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Photo Manipulation: Create a Floating Fantasy Forest

Software : Photoshop Cs6

Difficulty : Advanced

Completion Time: 40 minutes

In this tutorial, we’ll learn how to create a floating fantasy woods image using photo-manipulation techniques. Light and shadows are important in an image like this – I always recommend using the layer modes “normal” and “soft light” for lighting and “Multiply” for shadows.

We’ll also be using the Radial Blur filter, as opposed to the much more known Motion Blur filter, as an alternative way to do motion blurring.

Before we start, you will need these images:

Stock Photo - Bright light entering coniferous forest on a misty autumn morning

Stock Photo - young woman levitating. isolated over white background

Stock Photo - Smooth elegant red satin isolated on white background

Stock Photo - One river rock on plain background

Stock Photo - A pair of cicada insect wings

Step One

  1. To color our background, we’re going to create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Click the “Master” drop down menu and select “Greens“.

  2. Set the setting to what you see below. Make sure you adjust the gray sliders in between the two rainbow-like bars at the bottom. This tells it what range of colors to effect.

Note: The more you drag out the bars, the higher the range of colors that’ll be affected.

  1. Now, return to the drop down menu and select “Yellows“.

  2. Again, set the setting to what you see below:


  1. Group the background image and the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer together and name it “Background“

Step Two

Next, we’re going to work on our main subject. In this case, it’s a female model.

  1. Extract the model in whatever way you choose. I recommend using the pen tool. I won’t be covering how to do this specifically though, as there are probably countless tutorials dedicated to doing this.

  1. Create a Curves adjustment layer and clip it to your model layer.

  2. Set it to what you see below:

The next four layers will be for lighting and shading. They’ll all be created underneath that Curves layer, and should all be clipped inside your model layer.

  1. Create a new layer underneath the curves layer, keep it set to “Normal” and name it “Highlights” as it will contain our highlights. You can create these highlights in one of two ways. If you have a tablet, you can simply paint in the highlights. If you don’t and find it hard to do this with a mouse, then you can use the pen tool. I used a tablet, but I’ll show you how to do it with the pen tool.

  2. With the Pen Tool selected, create single paths on the edges of the model’s body and clothes – anywhere you think light would be hitting.

  3. Select the brush tool and set it to a 100% hard round brush.

  4. Set your foreground color to white.

  5. Go back to your pen tool and Right Click > Stroke Path. Make sure “Simulate Brush Pressure” is checked and click “OK“.

  6. Here are what my highlights looked like in red so you can see them better. Yours should be in white.

  1. Create a new layer below your Highlights layer and keep it set to “Normal“.

  2. With a soft round brush set to white and with a 30% opacity, paint in some light rays. You’re simply bringing the light rays that are behind the model back in front of her. Don’t bring them all the way across; focus on the right side, the left side is for shadows.

  3. Duplicate that layer, and set the layer mode to “Soft Light” to brighten them a bit.

  1. Create a new layer below those two layers, and set it to “Multiply“.

  2. We’re going to paint in our shadows. With a soft round brush set to black and at around 20% opacity, start shading in the left part of her body; anywhere you think the light would be blocked from going, including her feet as they’re covered by the shadow of a tree.

Note: Try to be gradual with your shadows, painting little by little. Try to match the colors and darkness of the shadows that already exist, in the background of the image.

  1. Group all the layers together and name the folder “Model“.

 Step Three

Next, we’re going to add additional floating objects. First, we’ll create some floating pebbles behind our model.

  1. Cut out an image of a rock.

  1. Duplicate this layer and hide the original layer.

  2. Resize the copy and place it where you want.

  3. Again, copy the original rock layer, resize and place it where desired. Keep repeating this until you’re happy with the results. Make sure to make varying sizes, and place them at varying angles so they don’t look like they’re repeating.

  1. Merge all your rock layers together and duplicate them.

  2. Flip the copy horizontally and vertically.

  3. Bring that layer above your model’s layer so that you also have rocks in front of your model.

Next, we’re going to add movement to our rocks using the Radial Blur filter, instead of the more common Motion Blur filter.

  1. Make a general selection using the Lasso tool around all your front rocks. Go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur and make sure “Spin” and “Best” are checked.

  2. Now comes a bit of trial and error. The “Amount” will determine on the size of your image. I only had to set mine to 1. Just keep trying and undo-ing until you get the effect you want.

I prefer using the Radial Blur filter for movement, compared to the Movement Blur filter as it comes off more natural.

Next, we’re going to do the same exact thing, but with “faerie” wings.

  1. Again, extract your wings and place them accordingly. Also, keep one original layer so that you can just keep copy/pasting it.

  2. Merge all the wings together (like what you did with the rocks) once you’re happy with the results.

  1. Duplicate that layer and bring it above your model layer.

  2. Flip it horizontally and vertically to add some variation.

  3. Again, make a large selection around all the wings. Go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur and apply a similar blur to what you’ve applied to the rocks.

Step Four

Now, we’re going to add a floating scarf.

  1. Cut out, size and position your scarf accordingly. I placed mine below the model group, but above the rocks and wings.

  1. We’re going to add a Radial Blur to the scarf as well, only this time, first select the Lasso tool and set the Feather to around 8px. The bigger the image, the higher you should set the Feather.

  2. Select the ends of the scarf.

  1. Again, go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur and set the “Amount” to around 5px. Again, the bigger your image, the higher you should set this.

Remember, with the radial tool, if you don’t like the effect or if it’s too strong or not strong enough, simply re-do the selection or increase/decrease the “Amount” accordingly.

Step Five

Now, we’ll be working on the lighting.

  1. Above all your other layers, create a new layer and keep it set to “Normal”.

  2. With a large soft round brush set to 20% opacity, paint white on the right side of your model.

Below, I’ve outlined where I painted white so you can see it better. Make sure to keep the light strong but subtle, painting little by little and building it up gradually. Lower the layer opacity if you have to.

  1. Below that layer, create a new layer and set it to “Multiply”.

  2. We’re going to paint our shadows on here. Again, keep them subtle, and paint them in gradually using the same brush you used for the lighting, except this time set to black. I focused mostly on the head.

Step Six

To finish up, we’re going to do some slight color correction.

  1. Above all your other layers, create a “Color Lookup” adjustment layer.

  2. Select “Abstract” and choose “Colbalt-Carmine“.

  3. Set the Layer Opacity to around 50%.

  4. Finally, create a new layer above that adjustment layer and fill it with a navy blue (#161634).

  5. Set the layer mode to “Lighten” and the Layer Opacity to around 30%.

That’s all folks, till next time… enjoy!

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