Give your fantasy images extra pop using advanced compositing techniques, layer masking and custom brushes.

It’s almost impossible to look at this image and not feel perked up: perhaps it’s the vibrant colour palette, the ingenuity of the original concept, and the polished effect that Vince Fraser achieves.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create an astonishing image where the character appears to be gently breaking apart, using simple but effective techniques in Photoshop.

One of Photoshop’s great capabilities that is most often overlooked is the layer mask: when use correctly, layer masks can help you blend images seamlessly, giving a professional finish. You’ll learn how to combine layer masks with brushes and adjustment layers to add in subtle elements that complement the image.

Step 1
Download the free sunflower field image from tinyurl.com/dfhqwd, and remove the sky using the Pen tool. Open Malta sky.jpg from the cover CD and copy and paste in the sunflowers. Resize and reposition them accordingly, and increase the canvas size so it’s twice as broad as before. Add a colour balance adjustment layer (Layer > Adjustment Layer > Color Balance) with the settings shown here. Merge all layers (Cmd/ Ctrl + E) then duplicate this, flip the duplicate horizontally, and align so that the layers meet at the centre. Merge all the layers again.

Step 2
Open sunflower model.jpg from the project files (which can be downloaded from the right). This image was kindly provided by Abi Oshodi, and you should use it for this tutorial only. Make a selection around the portrait using the Pen tool (P) or Magic Wand (W). Zoom in to about 200% to get a clearer view.