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Members Area Tutorial: Create a Fantasy Halloween Witch Cat Photo Manipulation

With Halloween fast approaching it’s time to get spooky!

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a fantasy lake night scene with a little witch cat. This tutorial is extra long and advanced (over 60 steps). However, I’ll break everything down for you in plenty of detail so that you can follow along.

You’ll learn a range of techniques including:

  • Digital painting techniques
  • Professional blending techniques
  • Matte painting lessons
  • Creating realistic, complex lighting scenes

Final Image

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

Step 1

Create a new document and fill it with any colors you like. I choose a white brush and file size is 1000×1000 px . Now open grass stock. You can use your own image if you can’t take it from Photoxpress. I extract it from background and move it (use V key) into our white canvas. I resize it to 60% (use Cmd/Ctr+T combine key) and place it at foreground:

Now click the second button at the bottom of Layer Pallete to add layer mask for this layer. Use soft black brush to remove the tree and rough edge of grass:

Step 2

I find the grass a bit blur so to fix it, on grass layer, go to Filter-Sharpen-Unsharp Mask:

Step 3

In order to create a night scene, I want to darken the grass. On grass layer, go to New Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Curves and choose Clipping Mask options:

Step 4

Open lake stock. Cut the lake part and position it above grass, and remember to set this layer under grass one:

Name this layer as “lakeside”.

I add a Curves layer with Clipping Mask to make color and brightness of lake part fit the grass:

Step 5

Isolate the bushes and a lake part and move it onto the lake in previous step, remember to scale it down it to get a suitable size:

Use layer mask and soft black brush to remove hard edge of the lake part and some areas on the top of the bushes:

Place this layer above grass one.

Step 6

I use a Curves layer (Clipping Mask) to darken and add more green to the bushes:

Step 7

Open sky stock. Just use Move Tool to drag it into our main document, place it at the top and resize it. Situate this layer above the background and under lakeside one. You can see I set the brightest part of sky near the middle section where moon will be located (main light source of background):

I use a Hue/Saturation layer to change color of sky. Go to New Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Hue/Saturation:

Step 8

To increase the contrast of sky I use a new layer and take soft black brush to paint on bright parts of it avoiding the middle. Change the mode of this layer to Soft Light 100%:

Step 9

Open moon stock. Copy a part with moon and paste into our sky (brightest area):

Use layer mask to remove rough edges around the moon:

Step 10

Make a new layer above the moon one. Use soft white brush to create a glowing light from the moon. Set the mode to Soft Light 100%:

Step 11

In this step we’ll make reflection of the moon on the lake. First we’ll create a ripple texture as done in my previous tutorial (look at it if you forgot how to make) and save it as a psd file. Now come back to our main project. Make a new layer on the top (above bushes one) and use Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) to make a circle as shown with feather = 5:

Fill this selection with white:

Go to Filter-Distort-Displace then browse the ripple texture saved. Click Open to apply this filter and result should look like below:

Use Cmd/Ctrl+T to transform it:

Go to Filter-Blur-Gassian Blur and set radius as 1 px:

Lower opacity to 80% and use layer mask with black brush to blur the part at lakeside ( lower brush opacity to 40-50%):

Step 12

Make a new layer and use soft white brush to paint around moon reflection (as this part gets light also). Put the mode as Soft Light 100%:

Step 13

As you may notice, grass at foreground and grass at lake side are not well blended. Also we need to remove some small white parts of bushes cutting:

First, create a new layer on the top. Hit S to active Clone Tool and change basic brush into grasses-plants one. To correct grass parts, I choose several brushes, number 503, 504, 458, 224, 360. Hold the Alt/Option key to choose the source (grass at foreground) then clone over the part at lakeside. Do it untill you feel it looks natural. Here is my result:

Make a new layer and use bush brush, number 256 to fix the top of the bushes. Vary brush size to keep more natural look:

Step 14

To create some contrast for background, I use two layers. On the first I take soft white brush and paint on grass near lakeside where moonlight illuminates:

Change the mode to Soft Light 50%:

On the second, I use soft black brush and paint on the edges of background. I lower brush opacity and flow (50-60%) as the screenshot below shows:

Set the mode as Soft Light 100%:

Step 15

I want to add some mist on background to create dark mood for this piece. So I make a new layer and press D to change foreground and background to default (black and white). Use Lasso Tool to make a selection on the top of bushes and sky and set feather =30:

Go to Filter-Render-Clouds:

Lower opacity to 50% and use layer mask with soft black brush, opacity about 40-60% to remove mist on moon and reduce mist intensity at bottom as shown below:

Duplicate this layer and move it upward, then erase most of it avoiding selected part of middle. Name this layer as “mist 1″, “mist 2″:

Step 16

Open tree stock. Choose the one on the right to extract and place it on the right edge of foreground:

Add layer mask for this tree and use random grass brushes to paint along tree foot to blend it with grass:

Step 17

I use two new layers (Clipping Mask) with default brush colors (black and white) to change light and shadow of the tree. On the first I use soft black brush to paint on bright gray part of the tree to darken it. Change the mode to Soft Light 100%:

On the second I use soft white brush to paint on the left side of the tree where light is reflected. Put the mode as Soft Light 100%:

Step 18

I use Inner Shadow effect to add some highlights on the tree contour. Double click tree layer, choose Blending Options:

Result:

Step 19

I add some adjustment layers on the top to change color of picture.

Selective Color:

Curves:

Use black brush to remove blue effect on moon and its reflection (on Curves layer mask):

Channel Mixer:

Erase effect on moon and reflection again:

Hue/Saturation:

Step 20

Make a new layer and set it under mist ones. Take soft brush with a cyan color (I choose #4eaebf) with opacity about 24% and flow about 15% to paint on middle part of grass. I aim to make moonlight effect there:

Do the same with left side of the tree (layer with Clipping Mask) but change opacity and flow to 25%:

Step 21

Open stone stock. I choose this one to extract and place it on the left of foreground after resizing it:

Add layer mask and use grass brushes to blend stone bottom:

Step 22

I want to add more “space” for this stone. On stone layer, make selection on the left as shown below:

Press Cmd/Ctrl+J to duplicate this selection. Then flip it by choosing Edit-Transform-Flip Horizontal and move it to the right:

Blend this stone part as done before (use layer mask and grass brushes):

Name these stone layers “stone part 1″, “stone part 2″.

Step 23

Make group for these stones by hitting Cmd/Ctrl+G. Then change the mode of this group from Pass Through (default mode group) to Normal 100%:

To change color and darken stone, on stone part 2 layer, go to New Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Curves:

Because the mode of this group changed to Normal 100% so this Curves layer only affects the layers inside this group (stone ones):

Step 24

The light and shadow on stone are not suitable with light from background. To fix it, I add a new layer with Clipping Mask for stone part 1, change to Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray:

Take Dodge and Burn Tool with Midtones Range and Exposure about 20-30% to change the light and shadow there. You can see how I apply this tool with Normal mode:

Overlay mode:

Do the same with stone part 2 (I darken it only):

Step 25

In this step we’ll add shadow for this stone. Make a new layer under stone ones. Hold the Cmd/Ctrl key while clicking thumbnail of stone layers to load their selection:

Fill this selection with black and then flip it vertically (Edit-Transform-Flip Vertical). Use Cmd/Ctrl+T to transform it to the left (as light from the right of stone):

Lower opacity to 30% and apply Gassian Blur with 2 px. Then use layer mask to blur the shadow top a little:

Step 26

Open owl stock. Extract him and move him above the stone:

Make shadow for owl as done in previous step but I change opacity to 50% and remove shadow covering stone bottom:

Name it “owl shadow 1″.

Make a new layer above shadow 1 (under owl one). Use soft black brush with opacity about 50% and size 6 px (depending on the size of your picture) to create shadow under owl feet. Call this layer “owl shadow 2″:

Step 27

I use two adjustment layers (Clipping Mask) to change color and brightness of the owl.

Color Balance:

Curves:

Step 28

Add light for the owl by Inner Shadow effect and I choose a light cyan:

Make a new layer (Clipping Mask) for the owl above adjustment layers. Use soft brush with color #4eaebf, opacity 25% and flow 30% to paint on the right of the owl where catches more light than the left.

Also create a layer and with same brush painting on the left of the owl. I change the mode to Multipy 100%:

Step 29

I use Dodge and Burn Tool on a new layer (with same settings in step 24) to create stronger contrast on the owl. Normal mode:

Overlay mode:

Step 30

Open cat stock. First I extract him from background and paste into a new layer.

To create natural fur for this cat, make a new layer, choose Smudge Tool and change brushes to default (choose Reset Brushes). Choose this brush with settings below:

Stretch out the fur of the cat following the position and direction of cat body.You can vary brush size for different parts of the cat. If you do it carefully you don’t need to draw the fur more. Here is my result:

Hide background and fill layer then press Cmd/Ctrl+Alt/Option+Shift+E to merge transparent layers (cat, fur).

Step 31

Move the cat after being merged into our document and place him beside the tree, resize and blend his feet with grass brushes (on layer mask):

Create a new layer under cat one. Use soft black brush with opacity and flow about 50% to make shadow of cat tail and between his feet (no need to create shadow in front of him as a big book will be placed there):

Step 32

I add a Curves layer (Clipping Mask) to reduce saturation and brightness of the cat:

Step 33

In next steps we’ll create night light effect on the cat. We’re in a blue night and this color will be absorbed on all subjects, much or little. I use a new layer (Clipping Mask) and brush with color #028ac0, opacity and flow about 25% to paint on the left of the cat (tail, body):

I use a layer again with brush and color #4eaebf , opacity 20% and flow 15% to paint on the left side of the cat and under his head:

I name these layers as “night color 1″, “night color 2″.

Step 34

Create a new layer (Clipping Mask) and use brush with same color (#4eaebf), opacity and flow 25% to paint under cat head and change the mode to Multipy 100% (I think this part should be a bit darker):

I use a layer with Dodge and Burn Tool to create more highlight on cat body where receives light from background, also increase contrast:

Step 35

Open hat stock. I take only the hat and situate it above cat head after scaling it down to get a suitable size:

I make a new layer under hat one, use soft black brush with opacity about 50% to make shadow of hat on cat head:

Step 36

Use a new layer above the hat one with Clipping Mask. Use Clone Tool (basic brush) to remove dark part on the left edge:

Step 37

I use two adjustment layers to remove red cast and add cyan/blue to the hat.

Hue/Saturation:

Color Balance:

Step 38

In order to create night color on the hat, I use some layers with soft brush. On the first, I take color #028ac0 with opacity about 75% painting gently on outer stroke of the hat:

On the second, I continue with this brush on selected part but change the mode to Soft Light 100%:

On the rest layer, I use color #4eaebf with opacity and flow about 25% painting over a larger area of the hat to create a better mixed blue-cyan effect:

I name these layers from “night color 1″ to “night color 3″:

Step 39

To make night light effect on the hat more visible, I use Inner Shadow effect:

Step 40

Extract autumn stuff from white background, transform and place it on the left of hat:

Make two shadows for this stuff as done with the owl:

Step 41

Add two adjustment layers to change color and brightness of this stuff.

Curves:

Hue/Saturation:

Step 42

Add night effect for this stuff with soft brush and color #028ac0. I use a new layer and small brush size (10-15 px), opacity and flow 20-25% painting on the left where light is casted:

Also apply Inner Shadow effect as done with previous elements:

Step 43

Cut out the big book and position it in front of the cat and use layer mask to blend it with grass:

I add shadow for the book as done with stone and I choose opacity of this layer as 40%:

Step 44

Use two adjustment layers (Clipping Mask) to make color of the book fit the rest.

Hue/Saturation:

Curves:

Step 45

I use soft brush and color #028ac0 to paint behind the book (on a new layer). Remember to paint gently (choose a large brush size, you can always erase easily later) and don’t repeat more than once on same area. I set opacity and flow about 30%:

Step 46

Extract three books on the top of book pile on the right (small book stock) and locate them between stone and cat. As always, use layer mask and grass brushes to blend their bottom:

I name it as “small books”.

Add shadow for these books:

Step 47

Change color of book pile with adjustment layers (Clipping Mask).

Hue/Saturation:

Color Balance:

Step 48

I think these books should be darker so I create a new layer and use soft black brush to paint on most of them avoiding the front where is illuminated. Put the mode of this layer to Soft Light 100%:

The left edge behind book pile should be a bit darker than the right so I paint with soft black brush again there (on a new layer) and put the mode to Soft Light 50%:

As usual, I use brush with color #028ac0, opacity and flow about 25% to make night color effect on the book, especially the part behind:

Step 49

Make highlights for these books with Inner Shadow effect:

Step 50

I choose this scroll from scroll stock and locate it above book pile after changing its direction with Cmd/Ctrl+T:

You can see that the right side of this scroll is lacked. To fix it, on scroll layer, use Polygonal Lasso Tool to make selection on the left as shown below:

Press Cmd/Ctrl+J to duplicate this selection. Move it to the right and apply Flip Horizontal. Rename these layers “scroll part 1″, “scroll part 2″:

Make two shadows for this scroll (shadow underneath and shadow on book pile):

Step 51

Make group for scroll parts as we did with stone (remember to change group mode to Normal 100%). Now create two adjustment layers within this group to make scroll look fit background.

Hue/Saturation:

Curves:

Step 52

We will use Dodge and Burn Tool to change light and shadow of scroll. Make a new layer within this group, fill with 50% gray and change the mode to Overlay 100%. You can see that overall picture, except scroll filled with gray as we’re in a group with Normal mode (no Pass Through). The solution is very simple: we just need to apply Dodge and Burn on scroll so just load selection of scroll parts (look at step 25) then click Add layer mask button to mask off everything else.

Use Dodge Tool to brighten upper part and Burn Tool to darken lower part:

Step 53

Open pumpkin stock. Extract it and place it near the tree foot after flip it horizontally, blend it:

Make shadow on the right for this pumpkin (as light from the left of it):

Step 54

I use some adjustment layers (Clipping Mask) to darken and reduce saturation of pumpkin.

Hue/Saturation:

Levels:

Use soft black brush to remove dark effect on the left side on Levels layer mask (where receives light):

Selective Color:

Color Balance:

I use soft black brush to clear effect on the left of pumpkin:

Step 55

I use a new layer and brush with color #4eaebf , opacity 25%, flow 30% painting over the pumpkin. Don’t paint too much as you can loose the details.

I use Dodge Tool to brighten more the top left and recreate some details for this pumpkin:

Step 56

Since this step we’ll create lighting effect in some different kinds, first to add to pumpkin. Make a new layer on the top and use any tools you like to make selection for three dark parts inside pumpkin:

Fill with color #825c1b and change the mode to Linear Dodge 100%:

New layer again and use brush with same color (#825c1b) painting over these light parts. Put the mode to Linear Dodge 100% to create a glowing effect:

I use a brighter brush color (#fadf9e) to paint inside these light parts. Set the mode to Overlay 100%:

Step 57

In this step we’ll add reflected light from pumpkin to the big book, cat and grass. Create a new layer and use brush with color #9f5722 to paint on the right leg of the cat, right side of book and grass near the pumpkin. I change the mode of this layer to Color Dodge 100%.

New layer with brush color changed to #fadf9e. Paint on the right side of cat leg and set the mode as Overlay 40%:

I use a soft brush with dark yellow color (#bf8e4e), reduce opacity and flow to 15-20% painting over right edge of big book to make reflected light more visible:

Step 58

Make a new layer on the top and change foreground to #2d1e05. Use arcane circles brush (choose the one you like – I choose brush with number 805) to create a symbol below:

Transform it then use Polygonal Lasso Tool to make a selection on a symbol half:

Right click this selection, choose Layer via Cut then hide lower half:

Move it onto the left page of big book, use Cmd/Ctrl+T key to transform it and then Warp Tool (Edit-Transform-Warp) to make this half fit the movement of the page:

Do the same with another half and place it at the right page:

I apply Outer Glow effect with default settings for these halfs, just increase color opacity to 100%:

Step 59

Open abstract light stock. Move it into our project, resize it to be much smaller and situate it at the center of big book:

Change the mode to Screen 100% and use layer mask to remove the part below:

Duplicate this layer to make this effect more visible:

Copy this part from this light stock and place on the right of the sphere, use Warp Tool to bend it. I aim to create 3D effect for this sphere. Change the mode to Screen 100% and use layer mask to remove hard edges:

I copy two other parts from this stock and repeat same technique, move them to the left and center:

Step 60

Open light ray stock. Use Move Tool to drag it above the sphere after resizing it:

Change the mode to Screen 100% and use layer mask to remove highlight in the center, trim and blur rays:

I add a Color Balance with Clipping Mask to change color of light rays from blue to orange:

I group layers of sphere ones and rays into a new group “glowing sphere”.

Step 61

We’ll add reflected light from sphere to all elements around. The colors I’ve given in this tutorial are only example and you can use your own values. Don’t hesitate to experiment and you may create a better effect.

Make a new layer under sphere group. Use soft brush with color #fbad73 painting under sphere (on symbol parts) and change the mode to Soft Light 100%. Duplicate this layer to make the effect stronger. Duplicate again and change mode to Screen 100%. Name these layers from “light on book 1″ to “light on book 3″:

Use another layer and brush with color #83572c to paint over the book pages and behind where light should affect. I put the mode as Linear Dodge 100% and name it “light on book 4″.

We’ll add light to the cat. First I use a layer with Normal mode, brush #fbad73, opacity and flow 20%to paint on the face, front legs to add a very light yellow . Then I use a layer with Color mode 50% and brush #fbc8a1 to create a light orange on the cat:

Next, I use two layers with Overlay mode 100%. On the first I take soft white brush to make stronger highlight and contrast. On the second I use brush with color #e4bb75 to add bright yellow for this effect:

Create a new layer again and I continue with color #e4bb75. I lower opacity and flow to 20-23% to create a light warm yellow tone over cat face:

Rename these layers from “light on cat 1″ to “light on cat 5″.

Step 62

In this step we’ll add more light for the specific cat areas. First I make a new layer and use brush with color #e4bb75 and size about 20 px to spot on the nose and change mode to Overlay 60%. Then on a new layer set to Linear Dodge 100% I lower brush size to 8 px to create a small highlight for this part:

Create a new layer again and I use same brush color with very small size (3-5 px) to create highlights on the hat, face and body contour. It really helps if you use a graphic tablet in this case but you can use mouse of course.

Step 63

I use a new layers and same brush to give the right edge of book pile (small books) and scroll bright yellow effect from sphere. I change mode of this layer to Soft Light 100%:

Then on another layer with Overlay mode 50%, I brighten grass, tree foot and pumpkin:

To give magical effect for the owl, I paint on his eyes same brush with very small size (4-5 px) and alter the mode to Color Dodge 100%:

Step 64

To change light focus of picture, I make a new layer on the top and choose Radiant Gradient Tool (G) with default color (black and white):

Change the mode to Soft Light 100%, also use layer mask to remove dark effect on selected parts:

Step 65

I add some adjustment layers to create more natural colors and increase contrast of picture.

Color Balance:

Levels:

Remove and reduce dark contrast with brush on Levels layer mask. You can see result on mask as a reference:

Step 66

Final step: Press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Alt/Option+E to merge all layers. Use Retangular Marquee Tool to make a selection with feather =40:

Apply Gassian Blur with 3 px then use layer mask to remove blur effect on cat, hat, tree, grass:

This step is to add depth to the picture.

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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2 Comments:

  1. Carrie says:

    I love this pic and tutorial! It’s absolutely fabulous :)

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