Create a Magical Starry Night of Polar Bears in Photoshop

Create a Magical Starry Night of Polar Bears in Photoshop
Create a Magical Starry Night of Polar Bears in Photoshop

Learn how to create this beautiful, Christmas night and fairytale photo manipulation in Photoshop. This tutorial shows how to develop a amazing and magical landscape of the mysterious expanse of stars! Using photo manipulation techniques coupled with some interesting color discoveries and a variety of tools. Read this tutorial and immerse yourself to atmosphere of a magical fairy tale.

I conceived this work as fairy card. I really wanted to convey the mood of magic and tranquility. In this tutorial we will begin with the creation of the landscape and adding the basic details. The next step will be to work on the main characters and turning day into night. In the final steps, we will work on the starry sky and the final effects. So, you need a belief in magic, good humor, a little diligence and you can use any version Photoshop from CS onwards will be fine as well.

Tutorial Resources

Step 1

Opening Photoshop and get started! Create a new document at 3840 pixels wide and 2400 pixels height, resolution 300 Pixels/Inch. Place first image "Cloudy Alps" in working document (Go to File > Place (Place Embedded)). This is the first plan and the basis for the construction and location of mountains.


Resize (Cmd/Ctrl + T or go to Edit > Free Transform) image so that image covered all the working area. Not to raise much forefront not to get deviated perspective. After all, we look from the hill.


Step 2

Go to Quick Mask mode (Q), set default Foreground and Background colors (D) and switch them (X). Take Brush Tool (B) on toolbar and set following settings to it - Size: 400px, Opacity: 100%, Hardness: 60%. Select all (you will draw a red color and it is normal, that work quick mask) to the white field and the first plan. Also leave grounds the mountains. This is useful for us to create a transition from one of the mountains to the other. If you draw on in the wrong place, just switch color (X) to white and remove it.


Again press Q or click on Quick Mask mode icon to make selection from red area and add a layer mask (clicking on the "Add Layer Mask" button in the layers panel or by going to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide Selection) to hide unwanted landscape.


Step 3

Add image of Everest mount into working document under layer with foreground landscape. Resize it to leave only fragment with big mount and move down image a bit. If necessary, go back to the previous layer mask and make a smooth transition between images (Brush Opacity: 60%, Hardness: 0%).


Now fill in the lack of the sky. To do this, I used Gradient Tool (G) with Linear form and preset "Foreground to Transparent", foreground color - black. Create a new layer above Everest mount image (use "Create new layer icon" on layer panel or hot keys Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + N) Draw a gradient from top to middle of working area. Create a new layer under gradient layer (Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + N) and use soft round brush (Opacity: 100%, and color #0c1939) to draw on free space between image and gradient. Merge there two layers into one by using Cmd/Ctrl+ E or right click on selected layers > Merge Layers.


Use Quick Selection Tool (W) and select mountains. Use Eraser Tool (E) on gradient layer to remove it from mountains. To deselect use Cmd/Ctrl + D or Select > Deselect.


Step 4

Now I return to foreground rocks and decided to slightly change color tone. For this I used an adjustment layer "Color Balance". Go to Layer > New Adjustment layer > Color Balance... or click on icon on a Layer panel). Set values to each color and tone as shown in image below, set layer Opacity around 70% and create Clipping Mask from this layer (right click on layer > Create Clipping Mask or use Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + G). In this photomanipulation the stones with a blue shade will look more realistic and not distracting. Among other things, we have a night landscape.


Step 5

Now that we have created a basis of the picture, you can start adding the main parts. So you do not mess up I'll start with the village. As with all previous images place image "Alps village" in working document, on top of all previous layers (I always open the folder with my resources, and for ease of operation drag the desired image in the working document). Do not worry about the little scary view of the village. I will correct it a little later. Use the Free Transform tool (Ctrl/Cmd+T or Edit > Free Transform) to resize the layer like shown in the image below.


I use Pen Tool (P) to create a flat path and then create selection from path (right click > Make Selection, Feather radius 0px). Add a layer mask to remove interfering houses. In this photo manipulation I use fragments of houses in the middle of everything else I removed, because the other houses portions are in a different scale.


Step 6

Now make the village a little more. I chose a small fragment of houses, duplicate original layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J or Layer > Duplicate layer) and on the layer mask removed all unnecessary, except the required fragment. Use Move tool (V) to move fragment in desired location. To flip horizontally, go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.


The same piece I located in other place, as shown in the figure. Principle I think you misunderstood and can create your own version of the village. I added another piece to bridge the houses. Now I will correct color of houses. Do not think that the night could hide all the defects. It is much easier to create a light, when all objects in the same key. First you need group all layer with village (select layers and use Cmd/Ctrl + G or layer > Group Layers). Now add adjustment layer "Selective Color".


Now add adjustment layer "Selective Color". For Red colors set: Cyan: -91, Magenta: -87; for Cyan colors: Black: -100; for Blue colors: Black: -100; for Neutrals colors: Cyan: +5, Magenta: +1, Yellow: +13, Black: -32. This correction make village on normal colors without blue tint. Clip this layer (Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + G) to group and move on.


Step 7

Once we have dealt with the landscape and the village, you can proceed to the vegetation. Place image "Forest landscape" in working document (File > Place (Place Embedded)). Flip Horizontal image (right click on Transform mode > Flip Horizontal) and resize it with Transform Tool (Ctrl/Cmd+T or Edit > Free Transform).


Use Quick Selection Tool (W) to select the left fragment of forests and remove everything else by adding a layer mask. Go to mask settings (double click on mask and you go to Properties tab) and click on "Mask Edge" button. In "Refine Mask" set check-box on "Smart Radius" and make Radius: 3.0px. Then set Shift Edge: -20%. Use brush in this window to remove the excess from the edges of the forest and click OK.


Group all forest layers and use Quick Selection Tool (W) to select foreground rocks, inverse selection (Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + I) and add a layer mask to forest group. That remove unnecessary details and and return to realism. You may notice that I have left place unfilled a forest. This is for polar bears. They will close all the background and use the forest there does not make sense.


Similarly to the villages steps, continue to cover the empty space by using forest image. Use a layer mask to hide unnecessary and leave the good parts. For each piece of the forest I used duplicate (Cmd/Ctrl + J or Layer > Duplicate layer) original forest layer and chose interesting pieces and operated by the above mentioned scheme. Resize and rotate pieces of forest so it did not look monotonous.


Step 8

Now that you've finished with the forest, you can add the bears in this work. To forest we go back a little after. First, large bears. Place image "Polar bears", Resize it as you want (Cmd/Ctrl + T), Flip Horizontal and use Pen Tool (P) to create path and then selection. Create contour is not on the edge, and on the bears to hair be a little beyond of the outlines. Be sure to select all paths by using Path Selection Tool (A).


Add a layer mask to this layer. Take a Brush Tool (B) chose brush form "Dune Grass" from Photoshop brushes, Size: 30px, Opacity: 100% and go to brush settings (F5). Remove the checkboxes from "Color Dynamics" and "Transfer". Set default Foreground and Background colors (D) and draw on layer mask a brush, in the direction of wool. It's a bit tedious procedure, but as a result you will get the perfect wool on a bears.


Step 9

Place image with baby bears and position them as shown in image below. Place the bears so that they cover the big bears paws. It is important to observe the proportion that the picture was harmonious. I will integrate layers with bears in the one group "Bears". Then, too, the whole landscape will integrate into group "Landscape".


Step 10

Now let's create color effects. I planned that my picture will happen at night. Let's start with the adjustment layer "Color Lookup". Set checkbox on "3DLUT file" and in list, select "NightFromDay.CUBE". On "Color Lookup" layer mask with soft round brush (Opacity: 5%) remove effect on mountains and bears, as shown in image below. This layer must be over the group "Landscape".


Add more contrast to image to make colors more vivid and deeper shade. Running a little ahead, I will add a full moon, and as you know it gives hard shadows. Add adjustment layer "Brightness/Contrast" with Brightness: +77, Contrast: 12. Layer Opacity some around 81%.


Step 11

Now lighting. Hold Opt/Alt and click on "New layer" icon to open setting a new layer/ Set Blending Mode "Soft Light" and Opacity around 15% and click OK. Take a Gradient Tool (G), go to Gradient Editor and make gradient under the scheme: #859aae > #395987 > #153365 > #00082e > #000000. Form of gradient - Radial. Draw it, start from dark mountains (on horizon) and end in foreground rocks.


Step 12

With basic toning images, we figured out and now will correct colors. Add adjustment layer "Selective Color". Make settings as shown in image. Add last adjustment layer "Photo Filter" with settings - Filter: Warming Filter (LBA), Density: 27%, Preserve Luminosity checkbox. Set layer Opacity around 75%.


Step 13

Now back to the forest. You have two options to choose from. You can leave them in the same form as they are now, or change them on the snow-covered. For this I used two adjustment layers. The first is "Hue/Saturation" to desaturate forest. Set Saturation: -100 and clip this layer to forest group. The second layer is "Selective Color" to create snow on the trees. Go to Neutral colors and set all values to -100. Clip this layer (Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + G) and here's your snow-covered forest.


Step 14

So, now to add some detail to the picture. We begin with the light from windows. On a new layer (Cmd/Ctrl +Shift + N. This layer is highest in the group "Landscape") I used soft round brush with color # f5e855, Size: 35px, Opacity: 100% and point arranged the lights in the brightest windows. Layer Blending Mode "Soft Light". Duplicate this layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J) and set Blending Mode "Lighter Color", Opacity: 50%.


Now I added a bit of fog to create the effect of height and hide the landscape below. If you have a brush in the form of clouds, use it. If the brush you do not, then is fine "Per Stroke Brightness Variance" brush from the standard set in Photoshop. Use color #d1d1d1 and do not forget to create a new layer every several strokes. So you can control the transparency of each layer and area. When you finish, Merge all clouds layers into one (Cmd/Ctrl + E or right click on selected layers > Merge layers).


I did not like the location of the paws of a little bear and I closed it by using Clone Stamp Tool (S). Create a new layer, set for Clone Stamp Tool (S) following settings - Size: 300px, Opacity: 100%, Semple: All Layers, checkbox on "Aligned". Hide group "Bears" (click on the eye icon next to the layer) and find interesting piece of stone, suitable for the terrain and draw it to a place where to be paw. Use Eraser Tool (E) make invisible transition of texture (using Opacity values 30-60%) and of course the return bears back. That's it! At this stage, everything is done and we can move on.


Step 15

Before start creating a starry sky, I make non - destructive layer to create light and shadows. Hold Opt/Alt and click on "New layer" icon, set checkbox on "Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray)" and Blending Mode "Overlay". This layer can be above all others layers and groups. You will not see the changes, because Blending Mode is "Overlay", but in fact this layer fill of gray color. Now, use Dodge Tool (O) (creates light) and hold Opt/Alt to switch to Burn Tool (O) (creates shadows) with the settings for both tools - Range: Midtones, Exposure: 10 - 20%. Create a shadow of the bear and put the light on them, taking into account that the light source is located at the top right. Also check out the image below to see the lighting.


Step 16

And now we begin to create a starry sky. Place "Star sky" texture into working document (File > Place (Place Embedded))) and move it slightly upwards. Set Blending Mode to "Screen". Use Quick Selection Tool (W) to select everything except the sky and add a layer mask to remove the star from landscape.


Add image of full moon. Resize, rotate and move it (Cmd/Ctrl + T) as shown in image below. Set for this layer Blending Mode "Screen". With soft round brush (Size: 600px, Opacity: 50%, Color: #e8e8e8) on a new layer (under moon layer), draw a spot to create a shine from the moon. Layer Opacity around 68%.


Step 17

So, let's go back to the Adjustment layers over the group "Landscape". This step is similar to Step 12. Create a new layer (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + N) above gradient layer with Blending Mode "Soft Light" and Opacity: 53%. Take a Gradient Tool (G), make gradient on this scheme: #ffffff > #647c8b > #42506d > # 333a57 > #1a1824. Form of gradient - Radial. Draw a gradient beginning from the moon and ending around outside borders of the document. This layer I created the lighting from the light source and force night colors.


Step 18

Let's go back to the star group. I did not mean you to move from one place to another :). So you will see the meaning of each layer and its effects. Now we will create a star map in the sky. Add the working document texture star atlas and resize it as it covered the whole sky and flip vertical.


Add a filter "Spherize" (Filter > Distort > Spherize...) with the settings - Amount: -70%, mode: Normal and click OK. It is necessary to create the effect of the dome. After all, the sky is not flat but spherical. Move the texture halfway up to the moon was in bowl of Libra. Remove some of the star map that covers the mountains, using the method from Step 7.


Step 19

Convert this layer for Smart Object (right click on layer > Convert to Smart Object) and rasterize it (right click on layer > Rasterize Layer). Load constellation brushes in Photoshop and draw Ursa Major (Size: 500px, Angle: -41 degrees, Color: Black) and Ursa Minor (Size: 250px, Angle: 100 degrees, Color: Black), as they are depicted in the map of the sky.


Add an adjustment layer "Black & White" and clip it to star map texture. Set Preset "High Contrast Blue Filter". Change the Blending Mode to "Divide" for star map texture and enjoy the results! Use Eraser Tool (E) to remove part of the Libra from the moon.


Step 20

It seemed to me that the picture is not enough contrast, So I add an adjustment layer "Curves" (Layer > New Adjustment layer > Curves...) to increased the light and dark tones on the RGB channel. Add first point with coordinates - Input: 135, Output: 120 and second point - Input: 210, Output: 217.


Group all layers and groups into one "Manipulation" group (Cmd/Ctrl +G or Layer > Group layers), duplicate it (Cmd/Ctrl + J or Layer > Duplicate layer) and merge only duplicated group (Cmd/Ctrl+ E or Layer > Merge Group). Go to Filter > Other > Hight Pass and set Radius: 2.0px. Set Blending Mode of this layer to "Overlay". This layer will increase the clarity of all details.


Final Results

That's all! The picture is ready. I hope you had a good time and learned a lot of interesting things. Take a look at the final image.


Download the PSD

Tutorial by Maria Semelevich

Thank you very much for taking the time to study this tutorial! I hope you benefited it! I wish you good luck in your future achievements! I thank for all authors of resources for their excellent work and good quality! Thank you very much! If you have questions or need help, please contact me. I look forward to your feedback and creative works! You can contact me by e-mail - [email protected] or Facebook Deviantart Behance. I am open to suggestions and cooperation! With best wishes!

- Maria Semelevich

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