photoshop creative

Explore negative spaces

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
November 15, 2017

Merge multiple images using a variety of techniques and simple tricks to create an eye-catching composition

1. Create the document

Create a new document by going to File>New or press Cmd/Ctrl+N. Name your project Negative Space. Set the Width to 230mm, Height to 310mm and Resolution to 300ppi, then click Create.

2. Radial gradient

Grab the Gradient Tool (G). In Options, choose the Radial gradient and click to edit the gradient. Set the first colour stop to #0c1936 and the second stop to #2692d4, click OK. Hold Shift and drag from the top to roughly the centre of the canvas.

3. Create the stars

Create a new layer (Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+N). Name it Stars and fill with black. Go to Filter>Pixelate>Mezzotint and choose Type: Fine Dots. Apply the Gaussian Blur filter, setting the Radius to 3 pixels. Open the Levels and set the Inputs to 74, 1.00, 76. Change the blend mode to Screen.

4. Place the moon

Go to File>Place Embedded and choose a moon image. Now, go to Layer>Rasterize>Smart Object. Grab the Magic Wand Tool (W), select the black area and press Delete. Refine the edges if necessary. Press Cmd/Ctrl +T and scale the image around 190%. Add the Inner and Outer Glow layer styles and then drag the image up.

5. Make some clouds

Create a new layer (Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+N) and name it Clouds. Set the Foreground/Background colour to dark blue and white. Grab the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), hold Shift and create a square selection, around 100mm. Go to Filter>Render>Clouds. Use the Free Transform Tool and scale up. Change the blend mode to Multiply.

6. Add a mask

Add a layer mask – go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All. Grab a Soft Round brush (B), reduce its Opacity and start painting on the mask to partially hide the clouds over the moon.

7. Render the trees

Create a new layer (Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+N) and name it Pine Trees. Go to Filter>Render>Tree. Open the Base Tree Type menu and choose: Pine Tree, tweak the settings and click OK. Open Hue/Saturation (Cmd/Ctrl+U) and set the Lightness to -70. Duplicate the layer (Cmd/Ctrl+J) and place the trees to the side.

8. Put in the rock

Go to File>Place>Embedded and add a rock. Grab the Magic Wand Tool (W) and select the sky. Press Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the selection, then add a layer mask, go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal Selection. Place the image at the bottom.

9. Add the wolf

Goto File>Place Embedded and add a wolf. Grab the Quick Selection Tool (W) and select the wolf. In Options, choose Select & Mask. Check Smart Radius and set it to 5 pixels. Use Refine Edge to tidy the selection. Choose Output to: New Layer with Layer Mask and click OK.

10. Create a shadow

Duplicate the wolf (Cmd/Ctrl+J). Go to Edit>Transform>Flip Vertical. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T move the image and adjust the perspective. Hold Cmd/Ctrl and click on the wolf’s thumbnail to select it. Fill with colour #0b56ab, change the blend mode to Multiply and Opacity to 55%. Add a mask and hide the unwanted areas.

11. Colour Lookup

Let’s apply a new adjustment. Click on the wolf layer. Now, go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Color Lookup. Check Create Clipping Mask and click OK. In Properties, choose 3DLUT File: Moonlight.3DL. Reduce the layer’s Opacity to 60%.

12. Add the highlights

Create a new layer (Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+N) and name it Highlights. Press Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+G to clip the layers. Grab a Soft Round brush (B). Set the Foreground colour to white and paint around the edges to create the highlights, then reduce the layer’s Opacity to 55%.

13. Group layers

Add a texture on top of the layer stack. Go to File>Place Embedded and add a texture. Scale up and press Return/Enter. Now change the blend mode to Screen and reduce the layer’s Opacity to 30%. Hold Shift and select the first and last layers, then press Cmd/Ctrl+G to group the layers.

14. Create a negative space

Let’s create an alpha channel mask to isolate the face from its background. First, go to File>Place Embedded and place the side profile of a woman. Now, go to Window>Channels. Ctrl/ right-click on the Red channel, choose Duplicate Channel and click OK. Press Cmd/Ctrl+L to open the Levels. Set the Inputs to 25, 1.00, 40 and click OK.

15. Enhance the mask

Grab a Hard Round brush (B) and clean up the mask. Now, grab the Dodge Tool (O). In Options, set Range to Highlights, Exposure to 100%, and then paint around the edges. Press Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the mask. Click the RGB channel and hit F7 to open the Layers panel.

16. Load selection

Go to Select>Load Selection. Choose Channel: Red copy and click OK. Now add a layer mask – go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal Selection. Create a safe copy of the layer. Press Cmd/Ctrl+D to duplicate it and then hide the layer.

17. Add a new background

Go to File>Place a new background, scale up to fit on the canvas and then press Return/Enter. Hold the Opt/Alt key and click on the woman’s layer mask thumbnail and drag within the background layer.

18. Enhance the tones

Click on the background layer thumbnail. Now, go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 25 pixels. Adjust the tones by opening Levels (Cmd/ Ctrl+L) and set the Inputs to 65, 0.60, 195.

19. Adjust the Curves

Press Cmd/Ctrl+M to open the Curves. Set Output to 90 and Input to 160, then click OK. Now tweak the colours. Press Cmd/Ctrl+U, set the Hue to 15 and reduce the Saturation to -60. Click OK.

20. Positive space

Let’s bring back some details on the face and blend the images. Click on the woman’s layer mask thumbnail. Grab a large soft brush (B), set Foreground colour to white, reduce the brush Opacity and start gradually painting over the mask to reveal the eyes, lips, and nose.

21. Soft Light layer

Create a new layer on top of the woman’s layer. Change the blend mode to Soft Light and clip the layers (Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+G). Grab a soft brush and set the Foreground colour to dark brown. Paint subtle shadows around the face and add a red colour to the lips.

22. Rearrange the images

Grab the Move Tool (V) and rearrange the moon, wolf, and trees. Make sure to link or select the corresponding layers to avoid messing up the shadows and masks. Finally, add a new adjustment on top of the layer stack. Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Photo Filter and choose Deep Blue.