Compositing in Photoshop

Compositing in Photoshop (or in any other graphics program), is like creating a sandwich. Each piece of the image is layered on top of one another in such a way that it looks seamless and uniform.

I created an image in Photoshop using some stock photography and Photoshop brushes. I’ll show you some of the steps I took, and the process of compositing.

First, I started out with this image from CG Textures

Next, I added some adjustments that change the atmospheric feel of the image. Adding orange and yellow make the landscape look warm and inviting. Photoshop does this through adjustment layers. these are special layers that are nondestructive, which means that they don’t change the image. You can always undo or delete the adjustments without wrecking the image. Adjustment layers can change coloring, and brightness of certain parts of the image. I grouped these layers together and put them at the top so that they would affect all the layers of the image.

The atmosphere looks pretty good, but the water doesn’t reflect the yellowish tint of the sky. To fix this, I first painted a yellow-brown color on the water, and then used a special blend mode called overlay. This will make the water appear more yellow while still looking like water. I also added an adjustment layer that subtracted some of the saturated green and made it a more dull color. Finally, I used the clone tool to remove some waves that were created on the water because the picture was taken from a boat.

Now, I wanted to add a waterfall. I got the waterfall from another picture from CG textures and selected and cut the area highlighted in red.

I pasted the area I had selected in the other image and erased the edges of the waterfall so that it looks soft and uniform against the cliff.

I also added mist by selecting a small portion from the waterfall image and cloning it until I liked its shape.

I decided to add in some other ambient objects in the background and foreground to fill the image a little more.

I created sunlight coming through from behind the cliff by adding a blank layer and making a circle with a white brush that gradually fades.

I made another blank layer and used a special brush to create light rays to draw more attention to the waterfall. I also added a very subtle haze around the waterfall.

Lastly, I added a small watchtower to the top of the one rock overlooking the horizon.

With the compositing all done, I cropped the final image and exported it as a jpg file and edited it with Camera Raw to create dark areas around the edges, (called vignetting) and some other final touches.

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