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Final Image

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

Step 1

Open up a picture of an eagle. I used the image below:

Eagle Photo.

Resize your image to 600px wide.

Step 2

I want to cut out my eagle image from it’s background, but can see that it has lots of difficult edges. This means that I’ll have to use some more complex extraction techniques.

I go to my channels palette and make only one of my channels visible. It’s best to play around and see which channel gives the most contrast between subject and background. In the case of my eagle image it’s my red channel.

You can see the result of looking only at my red channel below:

Step 3

Now right click on your red channel and click ‘duplicate channel’. The new channel ‘red duplicate’ should appear at the bottom of your channels palette. Make this channel visible and all other channels invisible.

Then go to image>adjustments>levels and apply the settings shown below. This is in order to increase the contrast between subject and background (or at least the edges of your subject and the background).

Step 4

Now you want to basically make your subject white, and your background black. To do this, use whatever selection method your prefer and select the inside of your eagle (all parts of it except the difficult edges, which you leave untouched). Then fill this area with white. Then use a large, soft black paintbrush to paint over your background, making it extra black.

Finally, apply another levels adjustment to really bring out the contrast. You can see the result of this below:

Step 5

Now option+click on your ‘duplicate red’ channel to select your eagle shape. In your channels palette make your RGB channel visible, and then make your ‘duplicate red’ channel invisible. Then return to your layers palette and select your eagle layer.

With your selection in place hit copy+paste to pate your new selection.

Your selection should be near perfect, but if you need to touch up any edges you can use the eraser brush tool and smudge tool to smudge out some more feathers. You can see the result of this below:

Step 6

Now duplicate your eagle selection layer, hiding the original just for safe keeping.

Rename your duplicate layer ‘eagle new’. Then resize it using your edit>transform tool and move it to the top right area of the canvas. Then go to image>adjustments>desaturate to grayscale your eagle.

Step 7

Now download this old paper texture:

Old Paper Texture.

Paste it into your original image, making sure to desaturate it.

Now go to image>adjustments>brightness/contrast, increasing the brightness to +70 and the contrast to +50.

Step 8

I want to add a little more texture to my background so I download this great:

Ripped Paper Texture.

I paste it on top of my paper texture layer, desaturate it and then reduce it’s opacity to 10%. Then I use a large, soft eraser brush to erase away certain areas of the texture, leaving only the bits that look best to me. Finally I change this layer’s blend mode to ‘hard light’.

Step 9

Now I want to work on my eagle image. It’s looking a little harsh at the moment so I duplicate it and apply a surface blur to my duplicate (radius: 10px, Threshhold: 25px).

This softens the image a lot, but retains some of the details of the beak and eye.

Finally I reduce this layer’s opacity to 50% to make the effect less severe. Then I merge down this layer with the original eagle layer.

Step 10

I want to make the base of my eagle image much more interesting, so I decide to add one various feathers and wings to create a nice photo montage.

I start by downloading this image:

Seagull image.

Then I cut out the bird’s wing only and paste it onto the side of my eagle. I remember to desaturate it.

Step 11

Obviously at this point the wing isn’t blending very well with the eagle image. It’s time to make the wing blend in with the eagle image!

I start by duplicating my wing layer and applying a surface blur (same settings as before (it should be the last filter used at the top of your filter menu). Then I reduce this layer’s opacity to 50% and merge it down with my original wing. This should soften my wing considerably.

Then I go to image>adjustments>levels and apply the settings shown below. This should make the wing match up with the eagle better in terms and shade:

Step 12

Now duplicate your wing layer, hiding the original.

Select your duplicate layer, and using a large, soft eraser brush (50% opacity) start erasing away the top of the wing so that it blends into your eagle image:

Step 13

The wing is blending pretty well at the moment, but it’s shape doesn’t really match up that well with the eagles. I go to edit>transform>warp and use my warp tool to apply a curvature to the wing, making it blend more smoothly with my eagle:

Step 14

I select my ‘eagle new’ layer and use a large, soft eraser brush (100% opacity) to erase away the bottom half of my eagle’s body. Now I duplicate my wing layer (the original unwarped wing) and then proceed to flip and warp the original so that it juts out underneath my eagles head:

Step 15

Continue to duplicate and warp your wing layer. Then select other feathers such as the image below:

Feather Photo.

Apply as many feathers as you like until you’re happy with your composition:

Step 16

Now select your ‘burn tool’. Select each feather/wing layer, as well as your eagle head layer and burn over the areas that you’d like to dark.

This should add a lot more intensity to your overall image. You can see the result of burning my image below:

Step 17

Now repeat the same technique but using your dodge tool to lighten areas of your composition!

Step 18

Now download this great image of a water splash:

Water Splash.

Go to select>color range and apply the settings below. This should select most of the dark background, so then go to select>inverse to select just your splash:

Step 19

Now paste your splash into your original document. Use a soft eraser to erase away the bottom bit of your splash, and then apply the level settings shown below to lighten your splash:

Step 20

Now paste your splashes over your composition. Erase the splashes and warp them to fit nicely over your composition. You should paste the splash multiple times for a good effect, and keep erasing/warping to create a random effect.

Finally, merge all of your splash layers together and name this layer ‘splashes’.

Step 21

Now dodge/burn your splashes layer, giving it overall more impact:

Step 22

Now duplicate one of your feather layers, moving it to be your top layer. Then use your edit>transform tool to enlarge the feather. Repeat this step, rotating and warping your feathers to make them seem more randomly placed. You want to keep enlarging each duplicate feather, so that the largest feathers appear closest to you:

Step 23

Now apply gaussian blurs to your duplicated feather layers. You want to blur the largest feathers more, as this gives the impression of being closest. The image below shows an example of blurring the largest feather.

Step 24

Now dodge/burn your large feather layers to give them more depth:

Step 25

Now create a new top layer called ‘radial gradients’. Create white-transparent gradients over your eagles eye and neck. Then change the layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’.

The images below show the layer at normal blend mode and then overlay blend mode.

Step 26

Now apply an adjustment layer (color balance) using the settings below:

Step 27

Finally, apply a levels adjustment layer (settings below):

And We’re Done!

I really hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and would love to hear your feedback!

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Download the original .psd file for this tutorial here:


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