Download all the files for this tutorial here (select ‘cinematic lighting’ from the list)
First of all, create a new layer and add a dark red background (#720000). Open your subject image, or purchase this image from Dreamstime, and cut the subject out using the Lasso tool. Apply the standard Hard Round Eraser Brush where necessary, cutting out smaller details such as hair, eyelash, face and the subject’s right foot. Be careful with the subject edges, as we are going to need them rounded and well defined for adding lighting in the next steps. Use the Blur tool when necessary to make edges softer.
Before starting any artwork, observe the behaviour of the existing lighting in your photo, understanding how it lights the subject. All the artwork, including the background and other elements, need to follow this same light source. In this case, we have soft side lighting. This kind of lighting highlights the nose, cheekbones and lips, and it’s usually accompanied by hard shadows, as seen on our subject’s left side.
Copy and paste in the ‘RS18868.jpg’ image supplied, placing in the middle of the composition. Rescale it until it fully covers the background. Decrease overexposed clouds by tweaking Adjustments>Shadow/Highlights and Brightness/Contrast options. Add an Adjustments>Photo Filter>Warming Filter at 80% Density. Apply Adjustments>Color Balance, setting Midtones to +90, -15, -15, Highlights to -15, +5 and -15. Apply Curves set to Output: 145 and Input: 180.
Copy and paste in the ‘RS10405_TasmanianBeach.jpg’ file supplied to a new layer, placing behind the subject. Remove the sky and desaturate, dropping Brightness/Contrast>Brightness to -60. Change tonality by applying Adjustments>Color Balance, setting Midtones at +100, -100,-100, Highlights at +20,+20 and -5. Apply Curves on this layer only, setting your curve to around Output: 120, Input: 194 to make the ground layer darker. To finish, use a large soft brush, at least 1,500px, with a 50% Opacity and remove the distant stones of the background, leaving just the sand on the bottom.
Using modern movie poster art as inspiration, most times you’ll see that the background is brighter than the main character, known as hard backlight. Our subject is still too bright, so we’re going to make her a little darker and mysterious, to offset the backlight. Go to Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation and decrease Lightness to -20. Add a golden tone to the whole image by applying Image>Adjustments>Photo Filter>Warming Filter (85), setting an 80% Density.
On the subject layer apply the Dodge tool at 30%, activating Protect Tones to highlight the edges on the face. Highlight cheeks, neck, eyes and hair. On the same layer apply Color Balance, activating Preserve Luminosity. Set Midtones at +30,+5 and +10. Increase the highlighted edge of the subject layer,go to Image>Adjustment>Selective Color, applying to Colors: Yellows and Whites. SetCyan at -15, Magenta at +10, Yellow at +30, Black at +10, bringing out bright yellows around the face without manually applying brushes.
Cmd/Ctrl-click your subject layer thumbnail, making a selection of the subject layer. Create a new layer and select a soft-edged 60px size brush at a low Opacity between 40% and 50%. Now it’s time to add some soft light around her. Always pay attention to the interaction of background lighting and the main character; lit elements will need to match perfectly for authenticity. Select a bright orange colour and carefully pass it around her. Apply this in places you think the main light source should reflect. On clothes, follow the shape and folds with the brush.
Time to add details. With more delineation our art will eventually become more visually interesting. This step will require patience, a tablet is fully recommended. We’ll do something quite similar to Step 7 but with a smaller brush. First of all, create a new layer. Carefully draw some lines following the fabric highlights and face edges. Remember to avoid painting the shadows. You can also paint some hair for additional colour using a new layer with a red colour Overlay.
In this step we will turn our attention to adding some shadow to the ground. Create a new layer under the subject, select a 600px round soft-edged brush and choose a dark red colour (#290000) with the Color Picker to paint your shadow. Vary Opacity and Flow between 30% and 60%, and darken the side that is against the sunlight, the bottom-right. If it looks too dark, drop the layers Opacity to 60%. To create a more detailed shadow, use a soft rounded black brush under the subject feet and clothes, also at 60% opacity.