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Create a Dark, Mysterious Photo Manipulation

Hey PSDFANs!

Today’s tutorial will walk you through some essential manipulation, blending and colour matching techniques.

In this lesson I’ll show you how you can convert a forest into a dark, foggy, ominous scene. You’ll learn how to work with shadows, lighting, adjustment layers, layer masks, dodge & burning and much more.

Let’s get started

What you will be creating

Here’s look at the outcome you’ll be able to produce by the end of this lesson:

Resources used in this tutorial

Step 1

Create a New document by selecting file>new and use the settings shown in the image below.

Step 2

Now, place the forest image by selecting file>place then select the forest image to place it.

Step 3

I added a layer mask to forest layer by clicking second button on the layer panel then choose Gradient tool by pressing (G) on the keyboard. Choose the black and white gradient and apply it vertically from top to bottom. You can see the results on layer mask how I apply it.

Step 4

Now, I added a curves adjustment layer (settings below), and clipping it to my forest layer using a clipping mask.

Choose a soft round black brush by pressing (B) on the keyboard then paint on the layer mask of curves adjustment layer to hide the selected effect.

Step 5

Now, place the sky image below your forest layer as shown in the image below:

Step 6

I added a solid color adjustment layer to the sky. Here are the values for this layer.

Step 7

Reduce the opacity of the solid color adjustment layer to 25% and also paint black on the layer mask of the solid color adjustment layer to hide effect (see the bottom right of the below image to see where I’ve applied this mask):

Step 8

I added Photo filter and Gradient Map Adjustment layers to the sky. I also painted on the layer mask of both adjustment layer to hide the effect in certain places. See the image below for the setting and layer mask results.

Here are the results.

Step 9

Change the blend mode of Gradient map to Multiply and reduce the opacity to 70%.

Step 10

I added a color balance adjustment layer top of all the layer and painted on the layer mask of it with soft round black brush to hide the effect a bit. Use the settings shown in the image below:

Step 11

Add a Gradient map adjustment layer and paint on the layer mask to hide the effect of gradient map adjustment layer. Use the settings shown in the image below.

Step 12

Change the blend mode of the Gradient adjustment layer to soft light and reduce the opacity to 53%. Here are the results on our image:

Step 13

Create a New layer by pressing Ctrl+Shift+N on your keyboard then Grab the brush tool and change the color to #25344d. Then paint it with opacity and flow to 30% as shown in the image below.

Step 14

Now, change the blend mode to multiply and reduce the opacity to 50%.

Step 15

Create a new layer to make a light source then name it ‘Light source’.

Pick the soft round brush tool with opacity and flow to 100%, set the color to #286fbe and size to 2000 pixels. Paint two big strokes on the center and reduce the size of the brush to 700 pixels, change the color to #65aeff then again paint it on the mid. The results should be similar to this.

Step 16

I added a layer mask to the light source layer and paint it with soft round black brush to hide it a bit not too much. You can see the results below how I have done it.

Step 17

Now, change the blend mode to Linear Dodge and reduce the opacity to 63%. The results should be similar to the below image.

Step 18

Extract the grave with your favourite selection tool then place it here:

Step 19

I applied a blending options effect to the grave. To apply it right click on the grave layer then choose blending options. Here are the values for blending options effect.

Here are the results after applying the Gradient Overlay effect.

Step 20

Next, I added curves and gradient map adjustment layer to the grave to blend it to the scene. Here are the values for the both adjustment layer.

Then change the blend mode of Gradient Map Adjustment layer to Color and reduce the opacity to 71%. Here are the results.

Step 21

In this step we’ll use the Dodge tool to dodge the part of the grave which reflected by our light source. Before using it, create a new layer and then go to Edit>fill and fill it 50% gray then change the blend mode of this layer to overlay.

Now Select the Dodge tool by pressing (O) on the keyboard and set the exposure to 12% and range to midtones. Then dodge the part of the grave as shown in the image below.You can see the results in overlay and normal mode.

Step 22

Now, place the bush 1 image to the left bottom corner as shown in the image below.

Step 23

Now, Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and set the values as shown in the image.

Step 24

To blend the bush to the scene I applied a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the bush.

Step 25

Now, place bush 2 image to the scene as shown in the image below.

Add a layer mask to bush 2 and Hide the selected part as shown in the image by painting it with soft round black brush.

Step 26

I applied the Gaussian Blur filter and Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to bush 2 with same setting as applied in 24 & 23 Step.

Step 27

Let’s create some fog. To do this, create a new layer and fill it with black. Then change your foreground colour to #5b5a5a and background colour to #000000. Now, go to Filter>Render>Clouds and when you done it. You should achieve the results shown below. Name this layer ‘fog’.

Change the blend mode of fog layer to screen and reduce the opacity to 15%. Add a layer mask to fog layer and hide the effect of fog as shown in the image below.

Step 28

Extract the model and place it here. The white arrow indicates that I kept the some leaves on the model layer, but don’t worry about it we’ll fix this in next couple of steps:

Step 29

I applied a blending option effect to the model.

I created a new layer below the model layer and used a soft round black brush with opacity and flow to 30% to paint some shadows as shown in the image below:

Create a new layer again below the model layer and paint some more shadows as shown in the image below.

Step 30

Reduce the lightness of the model by applying a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. As you can see by reducing the lightness the leaves which I kept on model are now blended properly.

The result should be similar to this.

Step 31

Continue blending the model to the scene by applying a Exposure and Gradient Map adjustment. See the image below for values:

I changed the blend mode of Gradient Map adjustment layer to ‘Color’ and reduce the opacity to 50%. See the results below:

Step 32

I applied the dodge and burn effect to the model. Create new layer and fill it with 50% gray. Change the blend mode to overlay. Now, select the Dodge and Burn tool then set the exposure to 12% and range to midtones. Then start dodge and burning as shown in the image below:

Step 33

I painted some light on the model. To do this create a new layer and select the brush tool then set to opacity and flow to 30%. Now the change your foreground color to #173737 and paint some light on model as shown in the image below:

Set the blend mode to color dodge and here are the results:

Step 34

I painted some more light rays with the same settings as in previous steps but changed the color to #0a1826:

Then set the blend mode to color dodge and reduce the opacity to 60%;

Step 35

Extract the crow and place it on the the grave:

Step 36

Apply the following blending options to the crow:

Here are the results.

Step 37

I painted shadows for the crow like I painted the shadows for the model:

Step 38

Then, I applied a Gradient Map adjustment layer to the crow to match it color to the scene.

Step 39

We’ve completed our main blending and it’s time for final adjustments.

We’ll apply a series of adjustment layer to the entire scene. Add the Photo filter and Gradient Map adjustment layer to the scene first and see the image below for values. Change the blend mode of Gradient Map to color dodge then I painted with soft round black brush on the layer mask of Gradient Map adjustment layer.

The results should be similar to this.

Step 40

Now, I added a color balance adjustment layer to the scene and see the below image for the values.

Here are the results:

Step 41

I added two more adjustment layer to the scene which is a Color Lookup and a Curves adjustment layer. I changed the blend mode Color Lookup to soft light then reduced the opacity to 30%.

Here are the results:

Step 42

For the final step, we’ll apply a lighting filter to the scene. First of all create a new layer then press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E to stamp all the layers in one layer. Now, go to Filter>Render>Lighting Effect then set the Hotspot as shown in the image below.

Here are the values of Lighting effect filter:

Congratulations, You’re All Done!

Awesome job making it this far! You should be proud of what you’ve created. Show it off to your friends and colleagues and get some feedback.

You can also comment here with your version, or any questions you had about the techniques used. We love to see what you guys create and we’re always here to give helpful feedback and tips to help you to improve.

Get deeper insight into the workflow and techniques used in this tutorial. Access the source files for this tutorial:

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About the Author:

Thanks for following the tutorial. I am Bunty Pundir from New Delhi, India. If you want see my other artwork then you can visit my Facebook page.

Leave a comment

11 Comments:

  1. Gitte says:

    Wow, thank you so much.

  2. Steve says:

    LOL! The link to the model opens up the crow on DA.

    At any rate. Great tutorial

    • Tom Ross says:

      Sorry Steve, all fixed! :) . Also, please note that we’ve gotten permission from the model image author to use this image for the tutorial. So glad you enjoyed this lesson!

  3. budi says:

    great tutor, thanks

  4. kat says:

    Great tutorial but mine looks little like that :-/ maybe an example of how your layers are arranged? Are they under a clipping mask for the associated layer or just above the layer?

  5. Linda says:

    Wow, this is an insanely detailed tutorial. Thanks for showing how every minute detail is added and then blended into the shot.

  6. Ali says:

    Hey tom i loved ur Tut that was Greatest i ever seen thanks for your Beautiful tut.

  7. Zacky says:

    Nice tutor Tom!

  8. Saemy says:

    This site is awesome!
    I’m a begginer in PS and I’m learning so much here!
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! :D

Leave a Comment:

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