Recently I went and saw the movie “Inception” and thought it was really awesome. That’s why I thought I can probably try and create a similar effect using Photoshop and make a tutorial of it for you guys :)

In this tutorial, I will show you the steps I took to create this Surreal/Sci-fi Environment Inspired by the “Inception” Movie in Photoshop. Some steps can be a little tricky, but why not have a try!


Here is a preview of the final effect we will be aiming to achieve: (click to enlarge)

surreal photo manip 484x700 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

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vip sign up 250 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

You will need the following stock to complete this tutorial:

Ocean

Sky

Building

Wave

Girl

OK let’s get started!

Step 1

Create a new document sized 900 * 1300px, fill the background layer with black colour. Load the “Ocean” stock image into Photoshop, use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select a portion of it, paste it onto our document. Name this layer as “Ocean”:

1 paste1 500x283 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Duplicate this ocean layer once and apply the following “Reduce Noise” filter once:

1 reduce noise Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

As you can see, the ocean looks a lot smoother and calmer then before:

1 after reduce noise 500x213 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Duplicate the original ocean once more and drag it to the top, chnage the blending mode of this second duplicated layer to “color doge”. You will have the following effect:

1 color dodge 500x198 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Add a Levels adjustment layer to it: (make sure to tick the “use previous layer as clipping mask” option)

1 lv Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Add a Black and White adjustment layer on top of all layers, this time DO NOT tick the “”use previous layer as clipping mask” option:

1 bw Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

You will have the following effect:

1 effect3 500x206 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Use a big soft brush to the erase top edge of the ocean as shown below:

1 erase edge 499x145 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

and here is the effect so far:

1 effect 2 500x233 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Step 2

Load the “Sky” image into Photoshop, select a portion of it with the rectangular marquee tool, copy and paste the selection onto our document, resize and position it as shown below:

2 sky paste 500x448 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Erase the bottom edge with soft brush:

2 erase1 500x145 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Add a black and white adjustment layer with the following settings on it: (make sure to tick the “use previous layer as clipping mask” option)

2 bw Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

and here is the effect so far:

2 effect2 488x700 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Step 3

Load the “Building” image into Phtooshop, use the quick selection tool to select any one of the highrises: (I use the one on the right)

3 select 500x582 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Paste the selection onto our canvas, use a soft brush to erase the top and left edge of the layer:

3 paste1 500x699 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Make sure you erase the bottom left edge of the building so it fades into the cloud:

3 erase 500x311 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Black and white

3 bw1 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Levels

3 lv Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Mask on the levels adjustment layer:

3 lv mask 486x700 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

and here is the effect so far:

3 effect2 480x700 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

3 highlight 499x655 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Step 4

Now let’s add some splashing wave to the bottom of the building. Load the “Wave” stock image into Photoshop, cut a piece of the wave and paste it onto our document, resize and position it to the bottom of the building, as shown below:

4 wave 500x219 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Erase the edges with soft brush:

4 erase1 500x196 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Black and white:

4 bw Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Levels

4 lv Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

and here is the effect so far:

4 effect1 500x245 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Step 5

Now make a layer group and put all the layers links to the building on the right under it, duplicate this layer group once, and hit Ctrl + T and right-click, choose “Flip Horizontal”:

5 flip 500x331 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Then move this duplicated group to the left side of the image, as shown below:

5 move left 500x376 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Load the “Girl” Stock image into Photoshop, cut out the girl and paste it onto our document, name the new layer as “girl”:

5 model 480x700 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Erase the erase of the girl as shown below so she blending it with the surroundings:

5 erase1 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Create a new layer called “glow” and use a soft white brush, paint around the girl to create some glow effect:

5 highlights Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Create a new layer called “splash” under the girl layer, grab some waves from the “Wave” stock image and paste it onto it, reduce the layer opacity to low level around 20%, also perspective it a bit so it looks more realistic:

5 noise feet 499x140 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Add the following three adjustment layers on top of the girl layer (make sure to tick the “use previous layer as clipping mask” option)

5 lv Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Curves

5 curves1 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Black and White

5 bw Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

and here is the effect so far:

5 effect3 451x700 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Step 6

Now let’s add some textures over the image. You can use any grunge or abstract brushset and paint on a  new layer, set the layer opacity to around 50%. Here is my effect after the painting:

6 abstract brush 486x700 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Add a new Curve image adjustment layer on top of all layers with the following settings:

6 curves1 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

6 curver green Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

6 curves blue Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

and here is the effect so far:

6 effect2 471x700 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Step 7

Now let’s fill the empty sky portion within some surreal effect. I thought of using the polar coordinates filter to add a few black holes on it.

So let’s flatten the iamge, and duplicate the background layer once and apply the following Polar Coordinates Filter to it: (Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates)

1 polar Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

and you will have the following effect:

7 polar 488x700 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Resize this layer to the small size, then distort it and a bit and use a soft brush to erase the edges, as shwon below:

7 erase 500x388 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Duplicate this layer a few times, rotate, resize each of the duplicated layer, move them to the position shown below to create some variety:

7 dup 500x456 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

Once you’re done, sharpen the background layer a bit and here is the final effect: (click to enlarge)

surreal photo manip 484x700 Create Surreal Environment Inspired by the Inception Movie in Photoshop

That’s it for this Photoshop tutorial! Hope you enjoy it and find it useful. Until next time, have a great day!