How to Create an Autumn Queen Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop


Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to use Adobe Photoshop to create a fantasy scene featuring an autumn queen with a leaf dress and leaves flying around. 

First, we’ll build the base scene using several sky and field images. After that, we’ll retouch the model, adding horns and a cobweb. Later, we’ll make a leaf dress and add leaves flying around her. We’ll use several adjustment layers to complete the final effect.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:

1. How to Build the Base Scene

Step 1

Create a new 2000 x 2000 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:

new file

Step 2

Open the field image, drag it into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V), and place it in the lower section. Convert this layer to a Smart Object.

add field

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a soft, round one with black color to erase the hard edges of the sky at the top.

field masking

Step 3

On the field layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 9 px. On this filter mask, use a soft black brush to erase the foreground and midground, leaving the blur effect visible on the background.

field gaussian blur
field gaussian blur masking

Step 4

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and set it as Clipping Mask. Increase the Red value of the Midtones.

field color balance

Step 5

Create a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with an opacity and flow about 15-20% to reduce the dark effect on the foreground, as we’re aiming to create the main soft light there.

field curves

Step 6

Open the sky 1 image and place it in the upper half of the canvas. Set this layer below the field layer.

add sky 1

Step 7

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 6 px to this layer to fit the softness of the horizon.

sky 1 gaussian blur

Step 8

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to give the sky a red tone.

sky 1 color balance

Step 9

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the middle area of the sky. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to paint on the rest so it won’t be darkened by this adjustment layer.

sky 1 curves

Step 10

Place the sky 2 image over sky 1 and change the mode to Soft Light 100%. This step is to give the sky more color and texture.

add sky 2

Step 11

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to this sky layer.

sky 2 gaussian blur

Step 12

Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the sky. On the layer mask, use a soft black brush with a lowered Opacity (about 10-15%) to reduce the dark effect on the right side of the sky.

sky 2 gaussian blur

Step 13

Create a Curves adjustment layer on top of the other layers to reduce the lightness and change the color of the whole scene. On the layer mask, paint on the foreground and middle of the sky to reduce the lightness of these areas.

sky 2 curves

2. How to Retouch the Model

Step 1

Cut out the model from the background and place her in the middle section of the ground.

add model

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to erase the lower part of the model’s body.

model masking

Step 2

Make a Curves adjustment layer to reduce the lightness on the bright side of the model. On this layer mask, paint on the shadows and hidden areas so they won’t be darkened too much by this adjustment layer.

model curves 1

Step 3

Create a new layer and activate the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to remove the wound on the model’s wrist.

model hurt cloning

Step 4

Add a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #7a5e4c and opacity and flow about 30-50% to paint on the bright contour of the model’s arms to reduce the highlight there.

reduce model highlight

Step 5

Use another Curves adjustment layer to brighten the model a little. Paint on the rising arm of the model so it won’t be brightened by this adjustment layer.

model curves 2

Step 6

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray.

model DB new layer

Select the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range and Exposure 20-25% to refine the light and shadow of the model. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

model DB results

3. How to Add the Horns

Step 1

Open the horn image and rotate it to find the angle below. Move the horns onto the model’s head and rotate them to fit the head’s perspective. Set these layers below the model’s one.

add horns

Step 2

Select the horn layers and press Control-G to make a group for them. Change this group’s mode to Normal 100% and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the horns.

horns hue saturation

Step 3

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the horns a little.

horns curves

Step 4

On each of the horn layers, make a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to refine the light and shadow on the horns to fit the main light source that comes from the front.

horns DB

Step 5

Create a new layer on top of the layers and change the brush to cobweb ones. Turn the foreground to white and select a cobweb you like (I’ve chosen the number 1236). Paint it on the space between the horns and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to rotate it to fit the angle of the horns.

add cobweb

4. How to Paint the Hair

Step 1

Make a new layer above the model layer and use a medium-hard brush with the color #3c2622 to paint dark shades for the model’s hair. They should follow the flow of the existing hair, otherwise the result would look very messy.

paint hair shade

Step 2

On another layer, use a brush with the color #814c3d to paint brighter strands.

paint  brighter hair  strands

Step 3

Use a lighter color for the brush (#c99c4e) to paint tiny bits of flying bright hair for the model.

paint bright flying hair

Step 4

To change the color of the hair, group all of the hair layers into a new folder. Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and alter the Master values:

hair hue saturation

Step 5

Use a Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast and vibrance of the hair.

hair curves

Step 6

Make a new layer above the hair group, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to create volume for the hair, making it smoother and more natural.

hair DB

5. How to Make the Leaf Dress

Step 1

Open the leaves image and place it over the lower part of the model’s body. Use Control-T with the Warp mode to make the top of this image smaller and the bottom a bit lower to give it the shape of a dress.

add lower leaf dress

Add a mask to this layer and use a hard black brush to remove the hard edges and the bottom of the leaves to blend it with the ground. Be careful when masking the contour of the leaf dress to reveal the edges, leaves, and shadow. It takes some time and patience, but the result will be worth it.

lower dress masking

Step 2

Use the same method to fill in the upper part of the dress.

add upper leaf dress

Step 3

Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to select different leaves with different colors from the original image to add around the leaf dress, making the contours of the dress more realistic. Also add some to the cobweb area. Use Control-T with the Warp mode to tweak the leaves so they appear different.

add flying leaves

Step 4

Add more leaves to the whole canvas and apply a Gaussian Filter to them, varying the Radius (4, 6 or 8 px or any values you want). This is to vary the depth of the whole scene.

add blurred flying leaves

Step 5

Create a group for all the leaves layers and use a Color Balance adjustment to enhance the color and vibrance of the leaves.

leaves color balance

Step 6

Make a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reveal the light on the front and create shadow areas below the bright details, especially around the waist. Now it looks more realistic!

leaves curves
leaves curves masking
leaves curves masking result

6. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

Create a Curves adjustment layer on top of the other layers and change the Blues settings:

whole scene curves 1

Step 2

Make a Color Fill layer and pick the color #170900. Change this layer mode to Exclusion 100%.

whole scene color fill 1

Step 3

Add another Color Fill layer and pick the color #01051f. Alter this layer mode to Difference 100%.

whole scene color fill 2

Step 4

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones and Highlights settings. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with Opacity about 10% to reduce the red light effect on the lower middle section of the scene.

whole scene color balance midtones
whole scene color balance highlights

Step 5

Create another Curves adjustment layer to darken the edges and both sides of the scene. On this layer mask, paint on the middle to reveal the light there.

whole scene curves 2

Step 6

Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect.

whole scene vibrance

Congratulations, You’re Done!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the tutorial and learned something new for
your own projects. Feel free to share your results or leave comments in
the box below. Enjoy Photoshopping!

Here are some more autumn tutorials for you:

final result



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