s make some adjustments to the Sky layer as well. Notice that this time the adjustment layers are used as Clipping Mask because we only want to affect the sky but not the background layer underneath.

  • Color Balance

  • Levels – To darken the sky

Step 6 – Woman shadow

Our background is now ready. Let’s move on with the woman. We need to cast some shadows on the ground. Again I’m using the same techniques explained on episode 3 of the Manipulation Secrets Series. I created 2 layers for the shadows because I used 2 techniques.

1)Cast Shadows – I duplicated the Woman layer, (rasterize it if you have it as smart object) and then reduced the Lightness to 0 with the Hue/Saturation adjustment. Then I used the Distort option to manipulate the shadow and put it on the ground. I casted the shadow to the left because I know that I will have the light source on the right side of the woman.

2) – Soft shadows – Only the casted shadow is not nearly enough. That’s why I add a second layer where I used the second technique which I called soft shadow.

I used the Brush Tool (B), set the Opacity and Flow to approx. 50% and started painting around the areas where the body touches the ground. Then I increased the brush size and lowered the opacity and Flow to about 25% and painted a bigger area around the woman. You could get along just fine only with the soft shadows alone in this case.

Step 7

This is where things can get a little tricky. We have to start working on the illumination and shading of the woman. In this step we need to darken the left side of the body. I created 3 types of shadows using the Gradient Tool, the Gradient Overlay effect and the Inner Shadow effect.

Open the Woman‘s layer styles and apply a Gradient Overlay effect using the settings shown in the image below. Make your own scale adjustments to get a similar result.

Next create a new clipping mask layer (right click and choose Create clipping mask), select the Gradient Tool (G) and set the gradient to Black to Transparent and use the Linear type.

Draw a gradient as shown in the image below to cover the left part of the woman’s body and change the layer’s blend mode to Overlay.

To give it the final touch add an Inner Shadow to the Woman‘s layer using the settings shown in the image below.

This is how the image looks after adding all these shadows. Hover the mouse over the image to see the before/after.

Step 8

We’re done with the shadows but we still have to make color adjustments and the illumination. Let’s do the adjustments first. Once again we will use Adjustment layers as clipping masks.

  • Gradient Map – For more contrast and some color cast

  • Levels – To darken the skin

  • Color balance – To match the color of the night ambient

Now it looks like we totally destroyed this image but don’t worry we still have to add the light effects which will “fix” it.

Step 9

Open the candle lamp stock, extract it from it’s background and paste it on a new layer above everything else. Name this layer Lamp and create some shadows using the same techniques as on Step 6.

Step 10

Let’s start creating the first light effects. Our main light source is the candle lamp so let’s start there. First make the candle glow light. Use the color #5b4212 and with a big soft brush (approx. diameter 350px) paint a single glow on top of the candle on a new layer. Change the blend mode to Color Dodge. See image below.

Create a new layer above the first glow and use a smaller soft brush to paint a second glow light with the color: #fd9b00. This time use the Screen blend mode. See image below.

Step 11

Now paint some light on the ground as well using the brush tool and the color #7a5821. In the image below I switched the blend mode to Normal so you can see better the area that I painted but you should use the Color Dodge blend mode.

Step 12

Here comes one of my favorite parts, illuminating the woman’s body. Create a new layer and change it’s blend mode to Color Dodge before you start painting because you will see better what you’re doing. Select a soft brush and a medium-large diameter and set the color to #5b4212.

Now you’re ready to start painting. Here you have to imagine how the light would hit the body and how it would look and paint those areas. Basically you have to paint the right side of the body (remember that on step 7 we worked hard to leave the left part of the body in shadow so don’t paint too much on that area). On the image below you can see the areas that I painted.

If you want a stronger light effect you can duplicate this layer and lower the opacity. If the effect is already too strong you can paint with a darker tone or try reducing the layer’s opacity.

Step 13

Once you have the light effects, you can move on to the dodging & burning stage. I suggest you always use these two tools even if you don’t have much practice, you’ll get it in time. I spent about 45min dodging and burning this image

I use the same technique as explained in the Dodging & Burning episode of the Manipulation secrets series. Basically I create a new layer, fill it with 50% Gray and change the blend mode to Overlay and start using the Dodge and Burn tools on that layer.

Hover the mouse over the image below to see the before/after the dodging and burning.

Step 14

As a last detail I added some fireflies. Open the stock image of the insect, use the magic wand tool to remove the white background. Copy the insect on a new layer on your canvas and make several duplicates of it and scale them down to different sizes. Also, rotate them and distort them so that they don’t look the same.

Next apply Outer Glow and Inner Glow  to them to make them glow in the night.

Step 15

Now we can move on and add the final adjustments. First, select the top most layer or group on your palette and press Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E or Shift+Command+Option+E (Mac OS) to create a new layer with a stamp of all the layers merged. With the new layer created, go to Image>Adjustments>Variations and choose the preset More Cyan.

Then change the blend mode to Darken and set Opacity to 20-25%.

Step 16

Create another stamp just as on Step 15 and turn that layer into a Smart Object if your Photoshop version allows you to do that. (right click and choose Convert to Smart Object). After that, go to Filter>Render>Lighting Effects. Apply the settings shown in the image below.

Step 17

Now the final touch, 2 more adjustment layers to make it look perfect.

  • Gradient Map – To change the overall color tone

  • Color Balance – For a final color twist

And voilà, there you have it. Hope you got a really cool result. Remember that you can upload your creations to our Facebook page for everybody to see. Also please share this page, so that others can learn too.


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