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How would you rate your photo manipulation skills?
Photo manipulation is at the very core of digital art. It teaches us about composition, blending, complex workflows and many other aspects of being a top designer.
Today’s design lesson will teach you how to photo manipulate a fantasy flaming warrior using a range of professional techniques. You’ll learn how to composite several images into a single cohesive scene. You’ll learn how to blend effectively, apply surface textures, lighting and much more.
We’ll also be making a big announcement about the future of PSDFAN in the next couple of weeks, so keep a look out for it. It’s all very positive, and focuses on some great things building in our community, as well as some big plans for the new year. We can’t wait to share it with you!
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Here’s a look at the outcome you’ll be able to produce by the end of this lesson:
Open Photoshop and create a new file. Go to File -> New and input the following attributes.
Fill the image with Black color.
Open the Sky stock and select the following part.
Paste the selected part to our document.
Apply these following adjustment layers to the Sky layer.
Hue/Saturation – Brightness/Contrast
And here’s what we have.
Open the Mountain photo and start extract the mountain part (You can do this with Pen Tool or Quick Selection Tool)
After finished, copy the extracted mountain part to the canvas and place it like this:
Next we will convert the Mountain layer to a Smart Object. You can do so by right-clicking on the layer and choosing: Convert to Smart Object.
By doing so we can add various filters into the layer, adjust the filter’s opacity as well as masking without needing to create another layer. You can always come back to adjust or remove all the applied filter. You can also scale or transform this “Smart Object” at will while the image’s quality won’t be harmed, pretty cool right?
Now go to Filter -> Blur and apply a 0,8px Gaussian Blur.
Let’s use adjustment layers to blend the mountain effectively.
Brightness/Contrast – Photo Filter – Curves – Exposure
Right click on Mountain layer, choose Blending Option and edit Inner Shadow like this:
Go back to the Curves adjustment layer and apply some layer mask.
And here’s what we’ve got!
Having blended the mountain, let’s proceed to the next part: The Ruin!
Open the Ruin stock photo and extract the following part:
Paste it our document and place here:
Add some further adjustment layers to blend the ruin:
Brightness/Contrast – Hue/Saturation – Levels – Exposure
Layer mask on Levels adjustment layer.
Now repeat the same method we used for the mountain; convert this Ruin to a Smart Object then apply a 1.2px Gaussian Blur filter.
Next, create a new layer above the Ruin layer, create a clipping mask (right click on layer and choose Create Clipping Mask) then grab a soft brush with color #dc6f25, paint on the edge of the ruin like this :
Change the layer’s Blend Mode to Soft Light and reduce the Opacity down to 80%.
Then back to the Ruin layer, access to the Gaussian Blur and add some layer mask (unless you didn’t follow step 5, which is bad you know!)
And here’s our piece, so far!
From now we will start creating some battlefield atmosphere by adding fire to our scene! Access the fire pack, grab some fire photos and start placing them behind the ruin. Set the Blend Mode of the Fire layers to Screen to get rid of black background.
Its easy to see those annoying edges on all the fire layers so use layer mask to dismiss them!
And the fire starts burning!
We will do a final tweak to the Ruin. Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer on top of all layers.
Layer mask on Brightness/Contrast.
Here’s the result :
Open the Crack Texture and place it here:
Use the Distort Transform tool and manipulate it like this:
Change the Blend Mode to Overlay.
Erase the edge with layer mask.
Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer to the Crack Texture.
And we will have a nice and neat cracking ground.
We need more cracks! This step is similar to step 12, the difference is you will add crack texture on those columns, not the ground anymore.
Add Brightness/Contrast adjustment layers for the two column, first is the left one, second is the right one.
Extract the bone pile from Bone Pile stock and place it on the ground.
Create another layer beneath the bone pile and paint some black color under it. Change the Blend Mode to Soft Light after that.
Add an Exposure adjustment layer on the Bone Pile.
Mask this Exposure adjustment layer as shown:
And we’re done with the bone pile!
Import another Fire stock into our document, place it on the bone pile. Change the Blend Mode to Screen.
Layer mask to get rid of the edge.
Add a Level and a Curves adjustment layer.
We’re done with the background! Give yourself a break before continue or if you’re on the high mode, let’s move on! The next step is gonna be tricky!
Open the Model stock and start extracting her. You don’t really need to extract the hair in detail since its really tricky and time-consuming to do so, we will have another way to solve this issue.
Now grab the Smudge Tool, we will paint some hair for her!
The Smudge Tool can sample the original texture/layer when you start clicking on an area and replicate that part as you dragging it, so in here we will use her default hair as sample, start drawing some lines from the hair to outside, with this setting it should be able to create a nice and realistic hair line.
This proceed will be a lot easier if you have a tablet, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it with a mouse (like I did). It takes some patience to do this.
Mode : Normal
Strength : 91 – 97% (depends how strong of the hair line you want)
Brush size: 3 – 4px
You can always turn on the base image to see her hair, and take it as a template to draw. There are many ways to extract the hair but it depends on each situation. This is a really useful method when it comes to hair in complex background with lots of details.
After you’re done with the hair painting, bring the model to our document.
Make some changes for the model. Adjust the Inner Shadow (color: #e3a614) in the Model’s Blending Option.
Brightness/Contrast – Hue/Saturation – Photo Filter
And here is the result:
Paint some Black color on the model to darken some parts:
Set the Opacity down to 40%.
As the lightning on the Model is not quite suitable for our image as we’re having a huge flame burning behind her, we will change it using the dodge/burn tool.
Firstly, create a new layer and fill it with 50% Gray, adding a clipping mask on the Model.
For those who haven’t known yet, the Dodge Tool is used to lighten things up, in contrast with Burn Tool which is used to darken.
Use a small soft brush with 10% Exposure and start adjusting the model’s lightning.
(Red arrows indicate where to use Dodge Tool – Blue arrows indicates where to use Burn Tool)
Here’s a preview of the result if you use Dodge & Burn Tool correctly. You can see a dramatic change of lightning on her face and her hair, as well as her leg.
Ok so our model can’t just stand on a fiery battlefield unscratched and unharmed, that doesn’t sound right isn’t it? Import the Blood Splatter texture into our document, using a clipping mask to fit it to the model.
Set the Blend Mode to Multiply to get rid of all the white texture, leave the blood splatter alone.
Erase some unnecessary parts of the texture with a Layer Mask, we need some blood, yes, but this is way too much!
Now it looks better!
Add some more blood on her upper part using the same method. Now no one would ask you why she appears on the battlefield without any blood or injuries!
This is an easy and quick one. Create another layer and grab a soft brush with color #de750c, paint around the model’s edge, try to indicate where the light from the flame behind would light up and paint according to it.
Set the Blend Mode to Overlay with 60% Opacity and Fill.
So in the stock photo you can see her hold a sword (well just the hilt you look closely), we will give her something more badass to hold, a trident! Bring the trident into our document and place it like this.
Hide some parts away with layer mask, her holding hand to be specific.
Making some changes in the Trident’s Blending Option.
Bevel & Embross – Contour – Color Overlay
This is our basic retouch with the trident by adding more depth and metallic into it, we will work on the colors in the next step.
Add these adjustment layers for the trident.
Hue/Saturation – Photo Filter – Exposure
Here’s what we will have :
We will create some shine effect on the shoulder armor. Create a new layer and grab a big soft brush with White color.
Use Warp in the Transform Tool to bend it like this:
Resize and place it on the armor, set the Blend Mode to Overlay.
Do the same thing with the other part of the armor. You can always duplicate the layer to increase the shine effect.
Open the Lens Flare stock and grab this lens flare:
Bring it to our document, place it on the trident.
Change the Blend Mode of the Lens Flare to Color Dodge and congratulations! You just made the badass trident more badass!
Open the Ruin stock again and grab this stone:
Place it on the bottom of the image to cover the missing part of the Model’s foot. Duplicate more stones and place them around.
Merge all the stone layers into one by choosing all of them and right click, select Merge Layers. Add a 1px Gaussian Blur to the stones.
Add some adjustment layers for the stones.
Brightness/Contrast – Levels – Exposure
We’re almost there!
We will add some extra effect before processing to the final color tuning.
Create a new layer and paint some black around the image. Drop the Opacity down to 40% after that.
Create another layer and paint more black on this area.
Set the Blend Mode to Soft Light with 40% Opacity.
Create more light on the trident with a big white soft brush.
Set the blend mode to Overlay, Opacity 75% – Fill 42%
Create some fog effect with Cloud in Filter option is a very easy and nice way. Before proceeding remember to set the Foreground color to White and Background color to Black, as the cloud’s colors will be determined by these.
Change the Blend Mode to Soft Light and 55% Opacity.
Looking much better!
Won’t hurt if we add some more spark right? Bring the Spark texture in!
Change the Blend Mode to Screen, add some extra layer mask since this is way too much spark!
If you have come to this far, salute yourself! We are now coming to the final stage!
Start adding these long chain of adjustment layers as the final retouch!
Curves – Color Balance – Selective Color 1 – Selective Color 2 – Curves
Adding some layer masks.
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.
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I've been a self-taught Photoshop user since 2010 from Haiphong, Viet Nam. I love all kind of designing but photo manipulation is my main aspect. Catch me up at: http://atknebula.deviantart.com/
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