photoshop creative

Create a surreal animal scene

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
December 21, 2016

Use layers, masks and the bare necessities of Photoshop to create a surreal forest scene


1. Build the background


Place in a forest background, make preliminary adjustments and use the Clone Stamp tool to stretch the path further down. Add a Hue/Saturation layer and tweak the path to give it a redder feel.

2. Add the sofa


Place a sofa into the image. Use the Pen or Polygonal Lasso to trace around the outline and hit the Mask icon. Adjust the object by clipping a Curves adjustment to the layer (Elements users: use Levels), add a new layer, clip that too, and brush black onto the legs.

3. Liquify the sofa


Go to Filter>Liquify and drag the sofa to create dents where the man and the bear can realistically sit. Photoshop users: use the Freeze Mask tool to lock the outline; Elements users: duplicate the layer before you liquify and mask the original layer back in to get rid of any mistakes.

4. Create some lamps


Give the forest a homely feel by creating some lamps. Mask the lampshade to start; beneath that, create a long rectangle and clip a wooden texture to it. Use gradients set to Soft Light to adjust the lighting.

5. Enter the bear


Insert a bear into your image. Mask around the bear and place him on the sofa. Use multiple images blended together if need be, and use the Clone Stamp to mask over the green around his paws.

6. Place the man


Mask around him and place him towards the arm of the sofa, before masking some more to reveal the sofa around him. Go to Edit> Puppet Warp (Elements users: use Liquify) to alter his posture and point his arm in the same direction that the bear is looking in.

7. Mask the monkey



Just as you’ve done with the man and bear, add a monkey, and mask around him; mask over the green plant in his hand too, as we’re going to replace this. You can use brushes, Refine Edge or just the Pen tool to select any of these subjects.

8. Start a tabless-animal-composition_step-8


Select a rectangle from a wooden texture. Duplicate and move up and right of your original layer. Duplicate twice again and transform these to join the edges of the two rectangles.

9. Make a lidss-animal-composition_step-9

Select a perfect square from the wooden texture and transform it so that it fits between the four corners of your diamond. Adjust each side to make the lighting realistic.

10. Add some legs


Select a long rectangle from the wooden texture and paste below the tabletop. Position one on each corner and use the Elliptical Marquee to round the bottom of the legs.

11. Adjust the elements


Clip a layer to each table leg. Add a black and white gradient set to Soft Light, 50% Opacity. Clip a similar gradient to the tabletop to give a sheen. Group these layers and bring into your forest scene. Duplicate, and have one table in front of the sofa, and one for you to place a television onto.

12. Insert cups and television


Add a TV and a cup.jpg to the image. Resize the TV, place on its table and clip a worn texture to it for a vintage feel. Duplicate the cup twice and give each of our three characters their own one; place the monkey’s cup in his hand by masking around his fingers.

13. Warp the snake


Place a snake. Use the Clone Stamp tool along with Liquify to warp the snake into an ‘S’ shape, ready to place around the lamp. Mask around parts of the lamp to make it look like the snake is weaving around it.

14. Place the wolf and tiger


Place the tiger in front of the lamp and the wolf cub half under the table. Mask the pair of these as before, and use Puppet Warp or Liquify to reposition them so they are looking at the television.

15. Correct the lighting


Create a bright Curves adjustment. Elements users: merge all (Cmd/Ctrl+Alt/Opt+Shift+E) and up the Levels. Mask this brightness over the lamps. Clip yellow (#ffe786) layers to this brightness; one at Soft Light, 32% Opacity; one at Color Burn 20%. Photoshop users: clip a Hue Saturation layer as above.

16. Make a popcorn bucket


Use the techniques from creating the table to create a popcorn bucket, only instead of transforming wood textures, transform some stripes. Use adjustments to tweak the sides and mask some popcorn into the middle of the box. Add a text layer saying ‘Popcorn’ to complete the object.

17. Shade, dodge and burn


Now to bring a little depth into the image. Create a neutral grey Overlay layer (#808080) and use the Dodge and Burn tools over the highlights and shadows of the image; take into account where the lamps are. On a new layer, use a 20% Opacity brush over where the shadows should appear.

18. Tweak each animal


When you add lots of individual pictures from completely different scenes into the one composition, it’s important to then edit each layer to make sure it looks natural in the scene. Photoshop users: clip Curves and Hue/Saturation adjustments to the animals and objects; Elements users: use Levels (Cmd/Ctrl+L).

19. Adjust for perfection


Adjustments are key for an ambitious composition, so experiment with whatever you like. Photoshop users might want to use Curves, Color Lookup and Vibrance; Elements users might want to merge all and add Smart Looks. Finish with Camera Raw.

20. Apply finishing touches


Finally, add any finishing touches that you need to; find some smoke brushes to subtly improve your cups, and you might want to blur or smudge elements of the picture to blend it together better.