We will use Adjustment Layers a lot in this tutorial so let’s get you familiar with them.
They are a non-destructive way of applying various adjustments and effects to a document. By non-destructive I mean that you can edit the effects at any time (this includes deleting the effect, changing the opacity of the effect and the blending mode).
All Adjustment layers can be found under Layer > New Adjustment Layer > …..
Let’s see one in action. Create a Color Balance Adjustment Layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance – remember?) and use the settings shown below to boost the colors. Change the blending mode to Soft Light and you’ll see that our scene just got darker and more intense.
Now that the background is done let’s start placing some characters that will give life to our scene and tell a story.
Open the file “Dragon” (thankfully it’s already cut into a transparent png so we don’t have to do any selections) and select all with Ctrl + A. Copy with Ctrl + C and paste it into our scene with Ctrl + V. Don’t forget to convert it into a smart object (step 2 tells you how). Convert all imported layers into smart objects – especially if you’re going to resize them.
Use the Free Transform to position the dragon on the bottom of the cathedral as shown below.
The dragon layer is too sharp (I’m talking overall texture not edges) compared to our scene so let’s blur it a little bit. Apply a 0.9px Gaussian Blur to the dragon layer (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur).
Next we’ll apply a bunch of effects and brush strokes to the dragon but we want to restrict them only to the dragon layer. In order to do this we will have to “clip” the layers to the dragon layer. But how do we do that?
Well, it’s pretty easy actually. You hold the Alt-key and click between two layers in the layer palette – by doing this you’ll clip the upper layer to the lower layer and thus show the upper layer only through the visible pixels of the lower layer.
But what if you want to clip a second layer to the bottom layer (which already has a clipped layer above)? You just Alt-click again between the layer you want to clip and the already clipped layer above the bottom layer.
It sounds complicated but once you’ll see the things in action you’ll see how easy it is.
So, let’s create a Curves Adjustment Layer. Use the settings shown below to reduce the intense reds of the dragon and add some blues. The effect is applied to the whole scene. If you Alt-click between the curves and the dragon layer magic happens and suddenly the effect is only applied to the dragon.
Let’s clip another adjustment layer to the dragon layer. Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and drag the Hue slider to -180. Clip this layer to the dragon layer by Alt-clicking between the Hue/Saturation layer and the already clipped Curves Adjustment Layer and voila – multiple clipped layers to the same bottom layer – the dragon.
I won’t explain again how the clipping works so try to do your best and understand – if you’re still in doubt read the steps again and repeat the instructions.
Create a new layer and fill it (Shift + F5) with a deep blue color (#0a234b). Clip this layer to the dragon layer and lower the opacity to 49%. Add a layer mask and with a black round soft brush at 50% Opacity paint over the highlights of the dragon (in the layer mask).