In this tutorial we will create an eerie floating island photo manipulation by using your vast imagination and the mighty power of Photoshop. I will introduce you to some simple editing techniques, Smart Objects and adjustment layers. Let’s begin!
What you’ll be creating
This is a classic floating island scene with a touch of funny elements added to it. Multiple elements will merge together to create a believable scene. You will need Photoshop CS3 or later to follow this tutorial.
- Stars – fantmayo
- Grass – leeorr-stock
- Dirt – StockStop-Mike
- Island – mindsqueeze
- Meerkat – malenni stock
- Stairs – freeimages.com
- Tree – gd08
- Deer – lg-design
- Crow – frankandcarystock
- Farmer – freeimages.com
- Baby – o0otamarastocko0o
- Baby Carriage – doloresminette
- Cow – freeimages.com
- Butterfly – jjd
- Snake – wolverine041269
Create a new document 2400×3097 (Ctrl + N). Choose the Gradient Tool and create a gradient like shown below (set the foreground color to blue – #0068ae, foreground color to black and hold shift while dragging the gradient tool vertically).
Open the file “Stars”. Select all (Ctrl + A) and copy (Ctrl + C). Go back to our document and paste (Ctrl +V). Convert the pasted layer into a smart object (right –click the layer in the layer palette and from the drop down menu choose “Convert To Smart Object”) and place the stars as shown below (use the Free Transform Tool – T).
From now on convert all imported layers to smart objects. By doing this we will have an non-destructive workflow and we will be able to resize and apply various effects to the layer without permanently loosing pixel information.
Add a layer mask to the stars layer (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All). Click on the layer mask to make it active and with the gradient tool drag from top to bottom (or inverse) to fill the lower part of the layer mask with black. This will blend seamlessly our stars layer with the blue background.
Change the blending mode of the stars layer to Color Dodge in order to achieve the effect shown below.
Create a Curves Adjustment Layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves). Use the settings shown below to increase the lightness of the background.
Open the file “Grass”. Select all and copy/paste in our document. Use the Free Transform Tool (T) to position the grass layer as shown below.
Add a layer mask to the grass layer. Select the gradient tool and fill seamlessly the upper part of the layer mask with black (just like we did on step 3) in order to blend the grass layer seamlessly with our scene.
Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and change the Hue to +33. Clip this layer to the grass layer (Alt-click between the two layers in the layer palette). By doing this we will restrict the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer effect to the grass layer only.
Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + Alt +N) and use the standard chalk brush to paint an ellipse as shown below (use any color you like). This will be the base of our hole in the ground.
Double click the layer you painted in the step above and add an inner shadow and a color overlay effect.
Create a new layer and choose the standard round soft brush. With the brush tool (B) paint some black shadows as shown below (set the brush to 30% Opacity).
Create a new layer and select the standard chalk brush. Increase the opacity to 80% and paint a thin line where the wall of the hole should meet the ground.
Create another new layer and with the same chalk brush paint a thin white line on the upper margins of the hole (the specular highlights).
Lower the opacity of the chalk brush to 40% and paint with white in the area indicated below to give our hole a basic shading.
Open the “Dirt” texture, select all and copy/paste in our scene (and don’t forget to convert it to a smart object). Use the Free Transform Tool (T) to place the dirt as shown below.
Add a layer mask to the texture layer (Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All) and use a white chalk brush to paint over the whole in the layer mask to reveal the texture .
Change the blending mode of the dirt texture to Multiply to add some texture and realism to our hole in the ground.
Open the file “Island”, select all and copy/paste in our scene. Add a layer mask to the island and paint with black in the layer mask to hide the lower part as shown below. Use the Free Transform Tool to make the island seem like it’s coming from the hole.
Create a new layer and clip it to the island layer. Change the blending mode to Luminosity and paint with a black brush at 40% opacity over the area shown below.
Create another layer and also clip it to the island layer. Change the blending mode to Overlay. Let’s paint some basic shading on the rim of the island. Paint with white on the left side and black and the right side with a brush at 20% Opacity.
Open the “Grass” file again and copy paste in our document. Position this layer so that the grass will be positioned on the surface of the island. Add a layer mask and use black to hide everything except the grass that will cover the island.
Create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and use the settings shown below to increase the green hue. Clip this layer to the grass layer that is covering the island surface.
Create a new layer and use the chalk brush to paint some hard shadows just beneath the grass as shown below.
Let’s make a hole in our floating island. Create a new layer and paint a black semicircle as shown below.
On a new layer paint some thin white lines on the hole margins. Group the two layers (shift-click on both and click Ctrl +G) and name the layer “Hole”.
Duplicate the hole group (Ctrl +J) and move the new hole on the ground.
Open the file “Meerkat” and use the Pen Tool to make a path around the meerkat. Press Ctrl + Enter to transform the path into a selection. Copy and paste the meerkat in our scene and place him as shown below.
Add a layer mask to the meerkat layer and hide most of his body (by painting with black in the layer mask over the areas you want hidden) as shown below to give the illusion that he is inside the hole.
Make a new layer and paint some subtle shadow (with the round soft brush tool) on the grass where the meerkat is.
Open the file “Stairs”. Make a selection of the stairs with the Pen Tool and copy/paste the stairs in our scene. Place the stair as shown below.
Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + Alt +N) and with the round soft brush paint some shadow below the stairs.
Open the file “Tree”. Copy/paste the tree in our scene and place it on the island. On a new layer below the tree layer paint some shadow.
Open the file “Deer”. Use the Pen Tool to make selection and copy/paste the deer in our scene. Place him near the tree on the island as shown below and on a new layer paint some shadow below the deer.
Open the file “Crow”. Copy/paste the crow in our scene and place it in the air near the floating island.
Let’s create some debris on the bottom of the hole and falling from the island. Create a new layer and with a color sampled from the bottom of the hole (#b7391e) and the standard chalk brush make some small debris like shown below.
Double click this layer to open the Blending Options window and add a Drop Shadow effect.
Duplicate the Debris layer (Ctrl + J) and move it up until it is just below the island.
Open the file “Farmer”. Use the Pen Tool to make a selection of the farmer and place him near the hole. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer with the settings shown below and clip it to the farmer to make him a bit darker and fit in our scene.
Create a new layer and paint some shadow below the farmer on the grass. Use the round soft brush tool at 20% Opacity.
Open the file “Baby”. Use the Pen Tool to make a selection of the baby and copy/paste him in our scene near the hole as shown below. Create a clipped (alt-click between the two layers) Curves Adjustment Layer and use the settings shown below to color correct the baby layer.
Create another clipped Curves Adjustment Layer and drag the curve down to darken. Clip this layer to the baby layer as shown below.
Create a new layer and place below the baby layer in the layer palette. Use the round soft brush tool at 30% Opacity to paint some shadow near the baby.
Open the file “Baby Carriage”. Use the Pen Tool to make a selection of the carriage and copy/paste it into our scene near the baby – it will help us sell to the viewer the idea how the baby got there in the first place. Paint some shadow on a new layer below the carriage in the layer palete.
The background looks a little empty. Let’s add some farm elements. Open the file “Cow” and copy/paste the cow in our scene. Place the cow in the background as shown below and paint some subtle shadow on a new layer.
Let’s add some butterflies in our scene to make it look more idyllic. Open the file “Butterfly” and copy/paste it in our scene. Duplicate the butterfly a couple of times and resize the copies to make it look like there are more butterflies.
Shift click on each of the butterflies and press Ctrl + G to put them in a group. Lower the opacity of the group to 55% to blend the butterflies with the environment and make their wings look translucent.
Open the file “Snake” and copy/paste in our scene. Place the snake near the stairs as shown below.
The snake has different colors than our scene. Let’s correct that by adding a clipped Curves Adjustment Layer and using the settings shown below.
Create a new layer and change the blending mode to Overlay. Clip this layer to the snake layer (alt-click between the two layers) and with a round soft brush at 10% paint some basic shading on the snake (highlights on the top of the snake and shadows on the sides).
Create a new layer below the snake and paint some shadow.
Now let’s add some overall lighting to our scene. Create a new layer and change the blending mode to Overlay. With the round soft brush at 10% opacity paint with white and black in the areas indicated below.
Create another new layer and change the blending mode to Overlay. Paint with white on the areas indicated below to add some specular highlights to our characters.
It’s time for the final effects. Create a new layer from all the visible layers (Ctrl + Shift + Alt +E) and convert it into a smart object. Add an Unsharp mask effect (Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask) to the smart object with the settings shown below to sharpen our scene.
Add another Unsharp mask effect (Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask ) with the settings shown below not to sharpen the image but to increase the contrast.
Finally add a Gaussian Blur effect to the smart object (Filter > Blur >Gaussian Blur) and change the blending mode of this filter to blending mode (click on the little arrows sign indicated below to open the blending options).