How to Create a Dark Surreal Eye Photo Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop | How To

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to use to a , piece featuring a giant underground

First, we’ll build the base scene using several stock images. After that, we’ll add the eye and the root and blend them together using adjustment layers, masking, and brushes. Later, we’ll paint the stream and add the paper boat, tree, bird, and falling leaves. We’ll use several adjustment layers to complete the final effect.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:

  • Sky 
  • Landscape 
  • Soil 1 
  • Soil 2 
  • Eye 
  • Root 
  • Paper boat 
  • Tree 
  • Bird 
  • Leaves 

1. How to Build the Base Scene

Step 1

Create a new 1500 x 1333 px document in Photoshop with the following settings:

new file

Step 2

Open the sky image. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the sky area, and move it into our white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Place it in the upper half of the canvas. 

add sky

Step 3

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue Saturation and decrease the Saturation value to -44:

sky hue saturation

Step 4

Place the landscape image in the upper of the main document and convert this layer to a Smart Object. Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a soft round one with black color. Use this brush to erase the sky part and a hard round one to work on the bottom of the landscape.

add landscape
landscape masking

Step 5

On the landscape layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 4 px.

landscape gaussian blur

On the filter mask, use a soft black brush to erase the foreground and midground, leaving the blur effect visible on the background. This step is to separate the main objects from the background to increase the depth of the whole scene.

landscape gaussian blur masking

Step 6

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer above the landscape layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Alter the Midtones values to match the color of the landscape with the sky.

landscape color balance

Step 7

Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the foreground. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to remove the effect on the background.

landscape brightnesscontrast

Step 8

Move the soil 1 image (I’ve chosen image 5 from the collection) into the lower section of the main canvas. Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to erase the hard edges and blend the soil with the existing ground.

add soil 1
soil 1 masking

Step 9

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones settings:

soil 1 color balance

Step 10

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the soil. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with Opacity about 10-15% to reduce the dark effect on the middle section of the soil.

soil 1 curves

Step 11

Place the soil 2 image above the soil 1 area. Use a layer mask to remove the hard edges on the upper section and the middle.

add soil 2
soil 2 masking

Step 12

Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the soil. Paint on both sides of the soil’s area with a soft black brush and Opacity about 10% to decrease the dark contrast there and reveal some details and textures.

soil 2 curves

2. How to Retouch the Eye

Step 1

Open the eye image and use the Lasso Tool (L) to select the eye and move it into our main document. Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to blend the eye with the underground soil.

add eye
eye masking

Step 2

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the eye.

eye curves

Step 3

Make a new layer, and use a soft brush with the color #0d0806 and Opacity about 30% to remove the details inside the pupil and on the sclera.

eye retouch

3. How to Add the Roots

Step 1

Move the roots image into the underground area and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to rotate it as shown below:

add root

Use a layer mask to remove the lower section and blend the roots with the existing ground. Lower the brush opacity when blending the roots to make them fade out into the wall.

root masking

Step 2

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to give the roots a warm tone.

root color balance

Step 3

Create a Curves adjustment layer to match the lightness of the roots with the soil.

root curves

4. How to Paint the Stream

Step 1

Make a new layer on top of the other layers and use a soft brush with the color #8e8c8f to paint the base of the stream inside the eye. Add a mask to this layer to make the result subtler.

paint stream base

Step 2

Add a new layer and use the same brush to paint small details, highlights, and drops on the stream. Lower the brush’s opacity when painting inside the eye.

paint stream details

Step 3

Increase the brush’s size to paint the base of the flow coming out from the eye.

paint stream flow

Step 4

Lower the brush’s size to paint more details inside and smaller flows outside the eye.

complete stream

5. How to Import the Paper Boat

Step 1

Open the paper boat image and cut out the red boat. Place it onto the stream and use a layer mask to soften its bottom to integrate it with the stream’s surface.

add paper boat

Step 2

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the boat.

boat hue saturation

Step 3

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer to alter the boat’s color.

boat color balance

Step 4

Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the boat. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with Opacity about 15-20% to reduce the dark effect on the front of the boat.

boat curves

Step 5

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Activate the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range and Exposure about 10-15% to refine the light and shadow of the boat. You can see how I made it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

boat DB

6. How to Add the Tree

Step 1

Cut out the tree and a part of the ground and place it above the existing ground. Use Control-T to narrow its width a bit.

add tree part 1

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to soften the hard edges around the tree.

tree part 1 masking

Step 2

Take the tree from the original without the ground to add it to the existing tree. Use Control-T with the Warp mode to tweak the tree as shown below:

add tree part 2

Use a layer mask to remove the bottom and the left side of the tree.

tree part 2 masking

Step 3

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray.  Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to paint more details for this tree.

tree DB

Step 4

Select all of the tree layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Change this group’s mode to Normal 100% and make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within this group to desaturate the tree.

tree hue saturation

Step 5

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the tree. Paint on the middle and on both sides of the tree to reduce the dark effect there.

tree curves

7. How to Add the Bird

Step 1

Isolate the bird and place him onto the left side of the tree. Flip him horizontally by choosing Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.

add bird

Step 2

On the original image, select the bird’s tail and place it below the bird in the existing document. Resize it to fit the size of the bird and set this layer below the bird’s one. This step is to make the tail of the bird in the main document a bit bigger.

add bird tail

Use a layer mask to blend the tail with the bird.

bird tail masking

Step 3

Make a group for the bird layers and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the bird.

bird hue saturation

Step 4

Use a Curves adjustment layer to make the bird darker to fit the lightness of the scene.

bird curves

8. How to Add the Leaves

Step 1

Open the leaves image (I’ve chosen the default angle) and take different leaves to add around the tree and underground area, especially at the bottom of the tree.

add leaves

Step 2

Add some bigger leaves around the bottom of the scene. On each of these layers, apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to soften the leaves.

add blurred leaves

Add another leaf to the middle section and apply a Gaussian Blur of 8 px to this layer. This step is to increase the depth of the scene.

add more blurred leaf

Step 3

Create a group for all of the leaf layers and make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the leaves.

leaves hue saturation

Step 4

Add a Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to some of the dark leaves. On the layer mask, paint on the brighter leaves so they won’t be affected by this adjustment layer.

leaves curves 1
leaves curves 1 masking

Step 5

Use another Curves adjustment layer to darken some leaves, especially the ones in the underground area. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.

leaves curves 2

Step 6

Make a new layer below the leaves’ group. Use a soft brush with the color #0c0a0d and Opacity about 20% to paint soft shadows for some leaves on the ground and on the tree.

leaves shadow

9. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the colors #290a59 and #ff7c00. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 20%.

whole scene gradient map

Step 2

Make a Color Fill layer and pick the color #110405. Change this layer mode to Exclusion 100%

whole scene color fill

Step 3

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones values:

whole scene color balance

Step 4

Make a Filter adjustment layer and select the color #9dc8f1.

whole scene photo filter

Step 5

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the underground section and the top of the sky. Paint on the rest so it won’t be darkened by this adjustment layer.

whole scene curves

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!

See how dark things inspire you. Or learn something cool with tree, bird, and surreal things here:

  • In this tutorial, instructor Melody Nieves will show you how to create an awesome pair of feet-inspired hiking boots using basic photo

    Photo Manipulation

  • In this beginner level tutorial, we will be exploring a slightly different way to create a double exposure effect in Afinnity Photo.

    Photo Manipulation

  • In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a surreal, emotional scene featuring a woman carrying a cage. First we’ll build the background using sky and…

    Photo Manipulation

final result

You might also like More from author

Comments are closed.