How to Create a Glowing Winter Night Photo Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop

What You’ll Be Creating

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to use Adobe Photoshop to create a fantasy photo manipulation featuring a winter night with glowing lanterns. 

1. How to Build the Base Scene

Step 1

Create a new 3000 x 1900 px document in Photoshop with the given settings:

photo manipulation - glowing winter night new file

Step 2

Open the winter landscape image and drag it into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to scale the image down to fit the size of the canvas. Convert this layer to a Smart Object.

photo manipulation - add winter image

Step 3

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 6 px.

photo manipulation - winter gaussian blur

On the Filter Mask, activate the Brush Tool (B) and select a soft round one with black color. Use this brush to erase on the foreground and midground, leaving the blur effect visible only on the background.

photo manipulation - winter gaussian blur masking

Step 4

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue Saturation (set as Clipping Mask) and bring the Saturation values down to -82.

photo manipulation - winter hue saturation

Step 5

Make a Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the dark effect on the middle section.

photo manipulation - winter curves 1
photo manipulation - winter curves 1 masking

Step 6

In this step, we’ll remove the road. Create a new layer on top of the other layers and select the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to reduce the road’s visibility to make it hidden below the snow layer.

photo manipulation - winter road cloning

Step 7

Open the mountain image and place it in the background, the sky area. Use Control-T to make it much smaller. Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft black brush to remove the hard edges and blend the mountain with the sky. Lower the brush opacity when brushing on the mountain to make it fade into the sky.

photo manipulation - add mountain
photo manipulation - mountain masking

2. How to Add the Trees

Step 1

Open the trees 1 image. I’ve used the Magic Wand Tool (W) to isolate the trees from the background and add them to the lower right side of the foreground.

photo manipulation - add trees 1

Step 2

Apply a Gaussian Blur of 9 px to the trees layer to make it separate from the foreground. In this way, we’re increasing the depth of the foreground.

photo manipulation - trees 1 gaussian blur

Step 3

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the trees. Bring the Saturation values down to -88:

photo manipulation - trees 1 hue saturation

Step 4

Use a Curves adjustment layer to darken the trees:

photo manipulation - trees 1 curves

Step 5

Cut out the trees 2 image from the background and place the trees in the bottom left of the canvas. Flip them horizontally (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal) and apply a Gaussian Blur of 12 px to them (as the trees 2 image is bigger than trees 1, it needs a bigger blur radius).

photo manipulation - add trees 2
photo manipulation - trees 2 gaussian blur

Step 6

Add a Hue.Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the trees.

photo manipulation - trees 2 hue saturation

3. How to Make the Basic Adjustments

Step 1

Make a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the other layers and pick the colors #05203e and #2f9ad7. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 80%.

photo manipulation - whole scene gradient map 1

Step 2

Create another Gradient Map adjustment layer and pick the colors #e10019 and #00601b. Reduce the Opacity of this layer to 20%.

photo manipulation - whole scene gradient map 2

Step 3

Make a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness. On the layer mask, use a soft black brush with Opacity of about 40% to reduce the effect on both sides, leaving the light visible on the far middle area of the background.

photo manipulation - whole scene curves 1
photo manipulation - whole scene curves 2

Step 4

Create a Levels adjustment layer to bring the light down for the whole scene. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with Opacity of about 10-15% to erase the ground to make it less dark.

photo manipulation - whole scene curves 2
photo manipulation - whole scene curves 2

Step 5

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to make the landscape more blue. Alter the Shadows values to increase the blue tone as well as the contrast of the whole scene.

photo manipulation - whole scene color balance

4. How to Retouch the Model

Step 1

Drag the model image into our main canvas and use Control-T to make it much smaller. Place it in the space between the big firs. Add a mask to this layer and use your favorite method to remove the background (I’ve used the hard brush to mask it out—don’t use a soft brush in this case).

photo manipulation - add model
photo manipulation - model masking

Step 2

Create a new layer and use the Clone Tool to reduce the opacity of the white lines on the shoes to avoid drawing attention to those details. Lower the cloning brush to 50% to get the right effect.

photo manipulation - model cloning

Step 3

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation values down to -49:

photo manipulation - model hue saturation

Step 4

Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones settings:

photo manipulation - model color balance

Step 5

Create a Photo Filter adjustment layer to give the model a blue/cyan cast to fit the color of the background. Pick the color #00a7ec.

photo manipulation - model photo filter

Step 6

Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the model. On the layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the effect on her trousers as they’re dark already, and reduce the effect on her body/jacket. See the screenshots below for reference:

photo manipulation - model curves 1
photo manipulation - model curves 1 masking

Step 7

Create another Curves adjustment layer with the same purpose. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.

photo manipulation - model curves 2

Step 8

Make a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray:

photo manipulation - model dodge and burn

Activate the Dodge Tool (O) with Highlights Ranges and the Burn Tool with Midtones Ranges, Exposure about 20-30%, to refine the light and shadow on the model. Also paint more details on her clothes. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

photo manipulation - model dodge and burn result

5. How to Import the Lanterns

Step 1

Open the lantern image and isolate it from the background. Place it below the foliage of the big fir. Duplicate this layer many times and arrange the lanterns below other branches of the firs. Use Control-T to resize the lanterns and flip them horizontally if needed.

photo manipulation - add lantern
photo manipulation - add more lanterns

Step 2

Duplicate more lanterns and move them into the sky and the distant background. Apply a Gaussian Blur of 3 px to each of these layers.

photo manipulation - lanterns gaussian blur 1

For the one farthest away, I’ve increased the blur Radius to 5 px to enhance the depth of the whole scene.

photo manipulation - lanterns gaussian blur 2

Step 3

The lanterns look uniform as they’re duplicated from a single one. To avoid this look, select all the lantern layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Change this group’s mode to Normal 100% and make a new layer above the lamp layers. Use the Clone Tool to move the bar of the lanterns and the highlights inside them into different positions so they don’t appear the same.

photo manipulation - lanterns cloning

Step 4

Make a Curves adjustment layer to reduce the light on some of the lanterns. Paint on other lanterns so they won’t be affected by this adjustment layer.

photo manipulation - lanterns curves

6. How to Paint the Light Effect

Step 1

To fill in missing highlights for some lanterns after cloning, create a new layer on top of the other layers and use a medium hard white brush to paint inside these lamps. Alter this layer mode to Overlay 70%.

photo manipulation - paint lanterns highlight
photo manipulation - lanterns highlight result

Step 2

Make a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #fe450b to paint around the lanterns to create a glowing effect for them. Change this layer mode to Linear Dodge 100%.

photo manipulation - paint lanterns glow
photo manipulation - lanterns glow result

Step 3

To paint light reflection from the lanterns onto the foliage, make a new layer and change the foreground to #eba929. Use a small hard black brush (I recommend you use a tablet pen to get a better result) to paint on the contour of the snowy foliage/branches around the lanterns, as well as the tiny spots of light around it. 

Break the light lines to leave some space for the shadow to make it more realistic. You can use a layer mask if needed if you overdo it. It takes some time and patience, but the result will be worth it. Alter this layer mode to Hard Light 100%.

photo manipulation - paint  snowy foliages  light reflection
photo manipulation - snowy foliages light result

Congratulations, You’re Done!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the process of creating this fantasy photo manipulation and learned something new for your own projects. Feel free to share your results or leave comments in the box below. Enjoy Photoshopping!

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