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Photoshop Tutorial - How To Use Adjustment Layers To Create Light And Shadow Effects
Here is a free Photoshop tutorial from PSD Magazine — "Solitude" by Andrei Oprinca. (Download the source files.)
Creating a night scene can be a challenging task. In this Photoshop tutorial I will show you a few techniques that I used to make this manipulation. I will teach you how to use adjustment layers, how to create light effects and shadows to achieve a more realistic look.
1- Creating the ambient
Download the background image and open it in Photoshop. You will have to make adjustments to this layer and turn it into a night scene. I suggest you use Adjustment Layers to create the night effect because they don’t damage the image. Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer: Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation and increase Saturation to + 27. Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer and use a Black to White gradient. Set the Blend Mode of the adjustment layer to Soft Light and reduce the Opacity to 40%.
Select the Gradient Tool, choose the radial type from the toolbar and use the Black to Transparent preset. Draw the gradient from the middle of the image outwards. The Blend Mode should be Normal but you can experiment with Soft Light. Duplicate the layer if you want to get a darker effect. Your objective is to darken the image using the gradient but leave the stairs visible.
2 – Model
Download the image pack with the model. You will use two images from the pack. Open Sylph faestock (1).jpg from the pack in Photoshop. The first thing you have to do is to subtract the model from the original background. Use the Pen Tool because it’s the most accurate selection tool. Exclude the wings, you don’t need them for this tutorial. Place the girl model on a new layer and scale it down to 35%.
As you can see, the dress is not entirely visible but luckily you can use another photo from the same pack to complete the dress. Open Sylph faestock(2).jpg from the same pack and cut the part of the dress that is missing. Blend the images using a soft eraser brush or a layer mask. After you blend the edges, if there are color or contrast differences, use the Levels and/or Color Balance tools to match both pieces. When everything is OK, merge the two layers by first selecting them and then pressing [Ctrl]+[E] or from Layer>Merge Layers.
3 – Model shading
The realism of the scene is given by the lights and shadows. Use Clipping Mask Layers to make all the adjustments on the model because the background is already done so you only want to affect the model layer. Just as you did with the background layer, create a Black to Transparent radial Gradient to darken the model.
Apply and Inner Shadow to the model layer with the following settings: Blend Mode: Multiply, Angle 50º, Distance 12px, Choke 8px, Size 58px. That will create a nice shadow on the edges of the girl’s body.
4 – Model color and contrast adjustments
The model needs more color and a stronger contrast. Again, use Adjustment layers. Create a Color Balance Adjustment Layer by going to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Color Balance or from the icon located below the Layers Palette. When the pop-up windows appear, check the option Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. Set the Yellow value to - 6 on the Shadows, Midtones and Highlights. On the Midtones, also set the value to +6. Increase the Saturation of the model to +10 and using Levels, increase Shadows to 7, Midtones to 0,92 and Highlights to 246.
5 – Dodge/Burn sculpting
Create a new layer above the model layer and select the entire canvas with [Ctrl] + [A]. When you have the selection loaded, right click and select Fill. On Use, choose 50% gray and set the layer’s Blend Mode to Soft Light. Get the Burn Tool, set Range to Midtones and Exposure 6-9%. Burn on the gray layer over the the girl’s body. The objective is to darken the dark areas. Then, use the Dodge Tool with the same settings as with the Burn Tool and paint over the lighter areas of the girl’s body. The preview is in Normal Blend Mode so you can see where I used the Dodge and Burn tools.
6 – Add the lamp
Download the lamp. Open it in Photoshop and subtract it using the Pen Tool. Scale it down and put it on a new layer above the model layer. Use a big soft brush and the color #e6dfb0 to make a glow light around the lamp. Set the Blend Mode to Hard Light and reduce Opacity to about 50%. I also added a Lens Flare on a new layer with a black background. I used Hue/Saturation to make the flare yellow and then I changed the layer’s Blend Mode to Screen to hide the black background.
7 Lighting up and final shading
Now that you have the light source, you must cast some shadows and recreate the light on the ground. Use a big soft brush about 600-700px and set your Foreground Color to #e9d89b. Create a new layer below the lamp layer and stroke twice on both sides of the lamp using the mentioned color. Set the layer Blend Mode to Overlay. Use the same brush to create another light on a new layer using the color #9e975a. This time change the Blend Mode to Color Dodge and reduce Opacity to 75%. This light will make a very realistic light effect.
8 – Shadows
Now that he have the lights, we need to make shadows. Shadows are very important because they give more realism and depth. Right now, the lamp and the girl look like they are floating because of the lack of shadows. Get a soft brush, black color and create a new layer below the girl and the lamp layers, right about the background. Set your brush Opacity to about 20% and start painting along the edges of the girl’s feet and under her dress and legs and also under the lamp. Make several passes.
9 – Post editing
As a final step, create a new Stamp with the shortcut [Shift] + [Ctrl] + [Alt] + [E] but first make sure you select the top most layer on the palette. Then go to Filter>Render>Lighting Effects. Use the following settings: Intensity 16, Color #f6f2dd, Narrow 53, Material 78, Ambience 10.
10 – Conclusion
As you can see, the most important part of this tutorial are the light effects and shadows. You sould always work with adjustment layers because when you finish, you can make all the fine tunnings you want without affecting the original image.
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