In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a conceptual artwork of life using the standard of photo manipulation techniques. First, we’ll add the sky and make the basic shape of a zigzag road. After that, we’ll build the rock wall and the grassy road. Later, we’ll add the man and trees as well as branches and change their color to show the periods of life. We’ll add the flying leaves and use several adjustment layers to enhance the final effect.

Preview of the Final Result

Tutorial Resources

Step 1

Create a new 2800×2000 px document in Photoshop and fill it with white. Open the sky image and drag it into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Use the Free Transform Tool (Ctrl+T) to enlarge it  to fit the size of the document. Convert it to a Smart Object.

Step 2

On the sky layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the radius to 8 px. This step is to soften the sky.

Step 3

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and set it as Clipping Mask. Alter the Midtones values to give the sky some cyan/blue.

Step 4

Make 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 the right and the upper of the canvas as we aim to add the main light there. 

Step 5

Create another Curves adjustment layer to brighten the right. On the layer mask, paint on the left and the lower of the sky to keep their lightness.

Step 6

Create a new layer and use the Pen Tool (P) to make a shape of a zigzag path .
Hit Ctrl+Enter to turn the path into a selection and fill it with the color #959698

Step 7

Open the rock image. I’ve used the image 4 but feel free to use the one you like. Drag it into our main document and convert it to a Smart Object. Use Ctrl+T to rotate it as shown below:
Hold down the Ctrl key while clicking the path thumbnail layer to load its selection. Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer and we have the result below:

Step 8

Hide the base shape and on the rock layer mask, activate the Brush Tool and select a hard round one with black color. Use this brush with the size about 30-40 px to refine the edges of the path to make it rugged. 

Step 9

Drag the original rock image into our main document and convert it to a Smart Object. Go to Edit > Transform > Rotate 90 Counter Clockwise and  place it below the rock  path above. Set this layer below the path one. 
Add a mask to this layer and use a hard black brush to remove the sides of the rock and the part above the path following the form of the path. 

Step 10

Make a Curves adjustment layer above this rock one and set it as Clipping Mask. Decrease the lightness and on this layer mask. use a soft black brush to erase the dark effect on the right of the rock part to reveal the lightness there . 
Add another Curves adjustment layer to brighten the right of the rock a bit. On the layer mask, paint on the rest so it won’t be affected by this adjustment layer.

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