Surreal Photo Effect Tutorial in Photoshop

In this photo effect tutorial, we’ll learn how to create a surreal photo effect in Photoshop using just a filter and layer mask. This effect looks great on landscape photos, particularly those filled with details from the top to bottom. Here’s the effect we’ll be creating:
surreal photo effect tutorial

For this surreal photo effect tutorial, you’ll need:

  • Any recent version of Photoshop (I used Photoshop CS6)
Step 1
Open your image in Photoshop. I’ll be using this stock picture for this photo effect tutorial.

surreal photo effect tutorial original
Firstly, let’s convert our image into a Smart Object by going to Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object. Then, apply a Motion Blur with the settings shown below by going to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur.

 surreal photo effect tutorial motion blur 

 surreal photo effect tutorial motion blur result

Step 2
The effect doesn’t look so interesting right now, so we are going to limit it to the bottom part of the photo. To do so, select the Smart Filter layer’s mask thumbnail.

 surreal photo effect tutorial mask thumbnail 

Now, grab the Gradient Tool and click on the gradient preview area.
 surreal photo effect tutorial gradient preview
Select the Black, White gradient and press OK.

 surreal photo effect tutorial gradient editor 

Now, click near the top of the picture, hold the Shift key and drag the mouse to the bottom.

 surreal photo effect tutorial gradient 

 surreal photo effect tutorial gradient result

Step 3
If needed, you can change the Distance of the Motion Blur by double-clicking on the name of the filter in the Layer’s panel.

 surreal photo effect tutorial motion blur click 

I will increase the Motion Blur to give a more pronounced effect.

 surreal photo effect tutorial adjust motion blur 

I will also be slightly decreasing the opacity of the Motion Blur effect by double-clicking on the Blending Options icon beside the name of the filter in the Layer’s panel.

 surreal photo effect blending options 

 surreal photo effect opacity 

 surreal photo effect opacity result 

Step 4
Finally, we will crop away some of the edges since the Motion Blur filter tends to leave some ugly artifacts in the edges. To do so, grab the Crop Tool and select Original Ratio for the Aspect Ratio option.

 surreal photo effect original ratio 

Now, hold the Option (Macs) / Alt (Windows) key and drag any of the corner handles inwards to hide the unwanted areas. Press Return (Macs) / Enter (Windows) when you are done.

 surreal photo effect crop 

And we’re done! The surreal photo effect tutorial is complete!

 surreal photo effect tutorial 


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