Preview of Final Results

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Surreal Scene Photoshop Tutorial


Tutorial Resources


Step 1: Create a new Photoshop File

Create a new file in photoshop using these settings:

  • Width: 2835px
  • Height: 1950px
  • Resolution: 300px/inch

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Step 2: Add the Cave

Open the cave stock and select the cave using the Quick Selection Tool (Shortcut: W). Here’s a few tips on how to make selections with the Quick Selection Tool, you’ll use them a lot throughout the tutorial:

  • Clicking anywhere in the canvas with the Quick Selection Tool will add to the selection
  • Holding Alt/Option and clicking will subtract the selection
  • You can quickly change the size of your brush holding Alt/Option, clicking anywhere in the canvas with the right mouse button, and dragging to the left to decrease the size of the brush, and to the right to increase it (you can use this technique with any tool that uses a brush)
  • To quickly use the Zoom Tool, hold the Z key, click with the left mouse button in the canvas and drag the mouse to the left to zoom out and to the right to zoom in. When you stop holding Z, you’ll return to the tool you were using before

The result of my selection is painted with red in the image below (I’ll always show my selections painted in light red).

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Copy and paste the cave into our project and use the Free Transform Tool (Shortcut: Ctrl/Cmd+T) to adjust it in our project (see image below).

  • You can also use the Move Tool (Shortcut: V) to move the cave, but if you use the Free Transform Tool you can use the image below as reference.

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Now select the Rectangular/Marquee Tool (Shortcut: M) and make a selection on the top blank space of our image (see image below for reference).

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Press Shift+F5 to open the Fill window and select Content-Aware.

  • After you’re done with your selection, press Ctrl/Cmd+D to deselect your current selection

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And here is the result:

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To fix some problems with the edges, Hold Ctrl/Cmd and click in the thumbnail of the Layer 1.

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Then go to Select > Modify > Contract and set the contract value to 5px.

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Reverse the selection by pressing Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+I and then hit Delete to erase a little bit of the edges. You probably won’t be able to see the results in the image below, but If you followed the steps correctly your edges should be fixed now.

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Now make a selection of the left side of the cave using the Quick Selection Tool (Shortcut: W), then copy (Ctrl/Cmd+C) and paste (Ctrl/Cmd+V) into our project.

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With the Layer 2 selected, go to Edit > Tranform > Flip Horizontal.

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Select the Move Tool (Shotcut: V) and move the cave part (Layer 2) to the right side of our image.

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Now let’s erase the part of the cave we don’t want. To do that, select the Layer 1 and use the eraser (Shortcut: E) to delete the red part of the cave in the image below. Here are some notes when dealing with brushs:

  • To change the hardness of a brush, click with the right mouse button anywhere in your project and change the Hardness value
  • To change the opacity of a brush, just change the Opacity value on the toolbar at the top of your screen (it will only appear when you are using a brush)

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Go back to the Layer 2 and erase some areas as well (see image below for reference).

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Your result should be similar to this:

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Select both cave layers (Hold Shift and left click on them) and merge them in one layer (Ctrl/Cmd+E). Then, double click the name of the new layer and change it to Cave.

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Let’s fix the colors of our cave now. In the Layers pannel, click in ‘Create a new Fill or Adjustment Layer’ and select Curves.

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Adjust the curves like this:

You can also use the Output values in the image below as reference while adjusting the curves

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And the cave is done! It should look like this now:

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Everytime you add an adjustment layer that you don’t want to affect all of your layers (just the first layer below it), you need to clip it to the that layer, like this:

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Now to clean our workspace a little bit, select the Cave and the Curves layer and add them to a new group by pressing Ctrl/Cmd+G. Name the new group Cave.

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Step 3: Add the Desert

Open the Desert stock and use the Quick Selection Tool (Shortcut: W) to select it.

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Copy (Ctrl/Cmd+C) and paste (Ctrl/Cmd+V) the desert into our project and place its layer below the Cave group.

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Use the Free Transform Tool (Ctrl/Cmd+T) to resize the desert without losing the proportion. Here are some tips for this tool:

  • To increase or decrease the size, click and drag one of those little squares on the edges
  • To increase or decrease the size of the image maintaining proportion, hold the Shift key while doing it
  • To see your entire selection, press Ctrl/Cmd+0 and the zoom will be adjusted automatically

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Add a Curves adjustment layer like we did with the cave and see the image below for the input values. Like we did before, clip this adjustment to the layer below (the desert layer).

Always remember to clip an adjustment layer to the layer below it (if you don’t want it to affect any other layer)

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Here is the result of this curves adjustment:

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Add a Color Balance Adjustment Layer and see the image below for the input values. Remember to also clip it to the desert layer.

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Your image should look like this now:

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Select the desert layer and its adjustment layers and add them to a new group called Desert (Ctrl/Cmd +G).

  • You can also rename the desert layer (Layer 1) to Desert if you want to

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Step 4: Add the first underwater stock

Open the Underwater stock (first one on the list), press Ctrl/Cmd+A to select the whole image and copy (Ctrl/Cmd+C) and paste it (Ctrl/Cmd+V) into our project.

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Use the Free Transform Tool (Ctrl/Cmd+T) to resize and stretch the ocean. Just click and drag the squares in the edges (you don’t have to hold Shift this time) until you have something like this:

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Now add a layer mask to this layer and start painting following the image below. Here are some tips when painting a layer mask:

  • Press B on your keyboard to select the Brush Tool
  • Press D on your keyboard to return the colors of your palette back to Black and White
  • When painting a layer mask, black will hide the layer, and white will reveal it again
  • If you make a mistake while painting a layer mask, you just have to paint the area where you made the mistake with the opposite color again (if you made a mistake while painting with white, paint with black to start over)
  • You can quickly change between your background and foreground color by pressing X
  • To hide a layer mask, hold the Shift key and click on the mask. Do the same thing if you want to reveal it again
  • To view your layer mask hold Alt/Opt and click in the layer mask. Do the same thing to return it to normal

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And here is the result:

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Step 5: Add the second underwater stock

Open the underwater stock 2, press Ctrl/Cmd+A to select it all, copy (Ctrl/Cmd+C) and paste it(Ctrl/Cmd+V) into our project.

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Press Ctrl/Cmd+T to resize and stretch this new underwater stock like we did with the last one.

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Like we did with the other underwater image, create a layer mask to this layer and paint (Shortcut to the Brush Tool: B) it following the image below.

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Here is the result:

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There are some stains in this stock image and we’re going to fix it now. Select the Spot Healing Brush Tool (Shortcut: J) and just start clicking the areas you want to fix.

  • Remember to select the actual image rather than the layer mask before you start

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Here is the clean image:

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To add the surface of the water, we’re going to go back to the second underwater stock we used and make another selection. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (Shortcut: M) to draw this rectangle:

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Copy and paste it into our project. Place this layer right below the Cave group and use the Free Transform Tool (Shortcut: Ctrl/Cmd+T) to resize and stretch it.

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Here is what your ocean should look like now:

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