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In this tutorial we will make a winter fantasy scene. Our aim is a dreamy, soft atmosphere and a balanced composition. I will be sharing with you some advanced channel masking techniques, selection tips and a quick peek into advanced blending. I hope you will enjoy this tutorial as much as I enjoyed making it.

Preview of Final Results


Surreal Arctic Scene Photoshop Tutorial


Step 1

Open the image “Sunset in Finland” and resize it to: 2000 X 1333 pixels. This step is optional but for the needs of illustrating a tutorial this size will be sufficient.


Step 2

We will remove the sky by using a channel mask. Go to channels palette and make a copy of the red channel. You can do that by right clicking and selecting “Duplicate channel”. With only the red channel copy selected go to Image > Apply Image. Use “vivid light” blending mode at 100% opacity.


Step 3

Select the lower part of the red channel copy like shown in the image below. Press D to set default background and foreground colors then press ctrl+Backspace to fill the selection with black.


Step 4

Select the upper part of the red channel copy and press alt+Backspace to fill the selection with white.


Step 5

Press ctr+D to deselect. Choose a round brush with the following setting :

  • Size: 200 px
  • Hardness: 0%

Change the brush mode to overlay by pressing alt+Shift+O and be sure you have selected white as foreground color. Brush a couple of times gently to remove the grays and try to keep the black of the trees intact.


Step 6

Press ctrl+I to revert the channel. Your red channel copy should look like the image below. This will be our selection mask. In a selection mask white reveals and black conceals.


Step 7

Ctrl + click red channel copy to load channel as a selection, pres ctrl+2 to select the RGB composite image. Now press ctrl+J to make a new layer from the selection. Voila, you made a tricky selection using channel masks. Now you can turn off visibility of the background layer. Name the new layer foreground.


Step 8

Make a new fill layer by going to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color. Use this color to fill the layer: #434952. Right click the fill layer and choose “Create clipping mask”. Change the layer mode to color. This will remove the orange color cast from our image.


Step 9

Now we will add some cold color to our foreground. Add a photo filter adjustment layer by going to Layer > New adjustment layer > Photo Filter. See that this adjustment layer it’s clipping our foreground layer and it sits above our previous adjustment layer. Use following settings:

  • Color: #bfd500
  • Density: 93%
  • Preserve Luminosity: checked

Change the blending mode to “Color dodge” and lower the fill to 40%.


Step 10

Press D to choose default colors then press G to choose the gradient tool. Be sure that in the gradient option bar it’s selected “Foreground to Background”. Holding the Shift key drag the gradient like shown in the image below.