Creating a montage image from multiple shots is great fun, from photographing the individual elements needed to executing the techniques involved in Photoshop to blending everything together.
In this fantasy landscape tutorial we’re going to take a look at some basic Photoshop montage skills that will enable you to overlay and blend the supplied photos of rocks, sea and mist into a finished image that’s good enough to hang on your wall. We’ll also look at the advantages of opening images as Smart Objects directly from Bridge.
A key part of any fantasy landscape montage project is the extraction of the individual elements. We’ll reveal how to quickly separate the rocks from their backgrounds using selection tools, the Quick Mask editing mode, and the Refine Edge tool. We’ll finish off by using the Brush tool to create a simple blend at the base of the rocks that will make them subtly fade into the sea.
The techniques are simple, but with the addition of some mist effects created using the Gradient tool and varied layer opacities, the final effect of our fantasy landscape will be both effective and realistic.
We’ll then take a look at clipping adjustments, which can be applied to a selection of layers rather than the entire image. (Note that earlier versions of Photoshop aren’t able to clip adjustments to groups. If you find you’re unable to complete step 14, duplicate the group, then merge it down to a single layer first.)
Finally, to add a little extra atmosphere to our fantasy landscape we’ll tweak the colours using Color Balance and Photo Filter layers. So with the images to hand, it’s time to fire up Photoshop and create this fantasy landscape.
Quick Tip: Clipping adjustments
Adjustment layers give you complete control over the enhancements you make to an image, but there are often situations where the changes you want to make to an image should only affect one layer or group.
If you want to use an adjustment layer to change, say, the colour in a layer without affecting the rest of the layers below, then you’ll need to use a clipping adjustment. To do this simply hold down Alt, hover between the two layers, and when the cursor changes just click to clip.
How to make a fantasy landscape: steps 1-6
01 Open the seascape
Click here to download the start files and follow along! With Photoshop open go to File>Browse in Mini Bridge to open Bridge within the Photoshop interface. Now use the small navigation panel on the left of the screen to navigate to the images for this project. Double click the image Fantasy_Start_01.NEF to open it directly into Adobe Camera Raw.
02 Straighten the horizon
Our seascape has a slightly wonky horizon, which can be fixed with ACR. From the tool bar at the top of the ACR interface select the Straighten tool. Click the image on the line of the horizon, and keeping the mouse button pressed, drag a line across the horizon, then release. Press Enter to confirm the crop.
03 Cool down the colour
To create a more ethereal feeling for our fantasy landscape, we’re first going to need to cool down the colour in our image. On the Basic panel on the right of the interface, reduce the Temperature slider, then drop the Exposure slider a fraction to darken the image. Next we need to add a bit more contrast by increasing the Contrast slider.
04 Add more drama
In the foreground we want to deepen the blacks in the sea. Reduce the Blacks slider, then increase the midtone contrast by increasing the Clarity. This brings more definition to the waves. Select the Graduated Filter tool from the tool bar and draw a line vertically down the sky to darken it.
05 Open as a Smart Object
Below the preview in Adobe Camera Raw click the info text to open up the ACR options. Click the Open in Photoshop as Smart Objects tick box and click OK. Now click Open Object. The image will now open in Photoshop as a Smart Object, which means you’ll be able to readjust the background in ACR later if necessary.
06 Stretch the image
We have a portrait-format image, but for our fantasy landscape we want the orientation to be landscape. Go to Image>Canvas Size, select cm as the unit of measurement, and type 60 in the Width box. Click OK. Now enter Free Transform (Cmd/Ctrl+T) and increase the width of the image by dragging the side anchor points to the edges of the canvas. Press Enter.
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