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In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create a fantasy piece featuring a ghost woman in a mysterious dark scene. You'll learn how to combine different stock images together, turn a woman in a ghost one, adjust color, enhance the mood and more.
Preview of the Final Result
Create a new 1666x1697 px document in Photoshop and fill it with white. Open the background image and drag it into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V).
We'll remove one detail on the door as it looks messy through the transparent dress of the model. Hit Ctrl+Shift+N to make a new layer and activate the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to erase the indicated detail.
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and change the Midtones and Highlights values to give the background some warm tone.
We'll be making a dark scene so the background should be darker. Create a Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness. On this layer mask, activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a soft round one with black color. Use this brush to erase the dark effect on both sides of the top of the wall and the lower right as we aim to make some light on these areas.
Make another Curves adjustment layer to make the background, especially the door darker and mostly hidden in the shadow. On the layer mask, paint on the both sides of the wall to reveal the lightness there.
Isolate the model and place her on the area near the middle of the foreground.
Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a medium-soft black brush to reduce the opacity of the model's dress , make it appear semi-transparent but leave the wrinkles more visible than the rest.
Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer above the model's one and set it as Clipping Mask. Bring the Saturation values to -43 to reduce the cyan of the model's dress, especially the part exposed in the light a bit. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the head and the part hidden of the model to keep it color's saturation.
Create a Color Balance adjustment layer to give the model some bright warm tone. On the layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the effect on the model, especially on the higher part of the model's body.
Make another Color Balance adjustment layer to make the bright part of the model warmer and a bit redder to fit the light on this side ( the right from the viewer). Paint on the rest so they won't be or less be affected by this adjustment layer.
The model looks too bright compared the light of the background. Create a Curves adjustment layer and reduce the light on the model. On the layer, paint on the her dress or any details you feel too dark.
Use another Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast on the bright side of the model a little. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.
The dress still lacks a bit of fantasy feel so I make a new layer on top of the layers and pick a similar color with the dress's one (#54473f) to paint more details of its bottom . Vary the opacity of the brush to about 50-70% to make the dress look graceful and gentle.
Make a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #54504b to paint on the transparent part of the dress. Change this layer mode to Linear Dodge 50% to give some glowing effect to this area.
Create a new layer and use a small brush with the color #806d5c to paint more highlight on the both sides of the model's head.
Open the tree image. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to take a small branch on the left to add to the top right of the wall. Use the Free Transform Tool (Ctrl+T) with the Warp mode to bend this branch as shown below:
Take the twisted part of the tree to add to the top left of the wall.
Duplicate this layer twice and move them to other positions as shown below. Use Ctrl+T with the Warp mode to tweak them so they appear different.
Take the small branch in the step 15 and the twisted one to add to the left bottom of the scene.
Add a mask to the small branch layer and use a soft black brush to blend it with the twisted one .
On each of the tree layers mentioned in the step 17, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the radius to 6 px. This step is to give some depth to the whole scene.
Select all of the tree layers and hit Ctrl+G to make a group for them. Change this group mode to Normal 100% and make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within this group. Bring the Saturation values down to -34:
Create a Curves adjustment layer to increase the shadow of the branches. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the effect on the front or any details you feel too dark .
Make another Curves adjustment layer to brighten the front of the branches . The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.
On each of the tree layers which are on the top left, make a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray.
Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 15-20% to refine the light and shadow on these branches. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.
Create a new layer below the tree group and use a medium-soft brush with the color #181411, the opacity about 30% to paint shadow for the branches on the wall.
Make a new layer on top of the layers and change the brush to the cobweb ones. Use the color #e9ddd0 to paint different cobwebs on the branches' area. I've used two cobwebs on the top left but feel free to make your own.
Add a mask to the each of the cobweb layers on the top left and use a soft black brush to reduce their visibility.
Apply a Gaussian Blur of 6 px to the cobweb layer on the bottom left to fit the softness of this place.
Make a group for the cobweb ones and use a Curves adjustment layer to darken the hidden areas. Paint on the rest so they won't be affected by this adjustment layer.
Open the butterflies image. As it has a transparent background so just use the Move Tool to drag butterflies to place them in different positions around the canvas. Use Ctrl+T to vary their size to increase the depth of the whole scene.
Double click each of the butterfly layers , choose Outer Glow. Set the color of glow to white.
Apply a Gaussian Blur of 6 px to the big butterflies on the foreground to help increasing the depth of the scene.
Create a group for the butterflies layers and add a Color Balance adjustment layer to give the butterflies more vibrant.
Use a Curves adjustment layer and increase the light so much to give the butterflies some ghostly effect.
Add a mask to this butterflies group and use a soft black brush with a lowered opacity (about 20-30%) to reduce their visibility to make them more mysterious.
Make a new layer on top of the layers and use a soft brush with the color #9c9489 to paint over the butterflies . Change this layer mode to Linear Dodge 20% give them some glowing effect.
Create a new layer and select a small brush with the color #9c9489. Press F5 to change the settings of this brush:
Use this brush to paint tiny dots around the transparent dress. You can hit [ or ] while painting to change the size of the brush if needed.
Hit Ctrl+G to make a group for this layer and alter this layer mode to Color Dodge 100%.
Make a new layer and the same brush to paint bigger dots on the dress. I've used a layer mask to reduce their visibility and the unwanted dots.
Create a Channel Mixer adjustment layer on top of the layers and change the Red and Blue settings.
On the mask of this layer, use a soft black brush to erase the blue effect on the right side, leaving the blue visible only on the left.
Make a Gradient Map adjustment layer and pick the colors #e10019 and #00601b. Lower the opacity of this layer to 20%.
Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones and Highlights values:
Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the whole effect. Paint on some butterflies to reduce the blue cast on them.
Make a Curves adjustment layer to increase the light and contrast of the scene a bit. Paint on some areas to keep their lightness.