Photoshop tutorial: Create amazing psychedelic art

Rob Carissimo reveals how to layer and blend images in Photoshop to create a hazy, dreamlike effect that’s straight from 60s California.

The psychedelic look is always in demand. However, creating an illustration that has the appearance of being formed under the influence of LSD in a hippie commune in San Francisco circa 1968 is tricky if you’re in a studio in the UK in 2008 with nothing stronger than coffee in your system.

But by layering and blending images in Photoshop, you can evoke the trippy look without messing with your mind.

By combining multiple versions of the same image with different effects applied to them, the final image has a surreal feel to it while retaining a clearly recognizable subject – which is at the core of psychedelic imagery.

The blend of layers allows you to subtly manipulate the colour scheme, introducing the pastel shades of the hippie movement, again without disrupting the clarity of the image’s subject matter.

Textured files to help you create this artwork can be downloaded from the right.

Step 1
Create a new document sized 840-x-720. Select a base image; here I’ve used a surfer image from iStockphoto (, but any similar image will be suitable. Import your base image to the document. Create a mask of the wave and surfer with parts of the spray as well. Label the layer Masked Wave. Adjust the contrast and brightness a little, then set the blend mode to Multiply.

Step 2
In a new layer, create a silhouette of the surfer, and give it a yellow to red gradient fill. Set the blend mode to Screen, and place it above the masked wave layer.

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