Photoshop Tutorial: Gift for Tomorrow

Posted Monday, 15 December 2008 by Madalina Iordache‐Levay in Photoshop, Design
In our third tutorial post based on Photoshop Contest entries, Madalina Iordache‐Levay takes us through how she created her stunning entry for the contest's final round.

When I saw the contest’s theme and source images, I knew I had to come up with an idea that is original, backed by a strong concept, and that offers the opportunity to show my technical skills.

My concept was that of a world deserted by the joy of the holidays, because our actions continue to deteriorate the planet and everything that lives on it; in turn, we have to live with these consequences, carry them as a heavy burden, while keeping on doing the wrong. Our lifestyle is "plugged" into the resources of the earth, a waste for or entertainment, regardless of the future.

I began by sketching roughly the idea on paper, just to figure out the composition and to help me assess what stock images I was going to need and where the difficulties would appear. Then, I gathered my resources: I used the mask and the industrial scene from the package provided by Crestock, some personal stock images, and a bunch of free stock photos.


I used Photoshop CS3 and a Wacom Intuous tablet to create this image. Total time: around 10‐12 hours. I started with the character (who needed, of course, a new head and a darker outfit), then I build the landscape around it, followed by the globe, which was the main challenge of this image; the lighting effects were a very important step in creating the atmosphere of the scene; and finally, I created the string lights wrapped around the globe and the character.


Let’s go more into detail with compositing the globe and with creating the lighting effects.

Creating a Planet

I started off with a stock picture of the Earth, which I placed into my background; I changed the colors using Hue/Saturation, so as the blue to become brown and the brown to become blue.


Then, I cropped the industrial skyline from the photograph provided by Crestock.


To be able to wrap this around our globe, I needed to have the skyline in a separate layer. I used a filter called Polar Coordinates, which you can find under Filter > Distort. But before applying the filter, the layer must be flipped vertically (Ctrl + T, then right click on the layer and choose Flip Vertical).

When using this filter, you may want to leave some empty room around your object, which dictates the size of the “hole” (in this case, the approximate size of the globe). Therefore, you may need to increase your canvas size. Try the filter (choose Rectangular to Polar and watch the effect in the preview window). If it doesn’t look good, cancel, increase your canvas size (Ctrl + Alt + C), then try again.


When I got the desired effect, I moved the skyline in my composition, over the globe.


Using the same technique, I added another piece of skyline to the left, from a different stock photo.


To create the eroded lower side of the globe, I used a photograph of dirt breaking up in layers:


I deleted the upper part along the edge of the cracks and I masked the layer to the globe layer (by placing it directly on top of the globe layer, then holding down Alt and clicking the line between the two layers in the Layers panel). I also used the Transform and Warp functions to adjust the dirt layer to the roundness of the globe.


I used an aerial shot to place on the upper part of the globe, I found this stock photo very appropriate both because it had the right angle and because of the symbolism of the lighthouse.


To make it wrap better on the globe’s surface, I used another Distort filter, called Spherize:


Next, I added a layer mask to hide the unwanted parts:


The rest was a matter of correcting the exposure and the colors to fit better with my environment. I also darkened the area that comes in contact with the man’s back.


Lighting Effects

Complex lighting is a two‐blade sword: it can create a magnificent atmosphere in the picture, but it’s so easy to mess up coordinating the lights and shadows with the light sources. In this case, I wanted a backlit effect, to better emphasize the skyline.

Since the “backpack planet” has its own atmosphere, I imagined a light source behind the skyline, that would create a nice glowing outline around both the planet and the character. Another thing to be taken into consideration is the snow landscape: it reflects and bounces back the light, so even a low lit scene would appear brighter than usual (imagine a winter night with snow and full moon). The snow also reflects the colors around it (the teals and blues).

But there is one more light source: the strings of lights. Let’s go more into details with the creation of the backlit effect. Using adjustment layers, I darkened the sky, and then, on separate layers, I painted in the back of the globe with white and teal. I switched some of these layers’ blending modes to Soft Light and Overlay to create the halo effects around the globe.


Next, I duplicated the group where I stored all the globe’s layers. I merged the group, because I was only interested to obtain the outline of the globe as a whole (with the skyline). With Ctrl + click I selected the outline, and with Select > Modify > Border I selected a 10px wide border.


In a new layer, I filled the selection with white, deselected, than applied Gaussian Blur. I placed this layer on top of the globe. I proceeded in the same manner to create a small halo around the man.


Afterwards, I added the strings of lights, to add more to the atmosphere…


…which, of course, called for some teal reflections in various parts (the globe, the man, the snow):


To finish the image: a little sharpening, an Exposure adjustment layer, and it’s done!

[view fullsize image]

Bio note: Madalina Iordache‐Levay is a freelance graphic designer based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and an awarded fine art photographer. Her conceptual and surreal photography has been published in photography magazines and art books from around the world.
Graphic design:
Fine art photography:

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Many Thanks
By koekje08 on Wednesday, 17 December 2008 7:10 AM
Many thanks for showing the making off.......
By RubenB on Thursday, 18 December 2008 12:15 AM
some great technique you have there...thanks for sharing!
By imageX on Monday, 22 December 2008 6:58 PM
Very nice work! Thanks for the tutorial. I would have liked it even more if you had told us how you created the string of lights.
Série Photoshop | Space Light tutorial
By Tecnologia, Marketing e Design de Internet on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 3:14 AM
Dando continuidade à Série Photoshop que inaugurei com o artigo “Acabamento“, fiz este tutorial sobre o Space Light Tutorial | Processo de Montagem usando Brush e Pincel. Antes de começar, quero lembrar sobre o fato da ótica em relaçã...
By thteboss on Wednesday, 7 January 2009 6:47 PM
so nice and clean

keep up :)
By sancreative on Thursday, 22 January 2009 8:25 AM
its really gr8 i love it

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