How to Create a Surreal Elephant Photo Manipulation with Adobe Photoshop

How to Create a Surreal Elephant Photo Manipulation with Adobe Photoshop
In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create a surreal scene featuring a circus elephant with a rat riding on a wheel. First, we'll build the base scene using landscape and sky images. After that, we'll add the rocks and make a tightrope. Later, we'll import the elephant, rat, hats, and birds. We'll use several adjustment layers to enhance the final effect.

Preview of the Final Result

Tutorial Resources

Step 1

Create a new 2386x2000 px document in Photoshop and fill it with white. Open the landscape  image and drag it into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V).

Step 2

Hit Ctrl+Shift+N to make a new layer and activate the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to remove the light rays on the left of the sun. 

Step 3

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and change the Midtones settings:

Step 4

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and alter the Blues values. On this layer mask, activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a soft round one with black color. Use this brush to remove the effect on the sky.

Step 5

Create a Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness around the sun area. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the rest to keep its lightness.

Step 6

Make another Curves adjustment layer to increase the light on the landscape. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to paint on the sky's area to remove the effect there.

Step 7

Open the sky image and place it onto the existing sky. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100% and add a mask to this layer. Use a soft black brush to remove the hard edges at the bottom of the image. 

Step 8

Make a Curves adjustment layer above the sky one (set it as Clipping Mask) and reduce the lightness a bit.

Step 9

Open the rock image and use the Magnetic Lasso Tool (L) to select the rock only  and drag it into our main document. Place it in the bottom left of the canvas. 
Duplicate this layer and flip it horizontally (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal). Place it in the bottom right of the canvas.

Step 10

Add a mask to the right rock and use the Lasso Tool to select some parts of the rock's contour. Use a hard black brush to erase these selected parts so this rock's form appears different from the left one. 

Step 11

Create a new layer and use the Clone Tool to change the details of the right rock to be different from the left one.

Step 12

On the left rock layer, use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select a part on the rock and hit Ctrl+C to copy this part. Make a new layer on top of the layers and hit Ctrl+V to paste this part into this layer. Convert this layer to a Smart Object and use the Free Transform Tool (Ctrl+T) to distort it and place onto the rock's surface.
Add a mask to this layer and use a hard black brush to remove the edges on both sides and outside the rock to make a new clean surface for the rock.

Step 13

Select a part from the left rock again and use the same method to make a new surface for the right rock. 

Step 14

Select all of the rock  layers and cloning one and hit Ctrl+G to make a group for them. Change the group's mode to Normal 100% and make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within the group. Bring the Saturation values down to -87:

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