In this detailed and lengthy Photoshop tutorial, you will learn how to combine photos and add special effects to turn a normal photograph into a stunning artwork. You will also learn several tricks to reduce your Photoshop document file size and number of layers and layer styles.
Preview of Final Results
Here are the stock photos used for this website. You can purchase the images through Dreamstime by clicking on the image below. We used the highest resolution (unscaled) images available to write this tutorial. If you would like to follow this tutorial using the same settings we used, download the highest resolution (unscaled) images available.
Step 1 – Open the image of the dancer
Load the image of the dancer into Photoshop.
Step 2 – Place the image of the clouds
Choose File > Place, browse for the image of the clouds, then click OK. The image of the clouds will appear in your document window with the transform tool activated. Resize and position the clouds where you like it to appear then press enter on your keyboard to apply the changes. The reason why we use the place command rather than other methods is because the place command will place the image as a Smart Object (if you are using Photoshop CS2 or newer) to help keep the file size small if you save the document without the maximize compatibility option.
Step 3 – Blend the clouds
Now we’ll make the sky transparent so that only the clouds are visible. Instead of using a mask, we’ll use the blending options. This will help keep the file size small and reduce the number of layers in your document. Right click on the layer of the clouds then choose Blending Options.
In the blending options, move the black input slider towards the right until the sky disappears.
Hold the alt key on your keyboard and drag the black input slider all the way towards the right. The hard edges of the clouds should disappear and the clouds should have some transparency. Don’t click OK yet.
In the same layer style window, click on the Color Overlay option. Choose white as the color then set the blend mode to color. This is a simple non-destructive trick to desaturate a layer using layer styles. Click OK to apply the changes.
Here’s what the image looks like right now. You have just blended the cloud into the background without using any layer masks. We’re not 100% complete with blending the clouds in but we’re going to pause here and continue after we create a mask of the model.
Step 4 – Create an inverse selection of the model
Hide the layer with the clouds then select the background layer.
Select the magic wand tool then set the tolerance to 0 so that the black sweater won’t be included in the selection.
Click on the black area to create a selection of the background. You’ll get most of the background selected.
You can continue to add to the selection using the lasso tool. Or, if you’re using Photoshop CS3 or newer, switch to the quick selection tool, to easily add the bottom of the background into the selection.
If you’re using Photoshop CS3 or newer, you can use the refine edge tool to enhance the selection. Simply select any one of the selection tools then click on the “Refine Edge” button on the option bar.
Step 5 – Create a layer mask of the selection on a group
By applying the mask in a group instead of a layer, we can simply place any layer we want in this group and it will only be visible behind the model. This saves us from having unnecessary layer masks.