In this step-by-step tutorial, we’ll create a photomontage in Photoshop CS3 using only the layer palette. Our goal is to achieve stunning results without using any of Photoshop’s filter options.


In this tutorial we will be recreating one of my existing artworks, entitled Stress City, but when creating your own piece, always plan your illustration first regardless of its final complexity. I usually start by first creating a sketch in my art book, figuring out where different elements go before beginning the computer work.


01. To begin, go to File and select a New Document. Set the image size of new document to Width 6.593 and Height 11.08 inches, and the Resolution to 360dpi. Save this document with the name Stress City.


02. First create a background colour – I like to create this on watercolour paper and then scan it. Next import the Street of London. tif from the CD and then go to Edit > Transform > Scale. Set the Horizontal and Vertical scales to 218 per cent. Position the image so that the right edge corresponds with the final finished piece. Name the layer London Street and save.


03. We’ll give this layer a negative look with a paper finish. Start by dragging the file Paper Scan.tif into Photoshop. Scale the image to fit the canvas, and name your layer Paper Scan, set it to Multiply, and then flatten the two layers. Next, go to Edit > Adjustment > Black & White and then Invert. Save this as London Street Invert.



04. Next, we’ll add six images to create part of a new background. Start by opening up Stress City from your folder and name this new layer Bike on Street. Go to the drop-down menu on the layer palette, create a new group, and name it Group 2. Keep all the images for this part of the tutorial in this group.

Next, add some text to the image. Open the file A-Z Text.tif and name this layer A-Z Text. Scale to fit the canvas at the bottom of the page and set the opacity to Lighten. Add Paper Scan to your layer palette and set it to Color Burn. Highlight the layer Bike on Street, go to the drop down menu on the layer palette, and click on Duplicate Layer.

Move this layer above Paper Background and set it to Hard Light. Open up Yellow and Red Background.tif and set it to Color Dodge. Next, open Creative Background.tif and set it to Hue. To make the bottom left hand corner lighter and to get rid of some of the text over the building, add a mask to the layers Bike on Street and A-Z Text. To isolate just the piece of the image that we want to highlight, use the brush tool to erase unwanted elements from each of the original images.


05. Import the file Watercolor Wash.tif into the layer palette, naming the layer Watercolor Wash. Set the layer to Color Burn. Go to the layer palette, duplicate Watercolor Wash and set the duplicated layer to Hard Light and opacity at 100 per cent (name this layer Yellow and Green Background).

We want to keep as much white as is possible in the background, so add a mask to this layer and with the brush tool, peel back part of the left hand corner of the image (call it Yellow and Green Background with Mask). Next, import Night Time Shoot.tif and set the layer to Color and Opacity to 67 per cent.

Duplicate the layer, again set the layer to Color and Opacity to 67 per cent, and place this new layer above of the first layer in the layer palette. Go to the A-Z Text layer at the bottom of the layer palette. Duplicate this layer and move the duplicate above Night Time Shoot.

By adding this layer we’re bringing back text to the image. Add a mask to this layer and with the brush tool remove the unwanted text around the building. Set the layer to Overlay and the Opacity to 33 per cent. Duplicate A-Z Text twice, set the layer A-Z Text 2 to Overlay and the Opacity to 92 per cent. Set the layer A-Z Text 3 layer Overlay and Opacity at 100 per cent. Finally, go to Bike on Street at the bottom your layer palette, duplicate this layer, and set this layer to Soft Light and Opacity to 100 per cent. Save this part of the project as Stress City Steps 1-5.


06. Next, go to Image > Duplicate, and flatten the layer, saving it as Stress City. In the layer palette click on New Group. Duplicate the layer Stress City into the New Group and name this new layer Stress City Flattened Background. Delete the original layer of Stress City. Open up the file Creative Background.tif and set the layer to Hard Light and Opacity to 100 per cent.

Import London Street Invert, place the image on top of Creative Background, set the layer to Screen and Opacity to 100 per cent. In the layer palette, go to New Layer and with the paint bucket tool, add white to this layer. Set the layer to Overlay and Opacity to 100 per cent. Duplicate the Stress City Flattened Background layer, name it Stress City Flattened Background Copy 1, and in the layer palette, place it above the white background layer that you just created. Set this duplicated layer to Darken and Opacity to 100 per cent.


07. Time to add some more text. Import the file Lost Text.tif and drop it on top of the layer Inverted Background. Click on the drop-down menu Edit > Transform >Distort and move the handles to distort the shape of the image, using both the Distort and Scale tools until you get the image above.


08. Now we’ll add and order the layers to build up the overall image’s colour and effects. Duplicate Stress City Flattened Background and set the layer to Darken and the Opacity to 100 per cent. Open up the file Bike on Street.tif and set it to Hard Light and Opacity to 57 per cent. Open up the file Night Time Shoot.tif and set it to Color and Opacity to 67 per cent. Duplicate Stress City Background and set it to Darken and Opacity to 100 per cent.


09. To add more texture to the background, we’ll use the elliptical marquee tool to draw circles. Create a new Group Layer, then add a new Layer and call it Circles. Click on the elliptical tool, go to Style and select Fixed Size (300-x-300). Draw one circle. Then set the colour of the foreground to ffffcc in your Color Picker.

With the paint bucket tool, fill the circle with that colour. Copy-&-paste the circle until you have a row of five, equidistant circles. Continue down the page until it is full. Next go to the layer palette and select Merge Group to lock all the individual circles into one layer. In the palette, select Multiply and set the Opacity to 42 per cent.


10. After you create the circle layer, save the whole file as Stress City. Then go to the drop-down menu Image, select Duplicate, and then rename the new duplicated layer Stress City Duotone and flatten it. Go back to the drop-down menu Image and select Mode > 8 Bits/Channel. Go again to the drop-down menu Image and select Mode > Grayscale.


11. After setting Stress City Duotone to Grayscale, go to the drop-down menu Image, select Mode > Duotone. In the Duotone Options dialog box, select Tritone and then enter the following colours: Ink1: Pantone 5245C; Ink 2: Pantone 7519; and Ink 3: Pantone 217C. Once these colours are set, reverse the process, so set the Mode back to 16 Bits/Channel and then again to RGB. Don’t forget to save your work.


12. Now you should have the two canvases open: Stress City and Stress City Duotone. Drag-&-drop Stress City Duotone from its palette into the Stress City palette, placing it above Stress City Background Copy 1. Set the layer to Multiply and Opacity to 100 per cent. We now have a nice earthy colour to our image and text.


13. To bring out the colour over the text, add the layer Stress City Background. You can keep on adding the same layers over each other to increase depth and colour. Duplicate Stress City Background 2 and place it above Night Time Shoot in the layer palette. Set the layer to Darken and the Opacity to 100 per cent.


14. The image is too dark. It needs to be lighter, so to lighten the image, Duplicate Stress City Duotone, name this duplicated layer Layer 2 Stress City Duotone, and place it in Group 2, above the Circles layer created earlier. Set the layer to Luminosity and the Opacity to 100 per cent.


15. To bring out the colour within the circles, duplicate the layer Circles and name it Layer 2 Circles. Set the layer to Multiply and the Opacity to 42 per cent. Place Layer 2 Circles above Layer 2 Stress City Duotone. The next two layers are to enhance the numeral 6 over the bridge. Duplicate Layer 2 Circles and name it Small Circles.

Next go to Edit > Transform > Scale and scale the layer until it fits over the numeral 6. Add a mask to take out any unwanted background. Set the layer to Multiply and Opacity to 100 per cent. As you can see not much has changed yet. Repeat this process, only this time set the layer to Luminosity and Opacity to 42 per cent. Name this layer Layer 2 Small Circles.