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Members Area Tutorial: Photo Manipulate the Surreal Composition ‘Daydream’

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a surreal and conceptual photo manipulation called “Daydream”. We’ll learn how to combine many stocks together seamlessly, practice different retouching techniques, do coloring and blending, work with groups, use your imagination… and more.

Final Image

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Create a new document and fill it with white ( remember to make the width larger than the height). I use the settings of 1200×1000 px.

Open sky stock ( you can use your own). Make a selection for a part of sky ( I choose a part with a good contrast) as shown below:

Use Move Tool ( press V key to active it) and drag it into our document and use transform tool ( Cmd/Ctrl+T) to resize it to be smaller and fit with background:

Call this layer as “sky”.

To brighten sky I use a Levels layer with Clipping Mask for it. On sky layer, go to Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Levels:

Step 2

I want to brighten a part on sky part so make a new layer ( Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N) and take soft brush with color #dbe2e5 ( that is picked from bright part of sky). Paint on this part as shown below:

Change the mode to Soft Light 100%:

Step 3

Open ground stock ( I use a pavement photo ) . Copy the part of the middle section and place it at the picture bottom, transform it to get the look like below:

Add layer mask and use soft black brush to erase the hard edges of this ground and blend them with sky:

Duplicate this ground layer then go to Filter-Blur-Gassian Blur and set radius as 2 px:

On layer mask of ground copy use soft black brush with big size ( 350-400 px) to clear blurred effect of the ground middle:

This step is to add some depth for the picture.

Step 4

To edit ground layers ( ground and ground copy) together I make group for them. Make these layers selected then press Cmd/Ctrl+G and we have a group. Click on small triangle beside this group to reveal all layers inside. Change the mode of this group from Pass Through (default mode group) to Normal 100%:

Now I use some adjustment layers to make ground brighter and reduce saturation. On ground copy layer, go to Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Levels:

Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Hue/Saturation:

Because the mode of this group changed to Normal 100% so these adjustment layers only affect the layers inside this group ( ground ones):

Step 5

In this step we’ll make a hole for the ground. I position it at the right edge of this picture. Make a new layer above ground copy ( under adjustment layers) and use Polygonal Lass Tool to make a selection as shown below:

Go to Edit-Fill and fill it with black:

Now make a new layer above “black fill” one. Go to ground layer and make selection for the brick nearest the right edge then press Cmd/Ctrl+C to copy this part:

Choose new layer and hit Cmd/Ctrl+V to paste copied part into this one. Transform it by using Cmd/Ctrl+T combine key. Name this layer “brick 1″. We have a side for black hole.

Add layer mask for this brick and use hard black brush ( don’t use soft black brush as it will leave soft unatural edges) to remove the part outside the black hole:

Make a new layer again and use same method to create a new side for black hole. You can see how I position it in the screenshot below:

Call this layer as “brick 2″.

Step 6

Because these bricks ( hole sides) are underground so they should be darker than the rest. To fix it, let’s make some adjustment layers with Clipping Mask for them ( you can use the kind of adjustment layers you want). About my part, I use Hue/Saturation for brick 1 and Curves for brick 2:

Step 7

Make a new layer on the top. I want to brighten more the sky part ( in step 2) as it will be our main light source. Take soft brush with color #c8cfd4 and paint on this part. Set the mode as Soft Light 100%:

Now I use soft brush with color #b7b0ac to brighten the ground part which catches light from sky. Create a new layer ( Soft Light mode 100%) and paint with this brush:

Step 8

Open window stock. As it has transparent background so you just use Move Tool to drag it into our document. Resize it and place it at the left edge of our picture:

Make a new layer under window one. I use soft black brush with very small size ( 6-7 px) to paint under window to create its shadow on the ground. Lower opacity to 40%:

On window layer, apply Gassian Blur with 2 px for it to fit the background ( as it’s positioned on a blurred part):

Step 9

Open pillow stock. I cut out the upper one and position it at the left side of main picture. Then I use transform tool ( Cmd/Ctrl+T) to change its direction as I think it’s a bit skew:

To make shadow for this pillow, create a new layer and place it under pillow one. As the pillow is floating and the distance from light source ( sky) to it pretty far, so the shadow should be much nearer towards the foreground. On new layer, use Elliptical Marquee Tool to create an ellipse with feather =15:

Fill this selection with black and then lower opacity to 15% ( as the sky light is soft – no sun, the distance between pillow and ground, also there is not much contrast between ground and sky):

Step 10

In this step we’ll use some layers with Clipping Mask to retouch the pillow. First, to change the light of this pillow to fit the light source, make a new layer and hit G to active Gradient Tool. Choose Linear Gradient with black and white ( default colors):

Change the mode to Soft Light 100%, also add layer mask and soft brush with opacity about 50% to reduce dark contrast on the front of the pillow:

You can see that the bottom of this pillow and two edges look a bit flat. To fix it, make a new layer, set the mode to Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray:

Now take the Burn Tool with Shadow Range and Exposure 100% to paint on the pillow bottom to darken, use Dodge Tool with Midtones Range and Exposure about 70% for brightening the edges. You can see how I applied these tools with Normal mode:

Overlay mode:

To darken more the bottom, I use a new layer and brush with color #d8d1c6. Paint on this part and I change the mode to Multipy 100%:

Step 11

To reduce saturation and brighten more the pillow, I use some adjustment layers with Clipping Mask.

Hue/Saturation:

Curves:

Step 12

Open girl stock. Extract her from background and place onto the pillow:

There are some missing parts on her arms (hidden in original photo) so we need to fix it. On girl layer, make selection for one of these parts then go to Edit-Fill and choose Content-Aware ( this feature is only available from CS5 so if you’re using older versions you can copy parts on her arm and paste them into needed ones):

We have result:

Repeat several times with the rest ( don’t choose a big selection and you can have more accurate and natural result) and here are mine:

Step 13

As the girl arms are pressing into the pillow so I add layer mask for girl one and use small black brush with hardness about 20% to paint under these arms ( do it carefully as the pillow surface is harder and more solid than the sheet in original photo so the force created more gentle).

Create a new layer under the girl one. I use soft black brush with opacity and flow about 50% to paint on the front part of model (on pillow) to make her shadow :

Call it “girl shadow “.

Now make a new layer with Clipping Mask for girl one. I continue using black brush with lowered opacity ( 40-50%) to darken the bottom of girl arm to get rid of flat effect, also to be suitable with light and shadow of picture.

Step 14

I use some adjustment layers ( Clipping Mask) for model as she looks too saturated against the background.

Hue/Saturation:

Curves:

Color Balance:

Step 15

I use two layers ( Clipping Mask) and use soft brush with color #b9b299 to darken and brighten some parts on model. To reduce brightness on model arms and hair, I set one layer to Multipy mode 40%.

I set another with Soft Light mode 100% to remove a small dark part on the right arm ( from the viewers) :

Step 16

Open balloon 1 stock (you can easily find another balloon stock on internet). Extract it, resize and place it in the middle of sky:

Apply Gassian Blur with 1,5 px for this balloon ( it depends on the sharpness of your balloon stock):

I use a Hue/Saturation layer ( Clipping Mask) for balloon 1 to change its color:

Do the same with balloon 2: place it at the top left of picture, apply Gassian Blur and change its color with Hue/Saturation layer:

Step 17

Cut out the light bulb and situate it at the top right of picture:

Apply Gassian blur with 2 px for the bulb:

To create the glowing light from the bulb, make a new layer above this one. Use soft white brush with size about 160 px to spot over the bulb. Lower opacity to 70%:

Step 18

Open cat stock. I use channels to extract him from background:

Place him on the ground, under the pillow:

I use a layer with Overlay mode and fill with 50% gray ( Clipping Mask) and take the Burn Tool with Midtones Range and Exposure about 50%-60% to darken some parts of the cat. Here is Normal mode:

Result with Overlay mode:

Step 19

Make a new layer under the cat one. Use soft black brush ( opacity 60-70%) with very small size to paint under him to make cat shadow. Name it as “cat shadow 1″:

New layer again and hold Cmd/Ctrl key while clicking on cat thumbnail to load its selection:

Fill this selection with black. After deselecting ( Cmd/Ctrl+D), go to Edit-Transform-Flip Vertical. Move this under the cat and transform it then apply Gassian Blur with 3 px as the image below shows:

Lower opacity to 25% and use layer mask to blur this shadow top ( with black brush and lowered opacity):

Call it “cat shadow 2″.

Make a new layer and I use soft black brush with opacity and flow about 30% to paint missing shadow:

Step 20

Open branch stock. I only take this part and place it on the black hole. Name it “branch”:

On branch layer, copy the green part on the left and place it on the top of branch (make selection then right click branch layer, choose Layer via Copy)

Call it “branch top”.

Make shadow for the branch as we did with the cat shadow 2:

Step 21

Make group for all branch layers ( branch, branch top, branch shadow) as done in step 4 ( remember to change mode to Normal 100%).

Create a new layer within this group. Use soft white brush to paint on the left side of the branch including the top as they catch the light from sky. Put the mode as Soft Light 100%:

Add some adjustment layers to change colors and brightness of the branch:

Color Balance:

Curves:

Step 22

Open ladder stock. Extract it and position it to connect the pillow and the ground ( a connection between dream and reality):

Create a new layer under ladder one. Use soft black brush with very small size to paint under ladder feet to create cast shadow. Call it “ladder shadow 1″:

Make a new layer and continue with soft black brush to paint under the part where the top of ladder meets the pillow . Lower opacity to 30%:

Call it “ladder shadow 2″.

Step 23

I use a Hue/Saturation layer ( Clipping Mask) to reduce saturation of the ladder :

Make a new layer ( Clipping Mask) and use soft brush with color #b1a895 to paint on some parts of the ladder to brighten them. Change the mode to Soft Light 100%:

Step 24

Open fishes stock. First I use Magic Wand Tool to isolate the fishes from background. Then I choose two fishes with different movements and place them above the branch. For the one at the lower position I apply Flip Horizontal ( Edit-Transform-Flip Horizontal):

Make group for the fishes. Then I use some adjustment layers to change color of these fishes and make them brighter.

Hue/Saturation:

Curves:

I use soft white brush on a new layer and paint on some parts of the fishes which catch light from background ( so they must be a bit brighter). I put the mode as Soft Light 100%:

Step 25

Open butterfly stock pack. I choose this one which I think fit with the pose of fishes. Copy only the wing on the left side:

Transform and place it on the left side of the fish at the higher position:

Use layer mask to remove a small part on the fish as shown below:

Duplicate this wing and move to the right, apply Flip Horizontal:

Name these layers as “wings 1 part 1″, “wings 1 part 2″.

Come back to butterfly stock. Copy two wings and place it onto another fish ( at the lower position), make it much smaller:

Use layer mask to remove the small part in the middle of these wings. Call this layer “wings 2″.

Step 26

Make group for the wings. Then I add some adjustment layers to change colors of the wings to be fit the fishes.

Curves:

Hue/Saturation:

We use same method done with the fishes to brighten more the wings : make a new layer, soft white brush and change the mode to Soft Light 100%:

Step 27

We finished adding all elements. Now it’s time for blending. Create two Gradient Map layers on the top. Go to Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Gradient Map:

Gradient Map 1:

Change the mode of this gradient map layer to Difference mode 25%.

Gradient Map 2:

Set the mode of this gradient map layer to Soft Light 100%. This adjustment layer is to increase contrast of the picture.

Step 28

Create a Color Fill layer and two Photo Filter layers.

Go to Layer-New Fill Layer-Solid Color:

Set the mode of this color fill layer to Exclusion 50%.

Photo Filter 1:

Photo Filter 2:

Step 29

Create some another adjustment layers on the top.

Curves:

Color Balance:

Selective Color:

Hue/Saturation:

Levels:

Step 30

To change the light focus of picture, I use Gradient tool with Radiant option and default colors ( black and white) on a new layer ( on the top):

Change the mode to Soft Light 50% and use layer mask to remove brightness on the jeans:

Make a new layer above all anothers. Use soft brush with color #918074 painting on the two edges of picture to darken them, also make more depth for it. Put the mode as Multipy 70%:

And We’re Done!

You can view the final outcome below. I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and would love to hear your feedback on the techniques and outcome.

Member File Download

Download the original .psd file for this tutorial here:

DOWNLOAD .PSD FILE

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