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Creating Fantasy Landscapes

Lesson 5 of 8

Editing in Photoshop: Starting with the Mid-Ground

Bret Malley

Creating Fantasy Landscapes

Bret Malley

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Lesson Info

5. Editing in Photoshop: Starting with the Mid-Ground

Lesson Info

Editing in Photoshop: Starting with the Mid-Ground

Yeah, we're going to start with a sort of middle ground, so typically the way I'll do it, uh is I'll set up my my file. My just my General Photoshopped files Audio Command in for a new document. In this case, you know something large. We have lots of room, toe, actually. Create something. Eso It's a no. I have 8000 by 4000. Just a nice big document. Okay, Make sure it's rgb, And if you know you're going just straight toe print, no matter what, then you can perhaps start with seem like a but in general, you're gonna be limiting a gamut. So just just a general note. RGB has the largest gamut in which we're working with the largest spectrum of colors. So So for this one, I just set up my ah blank document here and I'm going to be I'm looking at bridge basically bridge. What's nice about it has connected with photo shop is basically the front door, right? You can do basic, you know, adobe camera, raw edits and those sort of things before you sort of enter all the way in, Which is great eso...

for this, you know Let's say we want some of those. Let's say these clouds that I want to do right. I can just double click this and voila, it will works. Bring it straight into Photoshopped. So it's that great entry point. It's so dynamic and you can see the clouds. Lottie's also were shot with the new camera that I have now. So the Sony So with this and like Oh, those are cool clouds. Click. And then I realized that this would be perfect if sort of mist was rising off of the ocean Somewhere on Do you know it's not in perspective. It's not in anything. It's matching, but had potential to be something new, right? So you really have to think of not what it is, but what it could be, right? What you can make it, which is really exciting and nerdy, but exciting. Okay, so starting with the middle ground. Basically what I did for these is opened him up into two photo shop, right? And just selected with command A for select all. If I wanted the entire thing in this case, I wanted most of all of the images overused and then command see for copy, and then I come over and then do command V for paste. Right? So if I wanted to put this in that sky background, um, I already have it in there, but we'll just we'll just put it in there. So command V for paste and make sure it's visible. Right? So that's the idea that it's in there. So in a lot of this to make sure we actually get through this demo, which he really great Andi, show it in its full form. I have a lot of in process. So here's how you mix it with ingredients. Oh, no, look, it's already finished. We'll do that sort of baking style show just to make sure we get through the content that you guys need to have for this. So in general, copy and paste eyes. Great. Right where you're making selections and pacing it in there. So in this case, right, if I was gonna paste into this one, um, so the first thing I want to dio in any sort of landscape is set up my folders for the depth. Right depth matters when you're doing this, not only because the layer order matters because whatever we see on Top and Photoshopped is gonna be what's blocking everything else below it right? It is if you're looking down on your stack of layers so it's really important when you're starting on trying to stay organized. That's the other component is to create various group folders, so I can have one that always like that's effects. So what I did that by picking this little create group icon here affects I want always on top of everything. So it really should be doing it from the bottom up. Um, so we'll have one called background. Okay, on I will create Another one is so forthright, you know, mid and so forth. You can change the colors. If you right click next the visibility icon. You can change the colors and they help keep you organized. So basically moving ahead, we'll look at that. All those different groups there that we have. So, um, in looking at all the pieces, we can see how I have it kind of set up. So usually I'll get most of the elements little bits in each part. In this case, I'm gonna take it, break it down piece by piece, is faras. It's death. So we're gonna actually start with a middle ground since that kind of sets up the tenor, the you know, the style, the look in the general perspective of the rest of the imagery. So, you know, start with what's important. Get that nail done right and then when you add on the other parts, fit those in as you go. So it's not that you always need to start from the background and work forward, but definitely start which start with what is the most sort of foremost in prominence. Look, that's going to set the look and feel of it. It's in this case, it's a waterfall combining it with the ocean. So and looking at this, we're gonna start with Coast One. And so again, I have the this Is that the demo One. If we're going to skip ahead to what it's gonna look like, this is what we're gonna turn it into in just a little bit Here, um, so and taking this apart, we have atmosphere which will play with, and this is just empty right now, so and again, don't mind me is like go to my notes. I just want to make sure we're on task with all of this. So I'm gonna start with Coast one eso even the ocean ones on there. This is the one that I need to blend with this one, right? Those two on. And so I've already done a little bit of a cheater work where I've moved things around. But in general, when you're especially doing landscape composites playing with capacity just to get things in the right place really helpful and it's nondestructive, right? Because you're just coming over to this layer, changing the capacity of it. Hit V for my move Tool. This is one that I want to convert everyone to make sure you have that show transform controls up in the options bar toggled. That way, if you need to scale something rotated, you always have that. They're so in this case, I'm looking at Coast One and I can just sort of match it up where it needs to be and that that seems to be pretty good getting that kind of double exposure looking where that's falling. There s a lot of these have already been placed more or less where they where they should be, then it's just a matter of masking it and getting it looking, looking right. So once I get the A passage down, moving around, get it lined up where I want, then it's a matter said, masking it. So there's lots of brushes that can help you, ones that arm organic, where you can get ones that are tree brushes. For this, I'm gonna be showing you how you can use simple brushes such as the call the soft and fuzzy right? Just that round soft brush you could do a lot with, especially when you're blending similar texture with similar texture. It doesn't always need to be like, Okay, got to get this tree With this little branch, you can just very softly blend it. Even when you look pretty close it it actually works out. Then also the spatter brush. You could do a lot with spatter brush, and don't get me wrong. I love brushes in the varieties and things that you can do with them, but doesn't mean to say that you are necessarily always limited or hampered by not downloading someone's huge brush packet, right with just a couple of brushes and varieties, you could do so much. So, uh, okay, I'm gonna bring my capacity back up, and so I know that's the right sort of spot. So in order to bring this in, um, I'm gonna do a couple of things. One I can make a selection, cause I know I don't want that that edge in that sky. But let's just say, uh, I'm gonna make a selection of all of it and I'll do a couple things, so one just for that edge. So I'm right now. Jumped over to the quick selection tool with W because it's the cousin of the one tool to same juror shift W If you had the one tool selected right, it toggles through both of those on. And then I'm going to go to my select in mask. So again, this is get been a bit of ah controversy with the changes on there. But it's great for hair is also good for things like trees, right and the kinds of things you can do with it, right? So it's not limited to perhaps what it was originally designed for specifically for photo shop is all about being a digital MacGyver, right? you have, like a safety clip are in a toothpick in a cannonball on. You have to make an airplane with it. I don't know. You know, you just have toe do something completely new with very simple tools about how you combine things together to get the results that you want. So I don't know how you do that one, but that'd be a good show to see. Um so with this, I'm gonna go to select and mask and so see how we get this kind of halo that's happening here. What's neat about this is we have this radius in which it will look at everything that's currently an edge to this on. It will try to basically use this brush on the end and see where it can finesse it and smooth it out a little bit. It has a highly intelligent algorithm that is able to find some of the times that's just so dumb. Right? But for this, it could work really well. Really Well, So I'm gonna take this radius and again that's going to look for the edges, and specifically, it's gonna look at where those trees might be sort of hanging off the edge there. So I'm gonna change my radius to, let's say 30 pixels. 31. Okay, fine. 31. So it got a little bit better, right? But we still kind of have that halo. So another component is to shift the edge right to bite into that subjects whether you're doing composites of people or subjects. Any time you want to get rid of the halo, you always need to bite into whatever that object is that you're bringing in. So I'm gonna in this case goto 40% if I can. Okay. So not perfect, but a lot better, right? That's doable. And I happen to know that is gonna be a blue world that will literally be invisible. So I could work on that a lot longer and just get it perfectly cleaned up. But for what I'm doing, that's that's gonna be just fine. So I'm gonna hit, Okay. In that case, sorry is 41% and 31%. Take that myself. Okay, so with with that selected and refined there, I'm gonna then go forward and create a mask from the click on my mask icon. Okay, there we go. Next I'm gonna paint in where I know I want this waterfall to be So I'm gonna hit be from my brush tool and let's see, I'll get the tablet. Finally here, um, this this parts, that's where the magic comes. So when I was finding this imagery, one of the two things that makes this work so easily is I was at a similar height and I had a similar matching and textures. They curved around towards me. So it's kind of part serendipity, Um, and in part, pure talent. Clearly no part of just getting getting lucky with the shot, but paying attention to the height and saying, Oh, that's of a similar height as his other one. That might work well. And when I put it next to each other, it's It does so when I hit be for my brush tool and I'm just working with the fuzzy guy here. I'm gonna paint with black someone hit X to swap my foreground and background colors there, Um and then let's see float. 4% doesn't do a whole lot. There we go. And so I'll just kind of come in here. Waterfall. This is where you hear Bob Ross talking. Okay. What? You're going Bob Ross soundtrack on your good to go. So let's see, Yes. So these can just sort of blend, you know, pretty closely right in there. And we kind of never know for that part again. I'll take off this other background mountain. But that's the idea. So just a soft brush is ableto blend those two together was nice. It already had the same white balance, right? It already had a lot of the same elements, but mostly is matching and paying attention. That point of view just going through on my source images and saying, Hey, those two, yeah, that might work together. And pre visualizing that that's the biggest development for your eye is looking at all the sources for that fusion that you then get toe to create. So let's see you and then we fly off into the sky. Sweet. Okay, so let's say we jump ahead on. I can also do the same thing for this one. What's nice about the other coast? Ah, let's see a clip. Yeah, we can. This one, you'll notice, is too dark if we're keeping this. So the other part is is fusing elements that, uh, let's a shot in the same area. Similar lighting. And yet, whether because of the vignette of the lends itself for for whatever reason, it's just too dark, it doesn't match or a cloud cover came out came over on it. Just change it, or you're shooting into the sign versus away. So what's perfect for that kind of thing is clipping masks. So in this case, it's one too dark. Then we may change some of the colors. We change some of the contrast in lights and darks. So I'm gonna come over with curves anytime that I wanted to just apply to that one layer. It's a, uh, sweet. All right, let's see if I double click on this guy, it will get me back. Teoh, I was expecting there. Yeah, if you ever rotator, something happens with whatever you're working on, double clicking things such as that can help. Go back to the default, Which is great. Okay, so with this, I'm going to you pull up this guy, put that down before making the mistake. I'm gonna move this over to the edge here just so I can see a little bit more of this. So I'm gonna be matching what I'm seeing here with over here s so if I do everything right now, see how it suggesting everything, all at once. So that's the difference between sort of a global adjustment versus a clipped one, which is just in particular to that the ocean One image. So I'm gonna hit this button, this little clip with call it an official name is this adjustment affects holders bullet, right? This little guy here really is just clipping it. Teoh whatever mask or content you have directly below it, uh, you can also do that by holding down option and clicking between these two layers as well. That will do it. So with this now, when I adjustment right, we can see it's kind of like tuning a guitar, right, go a little bit too far and then go back and forth until it's just about right. And I'm only looking kind of right in here on the colors, an exact but that's that's the idea. So it's like a before and after. So it's just clip to that one. And so, by doing this for each one, whether you're doing ah, color balance or curves or saturation or intensity, right? Any of those. You can get things freely close, and this isn't having to go into camera making sure the white balance is right. This is just a couple clipped it. Adjustments. This will blow your file right every every new layer you have. It will make things larger, Uh, but it's pretty amazing with how close you can get things, even if they're just J pig. Okay, so with that, let's jump ahead. Let's say I got that perfectly. Let's look at what was done for the the one below it here. So we have middle ground. Let's look at this. Let's see, here is the middle ground as well. So here's that one. So here's just that same curves adjustment to get that looking right. Let's see for for islands. This is where I had an entire group folder. Now this is interesting thing. If he changed the blend mode of the of the group folder itself to, let's say normal, I could put all these adjustments in there, so it's a different. There's so many ways to do any one thing in photo shop, right, 10 15 maybe 30. We know that that much, but a lot. You can do anything so many different ways. I often like to make, uh, I folder and then a folder within that. And then all those objects sort of clip to that folder, that just my own personal preference so I can see what those adjustments are doing without having to see Oh, that folder set to normal. But there's some really awesome uses for when, instead of passed through, you just put it all in there. In this case, all of these guys are affecting all right. See how it was too dark before on we can look at before the mask, right? This is what that was before the mask. So I did that same sort of adjustments and just painted around certain areas with that soft brush, right? Same idea, same concept. Not a whole lot of technique to it, other than zooming in and being very particular with it. So it was ableto do that and then make these adjustments. So before you'll notice and let's take off the atmosphere, it's cool. But we're not there yet. Um, it wasn't quite right with what was there So this case, it was too dark, So lightening up. And we're looking at this part here and see how it was De saturated, right? It's a sort of muddy first, the other one. So in this case, I added something with colors. Take a look at this, so I did just a color adjustment here. Color balance adjustment on just with the mid tones brought more science and more blew away from the yellow, and that seemed to really kind of sink it in a little bit. But it still wasn't quite saturated, right? So I had the right color suggesting that color but didn't have the intensity. So this is where doing another adjustment layer. In this case, it was the, uh, this guy, the Hugh on saturation. Sorry, the vibrant adjustment on and just boosting up the vibrance now vibrance versus saturation. There they're different. Saturation will look at the pixel by pixel and increase that saturation vibrance. There's a more broad stroke. It's as well this area's blue. Let's make it more blue. So it's a kind of softer version when you're trying to get more color out of something, especially layers. So I suggest always doing vibrance when you want to boost the saturation of area rather than saturation itself. Because sometimes you'll have a purple pixel mixing with green. It's gonna make that really, really purple. Eso just be careful with that. So, yeah, so that's the idea. Without part, Um, next it was getting into, adding, adding, the atmosphere on that is, ah, highly technical piece right there. Uh, no, it's it's really fun. How it is so one word. Creating landscapes In general, we have a few ways of doing depth indicators. One is perspective, right? A vanishing point. Thea other is atmospheric perspective, so creating atmosphere will make things feel much further away on close up, depending how much there is and so special with fantasy landscapes. You know, most sort of fantasy fiction, right? It's just you can breathe the air, how moist it is, right? It's sort of wet with their and had this amazing, uh, you know, depth to it. So, you know, adding in just painting with white or another color, that's I dropped from this canoe a whole lot. So let's look at both of these. So this one again, that's soft and fuzzy brush. There's lots of technical ways. You can do this with Layer, but I again like to do it. Mawr the eyeball especially, uh, you know more if something is vanishing and it's not just a section by section piece that I can add a color to its sometimes easier to just paint it. So in this case, if I was going to do this over again, let's do it just above it here. Okay, so I'm gonna get my brush tool. I'm gonna paint with white, So I'm gonna swap it here, and I'm gonna get a just make sure it's on transfer. Good. So I can have the pin pressure. So again, that's where transfer pen pressure that should do it. They're gonna get a larger brush to do right bracket. Or if I hold down option and control, I can do larger by the way, up and down will change hardness. Side to side will change the size. So I want to make sure I'm super soft in a certain general size here for this one. I also want there to be a good amount of you know of low flow. That way we can go over it very softly, How gentle can I get? Right, So I'm just gonna literally paint. And this is something that I might also typically do after I have the sky so showing you a little bit out of order. But just to show the concepts usually get the sky and then I can see what is the atmosphere than leading up to. But just to show the concept, this is kind of kind of where it's going here. And what's nice is even when you get this sort of flushed out, adding some of that death, so anything that has black right is not gonna be there. If this is starting to make it to white, right? Sometimes it's about adding again. If there was a cloud, I might be able to pick from that cloud itself. But adding painting with the actual atmosphere can add a lot to it as well. It'll sort of gray out. Basically, the further something is the less contrast. It has less saturation when you have atmospheric perspective. So however you can mimic that that does a lot. So again, all typically do too much and then I'll bring it back right, so I'll go just a little bit overboard and then come over to the opacity and just dial it in. So by whatever I like, which is great, right? Everything's nondestructive. So atmosphere really helpful in making all your images seemed together and feel more what synchronized? More seamless, Which is the idea. So, uh, any quick questions on middle ground on that sort of thing? So even just using the soft brush, you can do a lot with this one. So I'm gonna close this and open another one, because let's say we finished that. The other component that was with this, uh is I had one. Where am I? Here. If I expand this, uh, I did one general mask to the entire group of all of them for that horizon to really make sure I had just the parts of the prison that I wanted. And so, you know, I painted off. Let me take this off so we can actually see here. That idea. When I said I was on time, Just kidding. I didn't mean it. Okay, if I click shift so we can see where I just sort of tighten things up with that, that way we don't have any of the other components. So that's another great thing about folders, group folders in themselves. You could have masks on masks and mass if you're not sure about one, you can always let you don't want overcomplicate it, but it does allow you a little bit of flexibility in which toe work, which is great. Okay, so let's open up the next one. I got a demo to pre baked again, like in the last class. You're working with fairly large files. That's what's 1.4 gigs. What's a PSB Rather PSD Are there special settings that you use for scratch memory so that you don't run so you don't get hit the Photoshopped constraints? Yes. So for me personally, I'm working from a hard drive is really helpful. So before I start, I'll set my scratch folder in this case to make sure I have enough room for something like this. If I was just to run it on a laptop, it may say memory to full. And you're like, Wait, wait, but see First wait, then you panic. So, yeah, working from an external drive where you set your scratch where it's trying to load all these images in there so again, memories cheap. So go, go excess with that, that way you're safe. What it can't help is the speed of thing. Especially when you're you know, this is demo to each one's gonna get a little bit more complicated here. Uh, you know, so hopefully we'll be able to get through it. But the more you add, the more it adds more. It sort of starts not lagging. But sometimes, he adds, adds mass to it for sure. So, yeah, Other question. Sorry you just mentioned Scotch board. I don't know that. So if you go to where am I going? First up. Here we go. Preferences. You When you first. When you generally do photoshopped on you, open it up just on your computer without a hard drive or anything else. It's Finds a place on your computer's hard drive to save all this information temporarily so you might have a hard drive that has, let's say, 10 gigs of space left. Not after you open a file, right? It's gonna say you have two gigs and then none, right? And then panic ensues. So instead you can say, OK, don't save it to my hard drive. Save it somewhere else so you can set your scratch disks as's to where where that needs to be. So in this case, I this little drive call arc, the Arc drive that's here that has all the the different, you know, the space that I that I needed to. So that's where this under preferences.

Class Description

Most photographers have a ton of landscape images stashed away on various hard drives from vacations, hikes, or from actually pursuing landscape photography. These images are just a starting palette for our own imagination as we composite the impossible in Photoshop. Bret Malley will show how you can evolve landscape images into a new fantasy landscape of your making using custom brushes, textures and, other tools within this magical program.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017


Timary Lee

This is a great class. Bret is a terrific teacher and speaker. This is fast paced, however, and he does move quickly through things but that is actually a pro instead of a con to me. I absolutely loved his thoughts about creating your own gallery of 'stock' images, background and textures. I feel inspired by this class and capable of creating my own fantasy landscapes. Thank you!

a Creativelive Student

Very clear, practical and easy to understand tips that make significant and amazing changes in what otherwise will be regarded as a normal photograph - he brings normal to extraordinaire in a very clear and organized set of steps. Very well organized workflow. I loved this class.


This was very good. I know Bret knew what he was doing when he was zooming through his layers, but I found it very hard to follow and really understand everything he was doing. I nice chap and good class.