Creating a photo montage in Photoshop is pretty straight forward. Its always the blending and merging the images used within the montage that can be tricky, but is always important to achieve the seamless finished look to the image.
We have already discussed how to open files and import them into Adobe Photoshop in earlier tutorials, if your not sure how to do this, now is your chance to go back over the earlier lessons.
Here we are going to create a magical photo montage scene with a unicorn using several images to combine and merge into one background. So often I find I just don’t have that perfect image in my library, so being able to combine images in this way enables me to have endless backgrounds from just a few basic images.
At this stage I will say, the quality of your background images you choose don’t need to be perfect, they aren’t the main focus of the image, just a filler to your creation to give the overall feel to the final picture.
And so to begin with this photo montage Photoshop tutorial!
I find it helpful to start with the main focus of the overall picture first, so I have opened up an image from my computer of a white pony. Having already cut out the subject using the pen tool, explained in an earlier lesson, I positioned the pony towards one side of the new canvas. Composition, when working in Photoshop is just as important as the composition within the camera, its important that your layout works, is easy on the eye and not clashing with the other images you are going to use. So its always a good idea to have an idea in mind as to where you want to take your viewer as you begin.
The next thing to do is bring into the canvas a background image. Here I decided to use an image I had taken with a stream and some trees. There are some buildings in the background I don’t like being there, but for the time being I will ignore those, here I just want the water.
Having brought in my country background image, and placed it on the layer behind the pony, I centered and sized it to fit the entire canvas, using the free transform tool, (Ctrl T) All pretty straight forward so far.
You can see that the animal doesnt yet fui in with the overall picture at this stage, we can reposition the pony wherever we chose, using the move tool (Cnrl M) at the top of the tool box. We will no doubt have to keep coming back to the layer with the pony image frequently until we have the result we like.
Next I have opened up and imported a third image and placed it on the layer above the background layer, and below the horse, this photo is of some trees with a kind of sandy pathway.
The image was larger than the one you can see here with more dense trees to right side, I didn’t like the look of them as they seemed too dense and I was looking for something that gave the impression of light and airy. So using the eraser tool I removed half the photo, just by rubbing it out. Don’t rub away too much all at once, its best to keep coming back to a specific layer and taking away bits as you need to rather than rubbing out too much!
I duplicated the previous layer (Ctrl J) so I now had the same image of the trees, twice. Going up to ‘edit’ in the menu bar, and select free transform > transform > flip horizontal. I now have the duplicate image reversed on my canvas, all I need to do next is re position it and erase some of the bits I don’t want. I have chosen to expose most of the stream by exposing the contours it followed on the original background, this helps to avoid the feeling of symmetry that I just created.
You can see the buildings have been compleatly hidden by the new layer and we have a much more credible woodland for a unicorn to dwell in.
On a new layer, above all background layers, and below the pony, it was time to add in some mist and cloud to our photo montage, using Photoshop brushes I had previously made. This will create some atmosphere to the overall effect and make it a little bit magical.
Generally I find the best way to use the Photoshop brushes is to just kind of play, if I don’t get the effect I like, its easy to undo, or delete the layer (by dragging it into the bin at the bottom of the layers palette) But basically you just want to create the misty effect by applying the brush then rubbing parts away and adding more. I usually keep the brush opacity down quite low for this, around 25% or less, and the same for the eraser tool, as this prevents any harshness.
Now its time for the fun part!
By creating texture, using Photoshop brushes on a new layer, at the top of the layers palatte, above all other images. Another way this can be done is to import pre made textures from other sources, either ones you have created yourself, or there are many sites offering free downloads of various textures to be used in photo montage.
I created texture over the entire new layer and then reduced the opacity randomly with the erase tool, over the whole of the texture so some areas remained quite strong whilst other parts were more faded, avoiding a ‘blocking’ look to the image.
You can see I have also thickened and enhanced the main and tail of the unicorn here. How I do this will be explained more fully in a later tutorial, but the basics are easy and created with a small brush by using the smudge tool to lengthen the existing hairs.
I also gave the unicorn his ‘horn’ on the front of the face, this was achieved by drawing a long sort of cone and filling it with shading and highlights to make it look like a solid horn with shadows.
Lastly I added the tiny magical sparkles around the horn and feet of the unicorn to give it an ethereal and magical feel! And hey presto! That ends our Photo Montage Photoshop Tutorial.