advanced photoshop

Cinematic effects tutorial

Posted in:
General, by Adam Smith

Composite your photo stock to create perspective and explosive effects in an action-packed image

The following tutorial is for Photoshop enthusiasts looking to take their compositing skills to the next level.

The biggest issue with this type of image is figuring out how to place all the different pieces authentically.

Relighting these using Photoshop adjustment layers helps with integration and enhances a sense of realism.

We’ll also explore how to dodge and burn creatively, match light with colour casts and ultimately create a dynamic atmosphere.

By the end of this tutorial, you will be placing objects in a scene effectively, to tell your compelling story.

Pick document size

The first step is to open a new portrait document, set at 4,400 x 5,600px. Once this is done, open the supplied ‘Background.jpg’, ‘Girl.psd’ and ‘Heli.psd’ files, then layer these into your workspace as you see fit.

Cinematic effects tutorial

Scale the images

Place the elements and scale them so they look realistic. You won’t need to scale the background, just align it suitably. Make the helicopter a bit smaller to match the perspective and increase the scale of your model so she seems closer.

Cinematic effects tutorial

Replace the sky

Now replace that boring white sky with something more interesting. Open the supplied ‘Clouds.psd’, copy and paste this into your document and place it behind your ‘Background.jpg’ layer. Remove the existing sky in this layer by selecting it with the Magic Wand then deleting it. Increase the scale of the ‘Cloud.psd’ layer to fit.

Cinematic effects tutorial

Create glass shards

Open the supplied ‘GlassShards.psd’, then copy, paste and resize the shard layers individually. This is the longest process in the entire tutorial, as it takes time to create a realistic glass explosion. You will need to vary the sizes and direction of your shard layers. Start comping around the model’s body and try to achieve a look where the model is bursting out of a glass window. Add smaller shards in front of her and larger ones close to her sides.

Cinematic effects tutorial

Add glass shatter marks

Now you need to add more realism to make the window look like it’s shattering. To create this effect, all you need is a white brush with a hard edge. Set a small brush size so it feels like you are drawing with pencil on paper. Open the supplied ‘broken_glass.psd’. What you need to do is create a similar design. For the sake of time, just create a new layer and trace over this image if you would like to get a feel for the effect.

Cinematic effects tutorial

Warp the background

We are warping the background because we need it to look like a window reflection. Most reflections have a slight curvature, so activate the Liquify filter and begin editing the ‘Background.jpg’ layer, keeping in mind how you are affecting direction. The top of the building to the left has been cut off, but you will need to trim a bit more off the top to make it look like there is a roof. Use the Pen Path tool to select the top part of the building precisely then delete what you have selected. Your building should now look normal.

Cinematic effects tutorial

Place your broken glass

Insert your hand-drawn broken glass layer next to your model. As you duplicate the shatter marks, the layer edges will not match up perfectly. This isn’t a problem, because glass breaks are not always symmetrical. Place these shatter marks so they outline the model’s body. This makes the glass look like it’s shattering outward as the model is bursting through. Use a hard-edged Eraser tool to remove some cracks and give them a sporadic look.

Cinematic effects tutorial

Spread glass dust

Now we need to create finer pieces of glass spraying everywhere. Do so by opening the supplied ‘GlassDust.psd’, replicate the tiny shards of glass in random order then merge the layers. Descale these pieces, then repeat the process until a dust cloud starts to form. Continue to copy and paste this dust cloud layer into your image and place these new layers randomly, intermingling with the glass shards you created previously.

Cinematic effects tutorial

Analyse your work

You will now have your elements placed where you need them. This process has been wholly deliberate and in the following steps we will start to add all the effects and lighting we need to bring the image together. The hardest part is done, so now we are going to focus on the smaller details.

Cinematic effects tutorial

Liquefy the helicopter

You will need to liquify every image that is shown in the simulated reflection. This includes the ‘Heli.psd’ layer, making it look authentic. Only make subtle edits to your ‘Heli.psd’ layer, otherwise the effect will look exaggerated and fake. You will also need to liquify some of the broken glass layers (not to be confused with your shard layers) so they match. However, here you can be more dramatic when applying the effect. This in fact will add more realism.

Cinematic effects tutorial

Darken the background

We’ll now darken the window and create tinting. Insert an empty layer and fill it with black, setting Opacity at 50% and the blending mode to Soft Light. Manually create a vignette so that the model and helicopter layers are highlighted, darkening the edges of your image. Also darken some the clouds and buildings by creating an empty layer, setting the blending mode to Soft Light, then painting to these with a soft-edged black brush at 20% Opacity.

Cinematic effects tutorial

Click here for part 2 of this tutorial, released 7th April.