Photoshop tutorial: Add dynamic lighting to photos and illustrations

Give your photos and illustrations a dash of Renaissance glamour – and add depth to your lighting.

Intro


Dynamic lighting isn’t new – far from it. The 16th-century Baroque art movement saw artists such as Giovanni Baglione use chiaroscuro (Italian for light and dark) to add a sense of depth, atmosphere, and emotion to their work. But such lighting effects aren’t limited to paint on canvas – it has appeared throughout the history of cinema, from the film noir era of the 1940s, right up to modern neo-noir, as practised by Quentin Tarantino.

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In this tutorial, we’ll show you how the same lighting principles can be applied to your photo manipulations. You’ll start by assembling stock images, then harmonising their colour and tone with some non-destructive adjustment layers. Finally, we’ll use some clever masking and painting techniques can really add another dimension.

You can download the images that Mark Mayers has used for the tutorial for free: the landscape and clouds are both from Stock.xchng (bit.ly/8n8JyP and bit.ly/5OZdB4 respectively), while the model was created by *Faestock on deviantArt, and can be downloaded here. Be sure to read the licensing requirements for the images you download.

Software

Adobe Photoshop  

Time to complete

2 hours

Step 1

STEP 1

Create a new A4 portrait canvas in RGB mode at 300dpi. Add the landscape image as a new layer, hit Cmd/Ctrl + T to bring up the Transform menu, select Flip Horizontal, and label the layer ‘Hills’. Don’t worry about the white space at the bottom – this will be hidden later. Hold Alt/Opt while choosing a Levels adjustment, tick the clipping mask option, then set the whitepoint output to 219.

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Step 2

STEP 2

Import the clouds image as another layer, set its blending mode to Multiply, Transform it as before and name it ‘Sky’. Use the Clone Stamp tool (set to Current Layer) to repeat areas as required. Next, add a layer mask and use a variety of soft-edged brushes to blend the clouds into the landscape – our mask is shown in the inset.

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Step 3

STEP 3

Open the model and isolate her, along with the foreground rocks, using the Pen tool. It’s impossible to extract every strand of hair, so plot your points just inside the more defined areas. Generate a path-based selection, Feather by 1 pixel, and Copy > Paste as a new layer. Now use a 1-pixel Smudge brush to carefully pull some hair strands out. Name the layer ‘Girl’.

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Step 4

STEP 4

We now need to darken the foreground rocks; create a couple of closed paths as indicated in white, then make a path-based selection. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + J to float the selection as a new layer and label it ‘Rocks’. Clip a Levels adjustment as you did in step 1 and set the midpoint input to 0.57, and the whitepoint output to 244.

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Step 5

STEP 5

The tonal range of the foreground rocks now match the rest of the image, but they also need some colour refinement. Clip another adjustment layer to the Levels – but this time select Color Balance. Set the midtone red to +16 and the blue to -32. Next, tick the Highlight box and set the blue to -14.

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Step 6

STEP 6

Next, we’ll fine-tune the colour range of the entire composition. Add a conventional Hue/Saturation adjustment layer at the top of the stack to affect all layers. Now use the Edit drop-down menu to set the reds to -67, the yellows to -29, the cyans to -44, and the blues to -18.

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Step 7

STEP 7

Drop an empty layer at the top, choose Image > Apply Image, then select the Blue channel from the drop-down menu. Set the layer’s blending mode to Multiply and its opacity to 90%, then name it ‘Blue channel multiply’. Add a mask and use a variety of soft-edged brushes to reveal the light source. You can paint directly on the mask and within layer-based selections from the ‘Girl’ and ‘Rocks’ – our mask is shown on the inset.

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Step 8

STEP 8

To finish, we’ll accentuate existing highlights on the model nearest the light source. Add a new layer set to Overlay labelled ‘Highlights’ and paint within a layer-based selection from the ‘Girl’ using a variety of white, soft-edged bushes at low opacity – this white layer is shown over black (for clarity) on the inset.

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