In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a dark, sci-fi landscape photo manipulation in Adobe Photoshop.
First, we’ll build the base scene using two stock images. After that, we’ll import the stars and add planets. Later, we’ll add the misty mountains and a big rock to the middle of the background. We’ll use several adjustment layers to change the color and contrast of the whole scene. Finally, we’ll create the lighting effect.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
1. How to Build the Base Landscape
Create a new 1920 x 1080 px document and fill it with white:
Open the landscape image and use the Magic Wand Tool (W) to isolate the
landscape only. Move it into the white canvas and place it at the bottom
using the Move Tool (V). Convert this layer to a Smart Object.
are some unwanted details on the ground. To correct them, create a new
layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Use the Clone Tool (S) to remove the
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and change the Midtones settings:
Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value to -82:
Make a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness a lot. On this
layer mask, select a soft round brush with black color (soft black
brush) with a lowered opacity (about 10-15%) to reveal some visibility on
the middle of the ground.
Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray:
Activate the Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 25% to
darken the left edge of the landscape. You can see how I did it with
Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.
Open the sky image. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the sky only and place it in the upper half of the main canvas. Set this
layer below the landscape group and reduce its opacity to 50%.
Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. On this layer mask,
use a soft black brush to erase the middle of the sky as we’re aiming to make
the light source there.
Add another Curves adjustment layer to darken the left more as it’s a bit brighter than the right. Paint on the right and the middle to show some light.
To make the left darker, create a new layer and use a soft brush with
#8f939d to paint on there. Change this layer mode to Multiply
Use a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones settings to make the sky more purple:
2. How to Add the Stars
Place the star image over the main document and change its mode to Linear Dodge 100%.
Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the effect.
Use a Levels adjustment layer to decrease the effect’s brightness.
Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to
this layer. Use a soft black brush to clear the stars on the ground and
reduce the effect’s visibility in the sky’s area.
3. How to Import the Planets
Open the planet texture. Check out this tutorial to know how to make a
planet. Drag the planet into the main canvas and place it onto the top
middle. Duplicate this layer twice and scale them down, and then arrange them on both sides of the big one.
Add a mask to the two small planet layers and make them fade out into the sky.
Double click the big planet layer, choose Inner Shadow and Outer Glow.
Set the color of shadow to
#f4f5f6 and color of glow to white.
Select these planet layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them.
Set this group’s mode to Normal 100% and use a Hue/Saturation adjustment
layer within the group to desaturate the planets.
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to change the planets’ color. On
the layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the magenta effect on
the small planets.
Add a Curves adjustment layer to darken the planets. Paint on the lower parts of
the planets towards the middle light of the background.
Use another Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the lower of
the planets. Paint on the higher areas of the planets so they won’t be
affected by this adjustment layer.
Create another Curves adjustment layer to make the planets, especially the big one, hazier and blended more into the sky.
4. How to Create the Background Mountains
Isolate the mountains from the sky and add them to the left of the landscape. Lower the opacity of this layer to 70%.
Duplicate this layer and flip it horizontally (Edit > Transform >
Flip Horizontal). Move it to the right side and change its opacity to
Add a mask to each of these layers and use a soft black brush to remove
the areas on the ground and decrease the mountains’ opacity on the
Make a group for the mountain layers and use a Curves adjustment layer to change their lightness to match the landscape’s one.
5. How to Add the Rock
Cut out the rock from the background and place it in the middle of the
background. Use a layer mask with a medium-soft black brush to erase the
bottom and blend the rock with the existing ground.
Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the Saturation value to -66.
The rock looks too bright compared to the background, so add a Curves adjustment layer to darken it.
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones values:
Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50%
gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to paint bright edges for the contour of the
rock where it should be illuminated by the background light, and also paint
more details for the rock.
another Curves adjustment layer to make the contour of the rock softer
and hazier. Paint on the rest to keep its contrast and shadow.
6. How to Do the Basic Adjustments
Make a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the
#94ece5. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 90%.
Add a Curves adjustment layer to make the edges of the landscape darker. Paint on the middle to make it brighter than the edges.
Create a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones and Highlights settings:
Add another Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the middle.
Paint on the edges so they won’t be affected by this adjustment layer.
Make another Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast for the
whole scene. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.
7. How to Make the Light Effect
First, create a new layer and use a soft brush with the color
make a spot on the canvas. After that, change the brush color to
#cddbf3 to make a smaller spot on the middle of the previous one.
Convert this layer to a Smart Object and use the Free Transform Tool
(Control-T) to make it longer and much thinner.
Add a mask to this layer to make the line fade into the rock and look like a gap.
Make a new layer and use a soft brush with the color
#f5f7fb to make a
light spot on the existing one. Use Control-T and a layer mask to make
the light spot appear like a subtle ray.
On a new layer, use a soft brush with the color
#cddbf3 to paint a
highlight in the middle. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100%.
Duplicate this layer to make the light stronger.
To make a light flare, take the Rectangular Marquee Tool to grab a
square and set the Feather Radius to 2. Use a large soft brush with the
#cddbf3 to spot on the right side.
Hit Control-D to deselect and use Control-T to make it much thinner (convert this layer to a Smart Object before transforming). Move it to the light gap area.
Use a layer mask to remove the top and bottom, making it mostly visible on the left of the light gap.
Use a small brush with the color
#ff89aa to paint along the light line. Set this layer mode to Hard Light 100%.
Use the same brush to paint around the light gap. Change this layer mode
to Soft Light 100% and mask it off so the red effect appears very
Make a Vibrance adjustment layer on top of the layers to complete the final effect.
Congratulations, You’re Done!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed the tutorial and learned something new for
your own projects. Feel free to share your results or leave comments in
the box below. Enjoy Photoshopping!