Design a Surreal Ancient Ruin and Coastal Island Scenery in Photoshop

In this tutorial, I will show you the processes involved in creating this beautiful, fantasy-styled surreal ancient ruin and coastal island scenary in Photoshop. Hope you enjoy it!

 

Along the way, we will go through a variety of technqiues such as layer blending, image adjustments, a bit of matte painting skills and filter effects. This is an intermediate level tutorial so some steps can be a bit tricky. Practices always make thing easier for the future, so go ahead and have a try :)

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

floating-island-flatten-final-2

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OK let’s get started!

To complete this tutorial, you will need the following stocks:

Coastal Cliff Scene

Island Sky

Rock Island

Waterfall 1

Waterfall 2

Ancient Ruin

Beautiful Sitting Lady

Step 1

Load the “Coastal Cliff Scene” stock image into Photoshop, we will use this as our starting point. Firstly I’d like to make the overall soften a bit, so I duplicate the background layer, and apply the following Gaussian Blur settings to the duplicated layer:

1 Gaussian Blur

After apply the Gaussian Blur settings, duplicate this blurred layer once and change the blending mode of the duplicated layer to “Color Burn”, you will have the following effect:

2 Colour Burn

On this colour burn layer, add a layer mask and on the layer mask, erase the area indicated above (within the selection), so that only the colour of the ocean darkened: (Hint: erase using a big, soft brush)

2 After burn

Now add the following adjustments layer on top of all previous layers:

Curves:

2 curves

Colour Balance:

2 col bal

On top of the adjustment layers, add a gradient fill layer as shown below:

2 grad fill

And you will have the following effect so far:

2 effect 2

Step 2

Now we have a pretty nice grass on the lower part of our image, but the sky portion is simply a disaster right now. To fix this, simply load the Island Sky image into Photoshop, and drag the entire image onto our document, name this layer as “sky” and position, resize it as shown below:

3 sky drag

Use a big soft brush to erase the bottom part of the “sky” layer, so we have the sky portion of the image left:

3 erase

Add the following “Curves” adjustment layer to the “Sky” layer, make sure to tick “use previous layer as clipping mask” option:

3 curves

Duplicate the “sky” layer and drag the duplicated layer to the top, apply the following Motion Blur settings to it:

3 motion blur

Change the motion blur sky layer’s blending mode to “Screen” and opacity to 70%, you will have the following effect:

3 effect

Step 3

Now we can work on adding some dynamic lighting effect to the edges of the cliff. Let’s grab the Lasso Tool (L) and set its feather to 30px, draw a selection around the bottom edge of the cliff, and render some cloud (choose a dark grey as background colour, and white as foreground colour) within it:

4 cloud centre

Name this layer as “light bottom” and drop its opacity to 70%.

Duplicate the “light bottom” layer once and change the blending mode of the duplicated layer to “overlay”.

And on the cliff edge to the right, we use the same method to render some cloud around it. (For quicker result, simply duplicate the original “light bottom” layer and position it as shown below:

4 cloud right

and change the layer name to “lighting right”, duplicate it once and change the blending mode of the duplicated layer to “overlay”, you will have the following effect:

4 effect

For more lighting variations, we can add a Brightness and Contrast adjustment layer with the following settings and mask:

4 bc

4 erase mask

and you will have the following effect:

4 effect 2

Step 4

We can now add a far distance island to the ocean. Load the Rock Island image into Photoshop and drag it onto our document. Erase the surrounding and leave only the rock island and name this layer as “island”:

5 copy and paste

Add a colour balance adjustment layer to this “island” layer, make sure to tick “use previous layer as clipping mask” option:

5 col bal

Now duplicate the “island” layer three times and drag them all to the top, change their blending mode as shown below:

5 layer blend

And your effect should be similar to the following:

5 effect 1

Step 5

Now we can add some waterfall to the island (well, it supposes to be a surreal image!). I decide to add one to each side. So load the Waterfall 1 image into Photoshop and drag it onto our document. Erase all the unnecessary parts only leave the main waterfall scene, resize and position it as shown below:

5 paste waterfall

Name this layer as “waterfall 1” and duplicate it once to make it bolder. Add the following Colour Balance adjustment layer to the duplicated layer, make sure to tick “use previous layer as clipping mask” option:

5 col bal 2

and you will have the following effect:

5 effect

Load the Waterfall 2 image into Photoshop and again drag it to our document. Name this layer as “waterfall 2” and put it on top of all other layers.

Again we erase all unnecessary parts of the waterfall image, and position it as shown below:

5 copy and paste waterfall 2

Add the following image adjustment layer to the “waterfall 2” layer, make sure to tick “use previous layer as clipping mask” option:

Curves

5 curves

Colour Balance

5 col bal 3

To highlight the island a bit, we can add a new colour balance adjustment layer without ticking the clipping mask option on top of all other layers, with the following settings and mask:

5 col bal 4

Mask

5 mask col bal

and you will have the following effect so far:

5 effect 2

Step 6

Now we’re onto add the Ancinet Ruin part. Simply load the Ancient Ruin image into Photoshop and drag it onto our document, resize and position it as shonw below:

6 copy and paste

Name this layer as  “ruin” Erase the bottom part (use a small soft brush) and the sky portion off the image: (hint: use the magic wand tool to select the sky part, and go to Edit > Clear to get rid of it)

6 erase

Optional: you can add a colour balance adjustment layer to this ruin layer, however I decide to leave it as it is for now, with the original lighting effect.

Duplicate this “ruin” layer once, flip it horizontally and rezise a bit, fit it on top of our island as shown below:

6 dup flip

Step 7

We can now spice up the image a bit by adding the beautiful lady image outlooking the distant sea to our scene. So load the “beautiful sitting lady” image into Photoshop. Cut the lady from the rest of the image and paste it onto our document, name this layer as “lady”:

Resize and position it as shown below:

7 copy

Add the following three adjustment layers to the lady layer, make sure to tick “use previous layer as clipping mask” option:

Curves

7 curves

Colour Balance

7 col bal

Brightness and Contrast

7 bc

Duplicate the original “lady” layer once, and put it on top of all other layers, change the blending mode to “multiply”, you will have the following effect:

7 effect 1

And now we can painting a bit of shadow for the lady. So create a new layer just below the orginal lady layer, use a soft round brush with black colour, set the brush flow and opacity to 50%, and paint in the area as shown below:

7 paint shadow

Step 8

For some final touchups, we can add two more adjustment layers with the following settings and mask:

Colour Balance

8 col bal

8 col bal mask

Brightness and Contrast

8 bc

8 bc mask

And you will have the following final effect:

8 effect

Step 9

To further enhance the image effect, I flatten the image and apply the following smart sharpen settings to the flattened image:

9 smart sharpen

And to add some sunlight, I simply duplicated the background layer, and apply the following radial blur settings:

9 radial blur

Change the blending mode to “Screen” for this duplicated layer and drop its opacity to around 40%.

I further alter the colour balance and saturation of the image, and here is my final image result for this tutorial: (click to enlarge)

floating-island-flatten-final-2

Hope you enjoy this tutorial, drop me a comment if you have any question, I will try my best to help you out.

Cheers and have a nice day!

Tags:

  • 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.

  • Show Comments

  • ishoot

    wew awesome…
    like photoshop top secret tutor yeah???

  • nice tutorial, thanks

  • Austin S

    Hey, I really love all your tutorials, but would you mind doing something a little more, from scratch? like for example how to create a realistic building from scratch??

  • kim

    nice work! really wonderful~
    i kinda confuse around Step 1 where we need to add a gradient fill layer. I cant seems to get the blue color. and in the Step 3, im having trouble using the render clouds layer because the clouds turns out to be white =__=’ im still trying to learn in photoshop editing, i hope u can help me .

  • Flex developer

    Very nice image and lesson =) Thanks. I like it )

  • Love your tutorials. Donated few $, cheers!

  • kse

    nice tutorial but there is a prob
    you see if the sun is on the right corner of the pic there will shadows of the ruins if you see what i mean

  • Looks magical indeed :)

  • niraj

    THAT WAS COOL I DONE IT BUT NOT HAPPENED LIKE THIS I FILL SO SAD

  • nice manip psd vault saw you in flickr good stuff

  • DANIEL

    Hi dude!

    I would like to know as to make download of the tutorial ones published in the site therefore already I tried to copy and paste in the Microsoft word but the images don´t appear .thanks

  • yusuf

    ben bunları yapmak da çok istekliyim ne olur bunun vide olu canlı anlatımını yapın tam yapamıyorum yazılı anlatımda ve email de gönderebilirsiniz şimdiden teşekkürler ….

  • micks

    wow dude xD its awesome

  • Boooya

    Great tutorial but you should be careful about the shades of the images you use, the lightings don’t match together and the result is quite strange

  • koolius7

    very nice idea & effects = very fantastic

  • Soteria

    This is a very beautiful scene and thanks for making it so easy for newbies like me.

  • Gayle

    I don’t know if its because I’m using CS3 or what but when using different color adjustmensts and the masks the entire document gets effected not just the layer. So I apply the effect to the layer before copy/paste to the new document. If anyone can tell me if it is or not about the cause I would deeply appreciate it. Thanks

  • hi
    love your color..

  • Princ PS

    Coastal Cliff Scene link doesn’t work… :S Please upload again..?

  • Jason Hayton

    Thank you for this I used it in my site very nice!

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