In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to use Adobe Photoshop to create a fantasy photo manipulation featuring a winter night with glowing lanterns.
First, we’ll build the base scene using a winter image and a mountain one. Later, we’ll add the trees and make several adjustment layers to enhance the color and contrast of the whole scene. After that, we’ll add a model and lanterns and paint a light effect to complete the final result.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
1. How to Build the Base Scene
Create a new 3000 x 1900 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:
Open the winter landscape image and drag it into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to scale the image down to fit the size of the canvas. Convert this layer to a Smart Object.
Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 6 px.
On the Filter Mask, activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a soft round one with black color. Use this brush to erase on the foreground and midground, leaving the blur effect visible only on the background.
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue Saturation (set as Clipping Mask) and bring the Saturation values down to -82.
Make a Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the dark effect on the middle section.
In this step, we’ll remove the road. Create a new layer on top of the other layers and select the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to reduce the road’s visibility to make it hidden below the snow layer.
Open the mountain image and place it in the background, the sky area. Use Control-T to make it much smaller. Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft black brush to remove the hard edges and blend the mountain with the sky. Lower the brush opacity when brushing on the mountain to make it fade into the sky.
2. How to Add the Trees
Open the trees 1 image. I’ve used the Magic Wand Tool (W) to isolate the trees from the background and add them to the lower right side of the foreground.
Apply a Gaussian Blur of 9 px to the trees layer to make it separate from the foreground. In this way, we’re increasing the depth of the foreground.
Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the trees. Bring the Saturation values down to -88:
Use a Curves adjustment layer to darken the trees:
Cut out the trees 2 image from the background and place the trees in the bottom left of the canvas. Flip them horizontally (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal) and apply a Gaussian Blur of 12 px to them (as the trees 2 image is bigger than trees 1, it needs a bigger blur radius).
Add a Hue.Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the trees.
3. How to Make the Basic Adjustments
Make a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the other layers and pick the colors
#2f9ad7. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 80%.
Create another Gradient Map adjustment layer and pick the colors
#00601b. Reduce the Opacity of this layer to 20%.
Make a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness. On the layer mask, use a soft black brush with Opacity of about 40% to reduce the effect on both sides, leaving the light visible on the far middle area of the background.
Create a Levels adjustment layer to bring the light down for the whole scene. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with Opacity of about 10-15% to erase the ground to make it less dark.
Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to make the landscape more blue. Alter the Shadows values to increase the blue tone as well as the contrast of the whole scene.
4. How to Retouch the Model
Drag the model image into our main canvas and use Control-T to make it much smaller. Place it in the space between the big firs. Add a mask to this layer and use your favorite method to remove the background (I’ve used the hard brush to mask it out—don’t use a soft brush in this case).
Create a new layer and use the Clone Tool to reduce the opacity of the white lines on the shoes to avoid drawing attention to those details. Lower the cloning brush to 50% to get the right effect.
Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation values down to -49:
Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones settings:
Create a Photo Filter adjustment layer to give the model a blue/cyan cast to fit the color of the background. Pick the color
Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the model. On the layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the effect on her trousers as they’re dark already, and reduce the effect on her body/jacket. See the screenshots below for reference:
Create another Curves adjustment layer with the same purpose. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.
Make a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray:
Activate the Dodge Tool (O) with Highlights Ranges and the Burn Tool with Midtones Ranges, Exposure about 20-30%, to refine the light and shadow on the model. Also paint more details on her clothes. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.
5. How to Import the Lanterns
Open the lantern image and isolate it from the background. Place it below the foliage of the big fir. Duplicate this layer many times and arrange the lanterns below other branches of the firs. Use Control-T to resize the lanterns and flip them horizontally if needed.
Duplicate more lanterns and move them into the sky and the distant background. Apply a Gaussian Blur of 3 px to each of these layers.
For the one farthest away, I’ve increased the blur Radius to 5 px to enhance the depth of the whole scene.
The lanterns look uniform as they’re duplicated from a single one. To avoid this look, select all the lantern layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Change this group’s mode to Normal 100% and make a new layer above the lamp layers. Use the Clone Tool to move the bar of the lanterns and the highlights inside them into different positions so they don’t appear the same.
Make a Curves adjustment layer to reduce the light on some of the lanterns. Paint on other lanterns so they won’t be affected by this adjustment layer.
6. How to Paint the Light Effect
To fill in missing highlights for some lanterns after cloning, create a new layer on top of the other layers and use a medium hard white brush to paint inside these lamps. Alter this layer mode to Overlay 70%.
Make a new layer and use a soft brush with the color
#fe450b to paint around the lanterns to create a glowing effect for them. Change this layer mode to Linear Dodge 100%.
To paint light reflection from the lanterns onto the foliage, make a new layer and change the foreground to
#eba929. Use a small hard black brush (I recommend you use a tablet pen to get a better result) to paint on the contour of the snowy foliage/branches around the lanterns, as well as the tiny spots of light around it.
Break the light lines to leave some space for the shadow to make it more realistic. You can use a layer mask if needed if you overdo it. It takes some time and patience, but the result will be worth it. Alter this layer mode to Hard Light 100%.
Congratulations, You’re Done!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed the process of creating this fantasy photo manipulation and learned something new for
your own projects. Feel free to share your results or leave comments in
the box below. Enjoy Photoshopping!
Here some cool articles with a winter theme that you might be interested in: