Photoshop tutorial: Create surreal montages

Cut-&-paste creativity has always had a bad press – but digital artist Mike Harrison shows that it can be used to generate inspirational surreal images.

Cut-&-paste montages in Photoshop are probably the first creative exercise new pixel jockeys do, after cut-outs and colour conversion. And while it can be a quick process to seamlessly blend a multitude of images together, there is a real knack to using them to build up a creative landscape.

In this masterclass, designer and illustrator Mike Harrison has created a surreal digital scene using layer effects, vector masks, and the liberal use of dodge and burn tools in Photoshop. The result is a fantastic, genre-defying montage that shows that you can take cut-&-paste to new heights.

Step 1
Because this piece is very stock heavy, gather a possible collection of images first and put them in a folder. This will save you time searching for images while creating the piece and will keep your creativity flowing. Don’t worry about collecting every single image you wish to use because you will most definitely think of more along the way. Now create a new A4 document at 300dpi resolution.

Step 2
Now open the elephant.jpg, select the pen tool and carefully create a path around the body. We will be putting in objects on top and behind it in detail, so cutting it out is important. Once finished, double-click the background layer to unlock it, then right-click the path and select Create Vector Mask. Then drag the elephant into the new document and position it somewhere in the bottom half.

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