How To Create Dark Surreal Photo Manipulation
In this Photo manipulation tutorial, you will learn how to create a dark surreal scene using few Photoshop techniques and a lot of stock images. Following this tutorial, you will learn how to add a dark unsubstantial effect to your image. We will start this tutorial with Cinema4D, and then we will use a lot of photo manipulation techniques, like blending modes, cloning and we will work with colors and filters. So let’s start to learn new techniques.
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Final Image Preview
1.Step – Body Rendering
First I’ll render a human body shape using Poser. I chose a pose from the default selection and tweaked it a little bit to que this shape.
I exported the figure to Cinema4D and simply added a light object, placed it on the upper right side of the body and added a floor object with shadows set to soft.
I rendered it at 300DPI 5000x5000pxl to get full quality on the image. (Be sure to check also the alpha channels extract it easily from the background)
2.Step – Placement
Open a new document in Photoshop: 11 inches wide x 17 inches high at 300dpi, drag the render and resize it to fit the image. Unlock the background layer and paint it black with the Paint bucket tool (G)
Tilt the body to get a more dynamic effect on the image. The floor needs to be filled up now that it doesn’t cover perfectly the lower part. Create a new layer and place it under the render layer, rename it “floor fill“.Grab the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) and draw the rectangle, click right and select “transform selection” to match the space that needs to be completed and fill it with white. Use a gradient layer style to match the tones on the floor. It does not have to be perfect as we are going to replace the floor with a new one.
3.Step – Color Adjustments
Create a new group and rename it “Color Adjustments” we are going to the set layers regarding all the coloring of the image in this folder. Since this is going to be a very monochromatic piece, this folder will be on top of everything we do from now on and will be changed as we progress with our illustration. Add a new gradient adjustment layer with the following colors:
From now on, all layers under this particular adjustment layer will be colored with the gradient above, so we only have to worry about the contrast and levels of the images, we’ll be incorporating to the manipulation.
4.Step – Sky
Open the Sky and land stock image. Place it on your document under the “floor fill” layer, resize it to fil as much of the canvas as possible and rotate it to match the position of the ground.
Grab the Clone stamp tool (S) with a large Soft brush (hardness 0) and start cloning parts of the canvas that are missing sky. You can also clone more clouds to fit your image.
5.Step – Ground
Grab The sand stock and place it on your document above the main render. Just like you did with the sky stock, resize is to fit as much of the ground part as possible. Then rotate it to fit the inclination.
Add a Layer mask and start erasing all the parts that overlap with the sky and the render.You can use a normal Soft brush with the foreground color set to black to start erasing or help yourself using the Rectangular Marquee tool. Erase parts of the floor to blend with the render so it seems that the body is buried on the sand.
Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Brightness and Contrast and apply the next settings:
6.Step – Lightning
Go to Layer -> New adjustment layers -> Brightness and Contrast and apply the next settings. Move the layer into the “Color adjustments” folder. This will enhance the lightning in the final image.
Create a new layer over the sky the body and the sand layers and clip mask each one of them by holding ALT and clicking between the layers. Rename them “Shadows and highlights“. Your layer should look something like this:
Select the “Shadows and highlights” layer masked to the sky and grab a large Soft brush with 20% opacity. Select white as your foreground color and gently brush over the upper right side of the image. This will be our main light source for the objects on our scene.
Set your foreground color to black and brush over the other side of the sky where there would be no light. Do the same on the sand and on the body looking carefully where the light would fall on the objects as well as the shadows. This will create a more dramatic environment to our image.
7.Step – Worms/Maggots
Grab the worm stock and extract it from its background. Create a new folder and name it “worms/maggots“. This will be where we put all of the little details that will make our composition interesting. Put the worm inside the carpet and transform it to fit the image. Apply the next setting to make it fit the lightning:
Just like we did on the last step, create a new layer and clip mask it. Paint with white the parts that need to be brighter to match the lightning.
Open your other worm stocks and do the same. Keep a balance and try not to overdo your composition.
Each time you place a new element, make sure you create a new layer under it and brush the ground with a Soft brush hardness 0 opacity to about 25% and create subtle shadows.
8.Step – Details
Keep adding some more elements. Here are some things I rendered in cinema4D to help fill my image. I used some rust textures set to “overlay” to help me give a rotten look to some elements. Add things like a chopstick to create a surreal feeling.
I used the same rust texture to give the body some texture
9.Step – Arms
I used poser again to render some arm poses, this was the one that fitted the image the best.
Place the arm in your document you can create a new group to manage all the things concerning the arms. Clip mask a new layer and paint some shadows and highlight just like we did before.
To make the abstract light portal, download The texture resource and grab one of the textures. Use the Polygonal Lasso tool to make a selecion around the part we wish to use.
Set the layer blending mode to “lighten” and apply the next settings:
Place the texture layer above the “arm” layer. Use the Eraser tool (E) and erase some of the edges of the texture around the hand to blend it to the scene.
Duplicate the layer and place it around the hand. Do this many times to form a circle around the hand. Erase the parts that cover too much of the arm.
Merge all the layers and clip mask a new layer to create shadows to fit the lightning. Create a new layer above the texture and set its layer mode to “screen“. Grab a round Soft brush and the the opacity of the brush to 25%. Start brushing with white, little blobs of light and some highlights around the portal.
Grab the Eye stock and extract it from its background. Apply the next settings:
Place it above the arm layer on the hand. Used the Eraser tool to delete any hard edges.
To create more light effects behind the portal and blend better the stock create a new layer, place it under the texture and arm layers and fill it with black. Go to Filter -> Noise -> Add noise. Use an amount of 70% and check the monochromatic option.
Go to Filter -> Blur -> Radial Blur and apply the next settings:
Set the layer blending mode to “Linear Dodge“, duplicate the layer 3 times select and merge them (CTRL+E). Set this layer mode to “lighten“and place the center of the layer where all the lines join right under the portal. Make a selection with the Polygonal lasso tool and erase the parts of the layer that you dont need.
Using the Eraser tool with a large soft round brush delete all the hard edges to create a smooth outline, then apply the next settings:
Duplicate the “arm” group and merge it. Flip the layer horizontaly and resize it. Use levels to lower its brightnes. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian blur and set the amount to 4 pixels. This will give some depth to the image.
10.Step – Final Details
Create a new layer over the “Color Adjustments” group and set the blending mode to “screen” Grab a round brush with an opacity of 50% with a blue color to paint some contrasting light details. I also used Apophysis to render some fractal blobs to give further detail, but you can use any other fractal stock. Just be sure to match the blue tone.
I also added some more shadows to improve the look of the scene.
10.Step – Closing
Save your image as a .jpeg with full quality, open that again in photoshop and duplicate the layer. Go to Filter -> Other -> Highpass and set radius to 3px. This will sharpen the image. Set the layer blending mode to “Overlay” and bring down its opacity to 60%.
Go to Image -> Image size and size it down to 900×1300 pxl. Save it again as a .jpeg to achieve maximum quality. Here is the final result: