Photoshop tutorials for professionals and beginners
Surreal manipulation Photoshop Tutorial

Make a surreal loneliness scene in Photoshop

Sometimes a simple composition can be more effective when it comes to transmitting a concept. The composition is a key element in this kind of artworks. Knowing a few composition rules, even the simplest artwork can be an amazing one. It’s all about composition rules.

Stock used

Video version

Step 1

For this particular artwork, the composition is more important than on my other tutorials because of the concept behind it. I wanted to illustrate the idea of a lonely man isolated in the middle of a desert so I used a landscape crop for the canvas so that I can intensify the sense of space and make the man look even smaller. My canvas size is 4000×2500 but you can use a smaller one.
Paste the desert image on your canvas and scale it as necessary.

Step 2

I used the Spot Healing Tool to “clean the desert” from major stones and branches and small sand dunes. By doing that, will not distract the viewers attention and will make the image look better. In order to keep the original untouched, I created a new layer which I named clean desert and I used the healing tool on this layer with the “Sample All Layers” setting activated.

Step 3

Create a new layer below the desert layer (or unlock the background layer if you still have it) and name it night. Fill this layer with black.
Next select the desert and clean desert layers and group them. Once you have the group with the two layers, create a layer mask for the group.

Step 4

Use the layer mask you created in order to mask the sky and create darkness around the edges. The easiest way of doing that is using the Gradient Tool on the layer mask of the group. I used a black to white linear gradient to mask the sky and create a smooth light to darkness transition on the horizon.

In order to create darkness on the sides, use a black to transparent linear gradient and drag from the middle to the side.

Step 5

Add the planet to the canvas. I placed the illuminated part facing the ground. I added a blue outer glow as well using layer styles. I wanted to make the planet a bit more vibrant so I used a Photo Filter as clipping mask. I used a cyan color with Density 45% and Normal blend mode.

Step 6

Create a new layer above the night layer and paste the stars stock image on it. If it doesn’t cover the entire sky area, duplicate the image as many times as necessary, don’t make it bigger, it will not look good.

I didn’t like the really small dots among the stars so I used Levels to increase the shadows and darken the midtones a bit in order to get rid of them and leave only the bigger stars. I also used a layer mask to fade away the stars as they get closer to the horizon.

Step 7

Extract the man and add it to the canvas. Make it as small as you like (make sure it still looks like a human being though) and use Curves or Levels to make it dark but not completely.

Step 8

Making the shadow of the man is really simple. Just duplicate the man, make it completely black using the Hue/Saturation adjustment and decrease Lightness to -100. Then flip it vertically and use the Distort and Perspective tools to position in on the ground. I decreased the Opacity of this layer to 85% and I applied 3px of Gaussian Blur to soften the shadow (the amount of blur depends on your canvas size and taste)

Step 10

(count failure)

Once the scene was finished I added a Gradient Map above all the layers and set the blend mode to Softlight and the Opacity at 20%.

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