PSDFan Extra

Create a Surreal Photo Manip

Final Image

This is the final image that we’ll be creating in this tutorial.

Images Used

The following images were used in making this tutorial:

Step 1

Open up a new document (600X700px) and create a new layer called ‘background’. Draw a radial gradient ranging from dark gray to very dark gray.

Step 2

Next, create a new layer called ‘clouds’ and go to filter>render>clouds.

Step 3

Now set your cloud layer’s blend mode to ‘soft light’ and reduce it’s opacity to 40%.

Step 4

Now paste in the body of a mannequin that you have cut out (using the pen tool or lasso tool). This should be automatically pasted into a new layer. Call this layer ‘mannequin body’. Move the mannequin to be in the bottom center of your canvas.

Step 5

Now grab your pen tool. In the options bar set it to ‘paths’ not ‘shape layer’ and then draw a curved path line along the top of your mannequin’s body. If you need help using the pen tool then you can refer to our recent article ‘Master the Pen Tool in Under 30 Minutes’. Once you have drawn your pen line, right click on it and click ‘make selection’. Then hit delete to delete the top part of your mannequin.

Step 6

Now paste in the head of a stag, positioning it where the head of the mannequin would have been. Do not worry about blending for now, as we’re just setting up our main composition.

Step 7

Now cutout and paste in two mannequin hands. Resize and rotate them to fit nicely with your overall composition.

Step 8

Ok, so granted, your image will be looking pretty damn weird right about now. But now it’s time to start bringing the current elements together a little.

Select your mannequin body layer and go to image>adjustments>levels. Apply the levels settings shown below. This will make your body a lot more intense.

Step 9

Apply the same levels settings to your hand layers.

Step 10

Now apply the level settings below to your stag head layer.

Step 11

Now use your clone stamp tool to copy part of your deers face and clone over each eye, thus hiding it’s eyes entirely.

Step 12

Now open up a photo of a tree. Luckily for us this photo is on a reasonably plain background, so instead of cutting out the tree using the lasso tool or pen tool, we can use the magic wand. Because the blue background is not all the exact same color, set your magic wand tool’s tolerance to around 30. Then simply click on large areas of the background to select it. You want to select all parts of your background, and so to keep adding more areas of selection, simply hold ‘shift’ and then click on a new area of blue. Then once you’ve selected all areas of your background, go to select>inverse to invert your selection and you are able to copy your tree image into your main composition.

If you need further tips on using the magic wand tool and other selection tools check out our recent article: ‘Master Photoshop’s Selection Tools in Under 30 Minutes’.

Step 13

Now go to edit>distort>scale and scale your tree branch to fit over one of the stag’s antlers. Then select the bottom half of the branch and go to edit>transform>rotate to fit it over the lower part of the antler.

Step 14

Now select some parts of the tree branches and delete them. You want to give the impression of the branches winding between the antlers.

Step 15

Start adding a few more branches into your piece.

Step 16

Position another picture of a tree over your mannequin’s body. Then try fitting in other branches and details into your composition. For the main tree over your mannequin’s body use a medium sized soft eraser brush to allow parts of the body to show through.

Step 17

Now go through each of your layers going to image>adjustments>desaturate in order to grayscale each photo.

Step 18

Now select the main tree image (with the leafs) covering your mannequin’s body. Go to image>adjustments>brightness/contrast and increase your contrast to +50.

Step 19

I want to blend the branches at the bottom of my composition a little better. To do this I reduce the opacity of my bottom branches to about 80%, and then use a soft eraser at a low opacity to gently erase the branches as they move towards the center of the mannequin’s figure.

Step 20

Now select your pen tool. Draw out large curved lines going across your figure. Then, with a 1px white paintbrush selected, right click on your pen line and click ‘stroke path’. This should give you a big curved 1px white line.

Then use a soft eraser brush at a low opacity to gently erase parts of your white lines, particularly where they overlap your figure.

Step 21

Now I want to add triangle outlines. To do this, I create my triangles using the lasso tool. To make a perfect triangle hold shift, to draw your selection at 45 degree angles. Then fill your triangular selection with white using your paintbucket tool. Then, with your selection active, go to select>modify>contract and contrast by 30px. Then hit delete, leave delete the middle part of your triangle.

Then reduce the opacity of this layer to around 50%. Duplicate it, and shrink your triangle, moving it into the right part of your canvas. Be sure to reduce the opacity on your smaller triangles, making it lower the smaller they are.

Step 22

Now cut out and paste in an image of a leaf. Duplicate this layer, and make your duplicates progressively smaller and at different rotations.

Step 23

Now use filter>blur>gaussian blur to blur the leaves various amounts. My the larger leaves more blurred, to give the impression of them being closer to you.

Step 24

Now use a very large, soft paintbrush to paint in spots of color over your composition. Be sure to do this on a new top layer.

Then change your layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’.

And We’re Done

I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial, and as always would appreciate your comments.

Download Source File for this Tutorial

About the Author:

Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.

Leave a comment


  1. smashill says:

    This techniques are really cool, even if it looks a bit like it’s not complete. It’s a great tutorial and I love those wicked horns! The monkey and forrest effect don’t fit the image that well though, somehow they don’t feel “right”, at least yet. Otherwise: Keep up the good work!

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Smashill! Yeah, to be honest I struggled a bit with the result in this piece, but felt that the techniques discussed warranted me publishing the tutorial. If you have any tutorial ideas I’d be happy to come up with something to cover them.

  2. Franz Jeitz says:

    I really love the end results and techniques used. Though I reckon that once an composition like this is done for print you would have to use the pen tool rather than magic wand to extract everything from the background. Overall you did a great job!

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Franz! Yeah that’s a good point about the magic wand tool. I just felt for this quick web demonstration it was the quickest way to go. I’m glad you liked the end result :)

  3. That thing’s gonna give me nightmares – I don’t know where you get you’re inspiration from but it’s well put together.

    I’d say the only bit that bothers me is the tree bit in the middle which fades out – I’d prefer it to not fade.

  4. Eric Shafer says:

    The outcome is kinda meh but the techniques are great! Appreciate the effort Tom! :)

    Featured here:

  5. Tom says:

    Adam: Ha, yeah it’s a pretty freaky piece. I agree that I struggled with that middle section, but I’m glad you like it overall!

  6. smartguy says:

    sorry to say(i’m not harsh or rude) from past few tut….i don’t like these designs, I think these are missing the wow! factor.

  7. Alekis L. says:

    Thank you.
    I tried this tutorial last night my outcome here.


  8. CgBaran Tuts says:

    A very interesting composition thanks

  9. Thanks a lot, it’s very good tutorials

  10. Vishal says:

    Thank you

    I tried it and my out put was very Nice. All my friend loved it.

  11. Joe says:

    A very interesting photography, thanks a lot, This blog well and good. have a nice day.

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