Photoshop tutorial: Create surreal montages

Step 11
Now is the time to add some detailing in the form of foliage. Find some suitable images, and open leaves.jpg. Cut out what you want and drag them in one by one positioning them in different places over the top and behind the elephant. Place some bushes down by the feet to blend the elephant in more with the background.

With leaves.jpg we can use a Layer > Layer Style > Drop Shadow because of its position over the body. Use opacity 37, distance 26, size 13 and adjust the angle to suit, also uncheck ‘use global light’.

Step 12
To make the elephant more interesting we can give it some overlaying patterns and decoration. First open mask. jpg, cut it out and position it over one of the elephant’s legs. Add a layer mask and using a large soft brush with the flow set to around 25 per cent, gently erase parts until it’s blended in nicely.

You can add an ornamental pattern to the body, so find an image and change the blending mode to suit. A pattern can also be added around the eye, so use whatever you like for this. I used a spirograph type shape and masked out the edges.

Step 13
It is important to add another dimension to the piece to give it a structural feel and also to add some more detail in the background. For this you should create your own vector shapes in Illustrator, then copy them and paste them in as a smart object and position or transform them until you are happy. Make them dark grey in colour, and use sharp angles, drawn from aspects of architecture.

Now add some atmospheric elements to pull it all together and give it some more colour. Make a rainbow by creating coloured circles on top of each other and downsize them one by one. Cut this in half and set the layer mode to overlay and change the opacity to under 10 per cent. Place in the composition. Use the smoke.jpg and set the layer mode to lighten and change the opacity to under 40 per cent. We can also add some blue and pink using a large soft brush with a low opacity.

Step 14
Vector or trace some birds and place them onto the canvas, as if they were circling around the top of the elephant. Change the opacity of some of them so that it gives the illusion of depth. Use a soft textured brush at a low opacity and create some more atmosphere as if it was cloudy or misty around some parts of the elephant, and vary the thickness of this as you see fit. Add some typography by giving it a title, perhaps a tagline with your name. Try to choose a font that fits the theme.

Step 15
We are going to create a reflection of the steps we have done so far, so copy merge (Shift+CTRL+C) the bottom half of your canvas and paste it back onto it. Flip it vertically and lower the opacity. If it doesn’t match up, start erasing areas until it does. Copy individual elements and repeat the process, just placing them underneath the original but flipped vertically and lowered opacity. Create a new levels adjustment layer over the whole image and adjust to bring out the darker areas and give it more contrast.

Who: Mike Harrison is an aspiring designer and illustrator hailing from Plymouth. He enjoys expanding his skills to keep up with the rapidly moving design scene and inspiring others to do the same.
Contact: Software: Photoshop and Illustrator
Time taken: One hour
On the CD: All files for this tutorial can be found on the cover CD.

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