Photoshop tutorial: Create a retro photo collage illustration in Photoshop

Tom Kemp Starley reveals how to create a 1940s-inspired composition using an artful mix of photos and graphics, the Warp tool, Curves and brushes.

Intro


With this design you’ll create a surreal-feeling composition by combining imagery inspired by the 1940s with an Egyptian landscape – in fact, a scene that’s straight out of Indiana Jones. To do this, you’ll use overlay effects, filters and exposure to create a realistic, hot, starched feel, and will place shapes to produce abstract designs. 

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

In addition, you’ll learn how to use brushes to replicate clouds, dust and grime, how to add foreground blur to objects to give the impression of depth, and will also see how the Warp tool can manipulate shapes. 

Our tutorial will show you how to enhance detail with Curves, and how to match different tones with hue and saturation. You’ll also be working with the Pen tool to mask and edit stock images and learn a great trick to mask hair.

All these techniques are invaluable and can be used to create a huge range of effects. Most of the images and brushes used in this tutorial can be downloaded free from stock.xchng and gbrushes.com.

Step 1

STEP 1

First you’ll need to install the custom brushes you’ll be using. Download and install these free brush sets: Dirt Brushes, Grunge Brushes and Cloud Brushes.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Open Photoshop and create a new document in 300dpi, measuring 25-x-39cm. Name it Mask.psd and save. Select the Paint Bucket tool (G) and fill the background layer with #fbebe0 or a similar pale pink skin tone. 


Step 2

STEP 2

Create new layer (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + N) and select the Brush tool (B). Select one of your new grime brushes. Adjust the size to 2500, press D > X to restore the fill colour and scatter faintly on the page five times.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Repeat the process above using #f9b8ad and the dirt brushes supplied. Download this free tree image.

Advertisement. Article continues below

Step 3

STEP 3

Next, remove the sky and mountains. Double-click the layer in the Layers palette to unlock. Zoom in to 300% then select the Pen tool (P). Create a path around the tree and ground, right-click (Ctrl + click), and choose Make A Selection from the drop-down menu.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Cut and paste the image into Mask.psd, positioning it at the bottom of the page. 


Step 4

STEP 4

Now create the three main circles. Get your favourite image of the moon, for example from NASA. Hit U to activate the Ellipse tool and convert the shape into a path by selecting the Path option at the top left.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Place the mouse in the centre of the moon, hold down Alt/Opt + Shift and drag the mouse over the moon to create a perfect circle. Cut it out and paste it into your working document.


Step 5

STEP 5

Download and open these free images from tinyurl.com/treebranches and tinyurl.com/swastika1, and repeat the process from Step 4.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Make sure these circles are the same size as the moon. Place the tree branches above and set the blending mode to Overlay. Cut and paste an oval segment from the bottom of the moon and position it at the top. 

Advertisement. Article continues below

Step 6

STEP 6

Download the free image from tinyurl.com/gasmaskboy, unlock it by double-clicking on the layer and create a new layer under the image. Cut out the boy using the Pen tool and discard the background.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Select the Smudge tool, using a brush size of 1 or 2 pixels, set the strength to 95% and select Sample All Layers. Re-draw any strands of hair that couldn’t be cut out with a flick of the mouse.  


Step 7

STEP 7

Once you’re happy, copy and paste the whole layer into Mask.psd and place it on top of the swastika. Remove sharp edges by selecting the circular swastika layer with the Magic Wand tool, then re-select the boy layer and hit Cmd/Ctrl + X to cut.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Next you’re going to add the wires coming from the boy’s forehead. Download and open the free image from tinyurl.com/electricwires


Step 8

STEP 8

Using the Pen tool, cut out the top row of cable and attachments and paste into the design. Duplicate this layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J) and select Edit > Transform > Flip-Horizontally. Position and use Edit > Transform > Scale to re-size each layer of cable accordingly.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Select the Warp tool (Edit > Transform > Warp) and use it on each layer to form a nice curve. Using the Erase tool (E) at a soft setting, blend the end of the cable into the boy’s forehead. 

Advertisement. Article continues below

Step 9

Step 10

STEP 10

Download the free images tinyurl.com/redarrows1 and tinyurl.com/spitfire1. Cut out spitfire1 and paste it into your working document. Scale it and place it on top of the moon, then duplicate it and place the duplicate in formation.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Open redarrows1 and, using the Pen tool, cut out a vapour trail. Paste it into the working document so that the trail appears to come from the planes already in the image; select Image > Adjustments > Desaturate to remove some colour. Warp it so that it fits. Set the blending mode to Overlay, duplicate the vapour trail and position it by the other plane. 


Step 11

STEP 11

Download the free images tinyurl.com/flyimage, tinyurl.com/normandycrosses, tinyurl.com/dogtags1 and tinyurl.com/magpie2. Cut out the objects and paste them all into the working document. Scale the fly and place it next to the tree. Scale and rotate the cross and position it under the tree.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Blend the base of the cross using a soft Eraser brush. Scale and rotate the bird and place it on top of the swastika, then go Image > Adjustments > Curves and adjust it to bring out the detail.

Advertisement. Article continues below

Step 12

STEP 12

Scale, rotate and position the chain on branch. Using the Clone Stamp tool (S) lengthen the chain.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

To clone the area press Alt/Opt + click, then move the mouse to where you’d like the chain to continue, and click. Adjust the brush size and edge to get a crisp look. Next, you’re going to create depth of field. 


Step 13

STEP 13

Download the free image from tinyurl.com/butterflywire and use the Pen tool to cut out the middle cross shape. Paste it into Mask.psd. Scale, warp and duplicate the wire so that it looks tangled at the bottom.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and enter a value of 9. Reduce the opacity by about 10–15%. Use another wire segment scale and rotate it, and place it in the bird’s mouth.


Step 14

STEP 14

Now let’s add some abstract elements. Using the Pen tool cut out, copy and paste segments of layers to form lines and shapes within the composition. Go to the ‘tree2’ layer. Use the Pen tool to copy a thin line shape, then paste rotate and place it at 90° to the bird, duplicating it twice.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Repeat this and place three line shapes parallel to the left-hand pyramid. 

Advertisement. Article continues below

Step 15

STEP 15

Using the Ellipse Path tool (U) find the swastika and moon layers. Copy and paste some small circles and triangles holding down Apt/Opt + Shift. Place them next to the pyramids and tree. Experiment with placement. Cut out the middle of the pasted triangle by selecting the triangular path tool, hold down Apt/Opt + Shift in the middle of the pasted triangle, then hit Cmd/Ctrl + X to cut. 

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials


Step 16

STEP 16

Finally, let’s add overlay effects. Add a layer, set the blending mode to Overlay and the opacity to 45%. Load up the cloud brush you installed at the start of the tutorial with colour #ffb64e and scatter it lightly. 

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Download and open tinyurl.com/oldpapertexture and paste it in, setting the mode to Overlay and the opacity to 19%.  Go Image > Adjustments > Photo Filter and pick Cooling LLB Photo Filter, set to Soft Light at 60% opacity. Return to the Photo Filter and add a Warm 85 Photo Filter set to Soft Light at 20% opacity. 

Go back to Photo Filter and add a Warm 85 Photo Filter, set to Color Dodge and 18% opacity.