Create Hot Air Balloon Adventure Photo Manipulation in Photoshop

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to make hot air balloon adventure photo manipulation in Photoshop.

You’ll learn how to blend several stock images to create an above the cloud scene. You’ll also learn how to match the colors of the images, creating light effects and making color correction properly. Follow along tutorial and learn how to create the compelling photo manipulations.

The PSD file of this tutorial is available to buy on PSD Vault Shop, or via the PSD Vault VIP members area.

This tutorial is written by digital artist Bunty Pundir.

Final Result

Here is a preview of the final effect I have for this tutorial: (click to enlarge)

Tutorial Resources

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Step 1

Start by creating a new document in Photoshop. Go to File > New to create a new document with given settings:

Place the city image to the main document.

Step 2

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels and increase the contrast of the city using the following settings:

Results with high contrast on the city:

Step 3

Now we’ll replace the city sky with the sky image we are using for this tutorial. So place the sky image to the canvas by selecting File > Place Embedded and then place the sky image. Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal to flip the sky image horizontally and then use the Transform Tool (CTRL + T) to enlarge the sky image so it can cover entire canvas.

Step 4

Since we only need the sky then it makes sense to remove the other unwanted parts, highlighted in red color, using a layer mask. First, add a mask to sky layer, go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All and then using a soft black brush mask the parts highlighted in red color to reveal the city layer.

Here you can see the results after masking:

Step 5

Time to make some adjustments on the sky. Make a Color Balance adjustment layer for sky and use it as Clipping Mask so it doesn’t affect the city layer below it. I used only Midtones settings for tweaking the color of the sky.

Step 6

Place the aurora image in Photoshop.

Change its blend mode to Soft Light and blend it with the existing background.

Step 7

Due to aurora image I noticed that city parts (highlighted in red color) are fading away. I don’t want that as it is the area which will be visible from above the clouds. To fix, add a mask to aurora layer then erase its highlighted parts using a soft black brush.

Results after masking:

Step 8

The color of aurora isn’t matching with the background we created so far. To fix this, I used a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to colorize the aurora image. You can see the settings of Hue/Saturation and its effect in the below image.

Step 9

Using Levels adjustment layer I gave a boost of brightness to the aurora.

Step 10

Time to add the clouds so add the clouds image.

Step 11

Add a mask to clouds layer and then using a soft black brush mask it above parts. Then come back to clouds and remove them as well so it looks like the clouds are scattering and one can see the glimpse of the city underneath them. Remember for masking the clouds, I used the concept art brushes. So load the brushes in Photoshop and then use the 800 pixels cloud brush to mask the clouds.

Here you can see the cloud brush I used:

Results after masking:

Here you can see how the cloud layer mask looks after masking:

Step 12

I used a Color Balance adjustment layer to change the color of the clouds.

After changing the colors of the clouds:

Step 13

Create a new layer by pressing CTRL + SHIFT + N and clip it to clouds layer. Set the foreground color to #926341 and then paint over the clouds using a soft round brush. Name this layer ‘cloud paint’.

Once you painted over the clouds then change the blend mode of the cloud paint layer to Color. Now we have the matching color of the clouds like we see the color value in the sky of the composition.

I found that some color is missing on the horizon area. So I created a new layer and then I painted on that area with color #d9a043.

Step 14

Let’s move ahead and add the hot air balloon. Add it like I did it below and before adding it don’t forget to make the selection of it using the selection tools.

Step 15

As you can notice the brightness of the ballon isn’t matching with our composition. To fix this, make a Curves ajustment layer and lower its brightness.

Step 16

After darkening the balloon, I masked the Curves effect on the left side to maintain brightness there.


Step 17

Use the Color Balance adjustment layer to alter its color.

Step 18

Add the lens flare to the document and place it as shown below. We are using it as a light source.

Change its blending mode to Screen.

Step 19

Lens flare has a lot more unwanted parts which I don’t want. Add a mask to lens flare and then remove the highlighted parts.

Here you can see how I masked the parts:

Step 20

Using the Hue/Saturation I changed the color of the lens flare from blue to orange.

Step 21

I used the Levels adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the lens flare.

Step 22

Now we’ll create a light source or you can say that the sun. Create a new layer and name it ‘light source’. Set the foreground color to#644023 and then apply a brush stroke using soft round brush with 300px size.

Choose the color #b9733a, brighter one than the last one, and make an another brush stroke with brush size 200px.

Again change the color to #f7a664, brighter one than the last one, make an another brush stroke with brush size 100px.

Change the blending mode of the light source layer to Linear Dodge and lower the opacity to 71%.
Here we have our light source:

Step 23

On a new layer I painted the light glow using color #bd7137. Only paint over the horizon area and see the below image for reference. Name this layer ‘light glows’

Change the blending mode of the light glows layer to Screen.

Step 24

Now everything is set up and we can proceed to final adjustments which is the final stage of the composition. I lightened the color of the whole composition using the Camera Raw filter. To use the Camera Raw filter, first, make a single layer of all layers by pressing CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + E. Convert this layer into Smart Objects and then go to Filter > Camera Raw and input the following values for Temperature and Tint:

As you can see we have lightened the colors.

Step 25

I added new colors to the composition using a Color Balance adjustment layer.


Step 26

Make a Black/white adjustment layer and use its default settings.

Change the blending mode to Soft Light 60%.

Step 27

Using Clone Stamp Tool (S) I cloned the stars over the sky as I don’t like them there. You can compare the before and after results of the cloning process in the below image. If you don’t want to clone the stars then you can skip this step as well.

Step 28

On a new layer I painted some light using the color #c33850.

I changed the blending mode to Color Dodge mode and reduced the opacity to 71%.

Step 29

Finally, I used the Levels adjustment layer to increase the brightness of the whole composition.

Here is the final outcome of the tutorial:


  • My name is James and I have been using Photoshop since version 5.0 (long time ago!). PSD Vault is my spare time hobby and I write majority of the Photoshop tutorials and articles here. I hope you enjoy my blog, and feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

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