Learn how to create a surreal masterpiece in Photoshop using only ten stock images and a handful
Create a new document in Photoshop with Width set to 5400px and Height at 1590px. You will be cropping this later on, but for now the additional width will be beneficial. Fill the background with a gradient going from dark to light blue, and use a large soft brush to lighten the sides.
Download image #31066291 from Adobe Stock. Select the sky using the Quick Selection tool and delete it. Paste the image five times into your document and, using the Free Transform tool, distort and resize the images to obtain the composition shown above.
Download #105995865 from Adobe Stock. Place the image in your document four times. Using the Quick Selection tool, select rocks from one image, go to Select>Invert Selection, and delete the selection. Do the same to each image then, using the Free Transform tool, place them in your scene.
Add Adobe Stock image #95330170 several times, using the Free Transform tool to resize correctly and erase the edges to blend with the existing waves. Download image #101399134 for the ship, and use the Quick Selection tool to select and remove the background. Add and resize this to the middle of your scene.
Flatten the image by Ctrl/right-clicking in the Layers panel and selecting Flatten Image. Next go to the Image menu and select Image Size, uncheck the chain icon and make the new Width and Height 4000px each. This will stretch the image but it will be fixed later on.
Unlock the Background layer by double-clicking on it, then go to Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates. Select Rectangular to Polar and click OK. Any elements that don’t line up, such as the sky, can be fixed by using the Spot Healing Brush.
Ctrl/right-click on your layer and select Convert to Smart Object. Select the Crop tool and drag the top-right corner inwards and the bottom-left corner outside of the frame as shown. Click Enter. Go to Image>Image Size, check the chain icon to keep proportions, and make the Width 3400px.
Duplicate your layer and select the bottom layer. Use the Free Transform tool to enlarge and rotate until the entire frame has been filled. Use the Quick Selection tool to select any elements on the top layer that don’t blend well, inverse the selection, then click the Add Layer Mask button.
Take the previously used Adobe Stock images #95330170, #31066291 and #105995865, and place them in your scene. Use the Quick Selection tool to remove unwanted parts, and the Free Transform tool to warp these images to match the existing sea. Use a soft Eraser to blend the edges.
Place Adobe Stock images #73238034 and #81356047 into your scene, and use Free Transform to warp and scale the clouds to fit the sky. Use the Lighten blend mode to make white clouds, and Multiply to create black clouds. Use the Eraser to remove unwanted parts.
Use the Quick Selection tool to cut out Adobe Stock images #93725550 and #86795070. Use the Free Transform tool to place them in your scene, and a hard Eraser to ‘rip’ the sails. Select a small brown brush and cover the people in the boat, making it look empty.
Download #54892940 and #95330170 from Adobe Stock, and place the waves around the rocks and shipwreck using the Quick Selection tool to remove unwanted elements, and the Free Transform tool to resize and warp. To match colours, use a combination of the Color Balance, Levels and Hue/Saturation adjustments, found under Image>Adjustments.
Use the Quick Selection tool to cut out the man and various books from Adobe Stock image #96157694. Place the elements into the scene and reposition using the Free Transform tool. Duplicate and reuse some of the previously created waves in order to blend the man into the sea.
Using the previous Adobe Stock images of the sea and waves, cut out and Free Transform more waves and place them in your scene. Be sure to add waves around each individual book, the shipwreck and the rocks, if needed. Use a soft Eraser to blend the new waves.
Press Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+E to Stamp Visible Layers. On the newly created layer, use the Burn and Dodge tools to lighten or darken parts of the image. Use a small brush for the details, and a larger brush to darken the top of the scene and lighten the bottom of the water.
The last stage is to add finishing touches. Use adjustment layers to darken the waves and lighten the clouds. Stamp Visible Layers, and use the Spot Healing Brush for blending areas, and finally use the Warp option from Free Transform to fix perspective issues.