How to Create a Dramatic Angel Photo Manipulation in Photoshop

What You’ll Be Creating

Today, we will be putting together a dramatic and cinematic angel photo effect using only a handful of images, so let’s get started! 

I will be using Adobe Photoshop CC in this tutorial, but you can also use Photoshop CS6!

What You’ll Need

To complete this project, we are using the following resources:

  • Rays and Clouds – no longer available
  • Handsome Asian Model
  • Eagle Wings
  • Black Feather
  • Gold Ring
  • Smoke Texture

Find more resources on Envato Elements!

1. How to Add Light Bokeh to a Background

Step 1

We will be working on a 3887 x 5522 px canvas today!

Download a cloudy sky, like this Rays and Clouds stock image, and enlarge it significantly.


Step 2

Go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Field Blur to add in our bokeh effect. 

Field Blur Settings

  • Field Blur: 26 px
  • Light Bokeh: 18%
  • Bokeh Color: 13%
  • Light Range: 191 to 255 

Feel free to play with these settings! 

blurred background

Step 3

Create a New Layer set to Soft Light.

Using a white large, soft, round Brush, increase some of the areas of light amongst the clouds.

Group all of the sky layers together, renaming the group “Background.”

final layers

2. How to Composite a Person in Photoshop

Step 1

Place the subject, our Handsome Asian model stock image, in the middle of the canvas. 

Extract the subject using your preferred method. Mine is the Pen Tool. However, any technique will work. I do suggest using a method using Layer Masks as opposed to permanently deleting or easing anything!

Go ahead and remove the transparent part of the scarf found on the left side of the subject’s face for now. 

place model

Step 2

To extract the scarf, first Duplicate the subject. 

Use a hard, round Brush Tool to mask back in the scarf on the duplicated subject’s layer mask. 

Set the subject copy’s layer mode to Multiply.

create cloth

Step 3

Go to Image > Adjustment > Hue/Saturation and change the settings to what you see below.

Hue/Saturation Settings 

  • Colorize: Checked 
  • Hue: 219
  • Saturation: 14

Step 4

Next, go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast and adjust the settings as follows.

Brightness/Contrast Settings

  • Brightness: 93
  • Contrast: 51

If needed using the Smudge or Brush Tool to soften the edges of the cloth, creating a more subtle blend. 

You can also Delete or Mask Out any part of the copied subject that isn’t needed. 

create cloth

Step 5

Create and clip a New Layer into the subject, setting it to Overlay.

Use a soft round Brush set to black and white to increase the contrast of the subject’s face and metal bracelets. 

Paint white on the highlights and black on the shadows/lowlights.

Set your brush to a low Flow Rate of 10% or less to slowly build up the light and shadows!

add light

Step 6

Create a New Layer, setting it to Soft Light. 

Using a soft round Brush, paint black on the chest, inner arms, and lower body of our subject. 

Lower the layer’s Opacity to 20-25% if needed. 

add contrast

Step 7

Next, we want to use a combination of Soft Light, Overlay and Normal layers to add light to the subject, focusing on the arms and hair. 

Build the light up slowly, over multiple layers, adjusting their Opacity as needed and remembering to keep the Brush’s Flow Rate low!

Use different brush sizes and levels of hardness as you go as well.

Ignore the transparent part of the scarf for now. 

Group all of the current subject layers together, renaming the group “Model.”

add highlights

Step 8

Above the “Model” group, create a New Layer set to Normal.

Paint a small amount of light over the top portion of the subject’s head. 

Create a second New Layer, setting it to Overlay. 

Add light to the transparent part of the mode’s scarf. Adjust the Opacity of both layers as needed. 

add light

Step 9

Finally, create a new layer below the “Model” group, setting it to Soft Light.

Add light directly behind the transparent portion of the scarf. 

Feel free to add even more light! 

final layers

3. How to Create a Cinematic Color Grade

Next, we are going to add a color grade overtop of our image. Remember these layers will be placed above all other layers, in a group marked “CC,” unless stated otherwise!

The layers are created from bottom to top. 

Step 1

Create a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer.


  • Contrast: 23

Step 2

Create a Color Lookup adjustment layer.


  • 3DLUT: Kodak 5205 
  • Opacity: 30%
Color Lookup

Step 3

Create a second Color Lookup adjustment layer.


  • 3DLUT: Kodak 5218 2383 
  • Opacity: 51%
Color Lookup

Step 4

Create a Selective Color adjustment layer.


  • Colors: Blacks
  • Cyan: +7
  • Magenta: -9
  • Yellow: -11

Step 5

Create a second Selective Color adjustment layer.


  • Colors: Blues
  • Cyan: +59
  • Magenta: -26
  • Yellow: -40

Group all adjustment layers, naming the group “CC” for color correction.

selective color

4. How to Make Angel Wings in Photoshop

Step 1

Download a pair of wings, such as these Eagle Wings, and then separate and position the two wings using the Lasso Tool.

place wings

Step 2

Next, extract the wings using your preferred method.  

For the left-hand wing, I used a mixture of the Magnetic Lasso Tool and the Pen Tool. 

For the right-hand wing, I used Select > Color Range. 

Also, feel free to further adjust your wings as you go! I always make small adjustments to past steps here and there as I move forward.

extract  wings

Step 3

Convert both wings into smart objects by Right-clicking > Convert to Smart Object on the wing layers. 

Add a Filter > Blur > Radial Blur to each wing. 

Radial Blur Settings

  • Amount: 2
  • Blur Method: Spin
  • Quality: Best

Click on the Smart Filters Layer Mask and with a large, soft, round Brush set to black, mask out the bottom and inner parts of the Radial Blur filter, so that the effect is only visible on the outer edges of the wings. 


Add an Inner Glow layer effect to each of the wings.

Inner Glow Settings

  • Blend Mode: Soft Light
  • Opacity: 56%
  • Color: White
  • Size: 152 px
blur wings

Step 4

Duplicate the left wing, bringing it below the original. 

Add a Color Overlay layer effect to the wing copy, filling it with white. 

Move the wing copy 25-50 px to the right to create a back-lighting effect. 

Add a Layer Mask to the wing copy, and mask out any portions of white that look too strong. We want most of the light to be coming from the right side. 

Repeat with the right wing as well, and then Group the wings and all of their layers, naming the group “Wings.” 

light wings

Step 5

Create and clip two New Layers into the “Wings” group, setting both to Soft Light.

Using a large, soft round Brush, paint white on the outer edges of the wings and black on the inner edges of the wings. 

You could also do this on two different layers to give you more control over the opacity! 

light wings

Step 6

Finally, create and clip a Curves adjustment layer into the “Wings” group, above the layers clipped previously. 

Bring down the shadows, and bring up the highlights.

Also, bring up the Blues in the shadows by switching RGB to Blue.

Curves Settings

curves settings

5. How to Create Feathers in Photoshop

Next up, we will be creating a custom feather brush so we can add feathers swirling around our subject! 

Step 1

Choose any feather stock of a dark feather on a light background or a light feather on a dark background—this black feather, for instance!

Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to remove all saturation, making it black and white. 

If you choose a light feather on a dark background, hit Control-I to invert the colors after you desaturate the image.

Lastly, crop down the image so that there is little to no extra blank or white space. 


Step 2

Create a brush by going to Edit > Define Brush Preset. 

Why Is the Define Brush Preset Greyed Out?

Remember, your feather image must be: 

  • Black and white.
  • On a white background.
  • A black feather. If it looks grey, then increase its contrast.  
  • Small enough to become a brush (you may have to shrink very high-resolution images).

Below is my brush set to white.

I also recommend doing this to several feathers, like this one, or this one, or this, so you have a variety!

I have several feather brushes I have made for myself with the same settings as above, and I’ll use these as the final feathers so you can see the possibilities! 

feather brush

Step 3

Now, we are going to adjust the brush settings. 

Go to Window > Brush Settings if you don’t already have the Brush Settings panel available. 

Brush Tip Shape

  • Spacing: 798%

Shape Dynamics

  • Size Jitter: 50%
  • Angle Jitter: 100%
  • Roundness Jitter: 50%


  • Scatter: 358%
  • Count: 2 (optional)

Hite the Create New Brush button found in the bottom-right corner of the Brush Settings panel. 

When the prompt appears, make sure that only Include Tool Settings is checked. 

Set your brush to black, or a dark blue #010018, and paint your feathers! Again, below are some from my collection, with the same settings as above. 

place feathers

Step 4

Convert your feather layer to a Smart Object. 

Add a Filter > Blur > Radial Blur to your feathers.

Radial Blur Settings

  • Amount: 2
  • Blur Method: Spin
  • Quality: Best 

And then, as you did with the wings, use a soft round Brush to mask out the inner portions of the radial blur, giving the outside of the feathers movement. 

blur feathers

Step 5

Add an Inner Glow to your feathers.

Inner Glow Settings 

  • Blend Mode: Screen
  • Opacity: 40%
  • Color: White
  • Size: 38
inner glow

Step 6 

Finally, repeat the above steps as many times as you’d like!

You can add large feathers to the foreground, applying a Gaussian Blur, to add some depth or experiment with color!

You can also use Layer Masks to mask out portions of feathers, or completely remove any feathers you do not like. 

add feathers

Step 7 (Optional)

You can use your feather brushes to add even more backlighting and detail to your wings!

Create a new layer under your wings.

Using one of your feather brushes set to white, stamp in feathers towards the edges of your wings, where the light would be hitting them the most. 

final layers

6. How to Apply Textures in Photoshop

To finish everything up, we are going to add a wash of clouds and light over the image, as well as adding a halo to our angel! 

Step 1

First, the halo! We will be using this Gold Ring as a base. The best part is that it’s already extracted, and we can even choose the angle of it!

Download the ring and place it below your “Model” group.

place ring

Step 2

Create and clip a black and white Gradient Map adjustment layer into the ring, turning it silver. 

adjust ring

Step 3

Add both an Inner Glow and an Outer Glow to the ring. 

Inner Glow Settings

  • Blend Mode: Screen
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Color: White
  • Size: 35

Outer Glow

  • Blend Mode: Screen
  • Opacity: 63%
  • Color: White
  • Size: 79
add lighting

Step 4

Finally, download my free Smoke Texture.

Place it onto the canvas right below the “CC” group, enlarging it significantly and also placing it at a slant. 

Use a Layer Mask or the Eraser Brush Tool to remove any edges.

place texture

Step 5

Set the texture to Screen.


Step 6

Create a new layer above the “CC” group, keeping it set to Normal.

Using a very large soft round Brush, paint a white sheen of light coming from the upper right-hand corner. 

final layers

We’ve Done It!

And there you have it: a dynamic photo-manipulation angel, ready to be placed on a book cover! I love encouraging people to make their own resources, and feathers are one of the easiest yet most useful brushes someone can make all on their own. Once you start making your own brushes, there’s no looking back!

So, as always, keep experimenting with different techniques and practicing, and don’t forget to post your version below, along with any questions, comments, or critiques!

Final Image

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