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.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
1. How to Build the Base Scene
Create a new 2000 x 2000 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:
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.
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.
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.
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and set it as Clipping Mask. Increase the Red value of the Midtones.
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.
Open the sky 1 image and place it in the upper half of the canvas. Set this layer below the field layer.
Apply a Gaussian Blur of 6 px to this layer to fit the softness of the horizon.
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to give the sky a red tone.
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.
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.
Apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to this sky layer.
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.
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.
2. How to Retouch the Model
Cut out the model from the background and place her in the middle section of the ground.
Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to erase the lower part of the model’s body.
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.
Create a new layer and activate the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to remove the wound on the model’s wrist.
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.
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.
Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray.
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.
3. How to Add the Horns
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.
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.
Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the horns a little.
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.
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.
4. How to Paint the Hair
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.
On another layer, use a brush with the color
#814c3d to paint brighter strands.
Use a lighter color for the brush (
#c99c4e) to paint tiny bits of flying bright hair for the model.
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:
Use a Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast and vibrance of the hair.
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.
5. How to Make the Leaf Dress
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 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.
Use the same method to fill in the upper part of the dress.
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 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.
Create a group for all the leaves layers and use a Color Balance adjustment to enhance the color and vibrance of the leaves.
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!
6. How to Make the Final Adjustments
Create a Curves adjustment layer on top of the other layers and change the Blues settings:
Make a Color Fill layer and pick the color
#170900. Change this layer mode to Exclusion 100%.
Add another Color Fill layer and pick the color
#01051f. Alter this layer mode to Difference 100%.
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.
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.
Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect.
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!
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