In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a dark and magical scene using a range of photo manipulation techniques in Adobe Photoshop.
First, we’ll build the base scene using three stock images. After that, we’ll import the chest and blend it with the existing ground. Later, we’ll use several adjustment layers to change the light and color of the whole scene. We’ll add the crow, paint the light, and create light rays and magical dots to complete the final result.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
1. How to Build the Base Landscape
Create a new 2200 x 1500 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:
Open the landscape image. Drag this image into the white canvas using
the Move Tool (V). Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to rotate it a
We need to reduce the light on the background and particles in the sky.
To do it, go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color and pick a
similar color to the sky. Remember to set this layer under the landscape
image. I’ve turned off the landscape image to show the result.
Turn on the landscape image and click the second icon at the bottom of
the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Activate the Brush Tool
(B) and choose a soft round one with black color (soft black brush) with
a lowered opacity (about 70-80%) to paint over the sky and the top of the sun.
Create a new layer and
select the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to remove the sign and line on the right edge.
Open the mountain 1 image and place it over the canvas and rotate it to
fit the existing background angle. After that, add a mask to this layer
and use a soft black brush to erase its ground and the right mountain, make
the left one fade into the existing sky.
Use the same method to make the right misty mountain with the mountain 2
image. Flip it horizontally (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal)
before applying the mask.
2. How to Import the Chest
Open the chest image. As it has a transparent background, you just
need to use the Move Tool to drag it into our working document. Place it
near the foreground and use Control-T to transform it a bit as shown
Add a mask to this layer and use a medium-soft black brush to paint over
its bottom so that this part looks as if it’s buried in the ground.
We’re aiming to add a light coming directly from inside the chest, so
it will create a shadow dispersed around the chest’s bottom. Make a new
layer below the chest one and use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to make
a slanted rectangle on the ground and fill it with the color
Lower the opacity of this layer to 30% and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 10 px.
The shadow needs to be a bit softer, so use a layer mask to reduce the opacity around its edges.
To create a shadow for the top of the chest, create a new layer and use
the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select it and fill it with the color
Lower the opacity of this shadow layer to 30% and use Control-T to transform the shadow, making it narrower and thinner to fit the perspective of the ground.
Apply a Gaussian Blur of 10 px to this shadow layer and reduce the top’s visibility using a layer mask.
Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer above the chest one and set it as Clipping Mask. Reduce the Saturation value to -72:
Add a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. On the layer
mask, use a layer mask to remove the dark effect on the sides of the
chest as well as the curvy details inside the top.
Continue darkening the chest using another Curves adjustment layer. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.
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
15-40% to refine the light and shadow of the chest. You can see how I
did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.
3. How to Do the Basic Adjustments
Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the colors
Make a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness. On this layer
mask, use a soft black brush to erase around the edges and sides of the
scene and make the light visible subtly in the middle.
Create another Gradient Map adjustment layer and pick the colors
#00601b. Lower the opacity of this layer to 20% and paint around
the chest’s area so it won’t be affected by this adjustment layer.
Add a Color Lookup adjustment layer and choose Bleach Bypass.look. Lower the opacity of this layer to 70%.
4. How to Add the Crow
Cut out the crow and add him to the higher position of the right side of
the chest. Place this layer below
the basic adjustment layers.
Make a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the crow. On the layer mask,
paint on the shadow areas so they won’t be affected by this adjustment
Create a new layer and use a small medium-soft brush with the color
to remove the unwanted bright details on the crow’s wings.
Make a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50%
gray. Use the Dodge Tool to paint highlights on the crow’s wings and the
Burn Tool to strengthen the shadow’s details.
5. How to Paint the Light
In this step, we’ll add light to the chest. Create a new layer and use a
soft brush with the color
#152c3c to paint inside the chest. Change
this layer mode to Linear Dodge 100%.
On a new layer, change the brush’s color to
#85aacb to paint inside the chest and alter the layer’s mode to Overlay 100%.
Make a new layer with Overlay mode and continue painting inside this box using a lighter color (
Use another color (
#c6d7e6) to paint inside the box again, but alter its mode to Soft Light 100%.
Add a new layer and paint more highlight for the contour of the crow and his eye. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100%.
6. How to Make the Light Rays and Magical Dots
Open the smoke image and add it to our main canvas. Change this layer mode to Linear Dodge 100%.
Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and fill in the following settings:
Use Control-T to change the light’s perspective, making it look as if it’s coming from inside the chest:
Duplicate this layer several times and move them to the middle and the other side of the box. Use a layer mask if needed to remove any
unwanted light details outside the box.
Select all the light ray layers and group them into a new folder using
Control-G. Alter this group’s mode to Linear Dodge 100% and create a
Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the blue light a bit.
Use a Levels adjustment layer to increase the highlight of the effect.
Make a new layer and change the foreground to
#b6d4df. Press F5 to change the settings of this brush:
Use this brush to paint tiny dots flying from inside the chest, following the direction of the light rays.
Hit Control-G to make a group of this layer and change the group’s mode to Color Dodge 100%. Now the effect looks a lot better!
Congratulations, You’re Done!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed the tutorial and learned something new for
your own projects. Feel free to share your results or leave comments in
the box below. Enjoy Photoshopping!