How to Create a Fantasy Winter Scene in Photoshop

How to Create a Fantasy Winter Scene in Photoshop
In this tutorial we will make a winter fantasy scene. Our aim is a dreamy, soft atmosphere and a balanced composition. I will be sharing with you some advanced channel masking techniques, selection tips and a quick peek into advanced blending. I hope you will enjoy this tutorial as much as I enjoyed making it.

Preview of Final Results

Surreal Arctic Scene Photoshop Tutorial


Step 1

Open the image "Sunset in Finland" and resize it to: 2000 X 1333 pixels. This step is optional but for the needs of illustrating a tutorial this size will be sufficient.

Step 2

We will remove the sky by using a channel mask. Go to channels palette and make a copy of the red channel. You can do that by right clicking and selecting "Duplicate channel". With only the red channel copy selected go to Image > Apply Image. Use "vivid light" blending mode at 100% opacity.

Step 3

Select the lower part of the red channel copy like shown in the image below. Press D to set default background and foreground colors then press ctrl+Backspace to fill the selection with black.

Step 4

Select the upper part of the red channel copy and press alt+Backspace to fill the selection with white.

Step 5

Press ctr+D to deselect. Choose a round brush with the following setting :
  • Size: 200 px
  • Hardness: 0%
Change the brush mode to overlay by pressing alt+Shift+O and be sure you have selected white as foreground color. Brush a couple of times gently to remove the grays and try to keep the black of the trees intact.

Step 6

Press ctrl+I to revert the channel. Your red channel copy should look like the image below. This will be our selection mask. In a selection mask white reveals and black conceals.

Step 7

Ctrl + click red channel copy to load channel as a selection, pres ctrl+2 to select the RGB composite image. Now press ctrl+J to make a new layer from the selection. Voila, you made a tricky selection using channel masks. Now you can turn off visibility of the background layer. Name the new layer foreground.

Step 8

Make a new fill layer by going to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color. Use this color to fill the layer: #434952. Right click the fill layer and choose "Create clipping mask". Change the layer mode to color. This will remove the orange color cast from our image.

Step 9

Now we will add some cold color to our foreground. Add a photo filter adjustment layer by going to Layer > New adjustment layer > Photo Filter. See that this adjustment layer it's clipping our foreground layer and it sits above our previous adjustment layer. Use following settings:
  • Color: #bfd500
  • Density: 93%
  • Preserve Luminosity: checked
Change the blending mode to "Color dodge" and lower the fill to 40%.

Step 10

Press D to choose default colors then press G to choose the gradient tool. Be sure that in the gradient option bar it's selected "Foreground to Background". Holding the Shift key drag the gradient like shown in the image below.

Step 11

Add another clipped Photo Filter adjustment layer above our previous adjustment layer and use the following settings:
  • Color: #08eefc
  • Density: 93%
  • Preserve Luminosity: checked
Change the blending mode to "Overlay" and lower the opacity to 20%. Hold the alt key then drag and drop the layer mask from "Photo Filter 1" to layer mask from "Photo Filter 2". You will be prompted " Replace Layer Mask ?". Choose yes then press Ctrl +I to invert our layer mask.

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