In this tutorial, you will learn how to create magnificent evening landscape in Photoshop, with elements of abstraction and incredible color toning. We will work a lot with blending modes because the basis of our picture is mixing and double exposure.
In addition to the variety of tools, tips, and techniques, you will learn a little about the main points of building a harmonious image and design. Discover new facets of creativity and have fun by reading this tutorial!
This tutorial is written exclusively for PSD Vault by digital artist Maria Semelevich.
Final Result Preview
Here is a preview of the final effect: (click to enlarge)
What you’ll be creating
This artwork is built on the principle of double exposure. This means that we will use forms from different photos and lighten group of Blending Modes to create a harmonious and vivid composition. This work will require attention, because of the successful use of both individual elements, as well as forms of objects.
We will start by working on the temple. We will use multiple copies, Blending Modes and create a beautiful neon look. Then we will complement the composition in the lower part of the working field and add bright foliage.
In the final part, we will work with the details and adjustment layers to balance color and lighting. Keep in mind that when I create this picture and in the tutorial work in a destructive manner. This approach is a little more difficult to implement because it requires accuracy and consistency of decisions, otherwise, you will have to do all over again. But you can always use Smart Objects to make things easier and not worry about the quality.
To create this artwork you need a bit of inspiration, some pleasant music (optional) and relax! And of course, be sure to have Adobe Photoshop, beginning with CS version or newer. In this tutorial, I will use Adobe Photoshop CS6.
- Temple (4200×2800) – Pixabay
- Landscape (7328×4891) – Pixabay
- Leaves (2912×1941) – Pixabay
- Moonshine (4592×3056) – Pixabay
- Shrine (4608×3456) – Pixabay
- Bird (6016×4000) – Pixabay
Open Photoshop and create a new document with Width: 3507 pixels, Height: 4961 pixels, Resolution: 300 Pixels/Inch. You can create a new document with Background color #1a538e or (as I prefer more) add it as a Solid Color adjustment layer to have more room for experiments and finding of the necessary shade. Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color… or use circle icon at the bottom of Layer panel and set a color to #1a538e. Delete “Background” layer by grab and drop it on the trash icon.
I just want to warn you that in this artwork I will work in a more destructive way, so try to apply all transformations right away, rather than putting a photo into working document first, and then transforming it. Otherwise, the quality of your photo manipulation will drop dramatically. Or use Smart Object layers to make the image content update every time you transform it. Place Temple image (File > Place/Place Embedded) into a working document. Scale image proportionally with Free Transform Tool (Cmd/Ctrl + T or Edit > Free Transform) and fill with temple’s roof almost entire working field (approximately 41.29% for vertical and horizontal scale). Try to find vertical symmetry of the temple relative to the working field. Also, take into account that the photo was taken from a low angle. Therefore it is compositionally advantageous to take as much as possible the upper part of the working field, but leaving some free space. Change layer Blending Mode to “Linear Dodge (Add)” and reduce Fill to 36%.
Once everything is aligned, you can start mixing images. Duplicate layer with the temple (Layer > Duplicate Layer or use shortcut Cmd/Ctrl + J) and change Blending Mode to “Overlay”, reduce Fill to 46%. To soften contrast at the bottom part, add a layer mask (use the icon at the bottom of Layers panel or go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All) and take a Gradient Tool (G). Set Mode to “Linear Gradient”, Preset to “Foreground to Background”, reset colors to default (shortcut D key) and set Foreground color to white and Background color to #5f5f5f (37% of gray) on the left Tools panel. Hold down the Shift key to create the perfect vertical line and draw a gradient from the top edge of the working field to the bottom.
Duplicate the original layer again (Cmd/Ctrl + J) and move it to top of Layer panel. Change Blending Mode to “Lighten” and restore Fill and Opacity to 100%. This Blending Mode will help to show the brightest areas on the dark places and restore the red hues over the decor of the temple. So, it gets a pretty modern, beautiful and neon look. Of course, you can use just one layer with the mode that you like, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s all about the details and experiments. So, it seemed to me that the result from blending several layers saves a wider color gamut and shows more details.
It remains to create one more copy of the temple (Cmd/Ctrl + J) at the top of the layer stack and use Blending Mode “Screen” (Opacity and Fill – 100%). Add a black layer mask (hold Opt/Alt and click on layer mask icon or go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All) to hide the entire layer. Restore lighting on the decor elements, where details are less visible on upper part of the temple with Brush Tool (B). Setup brush like this – Soft Round preset, Size: 180-575px, Opacity: 20%, color: white.
Group all these layers (Cmd/Ctrl + G or go to Layer > Group Layers), except color fill layer and add a layer mask to a group (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All). Take a Brush Tool (B) with the settings from the previous step but with Opacity: 100%. Blend bottom hard edge of the photos with solid color background and remove rocks near the temple’s pillar on the left side.
With “Photo Filter” adjustment layer (Layer >New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter… or use the icon at the bottom of Layer Panel) I add more blue color, remove the parasitic shades of green from the temple and lighten a bit dark areas. On Properties panel set Filter: Cooling Filter (80), Density: 25% and checkmark “Preserve Luminosity”. Make Clipping Mask from that layer to a group (Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + G or use the icon at the bottom of Properties panel) to affect only on images and not background color.
If the effect from adjustment layer seems too much on some areas, use a layer mask and a Brush Tool (B) with the settings from Step 5. I removed on the layer mask a little on the sides of the temple and reduce the effect on the stones at the bottom. In principle, this is more a matter of taste – if you want to get a very neon image, then leave everything as is. But some areas may look a bit strange in the future or add a range of certain magenta tones, in areas where will be high brightness. Remember, that at any stage you can come back and correct something to your taste.
Now it’s time to add details to the background so it wouldn’t be so boring. We will use the starry sky and then the mountains from the same image. Let’s start with the simplest – the starry sky. Place an Landscape image into the working document between a solid color layer and group with the temple. In Free Transform mode (Cmd/Ctrl + T), scale image a bit bigger than working area and locate it, as shown in the image below. Reduce layer Fill to around 57% so a little bit of texture affected on the background.
To remove the stars on the temple image, you need to create a selection of that area. Best and quickest solution to do that is going to Image > Calculations. In the window that appears set both sources to temple layer (night-view-654393), Source 1 channel: Blue, Source 2 channel: Red, Blending: Multiply and Result: Selection. After the selection is created, add a layer mask (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection), hold Opt/Alt and click at layer mask thumbnail to show mask’s content. Take a Brush Tool (B) with Hard Round preset, Size: 500-1000px, Blending: Overlay (for gray tones) or Normal, color: black. Clear mask from gray objects, until you get the hard/sharp silhouette of the temple. Hold Opt/Alt and click again on the thumbnail to exit mask editing mode.
If you want to improve the selection even further, then there are a few additional steps. First, apply “Minimum” filter (Filter > Other > Minimum…) with Radius: 1 pixel to remove white matte (white stroke/halo around selection). In the newer version of Photoshop, you can specify fewer numbers. Next, make double click on layer mask thumbnail to get into mask properties. Set Feather: 0.5-1 pixels and that it! The Settings depending on how much you want to make the edges of the mask softer. There is a relation between the details of the mask and the hardness of the edge, so do not overdo it with the setting. Not to smooth the edges too much so the removed content does not appear again. Also, if you apply a layer mask to the layer (Right click on mask’s thumbnail > Apply Layer Mask) you can use Matting options from Layer > Matting. This is a more destructive method of work, but it has the advantage that with this approach the size of the working file is much smaller.
Duplicate this layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J) and restore layer Fill to 100%. Apply “Levels” adjustment (Cmd/Ctrl + L or Image > Adjustments > Levels) and move the black slider until you darken overall image and leave only the brightest stars. Change Blending Mode to “Linear Dodge (Add)”to blend stars with the background. This way you will remove the distracting texture that lights up the image. But for the brightest stars, this will add shine, because this Blending Mode works like “Screen” and “Color Dodge” at the same time.
Next, we will start working on the bottom part of our artwork and create a landscape on which the temple is located. Place an Landscape image again in the working document. At the stage of transformation, you need to observe the landscape and find a beautiful, dynamic fragment in it to put it in the foreground. You can change Opacity, Fill and Blending Mode while working with transforming tools, so use it in your work, because it is so much easier and faster to make decisions regarding the construction of the composition. Apply transformations and reduce layer Fill to around 63%.
Now you need to remove the highlight and mix this photo with our workpiece. Add a layer mask (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All) and with Brush Tool (B) (Soft Round preset, Size: 1100px, Opacity: 100%, color: black) blend the top edge of the photo with the sky. Try to make a smooth junction and do not remove too much, but also do not create a noticeable spot from the brush strokes. Reduce brush Opacity to 50% and remove flare with a few brush touches.
Add another layer of mountains to cover the elements of the previous photo and expand the composition. If you look closely at the photo, you will see that you can push off from the idea of the mountains and use the lake, for example. So you can develop the plot a little differently. Place a Landscape image again. In Free Transform Mode make right click on the photo and transform it as shown in the image below. Try to hide the highlight outside the working field, otherwise, it will be the most visible object. We are interested in a beautiful glow from the starry sky, the light sources will be a little later.
To enhance the photo you can use adjustments such as “Levels”, “Curves”, “Hue/Saturation” or simply “Brightness/Contrast”. I made the image more saturated and added a bit of contrast so that it blends better with the background. You can even change the hue of the shine or even make the entire image a monochromatic. But this is not entirely necessary. The desired settings from my result, you can see in the image below.
Change Blending Mode to “Lighten”. As you can see the starry sky has now become a bright gradient, and all the dark areas, like trees, stand out through which the lower background emerges. The advantage of this Blending Mode is that it does not affect the entire brightness range, but only the dark areas, i.e., do not affect already light areas. Due to the fact that there are bright areas in the photo, like a bridge, it helps to add interesting details in the composition. In general, the look is rather unusual and we will actively use this feature. Also, with the adjustments, you can control how the effect is applied or looks.
Next, I added a small fragment to balance the landscape on the left side and create a rhythm in the shape of the mountains. Instead of duplicating the layer, I prefer to place the layer again, dragging it out of the file explorer. It’s all about quality, as I mentioned earlier. Try to arrange the layers so that the edges of the photo are hidden behind the existing landscape. Do not erase trees or damage the hard edge of the silhouette. From the edges of the photo, we get rid of much easier in next step.
Since we work with the “Lighten” group of Blending Modes, it is easier to control the details and blending using the same tools. Change Blending Mode to “Linear Dodge (Add)” to better see the problem areas and mix the photo with the background. Use “Levels” adjustment (Cmd/Ctrl + L or Image > Adjustments > Levels) to find a suitable ratio of dark and light so that the photo blends harmoniously with the composition. Start with blacks until the borders of the photo are disappear. Control the details and it’s intensity with the other two sliders. Here it is more about how you choose the settings to your taste.
So, the mountains are all in place. Now it is time to integrate all the pieces of the landscape, hide some inaccuracies of the landscape and blur the transitions between the plans. I chose this photo because I liked the contrast between the leaves and the moon. Interesting shape and texture of fog will be a good working material in all respects. First, add the light source by placing Moonshine image into working document and in Free Transform mode (Cmd/Ctrl + T) resize an image and locate the moon on the right side of the temple, over or near the lantern. The additional brightness of this place will help the object better fit into the overall atmosphere. This time it handy for textures to affect the whole range of brightness, so for this layer use “Screen” Blending Mode.
Place two more copies of this image (moon-1180345) and use the parts with foliage to add similar vegetation from the opposite side of our artwork and in the bottom left corner. Make sure that there are no hard edges of the photo in an artwork. Use a layer mask and Brush Tool (B) to remove it, like in Step 14. Using the brightness will not work this time, because if affecting certain areas with adjustments, the texture will disappear. You can add more fog in other areas, the main thing is to keep track of the proportions and does not create overexposed areas.
I decided to add more details to the temple to emphasize the contrast between the size of the temples. The roof will not look so impressive if we have nothing to compare with. In addition, a small luminous detail in the depth will add mysteries and riddles to the image. All the same as with the previous steps. Place a Shrine image, reduce it’s scale so that the image fits under the temple, placed on rocks (do not levitate!) and its details do not cover the pillars. Change Blending Mode to “Lighten” and use a layer mask with the Brush Tool (B) to remove distracting and unnecessary objects at the bottom of the temple.
To add more details, duplicate this layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J) and change Blending Mode to “Screen”, reduce Fill to 57%. Duplicate the original layer of the temple one more time (Cmd/Ctrl + J). Scale it down with Free Transform Tool (Cmd/Ctrl + T) and use the Move Tool (V) to locate is above the previous image to add even more complexity to the whole structure.
Now add the foliage. We need two layers with different scales to keep the proportions in the image. First, place Leaves image and resize it, as shown in the image below. Put foliage in the foreground. Secondly, set Blending Mode to “Lighten” and use “Levels” adjustment (Cmd/Ctrl + L or Image > Adjustments > Levels) to darken the background of the leaves until it disappears, thereby leaving only the brightest foliage.
To mix the foliage a simple round brush will not be enough. No matter how carefully you try, it will be long and not very realistic. It’s all about the abstract edge, which leaves no hint of editing, and the mask remains realistic. Use the images below to create a similar brush. All settings and presets you will find in Photoshop itself. Go to Brush Panel (F5) and use a “Chalk 60 pixels” brush preset as a starting point. I often use this kind of brushes in my work when dealing with vegetation. This brush helps a lot when you need to make a mask for trees or similar foliage. When you customize the brush, add a layer mask to foliage layer ( Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All ). First, hide the image border, then remove areas that are mixed incorrectly or foliage hide an interesting part of the landscape.
Repeat the Steps 24-25 with the second image to add more foliage near the temple and close the top of the mountains. If the textures of both images are overlapping, find on which layer the dynamics of the foliage is better and remove it from this place on another layer. The main thing, in this case, is not to lose the organic, natural flow and movement of foliage.
To enrich the plot and composition, let’s add an expressive object to the foreground. So we will add additional dynamics and one more bright spot will be added as a balance to the moonlight. Place image of the bird (File > Place/Place Embedded) into a working document. While in Free Transform Mode (Cmd/Ctrl + T), first of all, flip an image horizontally (Right click > Flip Horizontal). Next, scale it to around and position at the bottom part of our artwork. Rotate bird a bit to catch dynamic and direct the movement towards the light source. Change Blending Mode to “Lighten” and with Brush Tool (B) on a layer mask or with Eraser Tool (E) remove all green background to separate the bird. Be attentive to details in order not to accidentally remove important parts of the bird. Play with the composition. At this stage, you can get a lot of interesting stories.
It is necessary to bring the lighting of our picture to a single source so that the details do not seem disconnected. The moon and neon roof is our main light spots in the scene, so we need to put all attention on it. apply “Gradient Fill” adjustment layer (Layer > New Fill layer > Gradient) with gradient settings like Mode: Radial, Angle: 0 degrees, Scale: 288%, Reverse. Click on Gradient to show up “Gradient Editor” window and move black slider to Location: 50%. While “Gradient Fill” window is active drag and drops white spot near the moon. Set Blending Mode to “Soft Light”, Fill around 36% to make the vignette not so noticeable. We are interested more in lighting to emphasize the light source.
Add “Photo Filter” adjustment layer (Layer >New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter… or use the icon at the bottom of Layer Panel) with the settings – Filter: yellow, Density: 25%. This will help to more integrate all parts of the picture and expand the range of green tones at the bottom. Also, add more warm tones to the overall atmosphere. On a layer mask, remove effect completely from the temple but leave it a bit on the edges and at the bottom part of an artwork. Use Brush Tool (B) (Soft Round preset, Size: 2000px, Opacity: 50-100% and black color).
The last thing to add is a touch of color. Add “Vibrance” adjustment layer (Layer >New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance) and set Vibrance: +44. You can also clean up a bit in your working document to reduce its size. To do this, delete all unused layer masks. Also, if you added layers not as smart objects, you can use Crop Tool (C) and without changing borders checkmark “Delete Cropped Pixels” and apply the crop. This deletes all the information what was outside the working field.
That’s all! Enjoy your final result. Here, my final artwork. Do not be afraid to go beyond with software, style, and genre. However, most importantly – do not hesitate to create and experiment! Thank you for your attention and good luck to you in your creative projects! Have something to add or ask? Use the comment section below!