In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a surreal scene with moon balloons. First, we’ll build the base scene using images of the sky and a park. After that, we’ll add the child and blend him with the background using adjustment layers, masking, and brushes. Later we’ll create the moon balloons and paint their strings. Finally, we’ll import the tree and use several adjustment layers to complete the final effect.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
1. How to Build the Base Scene
Create a new 2000 x 1816 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:
Open the sky image. Drag this image into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V).
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and decrease the lightness as we’re building a night scene.
Open the background image. Place this image in the bottom half of the
canvas and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to reduce the height
of it. Remember to convert this layer to a Smart Object.
Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal to rotate the paths to fit the perspective of the walking child (as we’ll see in the next section).
Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to
this layer. Use a soft round brush with black color (soft black brush)
to erase the trees in the background.
Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and change the Radius to 8 px.
On this filter mask, use a soft black brush to erase the blur effect on
the paths (especially the left one) and leave it visible only on the
background, foreground, and edges.
There are some unwanted details on the background and the left path. Create a new layer and set it as a Clipping Mask. Select the Clone Tool (S) to remove the indicated
Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value down to -58:
Use a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings:
a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. On this layer
mask, use a soft black brush to erase the left path area where the child
and the big balloon will be located.
Use another Curves adjustment layer to increase the lightness of the
left path area. Paint on the rest to keep them still at the same lightness.
2. How to Add the Child
Open the child image. Cut him out from the background and add him to the start of the left path.
Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and alter the Saturation value to -60:
Add a Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the child. We’re aiming to add a big moon balloon, which will create light from above and near the child. On this layer
mask, use a soft black brush to keep the same lightness of the shaded areas.
Make a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray:
Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about
30-35% to strengthen the light and darken the shade. You can see
how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode:
Time to make a shadow for the child. Create a new layer under the child
one. Hold down Control while clicking the child thumbnail layer to load
Fill this selection with black and flip it vertically. Use Control-T to
make the shadow narrower and shorter as the light source (moon balloon)
is on top and near the child.
Lower the Opacity of this layer to 60% and apply a Gaussian Blur of 8 px to soften the shadow.
Create a new layer and use a medium-soft black brush with the Opacity
about 30% to strengthen the shadow under the child’s feet.
3. How to Make the Moon Balloons
Isolate the moon from the dark background and place it above the child.
Use Control-T with Warp mode to tweak the bottom of the moon and make it look like
Duplicate this layer three times and reduce the moon size. Arrange the
balloons on both sides and in the top middle area of the scene.
Apply the Inner Glow and Outer Glow to each of the balloon layers. Pick the color of glow to
#fcfcfc (default color):
Apply Gaussian Blur filters of 3 px to the one on the left, 4 px to
the one on the right, and 5 px to the one in the top middle. It helps to
vary the depth of field.
Select all the balloon layers and press Control-G to make a group for
them. Change this group’s mode to Normal 100%. Create a new layer and use a
soft brush with the color
#b6baae to paint over the big balloon to add
more glow to it. Alter this layer mode to Screen 100%.
Add a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the big balloon more. Paint on
the other balloons so they’re not affected by this adjustment layer.
4. How to Create the Strings
Make a new layer under the balloons group. Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a
line under the big balloon and then stroke it with a 2 px hard white
Duplicate this layer three times. Move the copies under the other balloons
and remember to reduce their size. Apply a Gaussian Blur of 2 px to each
of these layers.
5. How to Add the Tree
Open the tree image and use the Move Tool to add the tree to the right-hand side of the scene.
Apply a Gaussian Blur of 12 px to this layer as it’s in the blurred area.
Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the Saturation value to -58:
Add a Color Balance adjustment layer to add some cyan/blue to the tree:
Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the tree as it’s in the dark corner of the scene.
6. How to Make the Final Adjustments
Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the
#a9f3fa. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 50%:
Make a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color
Add a Curves adjustment layer to darken the scene. On this layer mask,
use a soft black brush to reveal the light around the child and balloons
and leave the effect visible only on the edges.
Use another Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the
whole scene. Paint on the illuminated details of the child and the
balloons to keep their lightness.
Make a Color Fill layer and pick the color
#130000. Change this layer mode to Exclusion 100%.
Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect.
Congratulations, You’re Done!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my tutorial and learned something new. Feel
free to share your ideas or comments in the box below—I’d love to see
them. Enjoy Photoshopping!