advanced photoshop


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Tips & Tutorials, by Adam Smith

Create this fun image by using different blend modes, dodge and burn and more

In this tutorial you will learn how to use HDR images with dodging and burning to achieve a stylised effect on your image.

To make an image like this all you need is a simple camera (or some stock images) along with basic Photoshop skills.

We will show you how to use different Blend Mode techniques, basic skin retouching and explain working with your layers in a non-destructive way.

The great thing about working with Smart Objects and adjustment layers is that you are always in control.

Adjust the image

Open the image of the girl and hit Cmd/Ctrl+J to duplicate the layer. Change the Blend Mode of the duplicated layer to Vivid Light, then press Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the layer. Go to your Filter menu, choose Blur>Surface Blur, set Radius and Threshold to 63, then click OK. Press Shift+Opt/Alt+Cmd/Ctrl+E to get a new layer and delete the previous layer you applied the blur effect to. Change the Blend Mode of the new layer to Overlay.

Manipulate the skin

In the top menu, go to Layer>New>New Layer and in the dialog box name it ‘Soft’. Apply Soft Light blending mode, adjust the Fill to 50% grey and click OK. Choose the Dodge tool with a brush Size of around 35 and Midtones and Exposure set to 15%. Now we’ll dodge around her eyes to make the dark areas lighter. If you want to apply the Burn tool, simply press and hold down the Opt/Alt key to darken areas. At this stage we only use the soft layer for the girl’s skin.


Dodge and burn the clothes

Again add a new layer, but this time name it ‘Hard’, set it to Overlay with a Fill of 50% grey and click OK. Choose the Dodge tool, with Midtones and Exposure set at around 15%. Now you can dodge the light areas in the clothes and hair. Press and hold the Opt/Alt key to darken the shadier areas a little bit. This makes the wrinkles in her clothes stand out and shine a little bit more. Change the brush Size as you see fit when making these alterations, so you can flexibly react to how the image is taking shape.


Retouch the skin

Duplicate the Background layer and set its Blend Mode to Vivid Light. Press Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the layer and convert it to a Smart Object. Choose Filter>Other>High Pass, then pick a Radius of 10 and click OK. Now go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur, choose a Radius of 2 and click OK. Add a black layer mask to the Smart Object, choose a white brush and paint on the layer mask where the skin is. Now you can see the skin smoothing out as you paint it through the mask.


Observe your changes

The final steps with the girl are now finished. To see the transformation, hold the Opt/Alt key while pressing the little eye on the Background layer. This enables you to see the changes made. Save the Photoshop file in case you want to go back and make changes. After saving the file, export the final image of the girl as a JPEG for use in the main image. Now we can move to the easier and less time-consuming parts of the project.


Insert the background

Open the bathroom background image then go to Image>Adjustments>HDR Toning. Put the following values in the Settings window: Method Local Adaption, Radius: 80px, Strength: 3.72, Gamma: 1, Exposure: -0.32, Detail: +208%, Shadow: +26, Highlight: +5, Vibrance: +39 and Saturation: +50. If you want to use different settings, feel free to play around with the numbers to suit your personal taste. We can now bring in elements to the background.


Place the girl in the background

Let’s import the little girl to the bathroom background. Go to File>Place and double-click on the JPEG file of the girl you made earlier, then hit Enter. This will automatically open as a Smart Object, so we need to Ctrl/right-click on the Girl layer and choose Rasterize Layer to make it editable. We now need to choose the Rectangular Marquee tool to quickly cut away all the excess areas of the imported image, so it fits cleanly.


Cut up the image

Now it’s time to finely cut the image of the girl. Zoom in to about 300%, choose the Polygonal Lasso tool and set a 1px Feather. Vary the Feather amount as you see fit, on some areas we’ll use 2 or 3px. Cut in small increments, so if you accidently cut in an area you don’t want to, you can press the backspace button and Photoshop will revert to your last move. When you come to the hair, increase the Feather to 5px.


Adjust the background

After we finish cutting out the girl, we can adjust the Background colour a little. Click on your Background layer, go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation and click OK. In the Settings window, we use the following: Hue: +11, Saturation: -3 and Lightness: +5. Now adjust the colour of the girl a little by going to Image>Adjustments>Curves>Blue Channel, set Output to 120, Input to 125 and click OK.


Add more elements

Now let’s import the rest of the elements. Just like Steps 7 and 8, go to File>Place and double-click on the JPEG file you wish to import then hit Enter. Choose the Rasterize layer to make it editable. Adjust the element down in size a little to make it fit with the image and remember to maintain the aspect ratio while doing this. For the last element, you can add the water that’s been provided as its own PSD file.


Alter the colour

Now that you have all the elements added and carefully put in place, you can play around a little with the colour on each of them. We added some more contrast to the objects and further blue in the Curves layer to all the metal surfaces and the water. On some of the items, you can see the string we used to hold them up for the photography shoot. This is easily remedied with some application of the Clone Stamp tool. Have fun choosing which items you want to be floating where.


Make finishing touches

Press the Hue/Saturation layer, add a new adjustment layer above it, then choose Brightness and Contrast (-8 Brightness, -23 Contrast). Now we’ll add a new adjustment layer in Selective Color above all the other layers. Choose Neutrals: Cyan: 0 Magenta: 0, Yellow: -11 and Black: -2. Now save the image as a JPEG. Open the file and choose HDR Toning, Local Adaption, Radius: 1 px, Strength: 3.40, Gamma: 1.00, Exposure: 0, Detail: +300, Shadow: 0%, Highlight: 0%, Vibrance: +53 and Saturation: +20.


Final toning

Now the image is more crisp after applying an overall HDR Toning adjustment. Use your Clone Stamp tool to remove the halo around the drawer handles, with brush Size at around 45 and Flow at 75%. Add an adjustment layer in Selective Color and choose Neutrals: Cyan: 0, Magenta: 0, Yellow: 8 and Black: +10. Save the final image and you’ve finished with the last step. There are so many different possibilities you can choose when messing with colour, so feel free to play around with the settings.


  • dushyant idhatia

    it’s very useful

  • Hi,

    Thanks it is very very interesting and useful. It is excellent tutorial.

  • I know this type of work done by photoshop professional by using photoshop pen tools by removing background of a image and then add new background on it. sometimes I ask to photoshop professional that why not you use lasso tool? they replied pen tool is more powerful than lasso tool. do you agree with them?

  • charr

    thanks for the info 🙂 and step 🙂

  • Excellent tutorial, I’m gonna try it today.

  • Very nice tutorial. Well explained & easy to learn to crate an idea. Thanks for share this wonderful post. 🙂

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