Combine stock images and use a combination of blending/lighting techniques to create this surreal flying brain in Photoshop! This tutorial will show you how to create your own background using multiple photos, blend images together, and apply a nondestructive dodging & burning to your image.

Preview of Final Results

Surreal Flying Brain Photo Manipulation Tutorial

First of all, this tutorial will be using a set of Hair Photoshop brushes by TrissteBrushes. You can find the download link to it in the tutorial resources below. You should install the brush before starting this tutorial.

You will also notice that this tutorial starts off with Photoshop CS3 then switches to CS4. Well, I was using Photoshop CS3 but my computer had some problems so I had to borrow my husbands laptop which only had Photoshop CS4. Please excuse me for this.

Tutorial Resources

Step 1

Create a new file with a width and height of 4000 pixels.

Step 2

Open the Sky image. Copy and paste it it to your main document. To do this, Go to Select > All, copy (Ctrl/Cmd+C), switch back to your main document and paste (Ctrl/Cmd+V). Delete your background layer.

Step 3

Use the Free Transform tool (Ctrl/Cmd+T or Edit > Free Transform)

Scale the image like shown below. Hold down the shift key so that the proportions are constrained while scaling.

Step 4

Create a new layer above the sky layer (Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+N or Layer > New > Layer).

Step 5

First, set your foreground color to white and background to black – you can do this quickly by pressing D then X on your keyboard. Select the Brush tool (B). Using a large and soft brush (1100px, 0 hardness), paint a curve around the sky like shown in the image below.

Step 6

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and apply a blur of 250 pixels.

Step 7

Set the blending mode to Overlay. Duplicate the current layer (Ctrl/Cmd+J) then set the opacity of the new layer to 60%.

Step 8

Select both layers then right-click and choose “Create Clipping Mask”.

Step 9

Open the Sea image then copy and paste it to your main document. To do this, go to File > Open to open the sea image. Go to Select > All then Edit > Copy. Switch back to your main document and go to Edit > Paste. Position this layer as the top layer.

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19 responses to “How to Create a Surreal Flying Brain Photo Manipulation in Photoshop”

  1. Mike Avatar

    Wonderful tutorial. thank you so much for sharing it!

  2. PBX Avatar

    This is very nice! Wonderful tutorial.

  3. Maidul Islam Avatar
    Maidul Islam

    A very smart approach to explain the things,like your step by step tutorial.Thanks for sharing.

  4. shikirofly Avatar

    nice tutorial, can you send me more tutorial please on my email, thanks! bcoz i’ve wanted to be as good as you :)

  5. Adrianoh Avatar

    Thanks for this tutorial…I got stuck in some parts, specially on step 23 and also I skip or did some steps a bit different (layer order) but result was almost the same (except for the glow above the mountain)…anyway Im happy to be able to do this without much issue since I started learning photoshop one month ago. tks again, Adriano

  6. IvyAshe Avatar

    Dani, I didn’t know you did tutorials outside of dA – this is awesome! 

  7. Rejis Avatar

    Results are nice.
    Keep posting good tuts

  8. VinceQuintero Avatar

    nice bro!…

  9. DzulmarEGG Avatar

    Wow! This is very nice Bro! invited eko15_p

    1. Dany_Owergoor Avatar

      @DzulmarEGG  eko15_p  Thank you so much for the attention!

  10. Ayaron Avatar


  11. Ayaron Avatar


    1. Dany_Owergoor Avatar

      @Ayaron You’re welcome!

  12. PBX Avatar

    Wonderful! But it’s quite hard for a beginner like me.

    1. Dany_Owergoor Avatar

      @ PBX I understand, but breathe… take your time and try to do it slowly, I try to build my tutorials well detailed, step by step, just try, I believe you!  :D

  13. nue110 Avatar

    Wonderful, Wonderful tutorial. So creative and interesting Technics. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Dany_Owergoor Avatar

      @nue110 Thank you for your kind words, dear!

  14. Nully Avatar

    Wonderful tutorial, very beautiful and creative thank you so much for sharing it!

    1. Dany_Owergoor Avatar

      @Nully Thank you so much, hope this tutorial can be useful.

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