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Final Image

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

Step 1

Create a new document (800X600px).

Paste in this backdrop: backdrop photo.

The photo is slightly too small for your canvas, so simply enlarge it using your bounding box. Then go to filter>sharpen>sharpen to take away the slight blur that this enlargement causes.

Step 2

Whilst sharpening the image has bought out it’s detail, it’s also looking slightly pixelated. We want to soften things up a little.

Duplicate your backdrop photo layer. Then go to filter>blur>gaussian blur and apply a 2.0px gaussian blur effect. Then reduce this duplicate layer’s opacity to 40%. This should create a nice soft effect, whilst still retaining the detail of the original photo:

Step 3

Now apply a levels adjustment layer (settings below). This should give a little more impact to your backdrop.

Step 4

Now apply a color balance adjustment layer (settings below)

Step 5

Now create a new brightness/contrast adjustment layer. Bring the brightness right now (settings below).

However! We only want to apply this adjustment to our sky, not the entire image. To do this, look for the mask thumbnail in your layer’s palette for this adjustment layer. Select your mask thumbnail, and then paint over your building and floor using a soft, black paintbrush (100% opacity). This will mask off the bottom part of your image, meaning that you’re reducing brightness adjustment will only apply to the sky part of your image:

Step 6

Download this great lightning brush set.

Now create a new layer called ‘lightning’ and apply a bunch of brush strokes (in white) over your skyline:

Step 7

Paste in this photo of a monk.

I cut him out from his original background using the lasso tool, but use whichever tool you feel most comfortable with. Then I simply resized him using his bounding box.

Step 8

Now apply a levels, color balance, and hue/saturation adjustment layer. You see the settings for each of these adjustment layers below, but it’s always good to play around with them yourself until things look good to you.

To ensure that these only effect your monk and not the entire image simply ensure that they are directly above your monk layer, and then go to layer>create clipping mask.

Step 9

Paste in a second monk to into the right part of your canvas:

monk source photo.

Step 10

Now apply a levels, color balance and hue/saturation adjustment layer (settings below). Remember to apply a clipping mask for each layer so that each adjustment only applies to your second monk.

Step 11

Now paste in this great image of a Katana Blade.

Cut out the blade using your preferred method (I used the lasso tool). Then use your distort and warp tools to fit the blade to the end of your left monks stick. Repeat this technique, fitting and warping the second blade to the other end of the monk’s stick.

Step 12

Now we want to create shadows cast by each of our monks. To do this duplicate each monk layer. Then with the bottom monk layer, go to edit>transform>flip vertical. Move and distort your flipped monk so that he creates a good shape for your shadow.

Then go to blending options and apply a black color overlay.

Then go to filter>blur>gaussian blur and apply a 4.0px gaussian blur effect.

Step 13

Reduce your shadow layer’s opacity to 70%. Then repeat these steps on your second monk, creating him a shadow.

Step 14

To match the details of the movie, I want to create a glowing arrow on the monk’s heads.

I start working on my first monk. I use my custom shapes tool to create a neon blue arrow (8aedff), and then go to edit>transform>warp to warp it to the shape of his head.

Then I an outer glow, and inner stroke blending option (settings below). Finally I reduce this layer’s opacity to 65%.

Step 15

You can see both monks with ‘head arrows’ below:

Step 16

You can see both monks with ‘head arrows’ below:

Step 17

Now create a new layer called ‘eye lights’. Use a 5-6px soft, white paintbrush and apply brush marks over each monks eyes. Then apply an outer glow blending option (a9f4fd) (settings below):

Step 18

Now we want to apply some dodge/burn brush strokes in order to give a more consistent lighting to our piece, and tie all of the various photographic elements together.

A useful technique is to create a new layer filled with 50% gray. To do this, create a new layer called ‘burn layer’. Then go to edit>fill and select ’50% gray’ under the contents drop down.

Then change this layer’s blend mode to ‘soft light’. Select a soft black paintbrush and simply paint over the areas that you want to darken, or ‘burn’.

I made sure that my black paintbrush was always around 20-40% opacity, in order to let me subtly build up layers of burning.

You want to always bear your main light source in mind. For me I wanted my primary light source to be the powerful lightning at the top center of my canvas. Therefore I chose to burn the bottom of my canvas more, as well as underneath ridges on my building.

Below you can see my burn layer isolated, and then the result on top of my composition:

Step 19

Now create a new layer called ‘dodge layer’. Repeat the exact same technique, this time using a white paintbrush for your highlights.

You never want your highlights to stand out too much, so I chose to reduce the opacity of this layer to 50%.

Step 20

Now paste in this great photo of a sparkler.

You want to choose a photo with a completely black background if possible, as it makes this step much easier.

Paste the photo into your composition, and then change this layer’s blend mode to ‘screen’ to hide the black background, leaving only the flame.

Resize your flame, and position it over your second monk’s hands:

Step 21

Now paste in several more images of fire, each time changing your blend mode to ‘screen’.

Go to edit>transform>warp in order to contort your flames into a snake like shape.

I also duplicated my original flame layer to make it more intense:

Step 22

Paste in this image of flames and repeat the previous techniques.

Warp the flames so that they appear to be coming off of the main flame stream:

Step 23

Now repeat the same technique that you did with the flames but using images of smoke. Position the smoke coming from your left positioned monk.

I started by selecting this image of smoke. I make sure to duplicate it twice after making it ‘screen’ blending mode, in order to make it stand out more.

Step 24

Now duplicate your smoke layer, resizing and warping it to give you smaller smoke streams coming from your main stream:

Step 25

Create a new top layer called ‘central lightning’. Use your lightning brush to create a central fork of lightning crashing down between the streams of fire and smoke.

Step 26

Create a new top layer called ‘fog’.

Go to filter>render>clouds. Then go to edit>transform>distort and distort your clouds to give them the illusion of perspective.

Step 27

Now go to layer>apply layer mask>reveal all. Use a soft black paintbrush to mask off the edges of your clouds. Then reduce this layer’s opacity to 40%. This should create the illusion of fog around the feet of your monks:

Step 28

Now apply a gradient map adjustment layer (settings below).

Reduce this layer’s opacity to 8%.

Step 29

Apply a color balance adjustment layer (settings below):

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:

VIP Download

Download the original .psd file for this tutorial here:

DOWNLOAD .PSD FILE

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