Photoshop tutorials for professionals and beginners

Manipulation Secrets 1 – Choosing the Stock images

This is the first tutorial of a mini series of articles about photo manipulation techniques. In this series I will show you the entire manipulation work flow and techniques with practical examples. I want to make it clear that there are many ways of doing things with Photoshop and I will show you mine. You can develop your own style or adopt mine if you want.

The miniseries will have 6 parts:

  1. Part 1 – Choosing the right stock images
  2. Part 2 – Color and contrast adjustments
  3. Part 3 – Shading and lights
  4. Part 4 – Dodge and Burning
  5. Part 5 – General adjustments & post editing
  6. Part 6 – Final production export

The order of this parts is not random, what I mean is that when I  start a new manipulation project I follow these steps. After deciding which kind of manipulation I want to make, first I start looking for the suitable stock images and follow the steps indicated above.

Choosing the right stock images for your manipulations

Before starting to look for stock images you must first have a few basic idea of what your final work should look like, what style of manipulation you will make, etc.  You must also establish what will be the dominant color(s) on your work. I took a few examples from deviantArt to show you some examples. See how all of them have a dominant color.

You can choose any color that you want, it’s irrelevant on the stock search process. In other words, you can choose any stock image that you like, as long as your stock images are not black and white. Even so, you could colorize them but it would take you longer.

So, what you should start searching first, the background, the model? Actually it doesn’t really matter but you should definitely start from here. You don’t want to start looking for small details, first you need to create a basic scene.

For example, if you find a great model with a nice medieval dress, you will then start looking for a background image that fits the outfit of the model more or less.

Even at the beginning of the manipulation process you must take light in consideration. In my case, the lighting of the background stock image work as a guide when choosing the rest of the stock images. In reality it’s quite hard to find stock images that fit perfectly but don’t worry you can create lights and shadows later. Just choose images that match more or less.

For fantasy manipulations, choosing stock images is not a very difficult task, generally speaking but it also depends on how complex you want to make your artwork.

Download multiple images and than try combinations. Just because of stock image looks great, it doesn’t mean it will look cool once you combine it with another one in Photoshop. So, make sure you download multiple images and then open them in Photoshop and make rough cuts and position them to see if they could fit together.

Always try to work with higher resolution images.

Where to look for Stock images

There are many websites that provide good stock images. I use to take my stock images from deviantArt and but there are a lot of other good sites. As you probably know, there are also paid stock sites, some are more expensive like shutterstock and some are cheaper like depositphotos. Anyways, you must give credit to the authors and always make sure you read their rules, specially if you take them from deviantArt.

Sites that offer stock images

This is what I do what I start a new project. I first create a new folder where I save all the stock images that I will download. Then, I start browsing for the stock images that I consider would look nice together. I always download a lot of images first.

After that I open a stock that I think could be a good background and then I make combinations with the other stocks to see which ones look good together. Also don’t hesitate to use the warp tool or distort tools if something doesn’t line up correctly.

After I see which images could work together, I discard the other ones and start working.

This was just an introduction to this series but some of you maybe finds it useful. On the second part I will talk about colors and how to blend stock images using gradient maps and adjusting the contrast using a practical example.

Next episode

Manipulation Secrets – 2 Color matching