In this tutorial (Part 2 of 2) we will create an Adam and Eve scene with warm colors an rays of light. We learn some advanced masking techniques so get your selections tools ready. Let’s get started then.
Part 1 of this tutorial has been published here.
Final Image Preview
Now for the tedious part. To build the tree we will make selections of roots and place them into our document. If necessary apply a Free Transform and Warp to tweak the form and size. Some roots will be lighter so we will have to add clipped adjustment layers. Also, each root (or branch how I named my layers) will have a layer mask in which you should paint with a round soft black brush at 40-50% opacity in the places where the branches join each other to make the transition smoother.
I will not show you how to place each branch (there are 14 or so) but instead I will show you the numbered selections in the branch file and the same selections in our scene. It is up to you to Free Transform and if necessary to add an Adjustment Layer. But you should always add a layer mask to make the transition between branches smoother. I used the Pen Tool to make selections of branches and when I finished drawing my path I pressed Ctrl + Enter to transform path into selection. After that you now the workflow (Ctrl + C to to copy an Ctrl + V to paste it into our scene).
To replicate my exact moves will be very difficult so I recommend that you make your own roots selection and transform them how you see fit. After all, you should start doing this stuff on your own eventually so I don’t you start now?
Open the file “Roots” and make selections create the tree using my indications above.
Now let’s add some branches with leaves on them. For this I use three different “Bonsai” images. Open image “Bonsai 1”. This one is pretty easy to select but still tedious with the usual selection tools (Quick Selection or Magic Wand). You could give it a shot or you can try the channels way – the good way. First let’s take a look at each channel and see which offers the greatest contrast between the subject (the bonsai in our case) and the background. I decided that the blue channel is my shot. The only trouble with this channel is that it needs more contrast because in a channel white is selected, black is deselected and gray it’s partially selected. Our channel it is mostly gray. So what we have to do it is to make our subject completely white and the background completely black (or inverse and after we’re done we will simply invert the selection by pressing Ctrl + I). First make a copy of the blue channel (by right-clicking and choosing Duplicate Channel). Next you should do:
- Boost the overall contrast
To do that we will use a Curves Adjustment (Image > Adjustments > Curves). First drag the left slider towards the middle until the bonsai it is as black as possible while the background remains as unchanged as possible. Next drag the right slider towards the middle until the background it is as white as possible and the bonsai remains as unchanged as possible. Below it is the Curve Adjustment I used to achieve my effect.
The black and white contrast it is pretty good but you may notice some ugly gray artifacts in the left side of the image. To remove the gray artifacts we will use a well known trick in the channel selection world. First select a white round soft brush and change it’s blend mode to Overlay. Now brush carefully the grey artifacts and notice how the black areas remain unchanged. Altough this make brushing away the artifacts easier you should still be careful not to damage the black areas that contain the subject.You could also lower the amount of work you have to do by using the Lasso tool to create an approximate selection around you subject, press Ctrl + Shift + I to invert selection and fill the selection with white (or the opposite color of the subject).
After you’re done brushing away artifacts you may notice that some artifacts may still remain or that there is white color in the middle of your subject. If that’s the case you can do 2 things:
a)Brush with a white or black brush the areas you need but set the blend mode to Normal. This takes away the safety net the Overlay mode has provided but it will give you full control over the brushing. This may prove difficult because you may not now what parts of the subject need brushing (because you only see it in black and white)
b)Ctrl-click the blue channel copy you worked on until now to load it as a selection. Than change to composite view (Ctrl + 2) and enter the Quick Mask mode (Q). Now you can brush with black and white as you did in the channels. The only difference is that there is no black and white, but red for selected (you may have to change the default setting of the Quick Mask if you want this behavior. To do this double click the Quick Mask icon and choose Selected Area from the 2 available options) and transparent for deselected. The advantage here it is that you can see the actual image you’re working on.
I gave you the knowledge to make channel selections so go ahead and use it on “Bonsai2” and “Bonsai3” to select the bonsai’s.
Place the bonsai trees as shown below. If necessary Free Transform and Warp. In the next steps we will adjust the saturation and the color of the bonsai trees to make them as similar to the branches as possible.
Apply a clipped Curves adjustment layer and a clipped Hue/Saturation layer to the first bonsai as shown below.
Apply a clipped Curves Adjustment layer to the second bonsai.
Apply a Curves Adjustment layer and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer to the third bonsai. I grouped all the bonsai related layers into a group called “Leaves”.
While we are at it let’s add the final element of our tree: the red apple. Open file “Apple” and using you favourite selection tool make a selection of the apple. Copy (Ctrl + C) and paste (Ctrl + V) into our document. Place the apple like shown below then add clipped Curves Adjustment layer with the settings shown below.
And by the way, I will say this at every step but if you have an object that it is not well selected and you want fix it the quick way simply add a Layer mask and do your hiding and showing there.
Time to add the tree shadow. Make a new layer and place it below the “Branches” group. Lower the opacity of this layer to 57% and change the blend mode to Multiply. With a round soft brush paint on below the brushes on the man’s clothes, in the places you think shadow from the branches should be.
Time to add put the shadow from the branches on the ground. The fastest way to do this is to group all the branches related layers into one group and name this group tree. Then turn of the visibility of all other groups and layers but leave the “Tree” visibility turned on.
Press Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E to make a new layer from all visible and Ctrl-click this newly created layer to load it as selection. Also name the layer “Shadow Branches”.
Fill the selection with black and change the visibility of all the other layers on so you can see were you’re putting your shadow. After you’ve turned one the visibility of all other layers on select the “Shadow Branches” layer and press Ctrl + T to free transform. Drag from the upward boundary towards bottom until you have flipped the layer upside down. You can also Warp the layer to finely tune it. Apply a 3-4px Gaussian blur and change the blend mode to Multiply with an opacity of 53%.
Add a layer mask and with the Linear Gradient tool mask away the bottom part of the shadow. You should add a couple of additional layers to paint some more shadow where it is needed. Take a look at the image below to see how I’ve done.
The final step regarding the tree it is to make some blades of grass showing at the base of our roots. Add a layer mask to the “Tree” group and apply the method from step 11 (black outline + smudge). And we’re done with the tree. We covered a lot of advanced techniques in the previous steps so you should be proud of yourself that you had the patience to work until now with me.
Time to add some extra elements. I am thinking that a black raven would fit just perfect on the right branch. Open file “Raven” and select the raven with your favourite selection tool. Copy the selection (Ctrl + C) and paste it into our document (Ctrl + V). Free Transform the raven and resize him until it is positioned like in the image below.
Make a new layer and clip it to the “Raven” layer. With a round soft white brush tool at 30-40% opacity paint the left side of the raven (that’s where the light is coming from). Lower the opacity to around 50-60% procent.
Make another new layer and place it below the “Raven” layer. Change the blend mode to Multiply an lower the opacity to 70%. With a round soft black brush paint some shadow below the raven.
Make a new layer and paint some birds with black. Next open the file “Dove” and select the dove. Use the techniques you learned at step 19. Copy the dove and paste it into our document. Add a layer mask and with a round soft black brush at 10% opacity draw on the tail and wing feathers to make them a little transparent. This way some of the background will be visible through them thus making the dove fit better into the environment.
Add a clipped Curves Adjustment layer and drag the curve upwards to lighten. With a round soft white brush at 50% opacity paint the tail and the chest of the dove.
Make a new layer and select beam-2-particles brush. With white as foreground color and 100% opacity click-once in the upper left part of the image.
Open file “Rabbit” and make a selection of the rabbit. Copy and paste into our scene. Free Transform like shown below than paint some shadow on a layer beneath this layer. Change the shadow layer blend mode to Multiply.
Open file “Lion” and make a selection of the lion. Copy and paste into our scene. Free Transform like shown below than paint some shadow on a layer beneath this layer. Change the shadow layer blendmode to Multiply.
Open file “Squirell” and make a selection of the squirell. Copy and paste into our scene. Free Transform like shown below than paint some shadow on a layer beneath this layer. Change the shadow layer blen mode to Multiply.
Select all the animals (lion, squirell and rabbit) and press Ctrl + G to make a group. Change the blend mode to Normal and at the top of the layers, inside the group add a Curves Adjustment layer.
Drag the curves upwards to lighten than with a round soft white brush at 50% Opacity paint the right side of the rabbit and the lion. Then paint the left side of the squirell. Remember that left and right from our persepective.
Add another Curves Adjustment Layer and this time drag the curve downwards to darken. In the layer mask paint with the same brush you painted on the previous Curves Adjustment layer only this time on the opposite sides. This step will add some volume to the animals in conformity with the direction of light.
Now that I look at the scene I find that the shadows are way too strong. Of course I could’ve modified the tutorial from the beginning to make the shadow just right but I didn’t for two reasons.
One reason is that I am writing this tutorial as I am creating my scene (you assist at the creative process in all it’s splendor :D) the amount of work required to redo all the steps and to create another set of screenshots would be too much for my patience (I am lazy, so?:D).
Secondly this is a valuable lesson in itself. If something doesn’t look right you shouldn’t leave like this, maybe thinking “It will work nevertheless”. Because if it looks wrong than it is probably wrong and it won’t work. So what you have to do it is to correct your mistake (ok, ok, my mistake) despite the reasons that made you make that mistake in the first place. In this particular case it seemed to me that the shadows were competing for attention with the main subjects making the whole composition unbalanced. Go ahead and select a soft round black brush at 50-80% opacity and mask away most of the shadows until you will have something like the image below.
Time for some post-processing techniques to finish this scene. I decided to go light on this one, whitout too many “contrasty” effects. I want to achieve lots of warm colors an a sort of heavenly, godly feeling to it. Let’s see if I (we) succeed.
Add a Color Balance Adjustment layer and increase the Red and Yellow amount. In the layer mask use the Linear Gradient tool to limit the adjustments to the left side of the image. Next add a Gradient Map Adjustment layer and use the settings shown below. Change the blend mode to Soft Light and decrease the Opacity to 38%.
Now it’s time for a Selective Color Adjustment layer. Use the settings shown below (or try out the sliders yourselves) and in the layer mask drag with the Linear Gradient Tool to achieve something like in the image below.
Press Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E to make a new layer from all visible and add a 20px Gaussian Blur. Desaturate (Ctrl + Shift + U) and add a layer mask. In the layer mask paint with black the “ray of god” light and the gras in front of the scene to protect them from bluring. Use a round soft brush black brush at 50% Opacity.
Now for the magic, change the blend mode to Soft Light. We have a nice, dreamy effect.
And now for the final step let’s lower the saturation of the grass in the front of the scene because we want our viewer’s attention on the main subjects and not on the boring grass. Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer and drag the Saturation slider to the left to lower the saturation. In the layer mask use the Linear Gradient tool to apply this effect only to the bottom of our scene.
And that’s all.