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Creating a Flying Mountain Landscape in Photoshop
Martin Perhiniak on Fri, December 28th 1 comments
So, you can climb a mountain... but can you make it fly above the ground? No? Nor can we. But, Martin Perhiniak shows how to bring fantasy to life using Photoshop CS6 - with reality defying results.

Today we are going to create an interesting image manipulation and make mountains fly! We are going to use two photos and adding some brush strokes over them. On the way, we are going to use selections, masking and as always do everything professionally, completely non-destructively. Let's get started!

Desert final.

Step 1 - Collecting the images for the composition

I used the following photo of the desert, which you can use for following the tutorial:

Desert image.

Here is the photo of the sky:

Sky image.

Step 2 - Setting up the document

First of all, we need to prepare a document for the image manipulation. My composition will be in landscape format this time. Go to File > New Document in Photoshop's menu and use the following settings:

File > New Document settings.

Step 3 - Placing in the images into the document

Now we need to get our two photos into this document. I use Adobe Bridge to do this. If you never used Bridge, you can easily start it by going to File > Browse in Bridge. This is a file management application specifically designed for Photoshop and the other Creative Suite applications. It is worth spending time to get used to it as it can save a lot of time in the long run and make working with images much more comfortable and efficient.

In Bridge, locate the folder where you have the two images and select them both. You drag a lasso around the two files or select one and Command/Control-click on the other one. Once having both of them selected, you can drag and drop them into your Photoshop document. This way they will become Smart Objects automatically. The way you drag and drop from Bridge to Photoshop is to hold onto the files while pressing Command/Alt-Tab to switch between applications and then let them go once you are in Photoshop over your document working area. Alternatively, you can also use File > Place in Photoshop from Bridge.

You will have to press Enter/Return for both images. Thanks to having them as Smart Objects, you can  always resize them without loosing image quality. The original resolution of the files are the only limitation.

This is what you should see so far in your document:

Our document so far...

Step 4 - Aligning and masking the images

All we need to do now is to put the two images into place. This time we can use the Free Transform tool (Edit > Free Transform) to move and scale the images. Be careful not to stretch the images. All you need to do to keep an image in proportions while scaling it in Free transform mode is to hold down Shift. The sky image won't fit into the document, but it is not a problem if some parts are outside of the canvas. Make sure you have the sky image behind the desert layer.

We will also need to hide the mountains to be able to see the sky layer, so let's select the top half of the canvas with the Rectangular Marquee tool and then turn it into a mask on the desert layer (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection).

Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection.

Step 5 - Creating the base for the flying mountain

Now we need to duplicate the mountain layer (Command/Control-J) and fill its mask with white (D and then Command/Control-Backspace) but first make sure you have the mask of the duplicate layer on the top selected. Once the mask is filled with white, we can mask out the unnecessary parts of this layer. It might be easier to turn off all the other layers while working on this masking (Option/Alt-click on the eye icon on the mountain layer with the empty mask.)

We can use the brush with a black color to draw away the unwanted parts, or we can select the parts we need and then invert the selection and fill that part in with black. You can do whatever is easier for you, but try to make the masking look similar to this:


Step 6 - Create the underground parts of the flying mountains

We need to nudge the duplicated and mask image up around 70 pixels and then turn the other layers back on. We will also need a dirt/ground texture image now, which we can use for the elevated mountains underground parts. Something like this image can work.

Feel free to look for a better one if you like, but once you have it place it into the composition and mask it out to make it look like this:

Place and the dirt image into the composition and mask it.

Step 7 - Add some depth

Now that we have everything in place, we will have to paint a bit. First of all, we have to make the whole, which will be the part of the ground where the flying mountains bit was originally. For this, we can create a separate layer and just draw on it with black and then add some warmer colors on the sides to show the depth. Once this is done, we can also add some shading and colors on the underground bit to make it a bit more realistic. You should do something similar to this:

Add some shading.

Step 8 - Add more realism to the floating part

Everything is coming together nicely, but still we can improve the realism of the composition. What can help the whole image a lot is to add more cracks on the floating part and some sand pouring down on the edges:

Adding more details.

Step 9 - Make the composition work

Last but not least, we need to add some interest and scale to the composition. I used an image of a desert fox and placed it on the floating part. This helps to make the image more interesting and fun.

Fox image.

Feel free to add other elements too, be creative!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and well done for your hard work :)

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Comments (1)

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  • Reuven
    Shalom! thank you very much for your drills in photoshop. It is very well done and i apreciate it a lot Yours sincerely! Reuven Tzach Israel
    • 7 years ago
    • By: Reuven
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