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Members Area Tutorial: Photo Manipulate a Magical Desert Scene

Members Area Tutorial: Photo Manipulate a Magical Desert Scene

In this tutorial we’ll create a surreal and magical desert scene featuring a pretty girl, a hybrid camel and butterflies. The emphasis is on model manipulation, or how to adjust your models in such a way that they fit the image you want to create, whether they’re human or animal.

This is a super advanced tutorial that covers a range of professional techniques including:

  • Image Extraction
  • Hair Replacement
  • Color Blending
  • Working with complex layer arrangements and smart objects
  • Working with fabric in your manipulations

Let’s get started!

Final Image

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Resources Used In This Tutorial

Step 1

Start up Photoshop if you haven’t done so already and press Ctrl+N/Cmd+N to create a new file. When the New dialog appears, type a name for the new file in the Name field. I called mine “Desert”, but you can call yours whatever you think is appropriate.

Set the Width to 2200 pixels, the Height to 2500 pixels and the Resolution to 300 pixels/inch. The Color Mode we’ll use is 8-bit Lab Color and the Background Contents should be set to Transparent.

Step 2

When the new file opens, rename the transparent background layer to “Sky gradient”.

Press G to activate the Gradient tool and click on the Gradient swatch in the Options Bar. The Gradient Editor will open. Set the first color to a sky blue (#008410) and the second color to pure white (#ffffff).

Click Ok to accept those settings.

Position the cursor at the top of the image and click+Shift+drag all the way down to the bottom to create the gradient.

Step 3

Next, open the Sky Fractal image (Fractal.jpg) from the assets pack you downloaded. Press Ctrl+A/Cmd+A to select the whole image, copy it to the clipboard (Ctrl+C/Cmd+C) and close it (Ctrl+W/Cmd+W). Back in the Desert image, press Ctrl+V/Cmd+V to paste the fractal above the Sky Gradient layer. Rename the new layer to “Sky fractal” and use Free Transform (Ctrl+T/Cmd+T) to scale and position it as shown below.

Set the Sky fractal layer’s Blend mode to Overlay.

Step 4

The sky looks quite nice but it hasn’t quite got the drama we’re looking for. To get the look we want, let’s bump up the contrast a little. With the Sky fractal layer still selected, click on the Add New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette and choose Curves from the list. Rename the new curves adjustment layer to “Contrast” and, in the Adjustments palette, set the curve for the Lightness channel as follows:

The sky is now done. Click on the Sky gradient layer and Shift+click on the Contrast layer to select all sky layers. Press Ctrl+G/Cmd+G to group them and rename the new group to “Sky”.

Step 5

To complete the background we’ll put in the desert floor. Open the Beach image (). Select the whole image by pressing Ctrl+A/Cmd+A, copy it to the clipboard (Ctrl+C/Cmd+C) and close it (Ctrl+W/Cmd+W).

Paste the sand above the Sky group by pressing Ctrl+V/Cmd+V. Rename the new layer to “Sand” and use Free Transform (Ctrl+T/Cmd+T) to scale and position the layer like so:

Step 6

To make the sand recede into the distance (also called atmospheric perspective), we’ll add a gradient layer mask. Click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette to add a layer mask to the Sand layer, followed by pressing G to activate the Gradient tool.

Click on the arrow next to the gradient swatch and choose Black, White from the presets menu. Create the gradient by positioning the cursor just above the top of the sand and click+Shift+drag to just below it.

When you’re done, the Sand layer and its layer mask should look similar to the image below.

Step 7

Right now, the sand looks exactly like what it is: a Dutch beach in the winter. Not very exotic if you ask me. To make it look more like a desert floor, we’ll change the color.

Click on the Create New Fill or Adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette and choose Levels from the list. Rename the new Levels layer to “Color”. In the Adjustments palette, first click on the Clip icon at the bottom. This ensures that the Color layer only affects the sand and nothing else.

Next, set the Lightness channel’s black point to 73 and its black point to 240. Switch to the a channel and set its black point to 243. Lastly, set the b channel’s black point to 229.

The background is now done. Click on the Sand layer and Shift+click on the Color layer. Group the layers (Ctrl+G/Cmd+G) and rename the new group to “Ground”.

Your image and Layers palette should now look like this:

Step 8

We’re now ready to start working on the characters. We’ll start with the camel. Open the Camel image (132037_5463.jpg) and separate the animal from its background as shown below. I used the Pen tool (P) for this but you can use any selection tool you feel comfortable with. Just make sure the selection is as smooth as possible.

Press Ctrl+J/Cmd+J to copy the camel selection to a new layer. As you can see, some of the rope the camel is tethered with is still visible on its body and we need to get rid of it because it looks strange.

Select all pieces of rope with the Lasso tool (L), like so:

Next, press Shift+F5 to bring up the Fill dialog. Set the Use field to Content-Aware and click Ok. The rope disappears.

NOTE: if you’re working with a version of Photoshop older than CS5, Content-Aware fill is not available. If that’s the case, just use the Clone Stamp tool (S) to remove the rope.

That’s the end of the preview!


About the Author:

My name is Caroline, I currently live in the Netherlands and I am a computer programmer turned graphic designer. I have been drawing and painting since I was allowed to hold a brush. Very recently I decided to make a life-long dream come true and to start up as an independent artist and designer. I hope you enjoy this tutorial. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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