photoshop creative

How to create dynamic compositions using layers and filters in Photoshop, part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
December 6, 2013

Enjoy this tutorial for turning a dull image into a stunning composition with these clever techniques. Part 2 goes up on Sunday!

Download all the start for this tutorial here


On the car image, go to Image>Canvas Size. Enter 8cm in the Height field and click on the downward pointing arrow under Anchor. Set Canvas Extension to Black and hit OK.


Pick the Quick Selection tool and draw an area over the sky in the car image, covering the newly extended canvas. Press Q to view the selection in Quick Mask mode and use the Brush tool to add to the far-left edge of the hill to extend the missing part. Press Q to exit this mode.


Open up the sky image and use the Move tool to drag it over to the car image. Before moving or resizing the new sky to fit in the area, add a layer mask to apply the active selection. Click on the chain link next to the mask on the layer to detach it from the image’s thumbnail.


Make sure the thumbnail of the sky is highlighted and not the mask, and go to Edit>Free Transform. Hold Shift and drag the corner points of the Transform box to resize and position the sky to fit over the area. Make sure the whole area is covered with the new sky.


We need to separate the car from the background. Use the Pen tool to draw a path around the edge of the car, bending each to fit around its shape. Leave out the wheels and tyres, as they will be edited later. Once the path is complete, Ctrl/right-click and choose Make Selection.


Save this selection by going to Select>Save Selection. This will now be stored as a new channel. To load the selection at any point, Ctrl/Cmd-click on its channel. To merge everything that’s visible to a new layer, press Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+Alt/Opt+E. There should now be three layers in the palette.


Add a layer mask to the merged layer, and then press Ctrl/Cmd+I to invert the mask. Be sure to click back on the image’s thumbnail. Go to Filter>Distort>Lens Correction and move the Amount slider for Vignette to -100. This will darken all four corners of the image, adding to the atmosphere.


You can brighten up the grass on the hill and the road by selecting the Dodge tool. Set the tool to 50% Exposure, to Midtones in the Options bar and then dab over these areas to lighten them up. Only a light touch is needed to change the brightness of these parts.


Add a bit of finesse to the composition with a lens flare. To do this, create a new layer and fill this with black. You can use Edit>Fill and set Contents to black to do this. After filling the layer, change its blend mode to Screen.


With this black layer in place, you’re ready for the lens flare. Head to Filter>Render>Lens Flare. In this dialog, set the Brightness adjustment to 120% and Lens Type to 50-300mm Zoom. Position the flare against the clouds of the sky using the preview in filter. A bit of guesswork is needed to get this exact.


To darken the windows, create a new blank layer. Use the Pen tool to mark a path around the front widescreen and also the side windows. Multiple paths can be made one after the other. When the windows have a path around them, Ctrl/right-click and choose Make Selection to convert the path to an active selection.


Fill the areas with black using Edit>Fill, and then change the blend mode of the layer to Soft Light. This will bring through some of the details from behind the car, but make them appear darker at the same time.

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  • Benramz

    In Step 10 You point out that “a little guesswork is needed to get this correct” referring to the Lens Flare.
    There is a little known tip about the Lens Flare that I want to share with anybody who reads this.
    When you want to position a lens flare any where you want it, press “V” to switch to the move tool and put the tip of the cursor ont the exact point you want to out the flare at. Look in the info palette and write down the X and Y coordinates (in pixels).

    Once you have done that, open the Lens Flare Dialog Box and Alt(Option)-Click on the Preview window. That will bring up the Precise Flare Center Dialog Box.

    Enter in the X and Y coordinates (in pixels) click Ok and there you have it!

    That tip came from Photoshop 7 Killer Tips by Scott Kelby a very good book and I highly recommend it even for people who don’t use PS7.