First we will create a new document that is 1200 X 1600.
We will begin by creating our background. In my opinion it is almost always good practice to establish what background you are going to use first, because blending all the images will be easier to do as we go along, rather than changing all of the blending at the end to fit with the background.
Create a rectangle shape layer that is the size of your document, it doesn’t matter what color you use. Go into the blending options of the new layer and select Gradient Overlay. When you initially create a radial gradient, you can check the ‘reverse’ option immediately to change black to your outside color. Change your gradient settings to match the image below.
You should now have this.
Duplicate the shape layer that you’ve just created and go to: Blending Options>Gradient Overlay and change the blend mode to Color Dodge as shown below. Also change the layer style to Color Dodge and adjust the layer opacity to 34%.
Duplicate the last shape layer you've created, but right click on the duplicated layer and select ‘Clear Layer Style'.
Make sure that white is your foreground color, and black is your background color. Select Filter>Render>Difference Clouds. Change the blending mode of this layer to Multiply.
Optional: Duplicate the cloud layer once and lower opacity.
You can find the arm image we will use here: http://wc-stock.deviantart.com/art/1-arm-65014409. The author requests that you send her a note on DA before you use this image.
I am not going into masking objects in this tutorial, I will take for granted that you already know how to mask or are perfectly capable of finding one of the hundreds of masking tutorials that are out there. If you do not know, type into Google: “photoshop tutorial masking with pen tool”. That should send you on the right track :) Begin by masking the arm and hand from the background.
Bring the arm onto the background you’ve just created and place it as shown below. Make sure the arm layer is selected and go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Brightness/Contrast. Checkmark the option ‘Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask’. Use the settings shown below and click OK. Select the arm layer again and repeat the same steps, but this time choose Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels. Create as clipping mask again and use the settings shown below to change the levels of the arm.
When using adjustment layers that you want linked directly to one layer, it is a smart practice to keep them sorted in folders. Select the arm layer and the two adjustment layers we have just created (do this by holding down the CTRL key and selecting the layers). When all three layers are selected go to: Layer>New>Group from Layers. Name it whatever you want, but arm might work ;)
You can get the next photo we will use here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/roberts87/2656670697/sizes/l/ thanks to RDS from flickr.
Mask the tree from its background.
Now we will follow the same steps we did while creating adjustment layers for the arm, but this time for the tree. Create two adjustment layers for the tree layer using the settings you see below. Place the two adjustment layers and tree layer in their own folder.
Use the burn tool at the settings shown below and burn out some of the hard highlights that are on the tree.
Now use the sharpen tool at the settings shown below and sharpen the base of the tree and some of the larger branches that are sticking out front.
This will be the hardest part of the tutorial. It took me several tries to get my finished result, don’t give up if you mess up the first time.
We need to create the effect that the tree is resting on the top of her hand. Therefore we need some branches to be wrapped around the front of her hand, while other branches are still hanging in between her fingers, and yet others behind her hand.
To create this effect we are going to be using the brush tool to mask out parts of the hand. Begin by making sure that the arm layer is below the tree layer. Next we need to create a layer mask for the hand layer. We will be working on this layer mask the entire time. Make sure that black is your foreground color and choose the brush tool. Use a brush size that is small enough that you can paint over even some of the smallest branches in the image. Now begin to paint over the branches that you wish to be IN FRONT of the hand and fingers. If you would like any of the branches to be behind her hand, you will not brush over those parts of the tree.
Hint: Place the hand layer above the tree layer occasionally to see how your results are coming along.
You can find the image of the flower we will be using here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chausinho/2055140685/sizes/l/in/set-72157600947821872/ thanks to Chausinho from flickr.
Mask the flower from its background.
Now you will use the clone tool to remove unnecessary highlights. Choose the clone tool and while holding down the alt key, click on your clone source. Now you can click on what you would like to be cloned out. You may also remove the thing sticking out of the mouth of the flower, but that’s up to you. Definitely remove the harsh highlights that are pointed at in the example.
Use the same exact process we used before on the arm and tree to create two adjustment layers for the flower.
Position the flower close to the position shown below. Make sure the right edge of the flower is lined up with the right side of the tree. Use the warp tool to stretch the left base of the flower to the left side of the tree: Edit>Transform>Warp. After warping, your end result should have the outer right and left side of the flower lined up with the outer right and left side of the tree.
With the flower layer selected, use the sharpen filter one time: Filter>Sharpen>Sharpen. This will repair some of the stretching we have done with warping.
Make sure the flower layer is under the tree layer. Black should be your foreground color. Select your gradient tool. Select a black to transparent gradient from the dropdown menu, use the settings shown in the image below. With the tree layer selected, create a new layer mask. While working on the layer mask, drag your gradient tool from just above the top of the tree to just below the top of the tree as shown in the example below.
Tip: Do this several times at different angles, for example, if you are taking away from the left side of the tree, start your gradient from upper left and move at an angle towards bottom right. Also, shorten the distance of your gradient strokes as you get closer to finishing up.
Use the burn tool at low settings to add depth and shadows where the tree meets the flower.
The general direction of light in this image is coming from the top right. So we need to make a few adjustments, as shown in the next step.
Use the dodge and burn tool at LOW settings to achieve results. I always use very low settings with dodge and burn, because I can go over the object multiple times if I want more dramatic results.
Here is the end result. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!