Photoshop Tutorial: Create a Surreal Turtle Image



This tutorial shows the creation of one of my images. It shows how I adjust lighting and colours in my images to create this surrealistic turtle. Hopefully, you'll be able to transfer these methods to your own work.
The full version of the result can be viewed here: Full size surreal turtle.

I'm using Photoshop CS5 running on a Macbook Pro, so some stages may differ for some people. Before photoshop CS3, a gradient map is known as "Gradient Fill".

These are the sources I used in the creation of the image, special thanks to Night Fate for providing the background:

Turtle - Night Fate - Desert - Sky - Elephants - Gazelle
Stream - Grass - Tree 1 - Tree 2 - Tree 3 - Tree 4 - Tree 5


End result:
Create a Surreal Turtle Image Final Image

Author:
avatar ponti55

Views: 271390
Score: 9.76 / 10
Author earned: $35
Practice tutorial

Tags:surrealturtle

Step 1

I rarely sketch out my ideas, because blending sources this way is not very complicated, but it is important to have a feel of what you want to create, as well as the atmosphere, before you actually start working.

Like with any image in which sources are being used, selections are the first stage. We want to isolate every source so that we can create our own composition.

Below you can see the background sources and the main object, in this case, the turtle.


Step 2

When an image is imported into photoshop, it's known as a Background Layer This means that there is no layer below that one. To be able to remove the sky from Night Fate's background, we need to make this a workable layer.


Step 3

The Pen Tool is my preferred tool for extracting an object, because it's a very versatile tool that once mastered can be used to accomplish almost anything. Draw a path by pointing and clicking around the area you want to delete. The selection doesn't have to be perfect, photoshop has an extensive range of Edge Refining tools that will make any mistakes easy to clear.


Step 4

Delete the original sky, like shown below, so that the new sky can be imported. An interesting sky is very important to most images, because it helps create an atmosphere. For images with a "Happy" mood, a clear or partly cloudy blue sky works well. However, for a dark and almost depressing image, a stormy sky conveys the right emotions. With this image i chose a sunset, because it shows a slow passage of time.


Step 5

Once the original sky has been removed, select the new sky and use Ctrl+C to copy it, then go back to the desert background image and press Ctrl+V

Once the new sky is in your image, press Ctrl+T and resize the sky to fit over the image. It's VERY important to hold the SHIFT key down while resizing, to maintain the original proportions of the image.


Step 6

Next, move the 'Sky' layer underneath the 'Desert Layer' and press Ctrl+J to duplicate the 'Sky' layer.

Then go to Filter - Blur - Average

The 'Sky Copy' layer is now the average colour of that sky, with no differing tones. We'll use this layer to match the hues between the Desert and the Sky.


Step 7

Move the 'Sky Copy' layer to the top, and hold the ALT key down. Next, click on the dividing line between the 'Sky Copy' and the 'Desert' layer. This creates a linked layer which acts like a layer mask.

I usually change the blend mode to 'Soft Light' or 'Colour' , but in this case the two blend modes were not strong enough. The blend mode 'Overlay' worked well, and that was the one that was chosen.


Step 8

My Pen Tool selection was quite rough, and some of the original sky could still be seen around the edges. This is the perfect time to use on one of Photoshop's most hidden features, the "Defringe" layer feature. The Defringe option almost perfectly removes any thing white halo around a selected objects.

It can be found under Layer - Matting - Defringe

A value of 1 pixel was chosen.


Step 9

Below you can see the image so far. As you can see, the hues between the sky and desert match together, and there is no white halo around the image.

The next stages show the slight editing of the background, as well as adding all the different sources.


Step 10

The perspective of the Desert layer is different to that of the turtle layer. This can be simply changed by pressing Ctrl+T , next right click and press "Perspective" and pull the bottom two corners as shown below.


Step 11

Using the Pen Tool, make a selection around the turtle, then press Ctrl+T and resize and move it into position.

The next step is to match the lighting of the turtle to the rest of the image. Create a new layer and call it "Lighting" next link the layer with a clipping mask like described in Step 7.


Step 12

Using a soft brush at about 70% opacity, begin to build up lighting and shadow layers, once you're done, change the blend mode to "Soft Light"

This creates a subtle change in lighting.


Step 13

Next create another linked layer above the "Lighting" layer and name it "Inner Shadows", then using a low opacity brush paint along the bottom of the turtle. This again helps to create a subtle change in lighting.


Step 14

Of course, no image would look at all realistic without a shadow. Paint a shadow along the bottom edge of the turtle on a new layer below the "Turtle" layer. Name this layer "Shadows".

Once you're done, blur this layer as shown below. This helps to create a nice, soft shadow.


Step 15

Most of my shadows consist of two or three layers. Add a new layer named "Shadows 2" above the original shadow layer, then paint a shadow that covers a larger area around the turtle, like shown below. This layer needs to be blurred almost twice as much as the first shadow was.

Once you've done that, change the blend mode to "Soft Light"


Step 16

This step shows how the image looks so far. As you can see the lighting on the turtle closely matches that of the background and a convincing shadow is in place.


Step 17

The next few steps are very similar to ones shown above, with layers being linked and blended together with the layer mask.

Select the sand roughly and copy and paste it into the main composition, then move this new layer underneath the lighting layers on the turtle.


Step 18

Resize the "Sand" layer to fit the turtle and add a layer mask. Use this layer mask to delete the areas where there is no shell.

Do the same with the "Grass" layer.


Step 19

Use the Layer Masks to make a transition between the grass and sand layers.


Step 20

Import the pre-masked tree files into your composition and resize them to fit around the shell. The trees were added to show the difference in dimensions. This shows that either the turtle is huge, or the trees are tiny.


Step 21

Remove the lower parts of the trees and in a similar way to the shadows on the turtle, add the shadow for each tree.


Step 22

Use a soft brush to pain the new lighting on the trees, add each of these on a new linked layer with a Clipping Mask. Again, i'll spare you the details because they've already been described.


Step 23

Below you can see the image so far.


Step 24

Roughly select the Stream and import it into the composition, then resize it on the turtle's shell. Add a layer mask to this layer so that it can be blended better with the rest of the image.


Step 25

Erase the unnecessary parts using the layer mask, I also changed the lighting of the stream.


Step 26

In this step, using the same steps as above, i added the gazelles and the elephants, I also grouped each object separately for a more organised layers palette.


Step 27

The next few layers are used to match the colours of the scene, as well as to create a mood for the image. As mentioned below, i've created custom gradients that I use most of the time in my images, but i also use some default ones.

Add a new Gradient Map adjustment layer, and click on the default black and white gradient to enter the Gradient Editor.


Step 28

Add two adjustment layers, one going from Black to Brown to White and another going from Black to Blue to White.

Change the Brown layer to "Colour" and place it below the Blue one, and change the Blue gradient map to "Soft Light"


Step 29

Now, select both those gradient maps and group them by pressing Ctrl+G
Change the opacity to 37%

Next add another custom gradient like the one shown below, this gradient can vary, as long as it goes from a dark colour to a light colour. Change the blend mode to Colour and lower the Opacity to 38%


Step 30

Now add two default gradient maps. The Black and White gradient map should be below the Violet and Orange gradient map. Change the blend mode to the Violet and Orange gradient map to "Soft Light" , then group both layers and lower the opacity to 26%


Step 31

Now add a Colour Balance adjustment layer to give it a different overall hue, change the blend mode to Darken and slightly lower the opacity.


Step 32

Add a Black and White adjustment layer and change the options as shown below, and lower the opacity. Next, add a Photo Filter adjustment level, keep it at the default values.


Step 33

Using a low opacity brush on a new layer, paint the overall lighting adjustments like shown below. Once you're done, the blend mode should be changed to "Soft Light" and the Opacity slightly lowered.


Step 34

On a new layer paint a simple vignette with a large soft brush, lower the opacity to 78%


Step 35

Next, give the image a "Soft Glow" effect by merging all the layers onto a single layer above the others. Do this by simultaneously pressing Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E

Next apply a Gaussian Blur to this layer.

Change the blend mode to "Soft Light" and lower the Opacity to around 50%


Step 36

Below you can see the difference before and after applying the colour and lighting adjustments.


Step 37

That's it! The image is complete.

I hope this tutorial helped you understand the way i match colours and blend images. Thank you to everyone on this site who has taught me so much. :)



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118 Comments:

avatar Alan2641
Alan2641 says:

As Always a very well explained tutorial -=- like the detail on your lighting techniques

(4 years and 174 days ago)
avatar ponti55
ponti55 says:

Thanks Alan!

For anyone interested in seeing the final product on deviant art, follow this link:
http://Ponti55.deviantart.com/art/Life-on-the-Back-of-a-Shell-169199054

Thanks!

(4 years and 172 days ago)
avatar Lamantine
Lamantine says:

Wow ! Very clearly written and awesome finish ! I learn so much from you !

(4 years and 171 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

great

(4 years and 168 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

really great tutorial, thanks!

(4 years and 167 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Wonderfull, thank you!

(4 years and 167 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

สุดยอด

(4 years and 167 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Interesting.

(4 years and 166 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

yeah..thats true Alan
u explained very nicely...
love ur work

(4 years and 165 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

فلللللللللللله تصدق اعجبني لكن صعب شوي

(4 years and 165 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

wooaah!!!! great!!! your great!!!! i learn so much!!! intersting!!!

(4 years and 165 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Thanks

(4 years and 165 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

ขยันมาก

(4 years and 164 days ago)
avatar ponti55
ponti55 says:

Thank you all for your comments! (i used google translate for a couple...) =D

(4 years and 164 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

this is fantabulous...!

(4 years and 164 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Thanks a bunch! Def. a beginner and your tutorial helped me out a lot! Thanks for the lesson!

(4 years and 164 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

我说这的句话没有意义,不要看我。

(4 years and 163 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Thank's a lot sir ! :')

(4 years and 163 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

very nice tutorial and excellent end results, thanks for share

(4 years and 163 days ago)
avatar EmiK
EmiK says:

Yes thank you, this was very helpful = )

(4 years and 161 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

reallyy good tutorial, i've learned so much with this.

(4 years and 160 days ago)
avatar Clinge
Clinge says:

Very nicely done, THX

(4 years and 159 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Very very helpful tutorial , thanks !!

(4 years and 156 days ago)
avatar solkee
solkee says:

Excellent tutorial Matteo, thanks for sharing your technique.

(4 years and 154 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

you are great my friend. thank you for bearing writing all the details. so nice of u

(4 years and 152 days ago)
avatar jcooke426
jcooke426 says:

Thank you SOO much for this tutorial!!! I've been up for hours messing around and you have no idea how many questions you answered for me w/ this one tutorial... all i can say is THANKS!!

(4 years and 152 days ago)
avatar ponti55
ponti55 says:

Thank you all so much! I'm happy it helped

(4 years and 151 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

hi i just wanted to know how to creat a mask in the 18th step
thank you and the final photo is awsome

(4 years and 151 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

hi i just wanted to know how to creat a mask in the 18th step
thank you and the final photo is awsome

(4 years and 151 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

amazings.......

(4 years and 151 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

just one word : W O W
tq!!!

(4 years and 150 days ago)
avatar ponti55
ponti55 says:

To create a mask click on the button on the layers palatte that looks like a white circle on a rectangle Thank you for your comments!

(4 years and 150 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

i've just trieed this and it's wonderful thanks............:d

(4 years and 149 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Wow, just Wow !!!!!!

(4 years and 149 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

hi i have another Q plz
what is the transition that you was talking about?
and how to make it
you know to combine between the sand and grass
thank you very much

(4 years and 149 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

hi i have another Q plz
what is the transition that you was talking about?
and how to make it
you know to combine between the sand and grass
thank you very much

(4 years and 149 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

i followed this tutorial and my image looks like yours!
so cool, thank you very much
love it

(4 years and 149 days ago)
avatar ponti55
ponti55 says:

By transition i mean a layer mask on one layer to help the two blend together. I was in essence revealing the layer underneath.

And thanks for your comments

(4 years and 148 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

good job. i like it

(4 years and 146 days ago)
avatar shomyshomy

nice tutorial, thanks

(4 years and 146 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

i dont understand how to do a transition with the grass and the sand

(4 years and 146 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

i dont understand how to do a transition with the grass and the sand

(4 years and 146 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

can u explain how to do the transition thing because when you just tried to explain it i didnt understand it so can you please tell me exactly what to do thx. and btw good tut

(4 years and 146 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

One of the best tutorials I've ever seen! Great! Thank you!

(4 years and 145 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

great tutorial..

(4 years and 144 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

something so simple yet it looks so professional, your a genius man!

(4 years and 142 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

很好,很强大的说

(4 years and 141 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

BRAVO!!!

(4 years and 141 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

fuck you all spammers

(4 years and 141 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Hello ,,in step 6 i think that there a mistake or because I do not know English well and use the translation of google ... I could not to understand. You to become more clearly?
But I do not mind thank you very much.

(4 years and 140 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

amazing work!

(4 years and 139 days ago)
avatar gabs44
gabs44 says:

awesome tutorial - very clear.

(4 years and 139 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

beatiful tutorial man!
jah bles =)

(4 years and 137 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

great tutorial, i really learned a lot

(4 years and 133 days ago)
avatar skeletor
skeletor says:

Great Tut!.... very detailed.... good job!

(4 years and 131 days ago)
avatar hereisanoop

fantastic

(4 years and 131 days ago)
avatar retnodwimp

excellent!! great tutorial

(4 years and 130 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

very helpful .... an amazing step by step tutorial .. thanx ponti55

(4 years and 128 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

can u help me with step 19?
Use the Layer Masks to make a transition between the grass and sand layers.

I dont' know what to do here

(4 years and 128 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

very usefull

(4 years and 127 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

really GREAT work

(4 years and 121 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

hi its excellent. thanks for sharing. Hats to you.

(4 years and 119 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

.You are very skilled.

(4 years and 116 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

De verdad muchas gracias por tu aporte es un excelente tutorial!

(4 years and 113 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Зашибись!!! Автор то кто?

(4 years and 113 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Зашибись!!! Автор то кто?

(4 years and 112 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Excellent and well explain. thank´s for sharing.

(4 years and 111 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

BEST........

(4 years and 111 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

way to complicated.... I am a professional Graphic designer and the this isn't that difficult to make but you made it very complicated when all you had to do was use burn and dodge tools and some hue and saturation effects. most of the steps were not necessary in the end.

I guess for beginners its ok, but still, using adjustment layers for everything isn't very useful.

Good end picture... too many steps...

(4 years and 106 days ago)
no avatar
mary [banned] says:

Wonderful tutorial - best one I've found so far and it was great to follow and taught me a great deal! Thank you so much for doing this - I know it took a lot of your time

(4 years and 105 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

we like this assignment very much. Add more like this.

(4 years and 102 days ago)
no avatar
snehal [banned] says:

nice one

(4 years and 101 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

Even though i've been banned from this site, i still like reading all your great comments. I'm glad this tutorial has reached and helped so many people Thank you all very much!

(4 years and 100 days ago)
no avatar
mikey [banned] says:

"way to complicated.... I am a professional Graphic designer and the this isn't that difficult to make but you made it very complicated when all you had to do was use burn and dodge tools and some hue and saturation effects. most of the steps were not necessary in the end.

I guess for beginners its ok, but still, using adjustment layers for everything isn't very useful.

Good end picture... too many steps..."

WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
If you are a "Graphic Designer" then why are you looking at tutorials?!

(4 years and 100 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

THANKS FOR THE TUTORIAL... IS AMAZING

(4 years and 95 days ago)
no avatar
laura [banned] says:

Fantastic!!!

(4 years and 67 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

wooooow

(4 years and 65 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

I like ur technique! Great Tut ! Thank u sir ! ^_^. U help me learn clearly a lot of things.One more, thanks.

(4 years and 62 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

thanks for the great step by step tutorial, I completed it as best I could.. (I'm new to photoshop)
Mine looks very similar, the only problem I had was merging the layers towards the end.
great tutorial, great art!
thanks again

(4 years and 62 days ago)
no avatar
shiva says:

Excellent tut

(4 years and 61 days ago)
no avatar
dillerver says:

great i try .......it

(4 years and 60 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

Wao!!!!

you really make very extraordinary picture

best.......

(4 years and 52 days ago)
no avatar

Amazing tutorial man, thank you very much!

(4 years and 50 days ago)
no avatar
ahmad says:

wooooow great i try .......it
you really make very extraordinary picture

(4 years and 1 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

i love the coloring very nice and i love graphic designing love this

(4 years and 1 days ago)
avatar AdhirAnimator

Superb tutorial mate... thanks a ton for sharing with us it will surely improve my work!

(3 years and 365 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Great job man. Even me being a noob at using Photoshop my final result is amazing, thats becouz u explained very well each step Thx so much man

(3 years and 353 days ago)
no avatar
Danny says:

Just.. WOW awesome man.

(3 years and 350 days ago)
avatar ponti55
ponti55 says:

Thank you all very much! Glad you found my tutorial useful I've seen some of your results on around the web and i've been very impressed

(3 years and 333 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

the best. i was crazy to know how to make those dreamy efects and images. you explaned a bunch. i'll go through this tutorial many times till i'm good at it! i apreciate it so much that you took your time to reveal some of your techniques

(3 years and 332 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

i love ur work

(3 years and 326 days ago)
no avatar

inceiblemente pero cierto!!!

(3 years and 301 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

thankyou for sharing dude.. your a geneius

(3 years and 252 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

the link to the "night Fate" gives an error on devian art. can you PLEASE email it to me rnllbrrdxn333@gmail.com
thank you

(3 years and 230 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

hi, the link to the "night fate" is not working. Can you please be so kind and upload a new link of maybe mail the pick to me? the tut looks amazing, but I cant do it without the photo )-:

(3 years and 230 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Thanks so much, I`ve used this in one of my works, and of course gave you full credit

http://shopjob.deviantart.com/#/d3fz7rm

(3 years and 223 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

Congratulations

(3 years and 196 days ago)
no avatar
alex says:

Definately one of the best Tutorials I've seen so far! Thanks for the good ideas on Layers and the Defringeing

(3 years and 178 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Hey, I found the link to Night Fate's background on deviantArt.
http://night-fate-stock.deviantart.com/gallery/?q=landscape#/d2s6y4c
Hope this helps!

(3 years and 159 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

O wow, this is sick!What a great idea. I love it

(3 years and 147 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

One of the best tutorials ... thanks!

(3 years and 141 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Got it! Thanks a lot again for hepling me out!

(3 years and 118 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

super!

It also helped me in school; in the art class i used this tutorial when we had photoshop, thanks a lot!


I got the highest grade on in, btw .. =D

(3 years and 101 days ago)
avatar ponti55
ponti55 says:

Thank you all very much for the comments! And thank you to the guest that reposted the broken link, if anyone has trouble finding it it can be found here:

http://night-fate-stock.deviantart.com/gallery/?q=landscape#/d2s6y4c

(3 years and 100 days ago)
avatar kariedaway

Excellent tutorial, ponti55! I learned so much about lighting layers and how to use gradients to change the mood of the piece. Thank you! My end result can be seen here http://kariedaway.deviantart.com/art/Passage-264206580

(3 years and 60 days ago)
no avatar
irish [banned] says:

Seriously, this tutorials is a big help... it shows even the tiniest details. job well done sir.
I am impressed.

(2 years and 341 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

thank you sooo much,.
i love your tutorial - it helps me to create my own photoshop composing

(2 years and 318 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

Really Cool!!!
I think its easy enough to follow so I think I will try it out.
Such a cool concept

(2 years and 287 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

Awesome man, Really great stuff...

(2 years and 270 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

this tutorial sucks. it wasn't very well explained and why are you using a turtle

(2 years and 259 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

please need help the sky picture is deleted and btw nice tutorial

(2 years and 160 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

NIce TuToRiAl

(2 years and 113 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

what's the picture named?

(2 years and 109 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Made my day!!!!
Thnx heaps

(2 years and 102 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Nice work, however I'm a bit confused at step 18 and using layer masks to blend the 2 landscapes together.... I think it may need more explaining there and if anyone could help me out that would be great!

(2 years and 24 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

My outcome; http://kuys.deviantart.com/#/d5nzj4c

(2 years and 4 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

Frankly good the design and a great idea

(1 year and 331 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Brilliant Chap Just Brilliant
incredibly easy even for me and im only twelve

(1 year and 324 days ago)


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