photoshop creative

Play with out-of-bounds effects

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
July 27, 2016

Create a fun effect of a train driving right out of a vintage photo


1. Work on the railroad


Find an image of a train, and image of a city and layer the track image over the city image. Use the Polygonal Lasso tool to create a selection around the tracks and the platform. Use that selection as a layer mask.

2. Enter the train


Open an image of a vintage steam train and position it as a layer above the tracks. Use Edit>Free Transform to scale and position the train image to fit on the tracks. Use the tracks in front of the train as a reference for positioning.

3. Add a picture frame


Use the Rectangle tool with a white stroke of about 10pt and no fill, to draw out a box for the photo frame. Use the Edit>Transform>Perspective tool to add a touch of perspective to the frame to make it fit better in the scene.

4. Frame it in


Duplicate the train layer and move the copy above the frame, then hide it. Click on the original train layer to stroke of about 10pt and no fill, to draw out a box for the photo frame. Use the Edit>Transform>Perspective tool to add a touch of perspective to the frame to make it fit better in the scene.

5. Select the train carefully


Now select the Pen tool set to Path and then take your time to carefully trace along the outline of the train engine. The Pen provides a smoother selection around curves and mechanical objects than any other tool in Photoshop. (Elements users can use the Quick Selection tool.) Use the path as a vector mask around the train layer.

6. Darken the tracks


Add a Curves adjustment layer over the tracks. Clip it to the tracks layer with Layer>Create Clipping Mask. Then deepen the curve to dramatically darken the track layer. Elements users should use a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer.

7.Add night lights


Now add a new Solid Color fill layer above the Curves layer and clip it. Use a dark blue colour of #2f405c, set the blend mode to Multiply and reduce the Opacity to 74%. This helps to give the tracks a night-time hue.

8. Reveal some steam


Copy the train layer. Delete the copy’s vector mask. Desaturate this layer with Image>Adjustments>Desaturate (Elements: Enhance>Adjust Color>Remove Color). Hold the Alt/opt key while adding a new mask then use a soft white brush on the mask to reveal the steam around the wheels.

9. Insert the vintage photo


Clip a Black & White adjustment layer to the train layer that is within the photo frame. Check the Tint option for the adjustment layer and use a sepia tone (#e1d3b3). This gives the photo an older, vintage appearance.

10. Treat the transition


The transition between the colour effects is too abrupt, so use a soft, round brush on the mask of the Black & White adjustment layer. Paint with black to soften the transition.

11. Place a train shadow


Add a new layer for the train’s shadow under the engine layer, but above the photo frame layer. Then use the Soft Round brush with black paint to paint in dark shadows underneath the train. Reduce the brush Opacity to 50% so you can build up the shadows gradually as you paint.

12. Let off more steam


A good cloud of steam will add some drama to the shot, plus help the transition between the train and the tracks. Open an image of some steam and layer it over the train layer along the front wheels. Change the blending mode to Screen and reduce the Opacity to 56%.

13. Use steam at the front


Use another steam image and layer in steam coming from the funnel at the head of the train. Change the blending mode to Screen and use a layer mask to remove the hard edges and fit the steam to the rest of the image.

14. Work on the headlights


Add a new layer for the headlights. Use the Elliptical Marquee tool to create a selection around one of the headlights. Then add to this selection with the Polygonal Lasso tool to create a cone shape in front of the train.

15. Form the cone of light


Use a Radial gradient going from a pale blue (#bae0ee) to transparent to fill the selection and form the cone of light. Cancel the selection, use a Gaussian Blur of 25 pixels and set the blending mode to Overlay. Then copy the layer to form the second headlight effect.

16. Adjust ground effects


The headlights need to look like they are shining on the dark ground in front of the train. Go to the Curves layer that is clipped to the tracks layer and use a soft brush on the mask to remove the darkening effect inside the cones of light.

17. Add even more steam


Add in more steam layers to give the entire scene more life and atmosphere. Not only does the steam effect enhance the overall image, but it also serves well to hide the difficult transitions between the train and the background.

18. Apply extra effects


Finish off the piece by adding your favourite finishing effects. We added a Dodge and Burn layer to enhance the shadows and highlights, then created a merged layer and used the Camera Raw filter to add clarity, vibrance and a vignette.