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.

Step 10

Use the Free Transform tool (Ctrl/Cmd+T or Edit > Free Transform) to scale the image like shown in the image below.

Position the layer to the bottom of your document.

Step 11

Now we’re going to create a selection of the sky. Select the Magic Wand tool (W) then set the tolerance to 50%. Click on the sky then press Delete on your keyboard to delete the selected area.

Step 12

Now we’re going to dodge/burn the sky using a nondestructive editing technique. Create a new layer (Ctrl+Shift+N or Layer > New > Layer) and position it as the top layer. Set the foreground color to #808080 (This is 50% gray). Fill the layer with this gray. Change the blending mode of this layer to Overlay then right-click on the layer and choose “Create Clipping Mask”.

Step 13

Select the Burn tool and make sure that the range is set to Midtones and exposure to 100%. Paint over the mountain to darken it like shown in the image below.

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

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

  2. 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

    1. @ 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

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